Mask provisions at security discontinued for students

By Abra Richardson and Elizabeth Rymut

Located in all campus buildings, individual masks can be purchased in the vending machines for $2.50. The machines are restocked weekly. However, technical difficulties may occur. Elizabeth Rymut

Editor’s Note: This story has been updated to paraphrase a quotation that did not convey a complete representation of a conversation as previously reported. The Chronicle regrets the lack of clarity.

Despite the mask mandate remaining in classrooms, students are discovering they can not rely on front desk security if they have forgotten their mask and need a spare one.

Ayla Walsh, a senior graphic design major, found herself in need of a mask when her disposable mask got wet before her class field trip.

When Walsh asked the security desk at 623 S. Wabash Ave. for a mask, the security guard told her to check the vending machine in the back of the building to purchase one for $2.50.

After finally getting a mask, Walsh recalls telling a classmate about what happened, saying that it was weird the college requires masks but does not provide them to students.

“That’s an unreasonable expectation; you just want me to wear the wet mask?” Walsh asked.

Walsh said if students, teachers and employees are required to wear masks, they need to be provided in locations that are accessible to everyone, such as security desks, classrooms and computer labs.

At the beginning of the semester, personal protective equipment cotton masks were provided to students at security desks up until late September. These masks were leftover inventory from what had been ordered for staff.

Lambrini Lukidis, associate vice president of Strategic Communications and External Relations, said the college did not see a need to invest in more masks and decided to whittle down what stock they had.

“We did have instances where students were getting masks from security and they were being tossed immediately after class; these were not disposable masks,” Lukidis said.

Although replacement masks are no longer being handed out from the security desks in the campus buildings, masks are still required in classroom settings. Elizabeth Rymut

Lukidis said this is not a signal that the mask mandate in classrooms will be lifted next semester, and that the college will continue to follow the guidelines they initially laid out until further notice.

Lukidis told the Chronicle that Columbia went through 2,100 masks since January 2022.

“We’re at a point in this pandemic where most people can avail themselves to a mask quite easily,” Lukidis said. “What we’re seeing now is reflective of people’s behavior everywhere with COVID-19 — scaling back, [and] not providing masks is kind of one of those things.”

Craig Sigele, academic manager of the Communication Department and president of the United Staff of Columbia College, said he asked administrators about the lack of replacement masks provided on campus for students who may need one. He said he was told masks would no longer be available at security desks, and students without masks would not be allowed to enter classrooms.

Sigele said he has not heard an official statement from the college that masks are no longer being provided.

Other students, including Student Government Association President Tyler Harding, have fallen victim to forgetting a mask. For Harding, a senior film and television major, looking for a mask made him late to taking a timed midterm.

“While the midterm was going on, I had to go down the street to ShopColumbia to purchase a [pack of] masks for $9 [or] $10, and then rush back to class to make the midterm,” Harding said.

Harding said because masks are currently not required outside of classrooms, it is easy to understand that a student would forget a mask.

“When you go to class and you forget a mask, you’re going to then need to leave the building and hunt down someplace that has masks,” Harding said. “That’s taking time from why we’re at Columbia in the first place, and that is to go to class and get an education.”

Harding said SGA is not expecting Columbia to provide a mask for every student, but to support students when they forget one.