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‘I feel like it's a bit of a double standard’: Faculty exempt from mask wearing while teaching

<p>Miami will continue its mask mandate into the spring semester, according to a recent email from the COVID Response Team.<br/></p>

Miami will continue its mask mandate into the spring semester, according to a recent email from the COVID Response Team.

Students are divided in their feelings about an exemption to Miami University’s indoor mask mandate allowing professors to take off their face coverings while instructing. 

In an email sent only to faculty on Monday, Aug. 16, Provost Jason Osborne said that mask wearing while teaching was optional for professors as long as they maintained a social distance from their students and all students wore masks. 

As of Aug. 23, there has not been a university-wide email detailing this exemption to students. 

Taylor Vargo, first-year biochemistry major, does not mind the exemption.

“I think as long as [professors are] a good distance, [and] everyone else is wearing masks, that it’s probably fine,” Vargo said. “You can read their lips, too, because some students benefit from reading teachers’ lips.”

According to Miami’s COVID-19 policy website, face masks for employees are not required when it has been approved by the employee’s supervisor and “there is a functional reason for an employee not to wear a face covering in the workplace.” 

The mask mandate exemption comes after weeks of university-wide COVID-19 communication encouraging all staff, students and faculty to wear a mask regardless of their vaccination status. 

Chloe Harris, a first-year kinesiology major, agreed with Vargo and said professors not wearing masks could help students.

“Sometimes it can be hard to hear them with the mask on, so I think that can be helpful if you can hear them better,” Harris said.

Other students, however, don’t agree with this exception to the rule.

Chase Bernotas, a first-year games and simulation major, said faculty should meet students where they are. 

He suggested professors could wear a microphone to help students hear while wearing a mask.

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“I feel like it's a bit of a double standard,” Bernotas said. “If they're having all of us wear our masks, at the very least they can follow along with it while they're lecturing.”

While they are exempt from the indoor mask mandate while teaching, professors must still enforce the mandate for students and follow specific protocol if a student comes to class without a mask, according to Osborne’s email. 

First, the professor should ask the student to put on a mask. If they refuse, the professor must ask them to leave. If they still refuse, the professor will dismiss the class and report the student to the Office of Community Standards.

When asked for further comment on the implementation of the mask exemption, Osborne referred The Miami Student to Miami’s COVID-19 website.