The Blue & Gray Press

The University of Mary Washington Student Newspaper

Op-Ed: UMW needs consistent COVID-19 policies

3 min read

@marywash / Instagram Students can walk on campus walk without their masks on this semester.

by BRIAN P. WOLF

Contributing Writer

Take a look at the campus walk bridge by Eagle’s Nest between classes. Go to the top floor of the UC. If you walk around campus long enough, you’ll begin to notice that people do not socially distance because they physically cannot; there’s just not enough room on Campus Walk.

Two years ago, this wouldn’t have been an issue. In fact, the crowded walkways between classes were endearing my freshman year. It made the campus feel alive, sociable and busy. Now, in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the University must see to the safety of the students. Although there seem to be established policies to protect students from COVID-19, they aren’t actually effective. 

Breaking down the policy is pretty simple: if you’re inside, you have to wear a mask. The only exceptions to this being if you’re in your dorm or if you’re eating. If you’re outside, you don’t have to wear a mask, but you should be socially distanced. 

The argument for these policies is that there isn’t enough room indoors to be socially distanced. 

Yet people are allowed to walk through the tunnel by Woodard without their masks, while still having to wear their masks indoors. Although these policies make sense on paper, they don’t make sense in reality. The current COVID policy is ineffective at truly preventing the spread of COVID-19 because it doesn’t account for close quarters in an outdoor setting.

While having some masking policies is better than having none, there is no “halfway solution” when it comes to a pandemic. There are quite a few examples, including the one I’ve described, that demonstrate the ineffectiveness of implementing policy that makes COVID-19 seem only partially serious. 

It is frustrating to see a one-foot-in, one-foot-out policy on campus. The University should change their policies to be stricter to reflect how seriously they’re responding to the pandemic. Alternatively, they should relax their policies to what we saw over the summer when vaccinated people could go indoors unmasked. Either way, the University’s policies should be sensible and reflect UMW’s COVID-19 response.

I acknowledge that there are many strong opinions on campus about COVID-19, and many people will feel differently as to whether or not COVID-19 policies should be stricter or more relaxed. 

Regardless of personal feelings, I urge students to at least hold the University accountable for the inconsistent policies implemented this year, as well as providing the policy update they promised. 

The “COVID Update” that describes the current status of cases on campus, such as the email sent out on Sept. 17 from Anna Billingsley with a message from Jeff McCluken, Chief of Staff and UMW COVID Director, did not suffice as a descriptive policy update. We deserve an actual update of the policies as promised in the syllabus every class handed out. As it stands, the policy is in an awkward limbo state between an ineffective COVID-19 policy and a greatly needed policy update.

As I write this article, the seventh week of the semester has begun, and the UMW administration has given no indication as to when they plan on releasing an update to the COVID-19 policy.

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