Students observe mask compliance on campus
Galloway, N.J. - More than 90% of faculty, staff and students at Stockton University, observed as part of a research study, wore a mask correctly while on campus during the spring semester.
Five undergraduate public health students, supervised by Professor of Public Health Tara Crowell, participated in a national study sponsored by the Centers for Disease Control to gauge compliance with mask-wearing on university campuses. More than 70 universities participated in MASCUP (Mask Adherence Surveillance at Colleges and Universities Project).
Crowell said she is always looking for projects to give students research experience.
“I saw this come in from the CDC and thought Stockton should be represented,” Crowell said. “It has been harder (during th
e pandemic) to find internships and research work for students, so this was a wonderful opportunity.”
The five participating students were Amanda Maurer, Kelly Miller, Kimberly Nguyen, Britny Dileo and Michaela Knoll.
Students spent from 40-90 minutes at different times of day and at different locations on campus from Feb. 9 through April 7. Among the locations they observed were the bookstore, Campus Center, food court, library, shuttle stop, Lakeside Lodge, and the academic wings.
During that time they made 2,548 observations, of which 2,357 people were wearing masks. Of that group, 92.5%, were wearing the mask correctly. The most common type of mask was cloth, with more than half (54%) of those viewed choosing that option, followed by surgical masks (38%).
Students said they were attracted to the project because it was a topic a lot of people were interested in. They also learned a lot about observational research and how rigorous it can be.
“I had underestimated the work of researchers and observers,” said Dileo. “This made me develop a newfound respect for research studies and the time and dedication that goes into them.”
Miller, a public health major, said it did feel a bit “creepy” at times watching people, and it was harder than she thought to follow the directions to track only the third person they saw.
“Your mind wants to write down every person you see at first,” she said.
Students noted that mask wearing improved as the semester progressed.
“At the start, I was surprised to see students not wearing masks, or not wearing them correctly,” said Maurer, a public health major. “Interestingly, I found that by the end of the observations, there were more students correctly adhering to mask policies and wearing their masks correctly.”
Nguyen also noticed that early on in the observations she noted more students wearing masks with their noses sticking out, but by around the fourth week most students were wearing them correctly.
Dileo said she was surprised at how compliant students and staff were at Stockton because she also works in customer service and regularly comes across people improperly wearing masks or even arguing and refusing to wear one at all.
“It was refreshing to see that the vast majority of Stockton’s students and staff were able to adhere to the mask mandate with ease, at least from my personal observations,” Dileo said.