PROF JENKINS: What to do if mask mandates return to your campus

First, the time to be vocal is now. Don’t wait until mandates arrive.

Rob Jenkins is a Higher Education Fellow with Campus Reform and a tenured associate professor of English at Georgia State University - Perimeter College. In a career spanning more than three decades at five different institutions, he has served as a head men’s basketball coach, an athletic director, a department chair, and an academic dean, as well as a faculty member. Jenkins’ opinions are his own and do not represent those of his employer.      

A headline on The Gateway Pundit last week took me aback: “Biden Regime to Reinstate COVID Restrictions Beginning with Mask Mandates.” 

The story cites a highly-ranked “whisteblower” in the TSA who has accused the Biden administration of “setting the stage for full Covid lockdowns that will begin with incremental restrictions like masking TSA employees.” Mask mandates, it goes on to say, will be extended to airline passengers by mid-October. 

Could the government, I wondered, really bring back onerous, unscientific mask mandates? More to the point, would colleges and universities go along—again? 

The answers, sad to say, are yes and yes: The government could indeed bring them back, and of course campuses would go along. 

In fact, it’s already starting. Campus Reform’s Melanie Wilcox reported earlier this week that Morris Brown College in Atlanta has announced the return of mandatory face coverings.

[RELATED: PROF JENKINS: Students have no right not to be offended]

This despite the fact that, as my colleague Nick Giordano noted in an op-ed for Campus Reform back in December 2022, masks have a “deleterious effect” on the learning environment. Even after his campus returned to in-person learning, Giordano wrote, with “universal mask mandates in place…the classrooms were lifeless.”  

The fact is, very few theories have been disproved as conclusively as the notion that ill-fitting cloth or paper masks, carelessly worn, can protect people from sub-micron-sized COVID-19 virus particles. 

As early as April 2020, scientists like Denis Rancourt and Andrew Bostom were pointing out that two decades of randomized controlled trials—about a dozen, in all—had found no evidence that masks stop respiratory viruses. Covid, they argued, would be no different.

They were right. Subsequent research has failed to provide any compelling evidence that masks are effective against covid. The coup de grace for mandates is the vaunted Cochrane Review’s meta-study of the available data, which concludes, “Wearing a mask…probably makes little or no difference in how many people have flu/Covid confirmed by a laboratory test.” 

That’s a very civil, circumspect way of saying, “Masks don’t work.”

Critics of Cochrane—for 30 years the gold standard of scientific evidence, until it stepped on this particular political landmine—insist that masks might work, if only everyone wore a perfectly fitted, “high quality” mask 100 percent of the time. Yeah, maybe, although I doubt it. 

[RELATED: PROF. JENKINS: ‘Woke-ness’ is in retreat in Florida]

Meanwhile, back in the real world, masks don’t work--a statement that, at this point, carries the same degree of certainty as “the Earth is round” and “men can’t have babies.” Any belief to the contrary is just superstition masquerading as science. 

And yet, it’s highly possible, even probable, that your campus is contemplating a return to this failed “intervention.” 

So what can you do about it?

First, the time to be vocal is now. Don’t wait until mandates arrive. Start by emailing your institution’s president, citing the above evidence, politely asking him or her to refrain from issuing a mandate, and making it clear you have no intention of complying. Threaten to transfer to friendlier environs. Copy your governor and state legislators, as well as the chair of the school’s board of trustees, or reach out to them separately. 

Next, try circulating a petition. That’s what my son did in 2022, when his university wanted to require “proof of vaccination” to enter sports venues. He got over 5000 signatures, from students, parents, and alumni, and the president backed down. 

Speaking of parents and alumni, they should also be turning up the heat, letting school officials and politicians know they intend to withdraw their support if campuses once again enact such authoritarian measures. 

Finally, if it comes down to it, and you’re unable to stop the mandates proactively, simply do not comply. That might require a fair amount of courage. There might be very real consequences. But the alternative is to suffer under this kind of tyranny indefinitely. 

If there’s one thing we’ve learned over the last three years, it’s that there is no virtue in silence. We can’t just ignore these assaults on our civil liberties and expect them to go away. Speak now, or forever be muzzled.

Editorials and op-eds reflect the opinion of the authors and not necessarily that of Campus Reform or the Leadership Institute.