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Addressing OHIO’s Mask Expectations

This semester, while the pandemic continues, all students, faculty, staff, and visitors are required by our health directives to wear masks in all public indoor spaces on campus. This requirement protects our educational community by providing an important layer of prevention against the virus. Layering protective measures – vaccine, masking, distancing, and handwashing – gives us the best possible chance at not having our educational activities disrupted by individuals getting exposed or sick and needing to quarantine or isolate.  

Faculty, staff, and students who see others not wearing a mask, or wearing a mask improperly, are expected to address the issue according to the recommendations below. We all have a shared responsibility to hold each other accountable for the public health measures that will help keep our community safe. 

In-passing interactions 

  • Model the way by wearing your mask. As social beings, we are likely to mirror the behaviors we see in others we like and respect.  

  • Proactively prevent issues by ensuring reminder signage is posted in your area.  

  • Assume the best—check your assumptions about why a person is not wearing a mask and try to approach folks with curiosity rather than judgment. Ask questions, be empathetic.  

  • Ask if the individual is aware that face coverings are required or if they have a documented exemption. Any individual who has an approved exemption should be prepared to furnish documentation upon request.  

  • If possible, have an additional mask to provide and offer that to the individual. Masks are available at no cost on campus. You can request additional PPE from your unit contact listed here.  

  • Provide options rather than threats: You can give folks choices to put on a mask, accept a mask to wear that you provide, or go get a mask and return wearing it.  

  • Validate the emotions underpinning the situation; “it seems like you are really anxious about wearing a mask” or “it sounds like this mask thing is frustrating to you.” 

  • Make the interaction about learning. Use “I statements” and share why wearing a mask is important to you in your own words and with a common goal. 

  • Intervene early and often—lower-level intervention often can prevent escalation. 

  • Say something. The power of bystander intervention is that it is both reactive and proactive: saying something in the moment addresses a particular situation and helps to set new cultural norms for our community in the future. 

  • Use your resources. The Bobcat Health Ambassadors and staff in many areas of campus are specifically trained to address COVID-related education opportunities including wearing masks, social distancing, and promoting additional healthy behaviors

  • Know the policy—review the Presidential Health Directives and be familiar with the limited circumstances that are exempt from mask expectations. Stay up to date on evolving guidance by reading your OHIO emails.  

  • Document repeated or disruptive violations by reporting them to the Office of Community Standards and Student Responsibility

  • OUPD does not enforce administrative policies (including the mask requirement). However, in any situation where an individual escalates an encounter in a way that leaves another individual feeling a violent response may be imminent, the individual feeling threatened should call OUPD. 

Students in the classroom 

  • Instructor should remind student that OHIO policy requires that all individuals wear masks indoors on campus and offer the student the following options: put on a mask, accept a mask to wear, or go get a mask and return to class wearing it.  

  • If the student puts a mask on immediately or comes back with a mask, no additional action is required in class. 

    • Follow up with an email after class to remind them that they must adhere to the Presidential Health Directive of mask wearing. 

  • If the student refuses all of those options, instruct them to leave the class and the building immediately. Remind them that they are violating the Presidential Health Directives. Remind the rest of the class that all students are expected to adhere to the Presidential Health Directives, including wearing masks indoors to protect our educational community. 

    • Within two hours of the end of the class session, report this violation to the Office of Community Standards and Student Responsibility.  

    • Email your department chair/dean to let them know that you filed a report. Graduate student instructors, please include the faculty member serving as your class mentor in your email. 

  • If the student refuses to leave the classroom and/or behaves badly, dismiss class immediately and explain dismissal is due to a classmate choosing not to wear a mask. 

    • Inform the class that you will be in touch regarding assignments and remind them when the class will meet again.  

    • Follow the steps above regarding documentation & notification. 

    • Write an email to the class to make sure that they have information that was needed for the session and that they are aware of the material. If possible, hold an additional TEAMS session that can be recorded if the work cannot be accomplished asynchronously.  

  • OUPD does not enforce administrative policies (including the mask requirement). However, in any situation where a student escalates an encounter in a way that leaves a faculty member feeling a violent response may be imminent, the faculty member should call OUPD.

Face mask policy accommodations 

Individuals who have authorization from COVID Operations may be exempt from OHIO’s face mask policy. Any student who has an approved exemption will have documentation; faculty will receive advance communication from Student Accessibility Services if this applies to a student in their course. Additionally, the Office of Community Standards and Student Responsibility will be able to verify if an exemption is in place once a violation is reported. 

Additional questions/ resources 

Consult with your unit leadership to address situations that are unique to your circumstances. As always, the Office of Health Promotion offers a number of resources to help support healthy intervention. Staff in the Office of Community Standards and Student Responsibility, as well as COVID Operations, are available for consultation.