In a University of Connecticut senate meeting on Monday, Senator Thomas Long voiced his concerns over the modification of COVID-19 mitigation practices on the Storrs campus.
Long said he heard from various faculty and staff, and during his communication with one faculty member that though infection control had been relatively good on campus, they were hoping that during the last five weeks on campus, the university would maintain COVID-19 mitigation measures. The professor’s worry, however, is that the UConn administration is preparing for a completely maskless graduation.
“I do recognize that the university is constrained by the requirements of the state, and we cannot require more than the state requires,” Long said. “Nonetheless, it is still alarming, and many faculty and staff are alarmed. It has struck me that we are looking at an in-real-time epidemiological experiment for which there has been no IRB approval, and I am not consenting to it…but I guess I have to.”
Provost Carl Lejuez said in his time as an administrator it has become one of the hardest decisions he’s had to make. He said, however, that UConn is an outlier in terms of its mask mandate and that most of the northeast public colleges and universities have removed such mandates from their classrooms.
“My mother would say just because someone jumps off a bridge doesn’t mean you need to as well,” Lejuez said. “But I do think that being an outlier really started to have an impact in terms of our ability to stand behind that approach.”
Lujuez said he is aware that transmissions have been happening in the classroom setting due to contact tracing, but the decision was made due to minimal reports of widespread transmission.
“I do certainly understand concerns, and I understand some folks not being happy with it,” Long said.
Senator Joe MacDougald weighed in on the question of implementation and asked Lujuez why the new guidelines were announced on a Friday for a Monday implementation, denying the ability to reach out to medical professionals.
“Immunosuppressants are one of the fastest growing treatments among faculty, staff and students,” MacDougald said. “When I have a change in circumstance…I need to contact doctors. I spoke to a student today who ran out to a CVS to get a boost, and that was the only thing she thought she could do.”
Lejuez said, in terms of timing, sooner is always better, but this was a case where trying to have many conversations and being as up to date as possible with information led to a “down-to-the-wire” decision.
“I will take full responsibility that even one or two more days would have been helpful to folks, but in this case, we really were trying to gather as much information and particularly ensure that there were no other variants,” Lejuez said. “But I acknowledge that does create some challenges.”