Majority of students surveyed support ending campus mask mandate


Sophie Hume

The majority of students surveyed responded in favor of lifting OU’s campus indoor mask mandate before the end of the winter semester.

Results are in for Oakland University Student Congress (OUSC) and The Oakland Post’s co-sponsored Oakland University mask mandate student survey, and 57.5% of respondents have voted in favor of lifting OU’s campus indoor mask mandate before the end of the winter semester.

The survey was launched Monday, Feb. 21 in response to a discussion that was led by Provost Britt Rios-Ellis at the University Senate meeting on Feb. 17 about the university considering the possibility of lifting its indoor mask mandate by March 18. The survey stayed open until Wednesday, March 2.

Of the total responses received, 1,078 were deemed legitimate by our survey parameters which were designed to make sure the results were indicative of what OU students want concerning the mask mandate. A conscientious effort was made by OUSC to exclude votes received from non-student OU email accounts from the final poll results which will be shared in this article.

The Post and OUSC are confident in the legitimacy of these survey results, and are thankful to have received such an outpouring of responses from students. We’re proud and grateful to be able to amplify student voices on such an important issue to the campus community.

The survey featured seven questions and a section for open comment. The first question on the survey was a simple yes-or-no question: “Should OU end the campus indoor mask mandate before the end of the Winter 2022 semester?” to which 620 (57.5%) of respondents voted “yes,” and 458 (42.5%) voted “no.”

Photo courtesy of Andrew Romano

The next six questions were framed as statements with the option to select a range from “strongly agree” to “strongly disagree” as responses.

Question number two, “OU should drop its mask immediately” received 411 (38.1%) “strongly agree” responses, 120 (11.1%) “agree” responses, 93 (8.8%) “neutral” responses, 86 (8%) “disagree” responses and 368 (34.1%) strongly disagree responses.

Question number three, “OU should drop its mask mandate by March 18” received 377 (35%) “strongly agree” responses, 179 (16.6%) “agree” responses, 78 (7.2%) “neutral” responses, 100 (9.3%) “disagree” responses and 344 (31.9%) “strongly disagree” responses.

Photo courtesy of Andrew Romano

Question number four, “OU should keep its mask mandate until the end of the Winter 2022 semester” received 319 (29.6%) “strongly agree” responses, 115 (10.7%) “agree” responses, 79 (7.3%) “neutral” responses, 133 (12.3%) “disagree” responses and 432 (40.1%) “strongly disagree” responses. 

Question number five, “If OU drops its mask mandate, it should expand options for remote learning” received 405 (37.5%) “strongly agree” responses, 263 (24.4%) “agree” responses, 265 (24.6%) “neutral” responses, 58 (5.4%) “disagree” responses and 87 (8.1%) “strongly disagree” responses. 

Photo courtesy of Andrew Romano

Question number six, “I would feel comfortable going to class in person, without a mask mandate” received 493 (45.7%) “strongly agree” responses, 139 (12.9%) “agree” responses, 70 (6.5%) “neutral” responses, 99 (9.2%) “disagree” responses and 277 (25.7%) “strongly disagree” responses.

Question number seven, “I was under the impression that the mask mandate would continue until the end of the Winter 2022 semester when I paid for my classes” received 327 (30.7%) “strongly agree” responses, 101 (9.5%) “agree” responses, 175 (16.4%) “neutral” responses,  123 (11.5%) “disagree” responses and 339 (31.8%) “strongly disagree” responses.

Photo courtesy of Andrew Romano

We received 343 responses in the written comment section of the survey. Comments supporting OU keeping the mask mandate in place included:

“The university needs to take care of the students who have stuck with this university the past couple years during this pandemic and not cater to outsiders bitching about our COVID-19 response for political reasons. There’s consensus among the scientific and medical community, we know masks save lives. Everyone is used to the mandate this year, keep it in place until the end of the winter semester.”

“As much as I understand the want to be fully connecting with peers and professors by not feeling so closed off, I do not feel comfortable removing the mask mandate. When I registered for my winter ’22 classes, I was under the impression that the mask mandate would remain in place. I work with a vulnerable population and I cannot be interacting with a lot of people who are not wearing masks and who I don’t know whether or not they are being smart about how much they socialize.”

“As a healthcare worker that has been working with Covid patients throughout the duration of this pandemic, I would feel incredibly unsafe on the campus if it is not mandating masks. I would see it as irresponsible on behalf of the administration and the university to lift the mask mandates. Additionally, we must consider the way that this decision would impact immunocompromised students and faculty. It would be endangering them to lift this mask mandate. I seriously hope that the mask mandate will continue until it is safe to lift the mandate..”

“OU needs to start actually enforcing COVID safety procedures. I’ve had instances of getting onto crowded elevators and being in small rooms with people who refuse to wear masks. In general people have been notably resistant to wearing masks as is.”

“I am medically high risk and more susceptible to getting COVID. If OU drops the mask mandate, I will be extremely disappointed in this University. Online options better be offered to students if the mandate is dropped. I will NOT be comfortable attending anything in person if the mandate is dropped.”

Comments in favor of OU lifting the mandate included:

“The university should not mandate students to wear face coverings. If students feel more comfortable wearing masks they may choose to, it should be up to the individual student to decide this for themselves. I personally would wear a mask to larger lectures, but feel that wearing them while in my residence hall or the Rec, where I am socially distanced anyways is unnecessary.”

“OU is the only place where I am required to wear a mask. It has really been messing with my asthma and I have difficulty breathing for hours after I take it off. The dean said exemptions would be considered but I have never heard of anyone getting one.”

“Masks mandates on college campuses are tyranny. Covid should be no concern for a vaccinated individual in their twenties. Follow the data.”

“Covid is never going to go away. I know we have to protect each other but it is time for us to start moving on. Additionally, unless we are wearing an N95 it doesn’t truly protect us anyway.”

“I have been vaccinated and boosted, and I am relatively certain near the start of the pandemic I already had COVID before there was even a test or the ability to get one as testing was only reserved for the incredibly sick. I can go everywhere else with whoever I want anywhere else in Michigan pretty much without a mask, including being indoors for extended periods of time with many other people. I feel like with the expanding ability to teach classes in person while streaming the course material and the lectures in real time we can drop the mandate down to recommending the mask if you are not vaccinated or if you wish to continue wearing one. I respect my fellow students enough to not cause a problem for those who wish to shed the masks or choose to continue wearing one. But I feel like it would be a step towards making people feel less anxious and feel like we are returning to more normalcy.”

Comments neutral to the mask mandate staying in place or suggesting alternatives included:

“If the school does decide to drop the mask mandate then social distancing standards must return in its place. The mask only works if both people are wearing it, so if no one decides to wear it then some distance needs to be maintained between people. If people don’t want to abide by social distancing rules then ALL classes must give the virtual option or class AND labs.”

“I think there should be an in-between situation, such as classes with more than 30 people still wearing masks or if someone in the class is immune compromised, they should be able to tell the prof so that the entire class can continue wearing their mask.”

“Once cases get lower (return to July 2021 levels) I would feel comfortable with no mask mandate indoors at OU.”

“I do think the mandate should be lifted, but I still feel that those who are not vaccinated should still wear them.”

“I think lifting the mask mandate will lessen the student activity in class, especially for me, as I have family and teammates that have some health issues that they are more prone to catch COVID than others. I think that if they lift the mask mandate, professors and the university should allow students to attend class remotely. In reality, we do not know where everyone on campus is coming from or who they saw the day before. We all know that no one fills out the health survey on MySail so there is no way to calculate how many people are there, if they are feeling sick, etc.

With 57.5% of those surveyed voting in favor of lifting the mask mandate before the end of the Winter 2022 semester, there is a majority of this healthy sample size of students who favor lifting the mandate. Though that majority is slimmer than what administrators thought, with some in university leadership concerned that the number of students in favor of lifting the mandate could be as high as 80% to 90% of the student body based on emails they were receiving.

As of writing, Student Body President Andrew Romano and Vice President Murryum Farooqi had already met with and shared information about the survey results with Senior Vice President for Student Affairs and Chief Diversity Officer Glenn McIntosh

While The Post isn’t aware of the university having any plans at this time to lift the mandate, OU leadership continues to monitor COVID-19 cases and assess the situation. 

With the effects of lifting the mandate likely to significantly impact what happens in university classrooms, The Post reached out to Oakland University’s Chapter of the American Association of University Professors (OU AAUP) President Karen Miller to see if the union had surveyed its members about the mask mandate.

“We have not surveyed our membership,” Miller said. “We believe that the opinions of our members differ greatly; however, our larger concern has been the public health issue for our members who live with vulnerable family members, as well as our students who have similar concerns. For that reason, we have been supporting the idea of moving ahead cautiously to maximize safety.”