The Perfect Enemy | Colleges’ COVID conundrum: Elite universities mandate masks two years into pandemic, but at what cost?
September 25, 2022

Colleges’ COVID conundrum: Elite universities mandate masks two years into pandemic, but at what cost?

Colleges’ COVID conundrum: Elite universities mandate masks two years into pandemic, but at what cost?  Fox NewsView Full Coverage on Google News

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As America has put many COVID-19 restrictions in the rearview mirror, some colleges and universities aren’t ready to let go of some mandates quite yet.

George Washington University, Georgetown University, New York University, Rutgers University and San Diego State University still have some form of an indoor mask mandate in place to combat the spread of COVID-19.

At George Washington University in Washington, D.C., community members are required to wear a mask in “indoor instructional settings,” such as teaching laboratories and classrooms, George Washington University transportation, and university health care facilities.

The university informed community members on Sept. 9 that it is relaxing the mask mandate on Sept. 12, as previously, masks were required in most indoor settings on campus.

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Prospective students tour Georgetown University’s campus. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin, File)

Jackson Hoppe, a student at George Washington University, told Fox News Digital that the country is “beyond” mask mandates, but said the new classroom mask mandate is “much more reasonable.”

“I just think that it’s ridiculous and that in September of 2022 that we are still actively enforcing this kind of mandate,” Hoppe said. “I mean, I do think that they’re trying to be safe, you know, but honestly, I think it’s a little bit of overkill at this point.”

“I think they’re just taking it a little too far,” he added.

A spokesperson for George Washington University pointed Fox News Digital to an email sent to community members on Sept. 9, stating that starting Sept. 12, “masks will be optional but remain strongly recommended in all university-owned or -operated facilities” with some exceptions.

“Although masks are optional on our campuses, their use is strongly encouraged. Individuals may choose whether to wear a mask based on a variety of reasons. We ask that you respect the personal decisions of others who continue to choose to wear a mask,” the email states. 

Ezra Meyer, a student at George Washington University and campus reform correspondent, said masking should be a personal choice.

“It should be every student’s prerogative to choose to wear a mask or not. Masking on campus should be a matter of personal choice, not forced on us through mandates,” Meyer said.

Georgetown University, which is also in Washington, D.C., has a similar masking policy and requires community members to wear a mask while in organized classes, university-sponsored transportation, and health care settings.

Rutgers University, which has campuses across the state of New Jersey, has a masking policy which requires community members, such as students and faculty, to mask-up in “all indoor teaching spaces, libraries, and clinical settings,” with “mandatory compliance.”

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Rutgers University Ph.D. students wearing masks.

Rutgers University Ph.D. students wearing masks. (Rutgers University School of Communication and Information)

San Diego State University’s mask policy requires that students and staff mask-up while in “instructional settings,” even if a class session is taking place outside. The university also requires that masks be worn in the library, student health services, and the children’s center.

Dr. Marc Siegel, Fox News medical analyst and professor of medicine at New York University Langone Medical Center, told Fox News Digital that while universities have the right to impose restrictions such as a mask mandate, it doesn’t mean they’re warranted. 

Rutgers University students wearing masks in a classroom.

Rutgers University students wearing masks in a classroom. (Rutgers University School of Communication and Information)

“It’s not been proven scientifically how much benefit you get out of the mask,” Siegel said. “The universities have a right, but I question the harm and the public health value of actually doing them.”

Siegel also said current mandates, such as mask mandates, are causing psychological harm.

San Diego State University engineering students wearing masks.

San Diego State University engineering students wearing masks. (San Diego State University)

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“I don’t think it’s been shown that mask mandates work anywhere, and the word ‘mandate’ causes psychological harm. And then it leads to virtue signaling where people have a mask on but they’re not wearing it properly,” Siegel said.

Other institutions such as Columbia University also have a mask mandate that is effective until Sept. 30 in all classrooms and university shuttles “to allow a smooth return to the classroom.”

New York University requires community members to wear a mask in settings where “in-person attendance is obligatory” as well as when people have “exposure to the same individuals over a prolonged period of time.” A spokesperson told Fox News Digital that its mask mandate is expected to be lifted by the end of September.

Fox News Digital reached out to the universities mentioned.