Academic Staff Assembly discusses campus mask mandate

Mac Molli, Journalist

The Academic Staff Assembly (ASA) held its eighth meeting of the 2021-22 academic school year Wednesday, Feb. 23 to discuss important topics such as the university’s budget, awards for outstanding staff members and the campus-wide mask mandate.

The chancellor’s cabinet is voting on the emergency operations center recommendations for what the chancellors’ new orders should state. The current order is set to expire February 28, which includes mask mandates, testing and cleaning protocols for students and faculty to follow.

Discussion took place between members discussing the potential benefits, drawbacks and risks in play with the pandemic. A common theme among members was the citing of spring break travel for a large number of students and faculty which could potentially spread the virus once they return to Whitewater.

Assembly member David Reinhard, lecturer of philosophy and religious studies at UW-Whitewater understands his students’ frustration toward the mask mandates on either side of the aisle.

“Most of my students are flexible with the mask mandate,” said Reinhard. “Some students were very much in favor of removing the mask mandates while others cite the health effects of their loved ones who are at risk to continue a mandate.” 

The discussion continued with many members agreeing it would be a good public health practice for certain entities to be given the option to keep their mandate within their program, such as UW-W Dining Services.

“I think it makes sense to distinguish parts of university. Different buildings have different ventilation systems with different capabilities,” said Reinhard. “There are certain places on campus where masks should be mandated – that part is clear to me.”

Assembly member Rebecca Jones, a research data analyst at UW-Whitewater, voiced her opinion following other members expressing their disdain towards removing the mandate.

“UW-System plans to end mask mandates at spring break; no mandates anywhere else across the state,” said Jones. “It’s hard to justify keeping mask mandates on campus. It doesn’t take away anyone’s right to wear a mask.”

The university Emergency Operations Committee made an announcement through email Friday, Feb. 25 detailing the university’s changes to COVID-19 guidelines which have been in place since 2019. 

“Beginning March 1, thanks to the continued decline in COVID-19 cases on and off campus, UW-Whitewater will remove mandatory face covering requirements from the Whitewater and Rock campuses except for classrooms/instruction spaces and individual units that provide health, food and childcare services,” read the announcement.

The chancellor’s order will be in effect through March 18 when spring break begins, with further mandates being announced closer to that time.