Bearcats react to CUNY’s removal of mask mandate

Emanuela Gallo, Editor-in-Chief

Students, faculty and staff are no longer required to wear masks, following a March 4 announcement that received mostly positive and indifferent reactions from the CUNY community.

The decision to remove the mask mandate took effect on March 7.

Baruch College and other CUNY students shared their opinions through a Google Form survey created by The Ticker. Out of 16 respondents, 43.8% said they approved of the mask mandate removal. 31.3% were indifferent, while 25% disapproved.

A larger majority of respondents — 62.5% — agreed that the mask mandate was lifted at the appropriate time.

“If there is a time to start returning back to ‘normal’ and take off masks, it is now,” Jason Galak, a junior and the Undergraduate Student Government chair of philanthropy, said. “It is nice to see society heading into the right direction.”

Students who agreed with the policy change cited CUNY’s vaccine mandate, booster mandate, randomized testing program and low COVID-19 infection rate.

“We now have vaccines and treatments that will stop you from getting severely sick, so at this point wearing a mask should be a choice made on an individual level,” sophomore William Corda said.

The policy change will lead to better communication and social life among students, several respondents said.

“An advantage I already experienced is seeing what my classmates look like,” marketing major Samantha Bekman said. “I suddenly don’t feel like a slime ball for wanting to take a sip of water in class.”

Freedom of choice was a common theme among respondents who approved of or were indifferent to the mandate’s end.

“No one is pressured unnecessarily to have a mask on by administration,” Hunter College freshman Alex Niyazov said.

Several students mentioned that the policy would allow them to breathe easier.
However, some students also expressed concern for vulnerable students, such as Kenia Guzman.

“I could have fresh air but I also would be at risk from others,” Guzman, a psychology major, said, citing her compromised immune system.

“Although everyone can make their own decisions since we are adults, we should be considerate of those who are immunocompromised, where their risk of being infected with SARS-CoV-2 is high,” Austin Nicholas Dragos, a senior at Brooklyn College, said.

Students who disapproved of the mandate’s end said it would increase their chance of getting COVID-19.

“Lifting a safety measure that most people are already lax about is not going to help,” Anastasia Matano, a Hunter College sophomore, said.

Matano suggested that CUNY should not have lifted the mandate until a semester with zero COVID-19 cases occurred.

“For instance, if Baruch sees no COVID cases for a full semester, then they may drop the mandate for that specific campus,” Matano said. “Schools who see the same may follow in succession.”

Another student suggested that CUNY should have waited until it improved ventilation in its buildings.

“CUNY should ensure their infrastructure is capable enough of maintaining better and cleaner air quality,” Nicholas Dragos said. “There should be no reason why a campus’s infrastructural status is nearly or exactly the same as it was prior to emergency remote learning, knowing the period provided plenty of time to make changes to ventilation systems, especially in buildings where heating and cooling are problematic.”

Despite masks being optional, students reported high levels of masking among their peers.

Almost 67% of respondents said that nearly everyone at their schools remain masked. 20% said approximately half of their peers wear masks.

“I understand the situation had gotten better and we can’t keep living like this forever, but I’m personally not comfortable completely removing my mask yet,” freshman Mashal Burney said.

A majority of respondents, 56.3%, said they will wear a mask in crowds. Less than half responded that they would wear a mask in classrooms and open spaces, such as the library and seating areas.

“I don’t mind as it seems covid is not as big of a threat, but I could see people wanting to wear masks still for covid and non-covid related reasons,” marketing major Sadik Islam said.

Since the return of in-person classes in August 2021, Baruch has had a 1.6% COVID-19 positivity rate. CUNY as a whole had a 2% rate, as of March 6.

“Everyone’s mask preference at this moment should be respected,” finance major Andreea Pirvulesca said. “Those who feel comfortable wearing it should do so, and those who wish to go mask free are free to do so. However, we should still be mindful of people’s personal space, practice good hygiene and respect our community as a whole.”

Editor’s Note: Emanuela Gallo, who wrote this article, and Jason Galak, quoted above, are both executive board members of the Baruch Pre-Law Society.