Masking rules relax. Shoe wearing rules tighten?

Grace Canny, shoe enjoyer

On Sept. 9, 2022, Peter Harvey sent the email heard ’round the world—Whitman is now mask-optional! Some of Whitman rejoiced, burning masks and other muzzling devices on the Cleveland Commons patio. Some of Whitman hunkered down, preparing the storm that awaited them. Some did not react strongly at all. And others, a critical few, took this extra ounce of freedom, and ran with it—shoeless, of course. 

You may have seen them around, in the wilds of Ankeny Field, shoeless and oh so carefree. Or you may have only seen traces of them, a muddy trail of footprints in the science building, one wet footprint in Maxey. They are here, in growing numbers, the Natural Foot Seekers of Whitman College. 

We had the rare opportunity to speak with a member of NFSWC, a junior environmental studies major from Minnesota, who shared their journey in discovering their shoeless self: “It was hard growing up. I was always made to wear shoes. It’d be 13 degrees outside and they had to tie me down to put boots on me. So here, I feel so free and more in touch with my feet.”

Others have their differences with the free-feet community. Proudly pro-shoe is Janie, a sophomore from California, who explains: “Some of you have horrific looking feet. Like truly horrid feral feet and toes… I intend to be rude; I want that to be clear.”

Just this Saturday, these two issues converged into one political force. An anti-mask, pro-shoe rally held in front of Memorial Hall garnered a crowd of 75 or so students. One protestor shared their concern with masking when shoes are not required: “I don’t want to mask up again. I hate to look like I’m against personal freedoms, but the school needs to require them to wear shoes. I can’t learn with the odor. It affects my personal safety, honestly.” 

As unique allyships are forming, and with multiple interests at play, we expect a statement from Peter Harvey soon, likely to require masks and shoes on campus at all times.