The Collegian
Wednesday, June 29, 2022

UR closes 3 court gymnasium because of mask mandate violations

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<p>The archway for the Weinstein Center for Recreation peeks through the brush</p>

 

The archway for the Weinstein Center for Recreation peeks through the brush

The Weinstein Center for Recreation’s gymnasium will close until Jan. 24 because of visitors’ non-compliance with the University of Richmond’s mask mandate, according to an email obtained by The Collegian.

The closure currently includes all recreation and sports club activity that uses the 3 court gymnasium, wrote Allison Rose, the University Recreation Department athletic trainer, in another email obtained by The Collegian. 

“Should we not see an improvement in adherence to this policy, the entire Weinstein Center for Recreation will shut down,” wrote Marti Tomlin, director of University Recreation, in the email.

While UR relaxed certain aspects of the mask policy on Nov. 6, the policy was updated again on Jan. 4 to require masks while exercising in the gym because of the increase of COVID-19 cases nationally and locally, according to the spring semester start update email.

“If we do not experience high incidence rates during the early weeks of the semester, we expect to reduce mandatory mask requirements for vaccinated members of the community,” wrote David Hale, executive vice president and chief operating officer, Jeffrey Legro, executive vice president and provost, and Shannon Sinclair, vice president and general counsel in the email sent on Jan. 3.

Under the previous mask policy, vaccinated students, faculty and staff were not required to wear masks while exercising in the gym, but masks were required upon entry, exit and while walking around the gym, according to an email sent to the campus community on Nov. 1.

The shift in mask policy last semester may have just caused confusion, and now there’s an ongoing issue, said Daniel Opstelten, president of the men’s club basketball team. 

“When I walked in there, there was a lot of people not wearing masks,” he said. 

Opstelten said he understood where the UR was coming from, and that safety had to be the number one priority because they have to think about not just the students, but faculty and staff as well.

“If that’s what’s needed, then that’s what’s needed,” he said.

Carter Pete, president of the men’s club volleyball team, said he had to cancel his team’s first practice of the year.

“It's really disappointing,” he said. “I have a team of 21 people, that’s 21 people that were hoping to go play some volleyball tonight.”

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In the time he had spent in the gym, he did notice some problems with students not wearing masks, but mostly with the students playing basketball on their own, not those affiliated with club sports, Pete said.

“I think the difference there is the lack of accountability of being there on your own versus being in the club,” he said. 

Club sports teams have one warning before being suspended, he said. Pete said he thinks this accountability is what makes the biggest difference in their mask-wearing, and that a general closure wouldn't cause the response administrators might be hoping for.

“I think a general ban — the way that they did it — was not the best way of doing it,” he said.

Ruby Nguyen, a first-year student, felt differently.

“I think the school should take this drastic step,” she said. “This would also encourage students to take the matter more seriously because many still frequently avoid wearing masks in confined spaces despite knowing the risks.” 

Although she said she thinks most students usually adhere to the mask policy, she has noticed that not everyone wears their mask over their nose. 

"The gym is a particularly big Petri dish — people use the same equipment, they lower their mask frequently to drink water, they’re often gasping for air,” she said.

Opstelten said he just hoped everyone would start following the policy before his team was really affected by the closure.

“If they are to decide to continue to close the gym then we'd be looking at not just canceled practices, but canceled games,” he said.

At least four club sports will be affected by the closure, including the men’s and women’s basketball and volleyball teams, according to the University Recreation website

Assistant news editor Sarah Noorbakhsh contributed to reporting.

Contact news editor Natasha Sokoloff at natasha.sokoloff@richmond.edu.

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