Voices on the Quad: Professors on Updated Mask-Optional Policy

By Jocelyn Visnov, Web Editor/Asst. Production Editor

Beginning Saturday, April 9, wearing a mask or face covering while indoors will no lon-
ger be a mandatory requirement. For the first time since the beginning of the fall 2020 semester, mask-wearing in the classroom has become optional.
According to the OneManhattan update on safety guidelines sent out on April 7, “Faculty
may require students to wear masks in their classrooms by communicating via email or on their
Moodle page.”

This leaves it up to the discretion of the professor as to whether or not they will require students to wear masks during class for the remainder of the semester. The Quadrangle caught up with a few MC faculty members to hear their thoughts on the updated policies.

Kevin Ahern, Associate Professor of Religious Studies 

How do you feel about the mask mandate being lifted?

I think we’re moving on in our society to this new stage of COVID management. So I think it makes sense for the college to work on moving to the mask recommended, and I think it works that the college is asking, allowing faculty to require masks if they feel like it’s necessary in my own classrooms … I have also had at least one student request that I make masks continue with the masking policy because he or she is uncomfortable being in a classroom without a mask. So I’m going to ask my online students if they feel the class should be what policy should be so we can work it out together. So, it’s not just me making the decision.

Do you think many professors are taking their students’ feelings into consideration when choosing whether or not to require masks in the classroom? 

I think most professors, if they were made aware that there was a student that was uncomfortable and masking, would probably try to ask all the other students to have masks. I think if students feel uncomfortable being in a classroom with masks, tell your professors and then they can maybe help and hopefully listen to you.

Aileen Farrelly, Assistant Dean of the O’Malley School of Business and Visiting Instructor

How do you feel about the most recent OneManhattan safety guidelines regarding masks during class time?

I am happy about them.

Do you think the most recent guidelines will continue to keep the campus community safe?

Yes, I do.

Will you require masks to be worn in your classes? 

No, I will not.

Bryan Wilkins, Associate Professor of Chemistry & Biochemistry 

How do you feel about the classroom mask mandate being lifted?

My personal opinion is that at least for the rest of this semester, we should leave them on … just because there’s only a month left. There’s no reason to lift it for just four more weeks of classes. I personally will keep wearing my mask. Our department also had a consensus that everything that has to do with the chemistry department will maintain their masks throughout the rest of this semester, at least. Probably the only places where I would feel safe without them is in a big laboratory where there’s a lot of airflow and a lot of space. 

Are you at all concerned about going mask-optional as word spreads about a potential new COVID variant? 

I think we should follow whatever CDC or the city is doing for the most part. But when it comes to being in a classroom, even if there is not a huge mandate in the city, it’s an area where it’s confined and if there is an uptick in reported cases, I think we should go back to wearing the masks.