Students march through campus to protest NDSU’s classroom mask requirement
On Aug. 19, President Dean Bresciani announced the implementation of a mask requirement while students and faculty are present in the classroom. Individuals outside of the classroom have a choice to wear a mask while in buildings around campus.
Breanna Hosman, a sophomore student at North Dakota State University, decided to create a petition titled “Make Masks a Personal Choice” in spite of the mandate. Over a couple of days, the petition received over 2,000 signatures.
The quick support led Hosman to form an anti-mask mandate rally that took place on Monday, Aug. 30. About 20 individuals gathered to express their disagreement with the university’s decision to require a mask while in the classroom.
“I thought it turned out really well,” Hosman said. “It gave everyone the chance to share their voices and it was a really positive experience. We got to participate in our first amendment rights.”
NDSU students Carter Eisinger and Sara Smith accompanied Hosman in leading the rally around campus. The group discussed their motive to create a peaceful protest for students who shared their same frustration.
“I and a lot of other students view the mask mandate as an infringement on our personal liberties,” Eisinger said. “We believe that everyone should have the choice to wear a mask.”
Eisinger continued to explain that the rally is not meant to protest whether or not masks work, “It is specifically for freedom of choice.” The group also emphasized that they are not anti-mask or anti-vaccine, just anti-mask mandate.
“We do not feel that students should be told what to do,” Smith said. “Students should be provided the information, the research, the facts, the data and the statistics and from there they can make their own informed decisions and risk assessment.”
Eisinger followed up saying that “infringing upon personal liberties is never a road you want to go down. I am not a historian, but even I know when people have to give up their liberties, it does not lead to anything good.”
On Tuesday, the NDSU Provost sent out an email explaining why they plan to keep the mask mandate in place.
“Please know that nobody wants the mask requirement,” the NDSU Provost said. “We understand the frustration and exhaustion that people are feeling about continuing COVID prevention efforts because we feel them too.”
In the beginning of the summer, NDSU made wearing a mask a personal choice because case numbers were down and vaccinations were up. However, towards the end of the summer, the delta variant caused cases to increase because of the amount of people that have not been vaccinated.
“Unfortunately, this COVID spike appears to be following a similar trajectory to last year when it started in the south and moved to the north in the autumn,” the NDSU Provost said. “You may remember that in October and November of last year, the Dakotas were a regular national news story because of our high COVID rates.”
But, to the anti-mask mandate group, there may not only be one way to go about it. Thinking of a different solution is what they are pushing for.
“I think that there are a lot of other things that can be done besides a unilateral mask mandate,” Eisinger said. “For people who are immunocompromised, are they really safe in class just because people are wearing masks? Maybe they could be taking a look at other things like staying home.”
Eisinger also says that they are not trying to propose how NDSU goes about implementing the mask requirement, but says that this is not the right way to do it.
In contrast, NDSU says the mask requirement is limited to classes because “classes tend to have a high occupancy rate over extended time periods.” Their goal is to balance the “very real need for human interaction with the mitigation effects of masking” to protect their students and faculty.
“Masks work best when preventing the wearer from spreading the virus. So by masking, you’re mostly protecting others, not yourself,” the NDSU Provost said. “This is why this is not just an individual health choice. It is critical that everybody participates.”
For students or faculty who are interested in signing the petition, visit https://www.change.org/p/north-dakota-state-university-make-masks-a-personal-choice-at-ndsu
The group plans to meet with NDSU President Dean Bresciani on Friday, Sept. 3 at which point they will seek to find answers as to how the decision was made and share their personal opinion and feelings on the matter.
“We are just grateful for everyone that came out and we hope that kids will continue to see us as an example that it’s okay to stand up for something that you believe in and it’s okay to exercise your first amendment right,” Hosman said.