maskless manchester campus
Students return to a maskless campus excited for a year of more engagement and connection both inside and outside the classroom. 
Photo provided by MU

Students, Faculty See Benefits of Maskless Campus

Emily Pope

This semester at Manchester University the mask mandate has been lifted due to the drop in COVID-19 cases. For many this is news that has been long awaited, especially for faculty and students.

With two weeks of classes out of the way, professors have had the opportunity to see differences in connections with students and differences in their attitude in class. Dr. Mark McCoy, assistant professor in the Psychology Department, notices a difference. “I get a sense of how people are feeling better,” he said. “People are more willing to talk to one another.”

Classroom life isn’t just different because of the students’ interactions with one another or the material, but it has also changed because of how students interact with their professors’ styles of teaching. “I am a dramatic teacher when on the stage of a classroom,” said Dr. Stacy Stetzel, associate professor in the Henney Department of Education. “I use my face a lot to tell the story. Without a mask, students can experience lessons more completely.”

Students also notice a difference, particularly a big change in classroom life. Morgan Hungerford, sophomore, agrees with professors that students are more engaged with each other and in the material itself. “I feel more confident in participating in classes and with students than I did last year,” she said. Hungerford also shared that she had to start classes a week later than everyone else, and the maskless classroom made a welcome difference. “It was comforting to walk into class and be able to instantly recognize classmates from last year,” she said.

Overall, many agree that a maskless campus has produced stronger connections and better engagement in class life, but do we still need to be worried? “Although I am not sure if going maskless was the best option, I trust the people here to know when to wear a mask, and when to stay home,” said student Rachel Soden.

It is clear that in the classroom life has changed, but the environment for student athletes has too. Last year the sports teams had limits on tickets that could be given to family. During football season it was two tickets per player. “We just enjoy having people there to see us,” said Josh Lee, member of the football team.

Although the concern of COVID-19 has not gone away, the university has seen many benefits from going maskless, most notably, an increased sense of community inside and outside the classroom.