UI to lift indoor mask mandate for non-instructional spaces


Sydney Laput

With the University lifting the mask mandate there has been uncertainty with the difference between instructional and non-instructional facilities on campus.

By JP Legarte, Ashley Gilbert and Royal Shrestha

On Thursday, the University announced that masks will no longer be required indoors at “non-instructional” facilities starting Feb. 28, leading to confusion over which campus facilities are “non-instructional.”

Students will no longer be required to wear masks in University Housing, the ARC, CRCE and the Illini Union, according to Robin Kaler, associate chancellor for Public Affairs, who confirmed this in an email.

However, Kaler emphasized that masks will still be required in classroom spaces within University Housing.

Chris Prom, associate University librarian for Digital Strategies, does not know how this applies to the libraries.

He said some classes are held in library spaces and that the University Library is working with Illinois Human Resources on finalizing the new mask policy, which they will “definitely know” by Feb. 28. 

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“The campus message that came out the other day mentioned instructional spaces during class sessions, and we are trying to seek some clarification from campus and are developing a set of questions to submit to campus so we can set our own policy here in the library,” Prom said.

Prom emphasized that masks are still required before the new policy takes effect.

According to Chantelle Thompson, marketing and communications director for Student Affairs, although “face coverings will no longer be required indoors” said Thompson, starting Feb. 28, “there may be some Illini Union events that may still require face coverings as dictated in their contracts.”

Thompson reiterated that students are more than welcome to continue wearing face coverings even with the new mask policies.

Chancellor Robert Jones stated in a Massmail that masks would still be required after Feb. 28 “in instructional spaces during in-person classes and passing periods” following Governor J.B Pritzker’s announcement on Feb. 9 that he would be lifting the mask requirement for indoor spaces.

Additionally, masks will still be mandatory in all health care facilities, testing sites and buses.

Jesse Torres-Bello, graduate student in FAA, commented on the potential reasons behind the updated policies and mandates. He emphasized the importance of having restrictions continue within educational facilities. 

“I think ultimately it’s still important to try to guarantee some sense of safety for people that may not get the vaccine or booster shots,” Torres-Bello said. “It’s also understandable that people are getting sick of it, but as long as the educational facilities themselves have some sort of restriction to them, I think it’s fine.”

However, not everyone believes that the new mask mandates are beneficial to the student population. On Feb. 17, the Graduate Employees’ Organization held a COVID-19 bargaining session with the University to discuss topics such as an extension of the mask mandate.

“The administration said ‘We will take your perspective into consideration when making the decision,’” said Chelsea Birchmier, co-chair of the GEO’s Solidarity Committee.

However, while the GEO’s bargaining session was still taking place, GEO members received the Massmail “that announces the University has ended the mask mandate with a few exceptions,” according to Birchmier.

“That is very much disrespectful,” said Karla Sanabria-Veaz, a GEO officer. “That also fails to meet what we are requesting, which is to adopt the policies that graduate workers are negotiating with the University.”

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