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August 11, 2022

Temple's faculty union says mask policy for fall semester is 'irresponsible,' tells school to follow the science

TAUP President Jeffrey Doshna said that the university should be following Philadelphia's COVID-19 guidelines

Following most of the country's ease on COVID-19 restrictions, Temple University has made wearing masks optional in all non-healthcare buildings on its campus for the upcoming fall semester.

The school's faculty union – the Temple Association of University Professionals – called the university's decision "irresponsible" in a statement on Wednesday, the Philadelphia Business Journal reported. The statement also added that it wants the school to exercise the use of common sense and to follow science.

TAUP was established in 1972 by the American Federation of Teachers and serves over 3,000 members. Jeffrey Doshna, a professor in Temple's school of architecture and president of the union, said the school should be following Philadelphia's guidelines.

The city strongly recommends wearing masks in indoor spaces, public transportation and highly trafficked areas. As of Aug. 3,  there were 288 daily COVID-19 cases and 243 total hospitalizations.

"As a research university, it is particularly irresponsible to ignore the science," Doshna said in an emailed statement.

According to an announcement on the school's website, Director of Health Services Mark Denys said that Temple urges all students, faculty and staff to make the best decision for themselves when it comes to masking.

"If you are concerned about COVID-19, the best way to protect yourself is to wear a high-quality, well-fitting mask," Denys said. "The effectiveness of this type of one-way masking has been documented. When in doubt, we encourage you to mask."

TAUP said Temple is sending mixed messages about its policies. It noted that some of the university's colleges have been told they can require students to be masked, while the health services director is sending a university-wide announcement telling the campus masks are not required. The statement says conflicting messages will only lead to confusion.

"Temple faculty should have the right to communicate the requirement in their course syllabus," Doshna said. "Our librarians and academic professionals should be able to stay safe in their workspaces as well."

Students are expected to move in next week, starting with incoming freshmen from Aug. 16-18 and all other students from Aug. 20-21.

Temple's COVID-19 dashboard shows a 13.5% on-campus positivity rate out of 202,694 administered tests. That's compared to Philadelphia's rate of 11.4%.

Stephen Orbanek, a university spokesperson, said in a statement that "like other institutions of higher education located in the city of Philadelphia we will be mask-optional to start the fall semester and we will continue to follow the city's best practices related to COVID-19."

Last year, the university had 97% vaccination compliance. There are appointments available for both faculty and staff on campus and the school is adamant about suggesting booster shoots. There are two booster clinics set for Aug. 29 and Aug. 30. Temple also provides COVID-19 testing at Morgan Hall at 1601 N. Broad Street.

Other universities in Philadelphia are also making masks optional indoors for the fall semester.

On Aug. 1, the University of Pennsylvania stated masks are strongly recommended for people with underlying health conditions in public settings, but they are not required.

Drexel University is requiring masks only in certain settings, including health care facilities, classrooms, laboratories and ticketed events in Mandell Theater and the Urban Annex Black Box Theaters.