SGA Unmasked

By: Hannah Yale

On Sept. 5, SGA posted a video to their Instagram story with the caption “First exec meeting of the year!” All of the executive members shown in the video are unmasked. The video sparked some concern and confusion among the student body on the mask policies and expectations for clubs and student organizations.

The “Student Policies” section of the SMCM website specifies that “Student Organizations must adhere to policies related to face coverings and social distancing.” The SMCM website expands on this, saying that “[a] mask or face covering must be always worn indoors [in shared spaces] or outdoors when not able to socially distance on St. Mary’s College regardless of vaccinated status.” Exceptions to this policy include individuals who “cannot wear a protective mask due to a medical issue, like trouble breathing or the inability to remove the cover without assistance,” individuals who are alone in an office, and individuals who are eating or drinking; however, individuals are required to return to wearing a mask as soon as they are finished eating or drinking. Masks are also not required in individual dorm rooms, suites, apartments, or townhouses. 

SGA Vice President Dylan Parham said that general meetings are always masked in compliance with campus policy. “The video in question was a separate meeting with just members of the Executive Board in our personal office,” Parham said. Executive meetings happen every Sunday afternoon with SGA’s ten executive members—at the time of the video, there are only nine executive members, as the Senate Leader has not yet been appointed. Parham said that these members “have extensively discussed COVID-19 policies and consider themselves to be in a shared ‘pod’ . . . and masking in the office has been discussed with [the SGA] advisor.”

It is unclear whether SMCM views the actions of the Executive Council as a violation of school policy, especially now that social distancing regulations in personal residences are becoming less strict. In on-campus apartments and townhouses, students are now permitted to have up to 10 guests in their residence. This adds up to a total of 14 or 15 people that can gather in an apartment or townhouse, which is greater than the number of SGA executive members present at their private executive meetings. 

Parham further told The Point News that “SGA supports the mask mandate policy, and many SGA members have actually contributed extensively to the work that SMCM has done to create and implement our COVID-19 safety policies including myself when I was the LQ Senator.”

An anonymous sophomore student questioned the sincerity of SGA Executive Council’s support of the mask mandate. “I don’t understand how they can say that they support the mask mandate if they aren’t following it themselves. What makes them different from any group of friends that can say ‘I’m in a pod’ and use that as an excuse to disregard the mask mandate?” Some students indicated similar sentiments, while still others maintain that the room counts as a private officeand is therefore not a violation of campus policy. The Point News reached out to SGA’s advisor Dean Derek Young for comment but did not receive a reply.

SMCM Philosophy Professor and Ethics Bowl Coach Michael Taber told The Point News that he believes the SGA Executive Council “should have to abide by the same rules that everybody else abides by. The cause of public health on campus is a cause that everyone has to contribute to equally…  this is a teachable moment for all of us.” 

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