For the first time since July 2020, Saint Mary’s University in Halifax no longer requires masking in common areas, despite them still being “encouraged.”
Masking will, however, still be needed in classrooms and labs.
Margaret Murphy, the associate vice-president of external affairs, says the school has taken a “measured approach” so far, helping get to a point where the university could “gradually ease the conditions, lessen the conditions as time goes on.”
She says the decision came from the Return to Campus Advisory Team, which includes student and faculty representation.
“Usually, I don’t wear the mask, so I don’t really care about that,” says student Ayako Nakajima. “Some of the students or the teachers really care about that.”
“It would be nice if we could go without masking because sometimes they get annoying,” admits Jillian MacEwan, another student. “But at the same time, COVID still exists so you can’t really pretend it doesn’t.”
Susan Glenn, a part-time professor, isn’t as comfortable with the move.
“I’m a little disappointed,” she says. “I still obviously wear my mask whenever I’m out in public and don’t want to get exposed, but I guess I’m keeping myself safe. I know for some students, it’s been a hardship to have them keep their masks on everywhere all the time.”
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Murphy, meanwhile, says it comes down to a choice. In classrooms or labs, there’s not much of a choice, but in the library or study areas, people can move if they’re uncomfortable, she says.
“Compliance has been very good,” Murphy says. “And we feel that with lessening the requirements now, giving people those options in the hallways, the corridors, the common areas, that we will still retain excellent compliance in the classrooms where we really need it.”
While another student, Carson Cromwell, doesn’t think compliance has been great, he says the move makes sense.
“I think it’s great for SMU, honestly,” he says. “In classrooms and in labs, they still have the masks, which I agree with because you’re still so close to the students. But overall, in the library (and other common areas), people I’ve seen don’t really wear masks anymore.”
According to their websites, masks are required in instructional spaces at Dalhousie University and Mount Saint Vincent, too.
They’re not required at Nova Scotia Community College.
As for Saint Mary’s, the current protocols are expected to remain in effect until the conclusion of the semester and exams.