Students react as university drops mask mandate

Suffolk University students are sharing their thoughts on being on campus for the first time in two years without having to wear masks.

The university’s mask mandate expired Monday, with the exception of needing to wear one while visiting Counseling, Health and Wellness. President Marisa Kelly announced the change in an email to the Suffolk community March 2.

“The percentage of people in our Suffolk community who are fully vaccinated and now boosted is extremely high. Our high levels of immunity here at Suffolk offer good protection to our community, making this an appropriate time to shift to an optional approach to masking,” Kelly said in the email.

While not required, Kelly said members of the Suffolk community who are not vaccinated because of a religious or medical exemption and those who are at high risk for COVID-19 are still strongly encouraged to wear masks. KN95 masks will continue to be available at the entrances of all Suffolk buildings.

“We encourage any member of our community or guest who feels safer or more comfortable for any reason wearing a mask to do so,” Kelly said. “In short, we are a caring community that supports anyone who chooses to wear a mask for whatever reason.”

Mikayla Hopkins, Class of 2022, felt that the decision was rushed, both in the city and at the university.

“I am especially disheartened by the decision to make masks optional for non-vaccinated students,” said Hopkins. “They pose a significantly higher rate of catching a and spreading COVID, and have higher hospitalization rates than vaccinated people.”

Jillian Allen, Class of 2023, likes the idea of having a choice on whether or not to wear her mask around campus.

“I like not having to scramble to put on a mask when I’m entering Smith Hall where I’m not interacting with people… But I like the opportunity to wear it in class because there are a lot of people there,” said Allen.

In a follow-up email sent to the Suffolk community Tuesday, Dean of Students Ann Coyne asked students to consider wearing a mask out of respect if a member of the Suffolk community, including a professor, asks them to put one on.

“I know personally I have a couple of professors who have young children or vulnerable elders in their circles, so I just hope that students are respectful of these boundaries,” said Rene Maldonado, Class of 2022.

Kelly said Suffolk’s COVID-19 policy will continue to develop in accordance with recommendations from the Center for Disease Control, adding that reinstating the mask requirement “will remain a possibility.”

This decision was made following the Boston Public Health Commission’s vote to lift Boston’s mask mandate, which went into effect Saturday.

“I think it had to come at some point. If the numbers support it I think it’s a good idea,” said Lane Longtin, Class of 2022.

After almost two years of the university requiring masks, many students saw the restrictions being lifted as a chance to celebrate.

“I am happy the city, as well as Suffolk, ended the mask mandate because I see firsthand, through my time in school and as a State House employee the negative effects having these types of universal restrictions because when you keep them past their point of usefulness,” said one student who wished to remain anonymous.