On March 18, 2022, Dean Mark P. Taylor shared this message with the Olin community.
As you may be aware, mask-wearing in all Danforth Campus spaces became voluntary on March 14. While this may cause concern among some members of our staff and faculty, I’d like to reiterate guidance provided by the university’s public health experts, as well as policy guidance from the university itself.
To begin with, no one is discouraged from wearing a mask if they feel more comfortable doing so. And, indeed, Dr. Steven Lawrence, a frequent visitor to Olin’s town halls, has noted that one-way masking provides significant protection. In fact, as of now, the risk of coronavirus transmission in a classroom is lower with one-way masking than it was with universal masking at the peak of omicron.
As a community, we now say masking is voluntary—and we caution against anyone from discouraging a person to wear one if they’re more comfortable doing so.
At the same time, staff and faculty cannot unilaterally override the university’s voluntary masking policy by requiring a mask, or incentivizing mask-wearing in their own meetings, classes or on-campus events. We are free to ask students to continue masking—and, indeed, we’ve counseled students to be sensitive to these requests—but we cannot prohibit a student from attending a class or sanction a student who declines to wear a mask.
For more on this and other related FAQs, I refer you to this page on the university’s COVID-19 site. It covers a variety of topics including refusal to wear masks, quarantine notifications, class cancellation policies and more. I also encourage you to visit this WashU resource page on the COVID-19 website, which supplements Dr. Lawrence’s thoughtful guidance on mask-wearing.
The bottom line: Mask-wearing is now by university policy an individual’s choice. I recognize that after two years of coping with this pandemic, every transition is a challenge. I thank each of you for your continued resilience and your sense of shared community as we continue to navigate these issues.