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Old Gold & Black

Old Gold & Black

Scott Kull: The new Director of Athletics
Abigail Taylor, Contributing Writer • April 16, 2024

To Mask Or Not To Mask

Students+learn+in+socially+distanced+classroom.+Professors+have+adapted+to+guidelines+in+their+classrooms+regardless+of+their+preferences.%0APhoto+courtesy+of+Natalie+Aversano.
Students learn in socially distanced classroom. Professors have adapted to guidelines in their classrooms regardless of their preferences. Photo courtesy of Natalie Aversano.

How are professors responding to COVID guidelines and influencing students?

For nearly a year, Wofford has adapted to the changing situation regarding COVID-19, including professors having to make their classes COVID-safe. The college has created guidelines for students, faculty and staff to follow for both in and out of the classroom. While classes this semester started out completely online, many in-person classes have resumed since the college deemed it safe to do so, meaning that the college’s COVID guidelines for the classroom are being put into use.

Currently, Wofford’s COVID-19 guidelines require that masks be worn in all academic buildings, common areas and public spaces. Physical distancing of at least six feet is also required at all times. 

Despite the requirements that all individuals wear masks in academic buildings, some students have expressed concern about their professors not abiding by these rules during their classes. 

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One student who is majoring in accounting discussed how one of their professors does not wear a face mask while teaching. They explained that while the professor tried to remain behind the plexiglass during class, they do not always do so. The student chose to keep both their identity and that of their professor anonymous. 

“This made me mad because I feel like some professors don’t think the rules apply to them,”  the student said. “It’s very exhausting sitting in a classroom with a mask on and making sure I wipe down my desk when my professor is strolling around the room with his mask under his nose or on his chin.” 

Another student who is majoring in government explained that their professor, Robert Jeffery, professor of government and international affairs, removes his face mask before each class. They explained that while Jeffery tends to stay more than six feet away from the students during class, he does not always remain socially distanced from students. 

“Dr. Jefferey does not wear a mask when he lectures, which would be somewhat alright if he was more than six feet away from the students.” the student said.  “However, he does not even wear a mask when he hands us papers and it makes me very uncomfortable.” 

Another student, also a government major, said that Jeffery does not wear a mask during their class and has told his students that they do not have to wear masks either. “He’s not near people necessarily but it is protocol” the student said. 

In response, Jeffery explained that he tried to teach with a face shield last semester, but that after a while, it became fogged. He said that in the past, he used a mask “when I felt a greater danger to me or from me to other students.”

However, he noted that he is now vaccinated and has antibodies. “I’m not afraid of the virus or anything. I’m sure I’m not a danger to my students,” Jeffery said. 

According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), individuals who have received both doses of the vaccine should still continue to wear a mask and social distance as it is still unknown whether or not the vaccine will prevent the spread of the virus to others, even if the vaccinated individual does not become sick. 

“I can’t lecture with a mask on,” Jeffery said. “I think the bottom line is it’s for the sake of the students, that they get their money’s worth.”

“It’s about my ability to teach. I can’t teach in a mask.” he said. 

In his theatre classes, Daniel Day, associate professor of theatre, has also adapted to the  COVID-19 guidelines. Day explained that when his students are performing in his acting class, once everyone is socially distanced, they are allowed to briefly lower their face masks while performing if they are comfortable doing so. Other than this, masks are worn by everyone at all times. 

“I think the occasional practice of safely and briefly revealing individual faces in an acting class has been psychologically healthy for all of us,” Day said. “Being able to see a human face and to have one’s face and expressions seen by others reminds us all that we’re human, vulnerable, and all in this together.” 

One student from Day’s class said “I can’t speak for my classmates, but I think everyone that’s in that class feels very comfortable with doing that because everyone else in the classroom is wearing a mask and the only person that is allowed to take off their mask is the person that is fifteen feet away from any other person.”

“I know it’s not exactly protocol however I think it’s a very good solution,” the student explained. 

Another student in Day’s class said “I found myself also wondering if students actually feel comfortable taking their masks off while acting because he says that he will never force us to, yet he always asks us to because he needs to grade us based on our acting, which is largely shown in our face, so it’s just kind of tricky. “ 

The student explained that during the theatre class, they participated in an activity that resulted in the class being clustered in the center of the room and another student had to remind the class to stay six feet apart. 

As Wofford continues to face the effects of Covid-19, students and professors continue to adapt to the situation. The CDC recommends these three ways to help slow the spread of the virus: wear a mask, socially distance of at least six feet, and avoid crowds. 

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