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Inside FSU Dorms, Some Students Choose To Ignore Face Mask, Social Distancing Guidelines

Florida State University has placed signs across campus reminding students to wear their masks. But some students aren't following that rule.
Robbie Gaffney
Florida State University has placed signs across campus reminding students to wear their masks. But some students aren't following that rule.

Florida State University classes are in full swing. Students walk across campus and lounge on Landis Green. Some wear masks—others don't. University policy requires faculty, staff, and students to mask up—whether they're outside, in classrooms or residence halls. But that's not always happening, says Jennifer, who lives in one of the dorms on FSU's campus.

Jennifer also works for university housing. She agreed to talk to WFSU but asked that we only use her first name because she worries talking about her experiences will jeopardize her job at the university. So far, she says she's noticed a lot of people aren't following the school's mask guidelines.

"I did see basically cleaning staff members not wearing a mask when they were inside and in the lounge, and one of them helped me grab my case, and he had his mask on his neck, and it wasn't being worn properly," Jennifer says.

Inside dorms, all students and staff are required to wear masks in public areas. That includes anything that isn't a student's assigned room, such as lobbies, hallways, lounges, and kitchens.

"I was just kind of like, oh, you know, this is just for today. I met with the head staff in my dorm, and she was social distancing, but she was also not wearing a mask," Jennifer says.

Jennifer says she's seen staff working at the front desk not wearing masks either, and, she says, some students cluster in hallways, blocking doorways.

Jennifer says she's especially concerned because she's immunocompromised, putting her at risk of getting hospitalized if she catches the virus.

"In January, I couldn't speak or like get out of bed for weeks because I had a common cold, and just like small illnesses will affect me a lot more than a normal average healthy student," Jennifer says.

Jennifer says she emailed her dorm's head of staff, who she says told her to speak up and inform people of the University's policy. But she says when she has spoken up, it's not usually well-received.

"The first day I was on campus, I ended up telling what I think was a mother and daughter—I was like, 'hey, do you mind wearing a mask? That's [the] school guidelines. I just want to let you know you will get in trouble if you don't wear a mask,' and the woman ended up confronting me and basically yelling at me, and she was like, 'it's my right not to wear a mask,'" Jennifer says.

Shannon Staten is the Executive Director of University Housing at FSU. Staten is encouraging students like Jennifer to reach out to FSU's housing office if they aren't getting support from dorm staff.

"We'll follow up on that. That is not acceptable, and that is not the way we've been doing business," Staten says.

Staten says the first time a student or staff member is caught not wearing a mask; they will get a warning. Repeat offenders could then face more serious consequences. But Staten says, for the most part, dorm staff is wearing masks when the University does spot checks.

"We've got different staff in the building. Our full-time staff has been working in the buildings all summer and have been wearing their masks in public areas all summer," Staten says.

Reports of students holding parties, including a party that resulted in the arrest of several students Sunday, prompted University President John Thrasher to release a statement saying students could face consequences for not following rules about wearing masks and social distancing whether they are on or off-campus.

On Landis Green, free masks will be handed out Monday through Friday from 10 a.m. – 4 p.m. during the first two weeks of class. The University has also released a Face Covering and Social Distance Compliance Matrix that details how people respond to non-compliance.

Copyright 2020 WFSU. To see more, visit WFSU.

Robbie Gaffney is a recent graduate from Florida State University with degrees in Digital Media Production and Creative Writing. Before working at WFSU, they recorded FSU’s basketball and baseball games for Seminole Productions as well as interned for the PBS Station in Largo, Florida. Robbie loves playing video games such as Shadow of the Colossus, Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask, and Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles. Their other hobbies include sleeping and watching anime.