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The Antelope

The temporary mask mandate is meant to keep us afloat

Student Cartoon About Mask Mandate

When school started, UNK officials stood their ground on abolishing the mask mandate. Now, Kearney is leaning toward the COVID-19 procedures enforced by the other Nebraska universities, with a temporary mask mandate in classrooms and labs.

This middle-ground is an usual solution. 

The face coverings are meant to help shield professors and students from germs spread in the classroom, but as soon as the period ends, many students will toss masks to the side to eat Chik-Fil-A with friends. If we could choose to live in a masked society or a mask-less society, many would choose the latter.

COVID-19 exists outside of the classroom too, yet UNK officials are not enforcing the mandate elsewhere.

A petition for an indoor mask mandate was sent out twice to UNK employees on Sept. 9 and 14. A counter-petition was later created in opposition to the indoor mask mandate.

The current mask mandate was a compromise between the two stances taken by faculty members.

What makes this compromise unique is its deadline.

The mask mandate spans from last Wednesday to Oct. 6. This date is “subject to change if circumstances warrant,” according to the email announcement.  This means if cases rise, the mandate may last longer.

We hope the pandemic itself was also notified of this deadline, so it knows when to pack up and leave humanity alone.

Until then, UNK is in limbo between completely abolishing or enforcing the mask mandate on campus. What set us apart from the other Nebraska universities was the lack of COVID-19 policies, which may have encouraged the increase in our enrollment numbers this year.

While it’s odd to limit masks to only a few places, the mandate might end the controversy surrounding masks in labs and classrooms.

Before, even elderly professors who were at-risk or afraid of COVID-19, could not require masks because it was not university policy. They could request masks, but who’s to say every student would comply. Now, the choice has been taken away from students and faculty.

The tension in classrooms has thickened throughout the semester. A lengthy chain of faculty emails has developed as proof of this classroom struggle.

Despite the controversy, every member of UNK’s community needs to be courteous of the views of others, even if they do not align with one’s own views.

We need to consider the perspectives of professors and students alike. The petitions were a step in the right direction, but not the conflict that resulted. Respect one another’s beliefs and the fear of COVID-19. 

The truth is, we are all in the same boat that is drowning because of the pandemic. For the time being, UNK is requiring us to wear life jackets, until we can keep rowing as usual. 

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