Students oppose mask mandate lift through petition, protest

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Jenna Guzma

Matt Cottrell holds signs in favor of the mask mandate March 2, 2022.

Jenna Guzman, Reporter

An App State student created a pro-mask petition in response to Chancellor Sheri Everts’ announcement the mask mandate will end on campus March 7.

Colin Tiller, a sophomore computer science major, said he created the petition Feb. 25 because “something had to be done” about the new guidance from the UNC System.

As of Saturday, the petition had over 500 signatures. Students have shared the post on social media to get more signatures. 

In an update posted under the petition Monday, Tiller wrote he will be “hand-delivering this petition” to faculty since he received no replies after emailing the petition to them. However, Tiller learned that the overall decision was made by the UNC System. Tiller said he now plans on addressing the petition to them.

“I’m going to see if the UNC president has a P.O. box and send it to them if possible,” Tiller said.

Although the decision ultimately was influenced by the UNC System, Tiller still holds Everts accountable for the decision pertaining to campus. 

“In the Chancellor’s priorities list, she claims a priority is ‘improving wellness, health and safety for our campus community,’ yet changing the mask mandate on-campus DIRECTLY OPPOSES THIS,” Tiller wrote under the petition.

Tiller also said chancellors from all UNC schools should stand up to the UNC System. He said they should protect their students and faculty instead of “letting the political pressure get to them.”

Students and parents commented differing reasons as to why they signed under the petition.

“I’m signing because I want to stay in-person for college. If we take away the mask mandate, cases will rise again and App will be responsible for the deaths that result from students at App spreading COVID,” wrote Laura Berretta, a freshman communication studies major.

The mask mandate is scheduled to lift the first day of spring break. 

“Removing the mask mandate, especially right before spring break, was a poor choice. If people are still getting sick and losing their loved ones, why remove something that is actually helping? Ignoring the issue isn’t going to make it magically go away,” wrote Julie Lokshin, a senior environmental studies major.

Everts also announced unvaccinated people will no longer be required to get tested.

“Nobody wants to continue wearing masks but at the same time it’s not very hard to put a piece of cloth over my face to protect myself and others,” Tiller said.

  The ASU Anarcho-Satanist Club also showed their opposition to COVID-19 policy changes by peacefully protesting on Sanford Mall Wednesday. 

Club member Matt Cottrell said they wanted to raise awareness about the impact removing the mask mandate can have on others.

“I think lifting the mask mandate or lifting masking requirements is incredibly dangerous because there are so many immunocompromised people, chronically ill people and disabled people,” said Cottrell, a senior anthropology major. “To take masks off is to pretend that they don’t exist.”

  The club silently held up signs, which had quotes written on them such as “Masks must stay on” and “Disabled Lives Matter” and handed out flyers on how and why people should wear masks.

Cottrell and other club members said as soon as they took their signs out a person walked by and shouted “F— you. I hope you die.” The group also said the person flipped them off. The protesters said they did not want to argue with anyone, so when people approached them with differing beliefs, they gave them a flier, and told them they were not willing to argue.

Cottrell said App State officers spoke with those demonstrating and gave them their card “if they wanted their help to organize future things.”

Although they do not know who made the petition, the group said they signed it and have shared it on social media because they support the cause. 

“I think it’s good to have because it lets everyone who signs it and sees how many signatures there are know that they are not alone and know that other people care as well,” Cottrell said.