I am an instructor at Texas A&M, and I have always loved my job. But this semester, the classroom feels like a very unsafe space. In fact, it feels actively hostile.
If you walk around campus, enter an academic building or participate in a classroom exercise, you would assume that everything is back to normal. Very few people — students, faculty and staff — are wearing masks. Almost no one is exercising additional social distancing. Northgate bars and restaurants are as crowded as ever. Our football stadium and tailgate venues attract thousands of fans for every home game.
Everyone is behaving normally. But things are not normal.
There’s a phrase in Aggieland that says, “Highway 6 runs both ways.” I’m sick of people forcing their fear on everyone else. If this guy (assume it’s a guy… it’s unsigned) is too afraid to teach in that environment, then he can go to another place of employment that takes more precautions. Clearly the vast majority of people are comfortable being mostly normal. We don’t need to all bend our behavior to make the most skittish among us feel better.
And as for this part:
I can’t require my students to wear masks. Our governor and our school have outlawed mask mandates. I can “strongly encourage” mask usage, but students can ignore my encouragement, and many do. Furthermore, every time I encourage the use of masks in the classroom, the atmosphere of the classroom changes. The facial expressions of my students harden. They lean back in their seats and cross their arms. Several of them sneer at me. The belligerence is palpable. It’s uncomfortable. It feels dangerous.
Perhaps they are done taking medical guidance from some rando instructor and are capable of making their own choices.