On any given day Instagram is a highly trafficked app filled with various forms of self-expression. From selfies to song shout outs, and of course celebrity gossip, we can expect a lot of the content to be lighthearted and causal. 

This week however, Gonzaga students were shocked to find a new account that seeks to scapegoat and shame students into following COVID-19 safety protocols while in Spokane.

The account @zagsunmasked has gained widespread criticism for its posts of students unmasked around campus. Numerous students have spoken out against the account in its comments section, many of whom were people not directly involved with but rather empathetic toward those who had their pictures taken seemingly without their consent.

The highest criticism to date has come from GSBA President Fese Elango in conjunction with Vice Provost for Student Affairs Kent Porterfield. 

An email went out to all undergraduate students clarifying that GU as a school does not condone the account nor their methods of engaging with the GU community. 

The @zagsunmasked account was quick to retaliate with a message of their own, following the release of the official GU email. 

“Gonzaga doesn’t condone [sic] our account. And we do not condone their lack of enforcement on COVID-19 policy,” the account said via their Instagram story. 

The main platform of the account is to “help” students understand the COVID-19 prevention policy and to accept accountability for their actions (or lack thereof) on campus. However, they are not “COVID-19 police”, were such an entity to exist. 

Their actions demonstrate not a willingness to help others but a feeling of jealousy towards those they perceive to be getting away with disobeying COVID-19 policies. 

Masks aside, the account reeks of hypocrisy, as they are openly defying GU’s policies and culture by posting non-consensual photos of their fellow Zags with the intent to shame them into compliance. 

@zagsunmasked also fails to account for situational context. Of the sixteen posts on their profile, not a single one depicts students gathering in groups greater than five people, the number designated as a “family unit” that may elect to be mask-less around one another. 

The vast majority are of small groups with no other people in sight, other than the person taking the picture and posting it to Instagram page. Perhaps the cruelest fact of all is the staggering number of people who are wearing their masks but who, thanks to @zagsunmasked are now associated with defying COVID-19 protocols.

What @zagsunmasked needs to understand is that their opinion on mask-wearing can never justify the way that they have violated the privacy and security of their fellow students. Their reasoning became invalid the moment they elected to favor one set of rules over the other, choosing to challenge the great institution we all have the privilege of attending. 

Instead of protecting students, they endangered them, putting them at risk of hatred and discrimination. For an institution that attracts students with its friendly smiles and open doors, it is deeply saddening that Zags must now fear showing their face in public, turning away whenever they see a phone. 

While GU policy makes it clear that students should be wearing a mask at all times, the university has also made it clear that it doesn’t need vigilante students patrolling campus with the aim of bullying Zags into obedience. 

Make no mistake, @zagsunmasked are not heroes. Their war of words with GU officials is a clear demonstration that they will abide only by the rules they are choosing to follow. Their actions are just plain mean, and they have no consideration for the feelings of the Zags in their posts.

In this time of crisis, suffering and death, let us not be like them. Let us continue to smile with our actions and hold open the doors to our hearts, showing the world what it truly means to be a Zag. 

Red Kwenda is a staff writer. Follow him on Twitter at @RedKwendaWriter

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