By James Barraford
The Game Room in the McCarthy Center was temporarily closed Sept. 29 and Oct. 7 due to mask policy non-compliance.
Sara Gallegos, director of Student Involvement & Leadership Development (SILD), sent an email to all students announcing the closure Sept. 29.
Gallegos said she and her staff warned students about mask compliance, supplied masks for students who did not have one, and posted signs reminding them to mask up in the Game Room.
Two reports were submitted to University Police about students disregarding mask guidelines. Gallegos said it was the second report “that was the impetus of the shutdown.
“It could be shut back down again if people aren’t complying” with mask guidelines, Gallegos said.
President F. Javier Cevallos said this decision was necessary to control the spread of COVID-19, in an Oct. 1 email.
“We only do this as a last resort when reminders on the policy are ignored,” Cevallos said.
The Athletic Center, another communal space, was closed from Sept. 3 to 13 due to mask policy non- compliance.
The Game Room, which offers video games, ping pong, and pool for students to enjoy, was locked for the week and the lights were shut off.
Sophie Fitzgerald, a senior math major, said it was a good place to “just talk with people.
“I think it’s a pretty good place for blowing off steam, and being with your friends, and you can go there and mess around,” Fitzgerald said.
Nicholas Ribeiro, a senior computer science major, said before the Game Room closed, he and his friends would play video games there.
“We can enjoy things we all did during the pandemic in person – kind of reunite and just socialize,” Ribeiro said.
He added it was not uncommon to see some people wearing masks incorrectly or not at all.
Ribeiro said he “wasn’t completely surprised” when he found out the Game Room was closed.
Mark Haskell, a junior international business major and SGA senator, said he was not surprised by the closure because his warnings to fellow students were ignored.
“That’s the price they’re paying for their follies,” Haskell said.
He added he would remind students to wear their masks, but they still did not comply.
Eddy Olu, a senior computer science major, said he felt “cheated” because he and his friends followed the rules. He said the closure wasn’t surprising, but it felt wrong to make the room inaccessible to those who complied with guidelines.
He said while many students were “mature” enough to follow the rules, others were not.
Olu added University Police and SILD members would enter the Game Room to enforce the mask mandate. However, some students took their masks off after officers and staff left.
He said he doesn’t think students can `fix the issue. He said bringing back an attendant for the Game Room, like in previous years, might curb mask non-compliance more effectively than student pressure.
Catherine Soto, a junior psychology major, said despite University Police and SILD members warning students about the mask policy, “Some people still didn’t use them properly.”
Gallegos said SILD currently does not plan to employ an attendant in the Game Room.
She added the attendant was removed due to budget cuts.
Wearing masks indoors is important to lower COVID-19 infection rates, Gallegos said.
She added, “If students cannot continue to comply with the mask mandate, leaving spaces open – like the Game Room – will have to be seriously evaluated,” and lead to possible closure for the remainder of the semester.
Gallegos said students should tell those who aren’t complying to wear masks.
“The students should be holding each other accountable,” she said.
[Editor’s note: Mark Haskell is a Staff Writer for The Gatepost.]