Why are Students Mask Shaming during COVID-19?

Why are Students Mask Shaming during COVID-19?

Jaclyn Krizanic

October 24, 2020


After all the lockdowns and quarantine during last spring due to COVID-19, students were itching to return to campus. The desire to see friends, be surrounded by other Spartans and go out to eat at their favorite restaurant or bars was the initial draw to returning to campus in students’ eyes. Unable to get out of their leases, many students were left in situations where staying on campus or living in East Lansing made the most sense. Regardless of the emails students and parents received about quarantining two weeks prior to arrival, many ignored and proceeded without caution as they returned back to Michigan State or East Lansing.

The numbers of COVID cases are rising in Ingham county—as of October 12, 2020, there are now a total of over 3,900 confirmed COVID-19 cases. Cases seemed to drastically spike with the return of students to the East Lansing area. On September 1, 2020, there were a total of 1,796 confirmed cases in Ingham County. That is an increase of about 2,104 new cases since the first day of classes. This data is alarming and shows that COVID is still on the rise and hasn’t yet plateaued. It is not  holding all students back from living their lives like they were on campus before COVID hit. 

As a senior attending Michigan State, I decided to keep my lease for my apartment since it was the last time I would live in East Lansing. This decision was made carefully and with plans for how I would monitor myself and keep my exposure as low as possible. Yet after returning to campus, I have seen numerous Spartans acting irresponsibly and ignorantly,endangering the rest of the East Lansing community

During the first week of move-in, a week before classes started, I was walking to my friend’s house.. This friend had been alone for over three weeks and was also taking precautions to protect herself from COVID, so we were both comfortable with me visiting. I wore my mask as I passed by the outdoor tailgates and darty’s—a term used on campus to describe day-drinking house parties or tailgates—of other houses that led up to hers. Seeing twenty or so students all outside next to each other drinking and taking pictures, I started to feel anxious. 

When it was time to leave and return back to my apartment, I put my mask on and walked down M.A.C. Avenue toward Grand River Avenue. There was a group of four guys on the same sidewalk as I was walking my way. They looked like students based off of their Michigan State lanyard and apparel. When it was time to pass them, I decided to walk alongside the sidewalk to create some distance while I also was wearing my mask. However, this action was met with an offensive reaction.

“Oh look she has a mask on guys! Would this be a good time to tell her we have COVID?”

“Oh dude, we should spit on her and see what she does.”

“Hey you! You know those masks don’t actually work, just take it off”

“F*** her, why is she even wearing that while she’s outside?”

These were only a few of the disrespectful sentences that came out of their mouths as I passed by. As an individual, I am aware of the severity of the current global pandemic. As a student, I follow these precautions to slow the spread of the illness and to help protect others. To be treated in this manner by other students in my community is both absurd and disturbing. I talked to other peers about this incident and discovered I was not the only one.

Some students have targeted others for trying to wear masks while outside when there is a mask requirement by the circle of stores and restaurants near Grand River Avenue in East Lansing. This location has a local mask mandate until September 30, 2020, which recently got renewed on October 9, 2020, to continue the mask mandate in indoor and outdoor areas in the city of East Lansing. If students are caught multiple times as offenders of these local mandates, they could be suspended for the rest of the semester.

For some reason, many people who have returned to campus or East Lansing for the school year don’t seem to understand or care. When students knew before coming back that wearing masks and practicing social distancing was more than just a recommendation, they ignored all the signs and seemed to worsen the spread.

I was recently told about a party by a student at MSU who wishes to stay anonymous.One of their friends was attending, and there were two people who tested positive for COVID-19 who still chose to go out and drink without wearing masks or informing anyone until the topic of COVID was brought up. When COVID was mentioned, those students replied, “Yeah, Me and ***** both tested positive and got our results this morning”.

A party with over 20 people, crammed inside an apartment with no social distancing, where two students have tested positive. 

The respect and decency seem to have completely vanished. I have heard students say, “I’m inviting people over, bring as many as you want; I already got COVID, so it’s fine.” How severe will this pandemic need to become before students realize how dangerous this is?

To say COVID-19 has given all of us a sense of anxiety and worry is just a fraction of the whole equation. If all Spartans decided to follow the mandates and protocols, the virus would potentially slow and plateau the spread. So why is there such a disregard from students about the safety of our community? Why are so many okay with the idea of their neighbor or friends becoming ill? 

This is not to say everyone is doing this. However, even if it is a small percentage, this greatly impacts us all if you realize it or not. Next time you get an invite or see a party happening, think twice and reflect on what you should do as a Spartan to help slow the spread. Don’t be afraid of wearing your mask. It is not shameful to protect your community.


Jaclyn Krizanic is a senior studying professional writing and minoring in graphic design. Jaclyn plans to apply her knowledge and skill sets she has gained from her major into her current, future and professional work. Jaclyn loves to write poetry and inspires to publish a book of poems and short stories upon her graduation.