When Texas Gov. Greg Abbott lifted the state-wide mask mandate and reopened all the state’s businesses, the university made its stance clear and reinforced that its mask policy on-campus would remain in place through the end of the semester.
I really appreciated this, because I value the importance of an in-person education, especially studying to receive an arts degree, and I want to have one safely. I was concerned about the potential response to the governor’s executive order and thankful that the university acted quickly with its response.
However, the university administration has recently made some decisions that seem to contradict its stance on the mask mandate.
After almost a year of requiring masks in all buildings and outdoor spaces on campus, especially during large public events in gathering spaces on campus, the university did not require masks for those attending the outdoor March Madness watch party and tailgate, likely one of the largest student events in the last year.
Many students still chose to wear masks, and to those students, I want to say thank you for choosing safety and personal responsibility for yourself and your community. I encourage all students and staff to continue making that choice.
However, the vast majority of students in attendance did not wear a mask or distance from each other in any way.
I am so glad that we got to celebrate the men’s basketball team’s important victory as a campus, because honoring the accomplishments it has made is important and exciting, but that should not serve as an excuse to break the “ACU bubble” and potentially spread cases of COVID-19 all over campus. As much as I have missed tailgating, it’s disingenuous to assume there won’t be any problems caused by holding such large events again with little to no protective measures in place.
Additionally, Office of Residence Life has recently reopened its residence hall lobbies to guests and restructured its open house program to allow students into previously closed residence hall rooms.
I understand that the campus cases are at the lowest they have been in quite some time, and that prompted this decision. I have also seen more and more people on campus getting vaccinated to protect themselves and their friends from the spread of the coronavirus, which is important.
Rather than pretend this means things are immediately back to normal, the university should continue moving slowly in the direction of reopening the parts of campus that have remained closed in the last year.
Things are certainly moving back toward a normal balance and improving quickly. The efficacy rates of the coronavirus vaccines continue to look better and better. Bringing vaccines to Abilene and ACU will build our herd immunity, but it will take time and that needs to be acknowledged before we can safely reconsider holding large events or open houses without having to worry about protecting our neighbors from getting sick.
Thinking about being safe and smart through the end of this semester will put us one step closer to having a more normal semester in the fall.