Grand Valley Recreation Center struggles to enforce mask mandate


GVL / Rachel Slomba

Elizabeth Schanz, Staff Writer

Grand Valley State University’s Virus Action Team (VAT) has announced that the university is currently at a COVID-19 alert level 2, which includes a policy for mask mandates inside of all on-campus buildings. 

However, this guideline continues to be highly unpopular in one building in particular: the GVSU Recreation Center. 

The GVSU community has been affirming this observation, as it’s recently become a topic of discussion. 

Discussed by both word-of-mouth and through online platforms such as Reddit and Yik Yak, an anonymous social media platform that allows individuals to post and interact with users within a five-mile radius, there are varying opinions. 

One Reddit user, Affectionate_Case732, said, “(Do) people wear masks in the Rec Center and how strict (is) the staff with implementing the policy?” 

Another user, JakkalAdrem, replied that they are not strict due to the belief that it’s difficult to wear a mask when exercising

“Almost everyone has (their) mask not covering their nose, some don’t cover their mouth,” JakkalAdrem said. “You shouldn’t have to worry about someone coming up to you and telling you to put your mask on correctly. Most people realize that wearing a mask when working out is quite awful.” 

Tori Miers, a frequent Rec Center attendee and GVSU sophomore, has witnessed similar improper mask usage and lack of enforcement. 

“I don’t think I’ve ever seen any of the employees go right up to students and say something to them just because they’re students too,” Miers said.

Sophomore Kylie McCaskill, a student worker in the rec-well division who teaches group exercise classes, said she’s seen a change in enforcement of policies within the Rec Center. 

“They’ve gotten a lot stricter on masks recently,” McCaskill said. “Before people would just say ‘Make sure to wear your mask,’ and then there would be announcements every so often. Now they’re actually walking around and up to people.”

The loudspeaker has been one of the primary ways in which workers have attempted to remind students of this policy. However, these reminders don’t always prompt compliance with the guidelines. 

Opposition to the Rec Center policies have been voiced on Yik Yak. One individual posted their reaction to the announcements within the Rec Center.

The anonymous post said, “When a worker (at) the gym on campus announced, ‘You can wear your mask or leave,’ but half of the staff doesn’t wear them. Respectfully shut up.”

Other announcements and face-to-face enforcement of the mask policy have been known to be less general, but instead address particular groups. 

Both workers and students have said they notice that those who use the basketball courts tend to receive more attention for their lack of compliance with the mask policy. 

“I’ve definitely noticed the people on the basketball courts get hounded for not wearing a mask, but everyone else is working out around them and they’re not getting yelled at at all,” McCaskill said.

Some believe that the lack of direct supervision and monitoring could be a factor in proper mask usage.

McCaskill said she has noticed that when she teaches exercise classes, attendees tend to keep their masks fully on, as compared to the rest of the Rec Center’s work out locations. She said she attributes this difference to the teacher of the class being “right there” and able to enforce the policy more closely. 

The mask mandate will continue to be in place within all of GVSU buildings until the university reaches COVID-19 Alert Level 0, meaning that cases are minimal and transmission is controlled. 

Enforcement of the policy at the Rec Center will carry on until that time.