Lee University communicated in July that they would be fully open in the fall of 2021 with no mask requirements. On August 11, when plans to attend were already made, tuition was received, and many students were in progress moving or preparing to move back to campus, the school reversed course and said they would be requiring masks indoors "temporarily." (Anyone remember how this all started with "Fourteen days to flatten the curve," and led to a year and half of restrictions?) They did this without sending us a survey to ask what we want.
We call on the school to immediately change this policy and make masks optional. There is no compelling reason for requiring them. Everyone who wants a vaccine can get one. Anyone who wants to wear a mask can do so. But it should be a personal choice for something that involves impeding your natural breathing and hindering personal communication for hours a day where the evidence for effectiveness is weak to equivocal at best.
Those of us who have come back on campus this year are here because we are not afraid of interacting with others in person and we want a quality in-person education. We want normal - the old normal, where we can see each other's faces, hear each other's words, and breathe freely. If Lee is going to keep reverting to mask requirements any time cases rise, there is no end in sight. SARS-COV-2 is a seasonal, endemic respiratory virus. Cases will rise and fall but we can't keep living in fear of it and focusing on it disproportionately, especially when it poses a relatively low risk to the majority of healthy people and so many are already protected from severe symptoms through prior infection or vaccination.
Lee's actions in changing the masking policy at the last minute have damaged our trust in the university leadership. Earn our trust back by respecting each individual's right to make their own decisions about their health. Make masks optional.
Note to all signers: in addition to signing, please send a polite email to [email protected] communicating your disapproval of the mask requirement and urging that masks be made optional immediately.