By Molly Sproul||Website Manager
On May 11, F&M sent out an email detailing the move-out process for college-owned properties.
I hastily skimmed the email until I read the lines “select an available checkout appointment for specific day and time.” I found my hall, clicked the link, and was happy to see only a few people had already signed up. I picked one of the first time-slots because I live with high-risk people, hoping this would diminish my chances of carrying COVID back to them. I was also happy to see some of the rules they included in the email, most notably: “You and your helper must bring and wear a face mask throughout the move-out process.”
The weekend before move-out as I was planning my return to Lancaster, I was somewhat concerned to learn there were people already on campus moving out. Did I not click the first day available? Was there a separate sign-up sheet? What is going on? I had learned from a friend that some people emailed the school in advance to move out early, an option I did not know was available. This completely undermined my rationale for picking one of the first dates, so that I would be safe. How could they let people do this and not tell us about it? If I knew I wouldn’t have been one of the first people to move-out of campus residences, I would have just postponed my move-out date indefinitely. But, I brushed this off and hoped that those people would not be in areas that I would be in.
On move-out day, I drove over to campus early to help the friend who I had been living with move out. I parked behind my residence hall away from all of the other cars. I noticed that no one was wearing masks: most noticeably the movers stationed right between Weis and Ware. There were two of them under the tent when I first arrived, both mask-less, but certainly they were told to wear masks, right? I thought so, since they go in and out of the residence halls moving people out. You would think if the school told families to wear masks, they would have told the movers, which they paid to assist in this process, to also wear masks. Especially since they were stationed right near the driveway, and any student moving out of Weis or Ware would need to pass them.
I walked through campus with my gloves and mask on to meet my friend on West James Street. While passing through Hartman green, I noticed about four or five Public Safety officers huddled together in the center, none of them were wearing masks.
I walked through the grass beside CC and through the archway to meet up with my friend on West James. He had mistakenly lost the key to his bedroom and was told to call Public Safety once it was his time to move-out. When I got there, he pointed out to me a family moving out a student on the other side of the street. We noted that they had New York plates, and none of them were wearing masks. Were there separate instructions for people who lived in houses? Why are they not wearing masks?
We then saw the Public Safety officers approaching our block. There were two of them, but only one had a mask, which was pulled down below his chin. Once he was half a block away, he pulled his mask up to cover his face… but doesn’t that defeat the purpose of a mask?
According to the World Health Organization, you’re not supposed to touch the mask because “self-contamination that can occur by touching and reusing [a] contaminated mask.” And according to the Mayo Clinic, “If you accidentally touch your mask, wash or sanitize your hands .” This is because you can still pass and contract the virus by touching contaminated surfaces — such as the door knob the officer touched with gloveless hands, or the bannister he held onto while climbing the stairs. I thought that at least Public Safety would follow the safe conduct we were told to do so.
My friend led the officer to the front door of the house and asked that he stay behind him and social distance. However, the officer followed him right inside without a step behind him. After moving my friend out of his house, only running into a few people on the street, who were also moving out maskless and gloveless, we walked back to the parking lot to wait for my move-in slot. On the walk over, we noticed a few F&M groundskeepers mowing the lawn and driving their designated carts around, and few were wearing masks. Is this how the school functions on non-move-out days?
We reached the parking lot, and the same tent was there with a few more people huddled under it, all maskless. I felt increasingly unsafe about having to go into Weis and retrieve my things.
According to the email sent out, only the main door would be unlocked. That meant every single person who had moved out earlier in the day or week would have touched the same handles and knobs that I would be. But did this include the maskless people standing in the parking lot?
There were only a few other students that I passed throughout the move-out process. One student had his father with him, not wearing a mask.
Once my last box was moved out, I returned my keys and headed for my car. As I drove home, I thought about all of the people on campus who were not wearing masks. Did they not understand how serious this was? Why are people who are paid by the school not being careful about wearing masks? If Public Safety, the paid-for movers, and the groundskeepers are not wearing masks or following social distancing, why should the school expect families and students to wear masks? Not only did I think about putting myself and my family in jeopardy, I also thought of all the families who were assured by the email that the school was taking utmost safety precautions. However, the actions I witnessed there proved this to not to be the case.
I understand the school is losing money because of COVID, but that is no excuse to ignore student safety and fail to align the school actions with its values. The school’s misconduct clearly shows that it is not taking the utmost safety precautions. I understand they cannot physically force students and families to wear masks, but they can at least have the people they pay to be on campus do so.
Senior Molly Sproul is the Website Manager. Her email is firstname.lastname@example.org.