More About Summaries

A Comparison Study

Most of you (those who attended class WED FEB 23) will remember that I opened class by informally surveying your opinions about the eventual lifting of the mask mandate for classes at Rowan. Since we have that experience in common, I will use it as the subject matter for a comparison study of summaries. One will be good; the others lacking in some fundamental aspect of good summary. Match the summaries with their appropriate captions.

YELLOW SUMMARY. On Wednesday, February 23, in our 8:00 class, Professor David Hodges opened his lesson by asking his students a question he declared to be an important one about mask mandates. He told us that the Governor of New Jersey would be lifting the mask mandate for schools in early March, but that he hadn’t specified whether colleges were included in the “school” category and that, in any event, Rowan University might have its own policy about whether students should be masked in class or permitted to decide for themselves whether they should have to. Hodges wanted his students to know that he was concerned about several aspects of the mask mandate on how they might feel about coming to class, so he conducted his survey to determine whether having a mandate for their class in particular, separate from what the state or college required, would affect the likelihood that they would attend class on any given day.

GREEN SUMMARY. Rowan University Professor David Hodges surveyed his students about the potential lifting of the mask mandate intended to thwart transmission of the COVID-19 virus. Masks would soon be optional in New Jersey schools (not necessarily colleges), and Hodges wanted to know, if Rowan were to lift the mandate, how his students would be impacted by that decision to let students decide whether or not to wear masks to class, to his class in particular. He expressed his interest in their reaction to the opportunity to decide for themselves whether to mask or not mask, and wanted to know whether the wearing or not wearing of masks would affect their decision-making about how willing they would be to come to class or not. He expressed his own opinion about whether masks were important or not, and suggested that if he adopted one policy he might be congratulated and supported by the university, but that a different decision might result in his getting fired. He said it was a fight worth having and that he would accept the consequences either way.

RED SUMMARY. Rowan University Professor David Hodges opened his class with a provocative question about masks. But first, he provided some background about what the Governor or New Jersey might do about the state-wide mask mandate for schools and whether the lifting of the mandate would apply to colleges or not. The questions Hodges thought were most important to ask were whether his students would be more or less likely to attend class if they were required to wear masks. The way he phrased the questions was to ask them if they would come to class if they were required to wear masks or whether they would come to class if they were not required to wear masks. Obviously, he wanted to know about class attendance and how the mask mandate would affect it. He stressed that in asking those questions he was trying to strike a balance between supporting the health of his students while at the same time giving due respect to his students’ personal freedom to decide how to balance their personal opinions about public health and individual rights in a free society.

BLUE SUMMARY. Professor Hodges challenged his class to decide between masks and the freedom to not wear masks. Indicating that masks might soon be optional at the college, he wanted to know whether, if he instituted a mask mandate just for his own classes, how his students would react, attendance-wise. Put another way, he wanted to know, if he followed a university “mask optional” policy for his class, whether they would come to class or skip. He indicated his personal preference to keep his students safe, but acknowledged that the bigger question was one of balancing the rights of those who were fearful of infection against those who felt entitled to an unencumbered classroom experience. He wanted to give his students a chance to express their preferences in advance of any state-wide or college-wide proclamations, so this informal survey was his way of giving his students an opportunity to react to the possibility that they might have to decide between skipping class or coming to a class where masks were mandated even though in the rest of the college they were optional.

ORANGE SUMMARY. College professor David Hodges illustrated that he values personal freedom, but not at the expense of public health. In the face of the anticipated lifting of a mandate that students wear masks in class to thwart the spread of the deadly COVID-19 virus, he asked his students whether they would boycott his class if he flaunted his disdain for the “mask-optional” policy by mandating masks in his class. He also invited students wary of a maskless classroom to say whether they would skip attending in person if his class became “mask-optional.” In concluding that he would conduct class in person if no student expressed fear of contagion, but that he would “go virtual” for all students if any student objected to a maskless class, he demonstrated both his eagerness to side with public health concerns over personal liberty and his apparent resolve to risk his own livelihood if his individual classroom policy were to violate department or university policy.

TEAL SUMMARY. College professor David Hodges crosses the line when he disparages personal freedom in favor of the irrational fears of students afraid that they might catch a virus from a classmate. Responding to an anticipated lifting of the onerous requirement that students wear masks in class, Hodges polled his students in search of an excuse to hold his classes virtually. He offered his most fearful students the chance to deny their classmates the advantage of in-person education—which is his contracted obligation!—by suggesting that it they expressed a concern about attending class with unmasked fellow students, whether or not they had tested positive for the China virus, they would provide him the excuse he needed to stay home and conduct his course on Zoom. Hodges’s wanton disregard for what he himself acknowledged as the right of every student to attend class in person unless proven to be an imminent health risk, “unmasks” him as an unwitting tool of the police state.