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PSU-AAUP Statement on Masking Policy, Petition

March 09, 2022 / PSU-AAUP

Last week's announcements from the PSU Incident Management Team changing the University's masking policy, and the subsequent message from the Provost, are disappointing and disturbing. To the best of our knowledge, this decision was made without consulting any representatives of the many campus groups - faculty, staff, and students - who could and should have been consulted.

On March 3rd, representatives of PSUFA (adjunct faculty), SEIU (classified staff), GEU (graduate employees), and this union strongly conveyed to PSU Administration representatives our collective desire to have the current mask mandate left in place until the end of the Spring term. We believe this is the wisest course of action because the pandemic isn’t over, and we still need to be vigilant in order to maintain a healthy campus.

The Administration’s announced change to masking policy ignores that input and moves us in the wrong direction.

  1. The announced policy is not feasible because it does not create clear guidelines and exceptions that allow our members to require masks during one-on-one meetings, such as advising sessions or office hours. As the CDC has made clear for more than a year, the best way for vulnerable persons to protect themselves is for BOTH parties within close proximity to wear a mask.
  2. Discouraging staff and faculty from requesting others to mask while they are conducting in-person classes or meetings on campus leaves health-compromised and other vulnerable persons and their families at much higher risk than is necessary.
  3. Union leadership continues to receive complaints about department-level "rules" essentially preventing staff and faculty from engaging in remote work in order to maintain personal and family safety, even when some or all of that work can be effectively performed remotely. At that same March 3rd meeting, we expressed that members need more flexibility in their schedules, including more options to work remotely, more opportunities for remote or online classes, and the ability to attend meetings virtually. By not doing so, PSU is leaving behind those who care for individuals that can’t be vaccinated, such as unvaccinated children under five or our immunocompromised family members. PSU is asking our members to put their families at risk.

Finally, the announced policy change ignores the fact that the new CDC guidelines are largely driven by a risk assessment to the healthcare system: the new guidelines look not only at case counts, but also at hospital capacity. That is a very different standard than the assessment an individual person must make about their own personal risk.

Still today, people are contracting COVID and suffering severe illness, long COVID, and even death. It is not ethical to forbid people to ask others to help keep them safe through masking and social distancing.

We continue to believe that the current masking policy should be maintained through the end of the Spring term.
At the very minimum:

  1. Accommodations for remote work should be granted at any time that work can be performed remotely.
  2. Faculty, staff, and students should be free to request that people in their presence wear a mask in order to protect their own health.

Over the next few days, the AAUP leadership team will assess various options and responses. We encourage all members of the campus community who are concerned to consider signing this open letter to the PSU Administration now.

PSU-AAUP Executive Council

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