In the name of equity, UO Admin forbids faculty from requiring masks in their classes

Equity. You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means. Some faculty are young, single, low risk. Others have unvaccinated kids, are immunocompromised, taking care of someone who is, or are just plain old. Our administration wants to treat them all the same: no mask requirement allowed. This is not equity.

Dear colleagues,
We hope your winter term is wrapping up nicely following the early challenges of the Omicron surge and other disruptions. We are grateful for your hard work and creativity in serving our students so well during these uncertain times.
As we head into spring term after nearly two years of modified instruction, it’s time to help our students transition to more customary modes of learning. This may be a difficult transition for students who have come to expect a level of flexibility and accommodation that is no longer necessary following the Omicron surge. It is also not sustainable. We have heard from many of you how difficult it has been managing these student expectations and the high numbers of student absences. Following guidance from health authorities and based on current public health conditions and our high vaccination rates, we are able to safely return to instruction practices that are closer to what we offered pre-COVID.
Last week the University of Oregon announced that wearing masks will become optional in most indoor spaces on campus beginning Saturday, March 19. Masks will remain required in health care settings, such as University Health Services and the COVID-19 Monitoring and Assessment Program (MAP) testing sites. The UO COVID-19 regulations should be applied uniformly to all campus settings, including classrooms, unless otherwise required by law or policy. Faculty should not create any rules or requirements that are inconsistent with the university regulations or local, state, or federal public health agencies. In particular, this means you may not require masks where they are optional, nor allow people to go without masks where they are required, such as in health care settings. It is important the university apply the UO COVID-19 regulation uniformly to maintain consistency and equity across campus.
In addition, the Academic Council has revised its expectations for spring 2022 term. The full document is here. In short, the council is largely giving instructors the discretion to manage attendance and makeup policies for their courses. The council recognizes the incredible strain that the heightened flexibility requirements have placed on them. We encourage you to establish your expectations for attendance in your syllabus and early class meetings; students need to hear that attendance is important to their learning. Of course, this is balanced against the need for reasonable flexibility as it existed pre-COVID. Students should know what their options are when they are unable to meet attendance requirements.
Again, thank you for all you have done and continue to do for our students. Your efforts have helped us through one of the university’s most difficult times in recent history. Please find some time for you and your family to rest and recreate over spring break.


Janet Woodruff-Borden
Executive Vice Provost for Academic Affairs

Bookmark the permalink.

29 Responses to In the name of equity, UO Admin forbids faculty from requiring masks in their classes

  1. thedude says:

    I have no intention of wearing a mask this spring. I highly support facility who are vulnerable or live with vulnerable people to take more precautions and to ask their students to do so too.

    • uomatters says:

      Ask, or require?

      • Anonymous says:

        I read this as we are not permitted to even ask students or others to wear masks in any settings except the specific ones listed. This includes your office, even be it a wee cubbyhole in PLC. I wonder if requiring unmasked students to keep a distance is allowed, though in keeping with “equity” requirement, you would have to keep all students at a distance. “Equity” my compromised ass!

    • Are You Kitten Me? says:

      What are “more precautions” if students are expected to attend in person but we can’t require them to mask up? In that scenario, all those of us who are immunocompromised can do is put on an N95 and pray it’s on right. Because the room is filled with unsafe exhalations from unmasked people. The only additional precautions available would be to reduce the exhalation gathering in the room. If you’re in a room with windows that can create a cross breeze, great — but most won’t be. Therefore, “more precautions” becomes COMMUNITY responsibility, no longer only the responsibility of the person at high risk. I don’t want to share a room for an hour or more with unmasked people, and I shouldn’t be forced to, because it’s a literal risk to my health & safety.

      • Thedude says:

        Other precautions

        Wearing ñ95
        Keeping distance
        Remote office hours
        Opening window in office
        Asking others to mask in your office
        Running air filtration machine in your office

  2. honest Uncle Bernie says:

    They are using the word “equity” to cover their sorry asses for the fact that they are forcing immunocompromised, older, and other vulnerable people to suffer covid hazards. That has been their attitude throughout the recent surge. And I suspect it is actually the attitude of a lot of “invulnerable” faculty as well. That is perhaps why there has been so little pushback against the administration. They may actually be hoping that covid will push a lot of older faculty out early. Though I don’t think they realize how difficult it might be to cover the courses — especially on short notice.

    And I have news: covid is making a big comeback in Europe and elsewhere. The current respite in the U.S. may be short lived.

    Oh well, I’ll get my second booster at an opportune time. And do what I think is best for myself next time around.

    • uomatters says:

      Bernie, are you claiming that this use of equity is not sustainable? I may have to report you for failure to honor UO’s Community Standard Buzzword Policy.

    • Dog says:

      two things

      1) In early January 2022, Israel citizens were eligible for the second booster (or 4th overall); studies of that population show very good results.

      2) Just today (3/16/) Pfizer is seeking authorization for second booster for adults over 65.

  3. honest Uncle Bernie says:

    Indeed esteemed colleague Bill, not sustainable! In today-speak. Back in the day, people used the term “Orwellian.” But now we don’t even bother.

  4. Slowly Boild IT Duck says:

    Daily deaths in Oregon are as bad as they’ve ever been, and way worse than during the first year.

    As for equity, it’s like gum when we were in school. If one person has covid, we all should.

    • Thedude says:

      The infections are way down. As are hospitalizations. Deaths are lagging far further behind because they wait to take them off a ventilator after weeks with no improvement.

      • It's Classified says:

        For now… Just wait for another spike after Spring Break.

        • Thedude says:

          So you’re one of the follow the science except for when I don’t like it types….

          • New Year Cat says:

            Hard to tell if infections are down, or if reporting is also down and causing part of the hoped-for fall in cases.

            • Dog says:

              infections are certainly starting to increase in most of the rest of
              the world now, due to variant II.b -but hospitalizations resulting from this do, in fact, appear to be down – much more will likely
              be known in about a week.

          • Slowly Boiled IT Duck says:

            Science isn’t a magical stick that dispels all doubt. You’re thinking of religion. After two years, science has uncovered a lot of suggestive data. But unfortunately, politics has been sweeping some of it under the rug. So, it’s hard to get the full picture, and estimating the censored data is part of one’s puzzle.

            Having considered what’s in view, I’ve gone all in on vaccines, masks, and daily prayer. I fully respect those who have considered their situations and decided to do elsewise.

            Anyone who thinks they _know_ how this will all turn out is a fool.

      • ScienceDuck says:

        Conditions are good right now, for sure. But I did chuckle over the “Hey, good news! Covid deaths are high only because the hardest hit people linger for weeks on a ventilator at the precipice of death!” part of that comment.

  5. Inquiring Minds says:

    seems like this directive violates the new March 3 policy to honor all individuals. It endangers and minimizes faculty and staff with physical or mental health concerns.

  6. LittleSkitterFootedScarb says:

    Just leaving this here:

    “Kate Darling

    Mar 16
    MIT no longer has a mask requirement. Our research group discussed whether to keep masks on for indoor meetings so that everyone feels comfortable attending. Today, an email from the Vice Chancellor says that’s not allowed”

    Seems a lot od Admin types shared the memo

  7. WildDuck says:

    Here’s a thought:

    Once a week send an anonymous survey to the class. State that instructors and students play a key role in keeping our community healthy and safe.

    Ask if anyone would respectfully ask the class to wear face coverings during in-person meetings for the next week because of a health condition or that of someone in their household. Remember you are part of the class and can answer the survey. If you receive any affirmative responses, e-mail the class stating “out of consideration for the health of the most vulnerable members of our community, please consider wearing a face covering during our in-person meetings this week.” State that this is completely voluntary, not a rule or requirement, your classroom environment is respectful of individual choice to wear a mask or not, masks are welcome but optional, and UO policy ensures no one is required to wear a mask. Thank everyone for their consideration and contributions to keeping our community healthy and safe.

    Repeat this information at the start of each class.