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Monday, Mar 4, 2024

News in brief: students brush up against Covid-19 policies

This fall, with long Proc lines, primarily in-person classes and no room capacity limits — according to the campus status page — many students welcome a return to a more “normal” semester. However, ResLife, dining hall staff and Public Safety officers are still tasked with enforcing rules like indoor mask mandates — and apparently have faced pushback from some students. 

On Oct. 7, Dean of Students Derek Doucet sent an email to students regarding “troubling incidents” of students refusing to comply with mask mandates. 

“In recent weeks, we have received a number of reports about deeply troubling aggression,” Doucet wrote. “These incidents have taken the form of verbal abuse, refusal to comply with instructions from College officials, and more rarely, physical altercations.” 

This email came as a surprise to some students, including Tate Sutter ’24.5, a First-Year Counselor in Hepburn. 

“Room capacities were the really big thing last year, and without those, it’s pretty much asking someone to put a mask on, then that person puts a mask on,” Sutter said. “That’s been my experience.”

Others, like Helen Vaughan ’24.5, found that it can be challenging to strike a balance between normalcy and remaining cautious on campus. 

“I think it’s hard because, on the one hand, like 99% of the student population is vaccinated, so it’s really easy to just pretend like everything is fine and be annoyed about having to wear a mask,” Vaughan said. “But at the same time, it’s still also hard for the dining staff and RAs and custodial staff to have to enforce it because this is still the rule, and you can still get [Covid-19].”

Doucet called for students to reflect on these incidents and brainstorm solutions.

The college is now hosting virtual open office hours on Thursdays, beginning Oct. 14. The office hours will feature a rotating group of senior student affairs staff members, including Doucet, Executive Director for the Center for Health and Wellness Barbara McCall and Vice President of Student Affairs Smita Ruzicka.

Charlie Keohane

Charlie Keohane ’24 (she/her) is an Editor at Large. She previously served as the SGA Correspondent and a Senior Writer.   

She is an environmental writing major and a psychology minor from Northern California. Outside of academics, Charlie is a Senior Admissions Fellow at the Middlebury Admissions Office. She also is involved with the women’s track team and hosts Witching Hour, a radio show on 91.1 WRMC. In Spring 2023, she studied abroad in Copenhagen, Denmark. In her free time, she enjoys hiking, watching Greta Gerwig movies, polar plunging, sending snail mail, and FaceTiming her rescue dog, Poppy.