Black Hammer, an organization focused on decolonization which follows Black Power and Indigenous anti-colonial tradition, and The New Paltz Socialists teamed up to give out 50 KN95 masks and 120 disposable surgical masks at SUNY New Paltz on Friday, Aug. 28, following a “threatening” notice from campus administration.
The “threatening” notice refers to the campus’ new MASK hotline, which the college introduced to the campus community on Aug. 19 via email. The MASK hotline is a new COVID-19 protocol that the campus community can use to report incidences of noncompliance with COVID-19 measures, like not wearing a mask inside buildings or where social distancing cannot be maintained.
The hotline was “established to receive reports of noncompliance with public health rules and expectations as part of our community-wide effort to encourage prosocial behavior and reduce the transmission of coronavirus,” said College Spokesperson Chrissie Williams.
The hotline is fully run by SUNY New Paltz staff members and the consequences for being reported to this hotline include potential judiciary action for students and disciplinary action for employees. When making a report, the caller must provide their name, the reason for their call, the name of the reported individual and the date and time of the witnessed noncompliance.
“We are encouraged that so many students, faculty, staff, alumni and community members have adopted a ‘We, not Me’ attitude and are working together to protect the health and safety of our campus, village and surrounding region this fall,” Williams said.
So far, there have been 11 reports made to the MASK hotline.
“We saw that the school had set up a very dangerous system of encouraging people to snitch, via phone call, on people seen not wearing a mask,” said chief social media coordinator of Black Hammer, founding member of New Paltz Socialists and second-year graduate student Katari Sisa. “Nowhere in that email was it made clear where students could get masks, if that phone call would allow people to access free protective equipment or even if the practice would apply to non-students.”
The campus has also taken the initiative to give out masks to the residential students when they moved into their dorms and to commuter students during the first three weeks of classes. Two cloth masks and a 2 oz. bottle of hand sanitizer are available to students through the school.
In total, the college has distributed 22,817 masks to faculty, staff, students and contractors.
However, Sisa said that cloth masks do not provide students with the suitable protection they need.
“Right now New Paltz students are risking their lives to pursue an education and the school has not properly prepared them,” they said. “Cloth masks are not sufficient.”
According to a 2010 filtration study by The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), cloth masks block between 10% to 60% of particles. The CDC reported that the effectiveness of cloth masks can be improved by using the correct material, increasing the layers in the masks and washing them after each use.
To continue their personal protective equipment program, the organizations gave out more masks to community members on Main Street on Friday, Sept. 4. In the future they plan to hand out masks to communities in higher need, like Poughkeepsie.
“We also introduced students to Black Hammer’s largest project Hammer City, a place colonized people can come and live away from policing, COVID-19 and dangerous jobs to build autonomy,” Sisa said. “We will continue to spread the resources and message in the area.”