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With University indoor mask mandate lifted, some classes and departments maintain face coverings requirement

<h6>Jon Ort / The Daily Princetonian</h6>
Jon Ort / The Daily Princetonian

On March 14, the University lifted its indoor mask mandate in most University spaces. But the new guidelines include some exceptions: students must wear masks when “required by state or local agencies,” “instructed by Global and Community Health,” or “when faculty or staff conveners of a class, lab, gathering, or meeting require participants to wear a mask.”

Implemented at both the department level and in specific courses, several professors have mandated that face coverings be worn during their classes. 

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The Writing Program, which offers 55 writing seminar sections, all with an enrollment limit of 12 students, and four graduate-level courses, has instituted a department-wide mask mandate, according to an email obtained by The Daily Princetonian. A professor in the program, who requested anonymity, also confirmed this fact to the ‘Prince.’

“The Writing Program will continue to require face coverings in all Writing Seminar classes and Writing Center conferences through the end of the semester to maintain a consistently safe environment for our faculty, fellows, and seminar communities,” the email stated.

In an interview with the ‘Prince,’ Cecilia Sommerfeld ’25, a student currently in a writing seminar, said that she understood why masks were still being required in some instances. 

“Masks in general are really important, and it's clear that COVID still exists,” she said.

For many students, the lift of the mask mandate, in the words of Diane Peck ’25, “is definitely more of a positive than a negative.”  

“Having [the masking policy] more relaxed provides more autonomy and free choice for the student body,” Peck said in an interview with the ‘Prince.’ “We’re doing our part with our COVID tests and our masking in the past, which has allowed [the University] to relax the mandate.”

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According to the COVID-19 dashboard, there were 34 undergraduate positive cases from 777 tests submitted in the week ending March 11.

In addition to the Writing Program, the Chinese Language Program has also made the decision to continue requiring masks in all classrooms. 

In an email to the ‘Prince,’ senior lecturer Jing Wang said that “our Chinese Language teachers feel it’s important to maintain masks inside the classroom given the close proximity we are to one another.” According to the course registrar, the Chinese Department is offering 30 classes this spring, all with 10 students or fewer enrolled. 

In some departments, such as molecular biology, the indoor mask mandate is being enforced on a class-by-class basis. 

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Professor of Life Sciences Elizabeth Gavis wrote in an email to the ‘Prince’ that “MOL faculty may require students to wear masks in their classroom,” but that “[e]ach faculty will use their own criteria as to when to stop requiring masks because it will depend on class size, room size, and nature/style of the class.”

According to a Canvas announcement on March 13, MOL 101: From DNA to Human Complexity will continue to require face coverings until the positivity rate decreases to 1 percent.

Similarly, Professor Adam Finkelstein, one of several instructors in COS 126: Computer Science: An Interdisciplinary Approach, wrote to the ‘Prince’ that “the mask policy for COS courses is decided on a per-course basis by the instructors.” 

In COS 126 specifically, all students attending class meetings and precepts are required to wear masks for at least two weeks following spring break. According to Finkelstein, this decision was made in order to have time for the evaluation of policies going forward.

Janny Eng is a news contributor for the 'Prince.' She can be reached at je3398@princeton.edu.

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