The Daily Gamecock

Student senate recap: Recommendation calls for optional masks at on-campus workout facilities

Speaker of the student senate JD Jacobus faces the senate in a toga. Students were encouraged to wear Halloween costumes to the meeting.
Speaker of the student senate JD Jacobus faces the senate in a toga. Students were encouraged to wear Halloween costumes to the meeting.

A recommendation during Wednesday's student senate meeting called for the mask mandate at the Strom Thurmond Wellness and Fitness Center and Blatt PE Center to be optional for people exercising. 

The sponsors of the bill said their recommendation came after students complained about having trouble breathing while exercising with masks on.

“It's been an issue since day one at Strom. Kids complaining of lightheadedness, fatigue, you know, as a result of wearing the mask,” student senator John Hladun, a co-sponsor of the bill, said. 

The bill says the World Health Organization advises against wearing a mask while exercising and instead encourages physical distancing to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. The recommendation says “masks would still be required while entering and exiting exercise areas.”

Student senator Matthew Harris, the co-sponsor of the bill, said he believed the distancing measures in Strom and Blatt were enough to keep people safe. 

“If you're within six feet of somebody, it's for no more than a couple seconds, which does not meet the standard for being in close contact with someone,” Harris said. 

Additionally, Hladun said he believed without the mandate, students would still take precautions to keep each other safe in the buildings.

“I'd say about 50% of people I see wear masks while outside when they're not required to. So, I would imagine that, in my own estimate, about half the people who are currently working out in Strom would still wear their masks,” Hladun said. 

Student senator Taylor Harris, who works at Strom, said there are other areas on- or off-campus for students to exercise where masks are not required.

“I understand why students wouldn't want to wear a mask. But we — as a worker there at Strom — we've done a lot towards COVID and a lot of changes towards COVID. And I think the recommendation not to wear a mask or to make it optional would set us back in all the work that we've done,” Harris said. 

Student Body Vice President Hannah White said free shuttles to the Columbia airport will be provided for out-of-state students starting next week.

Student senator Riley Rodgers presented a recommendation to allow a pass/fail grading option for the fall 2020 semester.

“When students came back to class for this fall, we were initially not told classes would be online at the rate that they are,” Rodgers, the bill's sponsor, said. 

The legislation says other schools are already looking into utilizing pass/fail this semester. These schools include UNC, University of Tennessee, University of Alabama and the University of Mississippi.  

“I have every single class online, and I did not register for that,” Rodgers said.