10/13/20 Mask Culture, Cater Mayhan

An essential part of a college students daily routine is dinner. Carter Mayhan, class of 2024 from Springfield, Ohio, studying first-year engineering, grabs food from 1Bowl.

The University has spent over $65,000 to create, produce and install the nearly 1,000 pieces of Protect Purdue signage, funded through Purdue’s operating budget of more than $50 million for COVID-19-related expenses, according to Senior Vice President of Marketing and Communications Ethan Braden.

Braden said advertising efforts for the University’s 150th anniversary have heavily influenced Protect Purdue advertising material by providing the Protect Purdue Implementation Team a roadmap on what specific locations and tactics are proven to drive awareness, participation and sustained engagement in the community.

Before the semester started, students were making bets as to how many weeks it would take for campus to be shut down. But now, more than halfway through the semester, the University has maintained a steady rate of under 5% positivity on campus, which some Protect Purdue ambassadors claim is due to their efforts to encouraging students to follow restrictions.

“This culture has been created through encouraging a sense of accountability among students, faculty and staff that goes beyond just wearing a mask, but protecting each other and our campus,” said Shelby Nierman, a Protect Purdue Ambassador and graduate student in the College of Health and Human Sciences. “This is an ongoing effort that has been delivered through increasing knowledge and self-efficacy, changing attitudes and establishing social norms among those present on campus.”

Students were required to take the Protect Purdue Pledge before coming to campus, promising to follow the University’s guidelines in an effort to keep the community safe from the spread of COVID-19. Students agreed to wear masks, maintain distancing guidelines and remain home if feeling ill.

Response to the pledge and the campaign have been varied.

“I think that the Protect Purdue protocol is very anti-constitutional,” said Greenley Goedde, a freshman in the College of Health and Human Sciences. “The way that (Purdue) controls all areas of our lives and has taken away from the fun of college, of meeting new people, is totally crossing a boundary that they should never cross.”

Goedde said she believes Purdue is stripping rights and freedoms away from students by requiring masks.

“I think it’s totally a political thing, and it’s extremely unfair that the left is doing this to us, and we need to stand up for our rights as American citizens,” Goedde said. “We shouldn’t be shamed for thinking differently. I’m ashamed that Purdue doesn’t protect the rights of the American citizens and bows down to the left.”

Some students said they are wearing masks in hopes to stay on campus for the rest of the semester.

“It’s the least I can do to help protect others,” said Emery Frey, a freshman in the College of Pharmacy. “If doctors are right about wearing masks, we’re stopping the spread, and if they’re wrong, the only inconvenience is wearing a thin piece of fabric on our face.”

One psychologist discussed the science behind mass mask regulations.

Professor of social psychology Bill Graziano said masks are unusual and trigger fast fear and a fight-or-flight reactions in some people. He characterized this reaction as part of a general process of emotional self-regulation.

“The initial emotional reaction is further bolstered by social comparison,” Graziano said. “Seeing others react in the same way validates the reaction, further removing it from conscious reflection.”

Some students noted their concern of the social consequences of not wearing their masks on campus.

“I wear a mask because it reduces disease spread across the board, COVID or otherwise,” said Austin Clark, a junior in the College of Science. “But there are times I keep it on even when I’m not worried about spreading diseases because I don’t want to get in trouble or yelled at.”

A freshman in the Polytechnic Institute who requested to remain anonymous took issue with a lack of accountability for Purdue employees, referencing several Purdue Fire Department staff members not social distancing or wearing masks.

The Protect Purdue initiative hired around 200 Protect Purdue student ambassadors to educate and encourage students to protect the Purdue community, according to the Protect Purdue website.

Much of the initiative consists of Protect Purdue marketing materials like banners, window clings and sidewalk graphics, which were designed and selected “to help create a community-wide mindset and culture,” Braden said.

“The Protect Purdue campaign is impossible to miss,” said Mitchell Demerly, a Protect Purdue ambassador and senior in the College of Science. “If you’re walking to class, checking social media or even talking to a friend, you’re going to be reminded about the commitment you’ve made as a student to protect Purdue.”

“Our students, as well as our dedicated faculty and staff, are to be admired and cheered for their sustained commitment to living the Protect Purdue Pledge over these last two months, propelled by more than 200 dedicated Protect Purdue student ambassadors,” Braden said. “But we still have a long way to go and must remain persistent day in and day out. We can’t let our masks down.”

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