Olivia Hille headshot

As the second week of classes starts, there's a lot to unpack about our community. We are in person, but we have only seen half the faces of our professors — and the eyes and some noses of our peers. In fact, it seems like after a year and a half of wearing masks, there is still some miscommunication on how to properly wear your mask.

In about every class, I have encountered individuals who wear their mask below their nose or, in fact, put their mask on their chin or simply take their mask off when they come into the room. We are all gaining an education at the same institution, taking similar courses and around the same age as each other. But some in our community are making objectively unintelligent and medically hazardous decisions. In many cases, not wearing a mask seems like a defiant statement on an individual's part. Is the thought process that some of us are above the rules of safety and/or that many may know better than the majority of our world's scientists?

It is extremely disheartening how politicized masks have become. It is even more unfortunate that several conservative lawmakers and celebrities have made it so and in turn are risking the lives of those in our community. The situation involving COVID-19 continues to worsen and one of the ways to minimize damage, wearing a mask, seems to become more dramatized and complicated as time wears on.

NC State has made it clear there is a mask mandate. It has also made it abundantly clear that if you are not vaccinated, then you will be tested once a week until circumstances change. However, with a strong presence of rules in place, some are not abiding mask rules and are thus putting the burden on those in their classes. Will it be a professor or a student that holds that burden in the classroom? The options are to be confrontational and hold individuals accountable for wearing a mask correctly, or non-confrontational and letting one person endanger the lives of those around them.

Many people our age who wear masks are not just worried about ourselves, but our family members and others we come in contact with. In fact, if the exponentially rising death toll and ICU count along with the proven long-term effects of COVID-19 are not enough to support the necessary actions that are in place, it is extremely obvious that many in our community are more worried about personal inconvenience rather than the general health.

It is quite frustrating, as someone who left in-person courses as a sophomore and is now rejoining the campus community as a senior, to see the possibility of my education being diminished once again by the actions of my peers. Many of us have worn masks, stayed inside and quarantined, and gotten vaccinated at the earliest convenience. To say the least, it is infuriating that we are again at the mercy of those who have not put in the effort to protect our community and are obviously unable to make simple, logical and empathetic decisions to better the whole community. 

Another thought that runs through my mind when I see someone who is indoors and not wearing their mask properly is that they are a health hazard. If they are haphazardly wearing their mask in an area that has been explicitly deemed a masked zone, they are most likely not taking precautions outside these zones to make sure they are not sick or avoiding the possibility of them being infected. Thus, those who are showing they cannot wear their mask may be a greater danger to the rest of the community, not simply for not wearing their mask, but showing they don't really care about this situation we are all in.

As a student, I urge those in the administration and professors alike to take it upon themselves to bear the burden and make sure masks are properly worn. This topic creates confrontation and has the potential to escalate political debates on campus. It is, however, increasingly necessary to re-enforce the important stance the University has taken in protecting the NC State community. It should not be the University's intention to place the burden on the student to regulate their peers' mask usage. However, if the lack of conformity to mandates on campus are not controlled by the university on a larger scale, it will lean on professors and students to protect themselves rather than focusing on teaching and learning.