Tennessee college students and some staff members gathered last week to protest their school’s loosening COVID regulations. Belmont students gathered last Thursday, and Middle Tennessee State University (MTSU) students and staff gathered Saturday before the school’s football game.

At MTSU, FoxNews 17 reported that labor union workers, staff, and students gathered in front of the Floyd Stadium to encourage the use of masks again on campus. One professor, Elyce Helford, said in an interview with Fox that “faculty are not allowed, now that there’s no mask mandate, for example, to put their class online instead. If their class has been in a classroom, they have to continue teaching it.”

One student at the protest, Moon Martruam, said “I feel a lot more comfortable in class wearing a mask because I don’t know every student in all of my classes.”

One MTSU professor has been very vocal on Twitter about his feelings towards the mask mandate being lifted. Brian Frank, a physics professor, tweeted a list of questions concerning the school’s president, Sidney McPhee concerning the school’s COVID regulations.

One tweet read, “President McPhee violated his own campus policies whenever it was convenient. I worry, who will he violate and put at risk for convenience next?”

At Belmont University, only students gathered to protest the school’s lack of COVID regulations. Belmont Vision reported that a protest led by two students “marched up 15th Avenue to the steps of the Janet Ayers Academic Center.”

Belmont Vision also reported that the protest was to seek “enforcement of Belmont’s campus-wide indoor mask-wearing as well as the reinstatement of on-campus quarantine housing for students who test positive for COVID-19.”

Belmont students have been very vocal about their unhappiness with their school’s relaxed regulations. A number of students and one faculty member spoke with BuzzFeed News about how unsafe they feel on campus.

One student said, “I’m genuinely scared for my life. If I get COVID, I could die.”

Belmont students have also taken to Twitter to voice their concerns. One account, Belmont Confessions, allows students to anonymously submit comments about their experiences with the university. Many of them focus on COVID-related issues.

One submission said, “Just overheard (from the nurses in the clinic) that the covid testing is overbooked today….y’all be safe.”

Another account, belmont maskless, posts pictures of students and staff who either do not wear a mask or are not wearing them properly. The posts usually have a sarcastic blurb publicly shaming the person in the picture.

One tweet read, “brent went to einsteins with his mask like this, against belmont rules, and was still served by a belmont employee. my issue here is mostly with belmont, not brent. to settle any confusion. but hey brent, you are so close to getting it!”

However, as The Tennessee Star previously reported, an extensive review of a broad range of studies about the efficacy of face coverings limiting the spread of COVID-19 found masks have almost no impact in the transmission of the coronavirus.

Further, for teenagers, associate professor Joseph G. Allen from Harvard University noted in the Washington Post that he does not believe anyone should be prohibited from masking, but, “The truth is, for kids, COVID-19 is like the flu, and we don’t make kids wear masks in school for that.”

Currently in Tennessee, college-aged students (aged 11-20) represent 191,121 – or about 15 percent – of the state’s 1.295 million COVID cases since the pandemic was recognized. Of those 191,000 cases, a total of 16 patients in that age group were lost to the disease.

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Morgan Nicole Veysey is a reporter for The Tennessee Star and The Star News Network. Follow her on Twitter. Email tips to [email protected]
Photo “MTSU student with mask on” by Middle Tennessee State University (MTSU).