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Professors’ Protest Prompts Return of Rutgers’ Mask Mandate

October 6, 2022

Indoor masking is once again mandatory at Rutgers University—at least for now.

Just two days after the New Brunswick, N.J., institution officially lifted the mandate, students will again be required to wear masks in libraries and faculty will be allowed to make masking a requirement in their classrooms.

The reversal comes after three faculty unions filed a complaint with the New Jersey Public Employment Relations Commission after revised COVID-19 guidelines were announced Sept. 26. In response, the commission issued a temporary injunction on the university’s lifting of the mandate; the commission has yet to make a final decision on the matter.

Rebecca Givan, president of the Rutgers chapter of the faculty union associated with the American Association of University Professors and the American Federation of Teachers, said in a statement that the university’s decision to lift the mandate violated professors’ understanding that in committing to teach in person this semester they would be able to mandate mask wearing in classrooms.

“We know there are different views about masking at our university, but we hope there can be common ground among us that each of us must be able to make decisions about our classrooms and workspaces,” Givan wrote. “The administration’s unilateral mid-semester change—at a time when the COVID pandemic is still taking 350 lives a day in the United States—does not respect this basic individual right.”

“Our decision to lift the mask mandate was based on current state and federal practices and is rooted in science and data,” Antonio Calcado, Rutgers’ executive vice president, wrote in a statement Wednesday, after the mandate was reinstated. “The university is confident that its Sept. 26 announcement was consistent with all applicable state and federal laws.”

While CDC guidance no longer recommends masking requirements in indoor spaces, colleges and universities have varied greatly in their masking guidelines for the fall.

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Liam Knox

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