Mask Mandates at Tufts University: Wrecking Campus Life
Below: Email to Executive Editor of Tufts Daily, followed by response and reasoning for rejection.
Nothing is ever settled. We are always learning and changing our beliefs. When the authorities tell us the debate is settled, that is when we need free speech the most.
Editorial begins below:
Another day goes by, and another piece of The Narrative appears to get blown apart by new evidence. Town by town, local Boards of Health have already ended their states of emergency and rolled back indoor mask mandates and vaccine passports, as we have seen in Boston. Harvard and MIT, the two other schools on the Red Line, already dropped their mask mandates on March 14th.
Pfizer’s trove of vaccine data, which its representatives conspicuously attempted to delay releasing until 2096—a full 75 years from now—is now coming out 50,000 pages at a time, thanks to a court order, and offers safety data the public deserves to know.
However, the last group to share in this victory is students. Despite the repeal of mask mandates across the country, even in states such as New York and Massachusetts, Tufts students continue to be forced to cover their faces whenever indoors—simply to enter university premises.
Mask mandates have done their best to engender a school environment that is devoid of human connection and visible emotion; is this what we hoped for when mandatory masking went back into place in May 2021? The administration’s decision to renege on this transition indicates they are willing to forcibly mask everyone in perpetuity. For a policy that is ineffective at best and harmful to the mental health of many members of the university body, this is unacceptable.
Members of the Infection Control Department appear to be clinging on for dear life to these ineffective COVID protocols of compulsory testing and masking, placing the university in an ever-swinging limbo of case numbers, which are supposed to relay overall risk. The initial decision to remove mask mandates also included a clause stating that if case numbers rose sufficiently, the University would maintain the authority to reinstate these ineffective protocols.
Multiple studies have come out indicating the harmful effects of forced masking, not in the least including speech delays among young children who are deprived of seeing teachers’ and peers’ faces for two years. For older students, the evidence is yet to come out about the harms of universal indoor masking for two years, but it is sure to be frightening. We have never done an experiment of such grand scale where everyone in a community must cover their faces indoors, so the effects on students’ mental health are truly hard to estimate. A new petition on Change.org called Tufts Students Against Mask Mandates has achieved record numbers of signatures over the past two weeks.
In its April 7th email, the University hinted at a second booster mandate in the near future, indicating that students will yet again have to receive an injection just to receive an education. It is inhumane to require booster mandates for an EUA product that provides little benefit. Public health officials have already admitted that the injections do not stop the spread, so then there is hardly any reason to compel university members to participate in this trial.
It is necessary to shift to an approach based on lifestyle factors. Sufficient Vitamin D exposure, which has been shown in studies to reduce COVID symptoms, should be recommended, as well as managing stress levels, encouraging social bonding, and focusing on fitness—since three-quarters of hospitalized COVID patients are overweight or obese. We have to focus on solutions like these so that students and faculty can shift to managing their own risk levels and also return to a 2019-esque “Old Normal.”
Centering student life around testing and the prospect of sickness is an exorbitantly cautious and authoritarian decision to make for young people who are among the least affected. Tufts is a global outlier in this approach, indicating it’s not truly rooted in science. Continuing these protocols risks a great deal of collateral damage in terms of students’ general anxiety levels, especially since there is a pandemic of mental illness and despair due to years of cruel restrictions.
With the knowledge we presently have about risk levels and treatment, there is no doubt that Tufts’ emergency mask and vaccine mandates should be discontinued immediately. Massachusetts ended its state of emergency as early as June of 2021. Yet schools like Tufts and others continue to pursue mask mandates that have yet to provide benefit.
If Harvard and MIT can end their mandates, why does Tufts continue to fumble this issue? Originally set (tentatively) for the third week of April, then pushed further down the road, how long do we have to wait until we all can breathe unabated at the schools that we pay for? As a matter of compassion for our students and faculty, and as a means of reviving the social bonds that the pandemic response surely helped fray, we must move on from all emergency mandates. This is the true emergency.