EXCLUSIVE: University expects students to still 'comply' with professors' masking 'requests' after it ends the mandate

An instructor at Binghamton University continued to require students to wear masks in class after the school’s official mask mandate ended, according to emails obtained by Campus Reform.

University officials told Campus Reform that the rules around masking are 'nuanced.'

An instructor at Binghamton University continued to require students to wear masks in class after the school’s official mask mandate ended, according to emails obtained by Campus Reform

In a Mar. 29 email, a teaching assistant in Dr. Ana Maria Candela’s Introduction to Sociology, Changling Cai, wrote to Binghamton student and Campus Reform correspondent Sean Harrigan that “to wear a mask is not a choice but required for our discussion section.”

“The current vaccines are far from enough to keep people from getting infected by covid,” Cai wrote. “The low dissemination risk now does not mean the risk will not increase again.”

According to the school’s COVID-19 guidance, the mask policy was lifted, effective Mar. 26.

Candela declined to provide clarification to Campus Reform directly about the policy. She characterized Campus Reform as a “right-wing political organization” that writes “outrage pieces about individual faculty and academic institutions.” 

Campus Reform had previously reported on Candela’s “race-based class participation policy” that was reportedly inspired by Chairman Mao. 

Harrigan appeared on Fox News in February to discuss the “progressive stacking” policy Candela had put in her syllabus. 

[Related: These professors support the ‘progressive stacking’ policy that prioritizes students’ comments based on race]

Harrigan was told by Chief of Staff/Director of Government Relations Darcy Fauci that while masks could not be required, the university “asked all students to please respect and have compassion for those faculty members who may have a reason to strongly encourage you to wear a mask.”

“While they do not need to explain their personal medical situations or the medical situations of their family members to you and other students,” Fauci said, “they may have very good reasons to ask you to wear a mask.”

In an Apr. 1 email, COVID Response Manager Kent Drake-Deese sent Harrigan outlined the expectations for students with regards to mask-wearing. 

“It is important to note that nearly every policy/rule can carry some degree of nuance regardless of how clearly it may be written,” Drake-Deese said. “If it is the case that one or more individuals in any particular class are immunocompromised, it stands to reason that they would ask nicely for the respect and willing cooperation of their classmates by continuing to wear a mask.”

Drake-Deese continued, “So, essentially as has been said, the faculty cannot require a mask be worn in the classroom based upon the COVID policy.  However, it is true that faculty have always had autonomy in terms of how to manage and run their classes in a way that they see necessary to ensure health, safety, and efficacy of the instruction.”

[Related: Top 5 draconian COVID policies on college campuses]

“I do understand the point you are making and you are drilling into a soft spot in the policy,” Drake Deese wrote. “I trust you understand that the expectation is that students wear a mask if the faculty requests it either on their own behalf or on behalf of a student or students in the class.  It seems this is an aspirational scenario that is not sitting well with you...and again, I get it.”

Drake-Deese went on to say that “at the end of the day, this is a classroom management issue that should likely be addressed with the chair of that particular department if that is what you choose to do. Obviously, the President was more hopeful that students would be more accommodating and not press the faculty on this issue in observance of the spirit of the policy rather than a literal interpretation.”

Campus Reform asked Drake-Deese for clarification regarding the extent of faculty’s “autonomy” regarding masks in their classrooms. He responded, “I am speaking as a generalist.  Any nuance would best be addressed by someone with a deeper understanding of classroom management at Binghamton University than I have.”

Senior Director of Media & Public Relations Ryan Yarosh told Campus Reform that while the mask mandate has been lifted, faculty may still ask students to wear them as a courtesy. 

“Students who choose not to wear a mask in these instances will not be penalized,” Yarosh said, “however, we hope that they will comply with these requests as a way to show respect and compassion for individuals who may have underlying health issues or have vulnerable family members. It is a minor inconvenience that promotes the sense of community that has always characterized our University.”

Campus Reform contacted every individual mentioned in this article and will update accordingly.