Students React to Indoor Mask Removal


Courtesy of Villanovan Photography

Students may choose to wear masks if they are more comfortable to do so.

Sarah Wisniewski, Co-News Editor

On Feb. 11, University President Rev. Peter M. Donohue, O.S.A., Ph.D., informed students, staff and faculty via email that the indoor masking requirement will be lifted effective Monday, Feb. 14. 

Father Peter made the decision following discussions with the University’s medical team and the Pandemic Policy Committee. The email stated that the high vaccination rate at the University and booster percentage on campus impacted this decision. 

The email included reminders for the University community, including that any individual more comfortable wearing a mask indoors is still invited to do so. 

Professors may choose to keep a mask requirement in their classroom if they wish to. Students have already seen professors uphold the requirement. One junior student stated that her professor ended an email with, “Better to be safe than sorry,” when advising the class of the continued use of masks.

Mask usage in laboratories and offices will also be decided by professors and advisors, and students must comply with the professors’ wishes to wear a mask. 

Community members are asked to continue following the Community First guidelines. Father Peter emphasized his thanks to community members for following such guidelines.

“As we have done since the start of the pandemic, we will continue to monitor the situation and make adjustments as needed,” Father Donohue said at the end of his email. “I also want to express my overwhelming gratitude for your patience, cooperation and resilience over the past two years.”

Kathleen Byrnes, Ph.D., the Vice President of Student Life, said that consulting has been on-going, multiple times a week, since the beginning of the pandemic in March 2020. The meetings address all issues pertaining to COVID. Since the start of the 2022 Spring semester, the question of indoor masking has been brought up at meetings. 

“I personally do feel this decision is the right choice at this time,” Byrnes said. “Our community is highly vaccinated, and highly boosted, to a much larger degree than the population in general. The benefit of this high rate of added protection/mitigation from the coronavirus is to relax masking unless someone is actively recovering from a positive diagnosis or is an identified close contact of a positive case.”

As of Feb. 13, the University had 20 active cases. In addition to the removal of masks indoors, the contract tracing system has also changed. 

Close contacts of individuals who tested positive for COVID-19 previously received a phone call from the VU Contact Tracing team. Now, anyone who is established as a close contact will be notified via email. The email will include instructions for how the close contact should proceed. 

As guidelines shift, students are reacting to the news in a variety of ways. 

Junior nursing student Jessica Cherubino had a mixed reaction to hearing the news. 

“I see there being a huge surge after we get back from break without wearing masks,” Cherubino said. “I know it will be very disappointing to go back to wearing masks after if that is the case. Also, as a nursing student, it does scare me because I know what the hospitals look like right now. However, it does make me feel better knowing we have our own little community here, and the cases have been very well managed for the past few weeks.”

Junior Sean Volpi also had mixed emotions hearing the news.

“I think it’s neat that we’ll be able to experience the comfort of not having to wear a mask indoors again,” Volpi said. “At the same time, I think it is possible cases rise again. It seems like it is just a cycle.”

There seems to be a common feeling that the University, as a somewhat separate community, will be okay without masks outside. However, junior Shannon Brown feels mask use off campus is important. 

“I understand that Villanova has their own community/bubble on campus, but I wish they had continued to emphasize the importance of wearing a mask while off campus to protect others around us,” Brown said.

Cat McCullough echoed Brown’s statement that wearing masks off campus should have been emphasized by the University. Brown, as well as other students, felt the timing of the change was not good.

“I wasn’t surprised that they lifted the mask mandate,” McCullough said. “However, I think the timing was extremely poor, especially two days after a Wells Fargo game. Then, with break coming up, I think it would’ve been better if they waited until after spring break.”

On the other side, some students wish the requirement for masks indoors would have been dropped sooner.

Junior Alex Lannoye is one of those students.

“I’m very happy the mask mandate is gone, and honestly it should’ve been scrapped way sooner,” Lannoye said. “I am glad they finally decided to lift it.”

Overall, the University seems to be divided in the decision to lift the mandate for indoor masking. As a reminder though, individuals and professors who wish to wear masks indoors are invited to do so.