Student workers return to campus with new pandemic era regulations
Student employees reflect on frustrations and successes enforcing mask mandate
As the fall semester winds down, student workers reflect on their experiences enforcing coronavirus regulations on the student body.
For Fernanda Pérez, a senior in the School of Communication working as a part-time supervisor at the library, mask enforcement has been difficult.
Pérez started working at the library over the summer and was working there as the University transitioned from virtual to in-person operations. Her position as a part-time supervisor entails overseeing many different facets of the library, including the information desk, the graduate research center, the print center and the mailroom. However, the coronavirus pandemic has called upon many student workers like Pérez to additionally enforce regulations such as masking and social distancing.
“There has not been a single time that I’ve walked around the library and haven’t had to tell people to put their masks on,” Pérez said.
Some have rarely run into students who don’t follow the regulations while others, like Pérez, have had to constantly remind students to abide by the rules.
Pérez feels that the University could be doing more.
“The University could mandate testing for starters,” Pérez said. She also added that masking needs to be more strongly enforced by everybody.
“I think in general as a university we’re not doing enough to let our students know that they have to follow these guidelines and so a lot of kids are just blatantly rude to student workers who are trying to enforce them,” Pérez said.
During the pandemic, Pérez's duties at the library have been to not only check for food and drink as well as noise level violations but to make sure that COVID-19 regulations such as masking are also being followed.
“A lot of kids when they go study it seems like they don’t care and they kind of just take off the mask as soon as you walk away,” Pérez said.
Pérez said that students will also pretend to be drinking so that they can keep their masks off. She added that student workers have also had to get their supervisors involved to properly enforce mask-wearing.
Other students who have not run into as many conflicts suggest that the University help student workers enforce COVID-19 regulations in other manners. Giancarlo Castro is a junior in the School of International Service and has been working as a barista at the Bridge Cafe since August. He said that the University could more clearly outline what regulations student workers should have to enforce, but that he’s never felt overwhelmed.
“AU mandated the vaccine, so I think that was the biggest part of the COVID regulations that they did right,” Castro said. “Obviously, there are some people that are a lot less strict about mask-wearing … so there could always be improvement on that end, but from my own experience and from what I’ve seen at the Bridge, I’ve never felt like I’ve been put in an unsafe or precarious situation.”
Castro also said that students have generally been respectful about following COVID-19 guidelines and masking at the Bridge.
For some student workers, there’s also a level of discomfort in having to enforce masking on their fellow students. Melanie Orocio is a sophomore in the SOC who recently started working at the Jacobs and Cassell Fitness Centers as a fitness leader. While Orocio said that it is rare to see students not following COVID-19 regulations at the Fitness Centers, she recently had to tell a student to put their mask on over their nose for the first time and felt that she was put in an uncomfortable position.
“We’re able to go on campus, so I feel like if we have the opportunity to be here, just please wear your mask,” she said. “I know it’s hard working out with your mask on, but just for the hour you’re there, keep it on.”
Despite Orocio’s occasional discomfort with enforcing masking on her peers, she said that this has generally not been a problem and that she rarely sees students not following regulations.
She also feels supported by the supervisors and other staff at the Fitness Centers and described going through check-ins where she could voice concerns. Orocio feels that this support should be offered for all student workers working jobs at the University.
Pérez does not feel this same level of discomfort but said that student attitudes have been more of an obstacle.
“I’m not worried about telling kids to put their mask on,” Pérez said. “It’s just frustrating and really sad to see … the blatant disregard our students here at American University obviously have for the regulations even though we try to put on this facade of being really socially conscious, but from what I’ve seen at the library that’s just not true.”
Editor's Note: A previous version of this article contained a headline with a grammatical error.