Student-led program urges community to wear masks


Photo by Jamie Santarella

State and local regulations require masks to be worn inside all local business, as attested to by these signs in the window of the Kofenya Coffee House, 38 W. High Street.

By Jamie Santarella

The City of Oxford and Miami University’s Greek life community formed a student-led mask ambassadorship program that will hand out face masks to people uptown who aren’t wearing them, beginning Friday, March 12.

The program aims for the student volunteers to encourage their peers to follow state and local COVID-19 protocols. 

In October, Miami issued a new mask-wearing policy required students and faculty to wear masks on-campus, whether inside or outdoors. Oxford issued a mask ordinance in July; it requires mask-wearing at indoor locations, not including residences, and outdoors if unable to maintain six-foot social distance from people that are not household members.

Members of Miami’s Associated Student Government (ASG), noticed a need for the mask ambassadorship last semester, when crowds of students would gather outside of businesses such as Bagel & Deli and Fiesta Charra, said Kyle Naderhoff, president of Miami’s Interfraternity Council (IFC).

“There were huge numbers of people outside businesses, mostly unmasked,” Naderhoff said. 

“It’s just a problem that everyone has identified,” said Emily McClary, secretary of off-campus affairs and chair on Oxford’s Student/Community Relations Committee (SCRC). “We wanted something to go into effect that takes it out of the hands of [Oxford Police] more and puts it into the hands of students to step up as leaders.”

The City of Oxford’s SCRC and Miami’s ASG decided to include Greek life in the effort, because more than 30 percent of Miami’s student body is involved in fraternities and sororities, McClary said. Plus, the program could offer benefits to the Greek community, like the opportunity to get service hours. 

“It’s building our community in terms of service, community engagement and relation between tri-council, but also helping out ASG and the COVID-safety efforts in Oxford as well,” said Lydia Yamashiro, president of Miami’s Panhellenic Association.

Oxford requires that masks be worn by people who are out on the street as well as inside businesses. For those who don’t comply, the new Mask Ambassadors will be offering free masks beginning March 12. Photo by Jamie Santarella

The Greek community will have its own designated weekends, coined “Greek Weekends,” where groups of two  to three volunteers will walk around uptown, wearing identifiable T-shirts and pass out Miami-themed masks to anyone that might need one or may not be wearing one, Naderhoff and McClary said.

The Miami-themed masks that will be handed out are left over from a mask distribution program spearheaded by the university last semester. 

“We definitely have a surplus of masks and they’re not doing any good sitting in the office, so we want to get them in the hands of students,” said Adam Dralle, associate director of student activities and fraternity and sorority life at Miami.

On Thursday, March 4, Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine stated that when Ohio gets down to 50 COVID-19 cases for 100,000 people each day for two weeks, all state COVID restrictions will be lifted. 

ASG and Greek life plan to follow local and state COVID-19 guidelines as long as they’re in effect, Naderhoff said.

Even if Ohio or Oxford mask mandates are lifted in the near-future, it may still be a good idea to encourage people to wear masks, Yamashiro said.

Until then, the mask ambassadorship shifts are  6 p.m. through 10 p.m.Friday and Saturdays, plus nights before major days such as Wellness Days and Green Beer Day, Naderhoff said.

“We’re just hoping that it’s a positive form of encouragement for people to see their peers wearing masks and abiding by these protocols and regulations,” McClary said.

The mask ambassadorship program starts Friday, March 12 for ASG volunteers, while the first “Greek Weekend” begins Friday, March 19.