BY ELI KOHN STAFF WRITER
So, here we all are. A new year, and boy, things look promising. There’s hundreds of people roaming Wilkin’s Plaza, tons of in-person classes and a line outside Chipotle that has only gotten longer since I started writing. We made it! Right?
Before I begin, I just want to clarify something: Mason has done a fairly remarkable job mitigating COVID cases on campus. It is because of this I am able to sit in the Johnson Center, surrounded by hundreds of other students, whining about minor inconveniences in my otherwise privileged student life (such is the duty of an opinion writer). The bottom line is that Mason has done what they set out to do: We have a good-as-it-gets vaccination rate of almost 90%, a positive test rate between 0.5% and 1%, and things genuinely seem back to normal.
My complaint, then, is about Mason’s messaging around student responsibility. The first component of this is the absolute pinnacle of Mason’s creativity and innovation: the COVID health check.
If you are a student here, it is impossible to avoid this obstacle, but I’ll explain anyway: To go anywhere on campus — the gym, classes, club meetings — you need to complete a little questionnaire that essentially certifies you are not at risk of having COVID and are free to move about.
The survey includes questions like “Have you traveled outside the country?” and “Have you visited the Mason campus recently?” The problem with using this as a passport to enter classes is if you have a cough from the cigarette you just smoked or you have a headache because you’re hungover. When you tell the school, you are immediately and irrevocably punished.
A friend of mine had to quarantine and miss all his classes for the first time all semester because he admitted to having a cough. What do you think he’s going to do next time he has a cough? Lie! Mason, listen, if you tell people they have to pass this little test to go somewhere they want to go, and if being truthful rewards them with not being able to go, why would they be truthful?
Still, people swear by this thing. Professors, emails, loudspeaker announcements and club leaders are constantly reminding you to complete a health check and, while remarkably stupid on its own, this questionaire is only half of my complaint.
Now for the second part of this conundrum: Did anyone go see Craig Robinson last Friday? Almost 2,000 people were there, with more than half of them not wearing masks. At one point, following about an hour of Robinson’s bizarre combination of improv piano playing, stand-up comedy and singalongs, he invited several hundred of the students up to the front for basically a mosh pit. Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for this. With the apparent degree of COVID safety Mason has attained, we should 100% be allowed to mosh at a comedy show (oxymoron aside).
However, this is certainly not the most obvious COVID-friendly strategy and seems completely counterintuitive to Mason’s low-grade authoritarian attempts at mitigating spread. Ultimately, my question is: Why does Mason insist on the necessity of their health check, yet allows 2,000 students to pack together like sardines, sweating and singing loudly? The Robinson show is not the only example, by the way, just the best one.
So how about we start placing one foot in front of the other in the walk toward normalcy and stop shoving this silly little passport down the throats of Mason students? Seriously, how has no one considered this?