As a follow up to March 1st announcement of a new mask policy (link: https://from.wsu.edu/covid-19/2022/03-01-update/email.html), we asked the WSU administration for additional guidance about masking as requested during the constituent concerns section of the Faculty Senate meeting on March 4th. President Schulz and Provost Chilton have kindly provided a memo with additional information (PDF). Thank you for considering this feedback.
Faculty Senate Chair
It is March 11. I have just learned from WSU Insider that a memo about masking and post spring break Covid policies and requirements being sent to the faculty senate, and that the president and provost spoke to the faculty senate this week about the contents of the memo. Why has nothing been said to the rest of the university, including and especially those of us who teach in person and will have to know what we are supposed to do when we return from spring break? At the very least we should have received notice from the provost’s office and from the faculty senate instead of having to read about the updates in WSU Insider. Please communicate with us before our students return to our classrooms after spring break.
For more information, please see the March 10th story from WSU Insider at: https://news.wsu.edu/news/2022/03/10/wsu-leadership-provides-more-information-on-march-12-masking-changes/?utm_source=WSUNews-enewsletter&utm_campaign=wsunewsenewsletter&utm_medium=email
The memo says this policy will be applied systemwide, but we’ve been given different instructions in Spokane. Namely that masking is required in classrooms, and students/faculty/staff can be asked to mask in any situation.
Thanks for highlighting this policy inconsistency. I was informed this morning (14 March 2022) that the policy in all colleges will be aligned with the system policy and an update should be issued soon. Sincerely, Douglas Call
Thank you for your comment. It is my understanding that the policy in question is now aligned with formal WSU policy regarding masking.
During August of 2021 I contacted two lawyers in WA as well as the Attorney General’s office to inquire if I could require masks in my classroom. I wanted to require them but luckily Inslee made the requirement. But none of these lawyers could say I could NOT require masks. Unless the law has become clearer, then WSU is not able to say I cannot require masks in my classroom.
Thanks for your concern. Everyone is free to mask if they wish, but current WSU policy does not allow individual faculty to require students to mask except in a few cases (for more information, see
https://news.wsu.edu/news/2022/03/10/wsu-leadership-provides-more-information-on-march-12-masking-changes/?utm_source=WSUNews-enewsletter&utm_campaign=wsunewsenewsletter&utm_medium=email). Furthermore, it is my understanding that all state institutions of higher education have converged on the same policy, which is consistent with the guidance from the governor’s office, DOH and L&I.
If a faculty member elects to require students to mask in situations that conflict with written policy, this person needs to be aware of the possible implications. First, such a decision could be viewed as a “Willful violation of published university policy” (Faculty Manual II F.3 #21) and thus subject to university discipline. And while the legal implications of such an action are not entirely clear, they are unlikely to be positive. For example, an individual or special interest group could make a case that requiring students to wear masks violates their constitutional right to freedom of expression. Public health issues aside, this has been a legal argument brought against dress codes in schools. Furthermore, if the faculty member is guilty of willful violation of published university policy, it is possible that they can’t be protected from personal liability if the university is sued. Enforcement of a masking mandate by individual faculty could also be construed as engaging in discriminatory treatment.
In short, requiring masks against published university policy is likely to lead to one or more unfortunate outcomes. Thank you for considering this information.
This does not answer whether WSU admin has the legal right to tell me I cannot make my class safe by requiring masks.
Wearing a mask is NOT a dress code issue, it is a health and safety issue.
The reply shows that WSU is not concerned with faculty rights here.