A group of around 20 Penn State students and community members gathered in Old Main and walked through the HUB-Robeson Center on Tuesday without a mask to protest the college’s indoor mask mandate .
Originally announced via a Twitter account titled “Unmask Penn State”, the group advertised the event as a way to “peacefully protest Penn State’s draconian mask mandate.”
– Unmask Penn State (@UnmaskPennState) 23 Aug 2021
The university announced an immediate indoor mask tenure on August 4, following a virtual town hall meeting on August 3, in which Penn State President Eric Barron announced that the university no ‘would not impose coronavirus vaccinations, although the university “is not impartial towards them”.
Student Lee Gysen said he was invited by a friend to attend the protest “was not too accessible” in terms of publicity.
“[I] I came here because I support the Penn State unmasking, ”said Gysen (second year recreation, parks and tourism management). “I think it should be a personal choice [of whether to wear a mask or not]. “
Gysen said he expected more people to show up than those who did.
“I’m always a little disappointed with the numbers,” Gysen said. “I know there are a lot more people than that who feel the same on campus, [but] a lot of people don’t express themselves as much about it.
The group of about 20 walked through the HUB with signs and a Pennsylvania flag and turned around to end the event where it started in Old Main, according to Gysen. Along the way, Gysen said “a lot of people” have shown their support.
Kate Rutter was in the HUB when the group walked through, and she said “it was pretty quiet”.
“I don’t agree with the protest,” said Rutter (junior public relations). “I see why they did it – I guess they have their own point of view, but I like that it was silent, that it wasn’t something that looked great in your face.”
Kyle Hartmann said he came forward to protest partly “out of curiosity” and partly because he said “a little annoyed” that the Penn Staters “had no say” over the mandate of the masks.
“I thought there would be a small group, but I didn’t know what to expect,” said Hartmann (senior plant science). “A lot of people don’t like to stir the pot.”
Hartmann said he believes the university has a sufficiently high vaccination rate and a sufficiently low coronavirus infection rate to lift the mask’s mandate.
Penn State reported Monday that more than 86% of students living on campus and 83% of full-time employees are fully immunized. In addition, 78% of students living off campus uploaded proof of vaccination.
These statistics were “frustrating” for student Matt Thompson, another participant in the “Unmask Penn State” protest.
“I think the university needs to end the mask’s tenure immediately,” said Thompson (senior marketing). “College is supposed to be the greatest experience of our lives, and with masks we can’t [have that]. “
Thompson, vice president of Center County Young Republicans, said the turnout was “good” in his opinion, as the group has come together extensively recently through comments on various social media platforms.
Those who participated also said they would oppose a university-wide vaccination mandate.
“[I’m] happy enough [Barron] did not mandate the vaccine, ”Hartmann said. “With the number of people who voluntarily got it, I think that’s a good sign. “
Thompson said he was “strongly” opposed to a vaccination mandate and said he believed students “should be given the opportunity to choose.”
On August 24, Ohio State became the ninth Big Ten Conference school to mandate vaccines, after Indiana, Rutgers, Northwestern, Maryland, Illinois, Michigan, Michigan State and Minnesota. However, some of the aforementioned institutions allow individuals to remain unvaccinated if tested weekly.
In addition, Indiana’s decision to require vaccines for students on campus, which was upheld by a federal judge on June 19, was also authorized by the United States Supreme Court on August 12.
“My body, my choice,” Gysen said. “I am not vaccinated myself, [and] I think it is unfair that unvaccinated students are treated any differently.
Penn State students and professors who have not provided proof of vaccination to the university are required to take a weekly coronavirus test. Students on and off campus are tested weekly until they can provide proof that they are fully immunized.
Rutter said she “definitely” believes masks should continue to be mandatory indoors and vaccinations should be mandatory, if possible.
Student Sofia Griffiths also observed the group walking around the HUB and said that “there weren’t even many people”.
“I’m sorry, but like that upsets me,” said Griffiths (junior-hospitality). “Right now we all have to do everything we can to be safe and stay here and keep everyone else here safe, and I’m sure most of these people aren’t vaccinated either. “
She said she believed people should do what they can to protect themselves and others.
“We don’t want to wear the mask either, but we do it to protect everyone and to be able to lead a normal life,” Griffiths said. “[The protesters] were respectful… but I don’t think it was necessary.
The “Unmask Penn State” protest follows the “Zoom-In” protest organized by the Penn State Coalition for a University Fair from August 23-24, where approximately 270 faculty members from 16 of Penn State’s campuses chose to teach their classes in person through Zoom to protest the lack of a coronavirus vaccine warrant at the university.
Thompson said the protest on Tuesday was not affiliated with any political group or college club, but brought together like-minded people to support the same belief.
“This is a non-partisan protest – there are vaccinated people here, there are unvaccinated people here,” Thompson said. “This is just a group of students who are simply asking the university to end the mask mandate.”
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