A student working alone in the library inside a personal carrel or study room should have the liberty to remove her mask. As it stands, Duke's guidance suggests that it is not "safe" for a student who is alone in a study room or working by himself in a personal carrel to remove his mask. Meanwhile, Duke allows students to sit together maskless in Star Commons (as long as they are eating or drinking); allows students to roam maskless in common areas (as long as they are in the dorm halls); allows students to appear maskless indoors on national television (as long as they are on the basketball team) and allows students to go maskless to restaurants, bars, parties and other indoor social events (as long as they are off campus). Given that Duke allows removing masks in each of these scenarios, it is absurd to suggest that a student who studies maskless in an enclosed study room or private carrel unreasonably endangers the Duke community.
I don't advocate that masks should be abandoned in crowded classrooms or when students are moving throughout a building. However, we would do well to remember that we can never completely eliminate risk from our community. This was true before COVID and is true now. As we head into finals season, where students will spend long periods of time in the library, a student alone in a personal carrel or study room should not be burdened with a mask requirement.
Brendan Reichart is a 1L at Duke Law School.