By Fruma Landa, Editor in Chief
We all expect to feel physically safe on campus. The YU administration has emphasized countless times that our safety and health will be a priority and that safety precautions will be enforced to protect students and staff alike. Precautions such as mandated social distancing and face coverings, temperature checks, frequent COVID-19 testing, a pre-screening survey, the Covid-19 Code of Behavior, and the YU COVID Code of Conduct were instituted, with varying degrees of enforcement, to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
Sadly, as the Spring 2021 semester progressed, I have noticed a decrease in the level of seriousness with which people are treating these precautions. It is not uncommon to find students in public, on-campus locations with noses uncovered, and the once-rare completely unmasked student is becoming increasingly common. Furthermore, aside from students not properly covering their nose and mouth, librarians, security guards, and other faculty members on both the Beren and Wilf Campuses are often improperly masked as well.
It is no surprise that students feel that they do not need to take these precautions seriously when the security guards scanning their ID and checking their temperature are not properly masked either. If the authority figures are often seen not abiding by the COVID-19 safety precautions they should be enforcing, it will lead students to feel that they are entitled to break these precautions as well. As many students do not face repercussions for breaking these safety rules, they are more likely to repeat them.
The obligatory twice a week testing is well enforced — if a student misses too many tests, they will be notified and their ID may be deactivated, preventing them from entering campus buildings. This clear repercussion for missing COVID-19 tests encourages students to show up for testing. However, there is no such method put into place to enforce mask wearing.
Aside from the lack of mask enforcement, the COVID-19 prescreening survey is not enforced well either. Oftentimes, I am waved into the building before showing my green smile, and when I do flash the smile, the security guards often don’t take the time to check the date on the screen and to make sure the name matches my ID. Students have learned to hack the system and use an old screenshot of a survey they took, or even use a screenshot of a friend. To solve this issue, the survey results were updated earlier this year to display the name of the person who filled out the survey. Nonetheless, without making sure the name on the survey matches the name on the ID, people can continue to use outdated screenshots.
Temperature tests are not effective in detecting COVID-19. Students often walk into the library bundled up in hats and hoods which are not always removed before their temperature is scanned, unintentionally obstructing the thermometer’s access. Moreover, I have encountered security guards who do not read the number on the thermometer before allowing students into the building. Sometimes, the gun is pointed at a head and scanned, sometimes scanning a few people in a row before glancing at the results. I have even witnessed a few occurrences where the temperature gun was pointed at a forehead and put down before the temperature was read.
When I walk on campus, I want to feel safe, and I am sure most students and faculty can relate. As an institution, we need to focus on enforcing masks in public areas, and the COVID-19 pre-screening test as well continuing the effective COVID-19 test enforcements. As individuals, we need to do our best to make sure we are not contributing to others feeling unsafe. If we are in a public space where people can walk by, we need to make sure our noses and mouths are fully covered, even if there is currently nobody walking by. You never know if someone wanted to walk by, but chose not to due to an improperly worn mask. As Rebbe Eliezer says in the Ethics of our Fathers 2:10, “Let the honor of your friend be as dear to you as your own.” Regardless of whether you personally believe you should wear a mask, we can learn from Rebbe Eliezer to act in a way that honors those around us. It is imperative to consider whether our actions honor and respect the space and people we are around and consequently choose to follow the precautions put in place to keep us safe.