Mask requirements loosen on Utica University’s campus, student reaction mixed

Students Corrine Bush (left) and Emily Anderson (right) wearing masks in JLM 365 Information Design.

Isabella Hudziak

Students Corrine Bush (left) and Emily Anderson (right) wearing masks in JLM 365 Information Design.

Isabella Hudziak, Managing News Editor

On Wednesday, Feb. 9, Utica University announced a new update to mask policies on campus through a letter from the Office of the President.

This update was pushed out in conjunction with an announcement from New York State Governor Kathy Hochul, which ruled that certain indoor mask requirements will be lifted starting Feb. 10.

At Utica University, masks are now required only in the following spaces:

  • Inside all classrooms, including any spaces where classes, labs, or lectures are held
  • In faculty and individual staff offices, at the request of the person who occupies that office
  • Gannett Memorial Library
  • The Student Health Center

According to Vice President for Emergency Management Shad Crowe, the locations for mask requirements were chosen based on proximity transmissions. The reasoning behind why classrooms require masks is because unlike any other space on campus, students are within close proximity with one another for an extended period of time during class.

The library is often home to several study groups, which also include many people in a small space. 

The new mask mandate at Utica University applies to all campus members regardless of vaccination status. 

“Now, [everyone] can choose to protect themselves by wearing a mask, but they are not required to,” Crowe said. “We all understand what the risks are and if you’re comfortable with the risks, then it is a personal decision.”

COVID-19 testing has not been affected by the new mask rules, but if a student feels sick or that they might have had a positive exposure, they are able to get tested at Utica University.

Crowe routinely helps with testing on Wednesdays in Strebel Student Center.  If a student is in need of a COVID-19 test, they can contact the Student Health Center. When the Health Center is closed, students can contact Campus Safety for a rapid test that can be taken back to each individual dorm room.

Daily Health Screenings, which were implemented at the start of the pandemic, will remain in effect until further notice to notify the university of new potential cases.

Crowe said that he has continued to see students wearing masks in spaces they are not required and that it is encouraging to see.

“It makes me proud of all of our students,” Crowe said. “I’m really just impressed with that level of caring, which I don’t think you see everywhere.”

Student reaction to the loosened mask mandate has been mixed on campus. 

According to history education major Jonathan Carissimo, the statewide decision to relax the mandate now is concerning.

“It doesn’t make sense relaxing it [in general] because it’s bigger than just the campus,” Carissimo said. “Public schools are going on break and people are going to be traveling, so I don’t get why they’re relaxing it.”

Liberal studies major Kayla Viti said that she will continue to wear her mask everywhere, despite the campus loosening its regulations.

“I think it’s just easier because classrooms require it,” Viti said. “Also, I’m someone who really believes they work and am not confident that COVID is gone in a school setting.”

Some students, like communication and media major Dante Palumbo, are in support of the loosened rules.

“I feel like loosening the mask mandates make things feel like they’re going back to normal,” Palumbo said. “I don’t really mind [wearing a mask] in a classroom and when I’m outside, I can take it off.”

As of now, there are no plans to change the current mask regulations at Utica University. With COVID-19 numbers remaining relatively low on campus, it is quite possible that the rules and regulations will be updated before the end of the semester.