At the beginning of the academic year, students living on-campus could only take their masks off in residence halls if they were in their rooms. However, effective Sept. 22, the policy has been changed, and now students who are in any part of their residence hall, not just their rooms, can have their masks off as long as they are by themselves.
Associate Dean of Students Ryan Blevins stated this was done with consideration of county officials.
“We revised the policy with the blessing of the Porter County Health Department to basically say if a student is by themselves in a resident hall, so if they’re alone in a space inside your residence hall, they can have a mask off, so if they’re in a lounge, they’re in a bathroom, they’re by themselves, they don’t have to have a mask on,” Blevins said.
The reason for the update was primarily due to already having good compliance with wearing masks.
“Our students were doing a really good job with wearing masks, and to be honest, we wanted to give them a little more latitude in their homes. The residence halls are their homes during the academic year, and we’re trying to make them as comfortable as possible,” Blevins said. “But at the same time, we have to find a balance between comfort and keeping people healthy and safe.”
For students, this change will likely be welcomed.
“I actually have mixed feelings, because everyone’s pretty much taken their mask off when no one’s around. It’s kind of a given. It’s like, ‘when no one’s watching, are you always doing the good thing?’ I think it’s comparative to that,” said freshman Ethan McFarland.
McFarland then noted that for some, the impact is even greater.
“For people who will genuinely not abuse the rule, I think it’s a good thing, because I think there’s a lot of kids in the lounge, just by themselves, who’d kind of take their masks off now and then just to get a breath of fresh air. So I think it’s a good thing for them,” McFarland said.
As colder weather approaches, it is possible for an increase in sickness spread throughout campus. However, if adherence to safety protocols continues as is, that shouldn’t affect this.
“The only way that we would go backwards on this policy is an increase of COVID on campus, and we need to recognize some additional precautions regarding that, but we’re optimistic and hopeful that we won’t have to do that,” Blevins said.
However, it’s still important to note that the pandemic continues to be a learning process, and the administration is adapting at the same time.
“Since we’re still wearing masks in group settings, we should be okay. But we’re taking it one day at a time. Like everything with COVID now, it’s day-by-day, week-by-week,” Blevins said.