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Sunday, April 21, 2024
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Staff Editorial: Counterfeit KN95 masks shed light on University’s lack of communication

KN95 mandate is commendable, but approach to inform student body is lacking

A recent Eagle investigation announcing that American University unknowingly distributed counterfeit KN95 masks to the AU community provides an opportunity for a larger conversation on the mandate and the University’s communication.

The masks distributed showed inconsistencies with the international standards for KN95 masks and were supplied by W.B. Mason, a vendor that currently faces allegations of selling fake masks at inflated prices. 

After student outreach, AU is undergoing a process to attain approved KN95 masks and acknowledged that the illegitimate masks did not meet promised standards. The big unanswered question remains: Why hasn’t the University communicated with us that the KN95 masks were a fraud? The University has yet to deliver an official announcement on giving students fake masks, signaling the second time in the last few weeks that The Eagle has broken news to the student body that could have come directly from the administration themselves.

While it may have been an honest mistake, AU also has a mask procurement team and was still unaware of the class action lawsuit against W.B. Mason and the discrepancies in conformity codes that The Eagle identified. There should be more transparency to the student body about how we’re getting these masks and how they’re being vetted to ensure students know their masks are actually protecting them. Additionally, limiting students to one mask per week poses an accessibility issue and assumes that the individual should already possess the finances to acquire their own. What happens when their mask becomes dingy, broken or lost? 

The masking system in place brings concern and confusion to the AU community, as students often have to act as enforcers of masking protocols due to the University’s passivity. Because of the original lack of clarity in language surrounding masking, students have to step into authority to foster a safe environment. From employees at the Dav reminding people to keep on their masks to students holding professors accountable in poor mask-wearing, they have done their part in reducing the spread. Student reporters have upheld the responsibility in informing the student body in mask requirements and guidelines, further showing that the community has become reliant on each other in the absence of administrative support. 

AU should strengthen the transparency around the decision-making process to increase trust in their judgment. To improve communication between the University and its community, utilizing their existing text alert system to share COVID-related information would reduce overwhelming emails. 

The University requiring KN95 masks goes along with a pattern throughout the pandemic: AU is a trend follower. Once further research revealed that KN95s are the most effective, AU immediately made them part of their COVID-19 protocols without a precise and clear plan that leaves the broader community to face the consequences of their shortcomings. We commend the University for mandating KN95 masks because they’re the most sufficient to limit spread. However, to create a community of care, greater transparency needs to be provided to establish what exactly that “care” is. 

Section 202 host Gabrielle and friends go over some sports that aren’t in the sports media spotlight often, and review some sports based on their difficulty to play. 

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