Maddening Rutgers mask policy changed again

The mask policy again, again, at Rutgers University is off again.

The teachers’ union has been pushing for Rutgers to let teachers decide whether masks should be worn in classrooms and is awaiting a final decision from the state’s Public Employment Relations Council (PERC).

A hearing is scheduled for later this month, but a final decision is not expected until December.

Rutgers dropped the universal mask policy that was in effect during the pandemic on Oct. 3. It was reinstated on October 5 when the Rutgers AAUP-AFT union filed a complaint with PERC, saying the decision was made without their input and outside of the collective bargaining process. They claimed it was a “change in working conditions”.

PERC has now said Rutgers can drop the mask mandate pending its final decision.

Rutgers executive vice president and chief operating officer Antonio Calcado explained the change in an email to faculty and staff, noting that face coverings remain optional in classrooms and libraries. Calcado says the school “fully respects” a personal decision to wear a mask and encouraged students and staff to do so, but it was not required.

Union officials expressed disappointment.

The majority of colleges and universities in New Jersey have dropped mask mandates for the new school year, though they remain optional for anyone on campus.

Princeton University allows professors to decide whether masks should be worn in their individual learning spaces, which Rutgers’ union is advocating.

The PERC hearing on the matter is scheduled for Nov. 22.

Eric Scott is the senior policy director and anchor of New Jersey 101.5. You can reach him at [email protected]

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