University Managers Deserve Our Empathy on Mask Policy Decisions

by James C. Sherlock

JMU student newspaper The Breeze posted a story about strong differences of opinion on lifting the mask mandate across campus.

These types of situations put university officials between a rock and a hard place. While they understand that comes with the job, it is impossible not to feel some empathy.

Tim Miller, vice president for student affairs, spoke for many of them when he said:

“I would say that for every message I get saying, ‘I would like to stop wearing a mask,’ I get another message saying, ‘Please don’t make masks go away.” “[Both] sides are all very convinced that their perspective is the right one — all the others are wrong. Being in the middle of that can be challenging.”


Leadership is about choices of actions from among conflicting alternatives, but that doesn’t make some choices easy or popular.

For the students, part of growing up is learning to accept decisions that will not always go your way. Faculty are already, at least legally, adults. The JMU Faculty Senate, never disappointing expectations, voted heavily to keep on masking.

So students, if you get the opportunity, offer Mr. Miller a drink. Perhaps a mug of purple passion.

You know you have some.