3.4.22: Guidance for Instructors Requiring Masks in Classrooms

A message sent to faculty, instructors and teaching assistants.

Dear Colleagues,

We have received a number of questions and concerns regarding the recent changes to our mask policy on campus. I recognize that, as we adjust to the next phase of the pandemic, many members of our community have strong and sometimes mixed feelings about the loosening of restrictions on campus, locally and across the nation. While one person might feel a sense of relief right now, another might be experiencing equal amounts of unease.

As an exception to Lehigh’s masks-optional policy, faculty, instructors and teaching assistants may choose to require masks in classrooms, labs, studios or gym spaces. Whether you choose to require masks due to your own considerations or in response to student concerns, you do not need to provide a justification for your mask requirement, and you will have my full support and the support of all university leadership in this decision. Early indications are that students have responded well to requests to remain masked in classes without questioning the reasons.

If you will require mask-wearing, you should clearly communicate with your students this requirement, including whether or not you will allow students to remove their masks to eat or drink. You can do this verbally, as well as in writing via email and/or a post on Course Site. You may also consider posting a sign to the classroom door prior to the start of class. Again, you do not need to offer an explanation or justification for your classroom mask requirement.

In these contexts, the guidelines in place under a campus-wide mask mandate still apply. All members of the campus community should always have a mask on hand and must comply with location-specific mask requirements.

Some students may need to be reminded to wear a mask upon entering the classroom. If a student does not comply with your classroom mask requirement and refuses to wear one after you remind them, you can:

Masks are available in the libraries, the Health and Wellness Center and at other locations across campus. Departments can order surgical masks at no charge for instructors who would like to have them on hand for students if needed. To do so, an individual department member should submit an order via the Purchasing website.

If you will not require mask-wearing, you should indicate to students that you support the choices of individuals who wish to continue to wear masks in your classroom.

Our approach to COVID mitigation is changing; however, the pandemic is not over. The COVID Response Team will continue to monitor local data, including case counts, and will adjust our campus status accordingly if conditions warrant.

Thank you for your continued dedication.

Nathan Urban

Provost and Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs