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Montana State University president says masks needed indoors at start of school year

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Posted at 6:56 PM, Aug 17, 2021
and last updated 2021-08-17 23:23:10-04

Updated 7:45 p.m. MDT, 08/17/2021. An earlier version of this story stated that masks will be required on campus. President Cruzado says masks are needed indoors on campus, but the decision is not a requirement.

Montana State University President Waded Cruzado said in an email to the MSU community that "all students, faculty, staff and visitors will need to wear face masks in indoor campus spaces at Montana State University" at the start of the academic year.

Cruzado stopped short of calling the move a requirement and said the decision will remain in effect until October 1, unless rescinded before then.

"The university will revisit the need for wearing face masks in indoor campus spaces and issue new guidance on or before that date, as needed," Cruzado wrote.

Cruzado said in the email that when MSU adopts a mandate or requirement, it must enforce compliance. Regarding this decision, she said, "My strong appeal to all of us as members of the same community is that we do this together because it is needed -- not because it is mandated or required."

The full text of Cruzado's email is below:

Dear MSU Community,

As we are about to launch a new academic year, I am writing to communicate that all students, faculty, staff and visitors will need to wear face masks in indoor campus spaces at Montana State University. Unless rescinded, this decision will be in effect until Friday, Oct. 1. The university will revisit the need for wearing face masks in indoor campus spaces and issue new guidance on or before that date, as needed.

Why do we need to wear face masks inside campus buildings? We know that the highly contagious delta variant now constitutes the vast majority of coronavirus cases in the nation, including Montana; 90 percent of coronavirus-related hospitalizations in Gallatin County are caused by delta variant infections. I am asking for your individual and collective help to ensure that we keep classes in-person and on-campus by doing everything we can to reduce the spread of COVID-19 at your university, Montana State.

Is this a requirement or mandate? Actually, I am trying to avoid either of those two terms because they foment dissension and division. Rather, I am communicating that, irrespective of whether you believe (or not) in the effectiveness of face masks or whether you are convinced that there should (or should not) be a requirement for everybody to wear one, we just need to do this.

When the university institutes mandates or requirements, compliance must be enforced. In my conversations with students, faculty and staff, I have heard that pandemic-related mandates are odious, that monitoring for compliance breeds controlling attitudes and contempt.

So, I ask you, can we commit to wearing face masks indoors, not because we fear enforcement but rather because we understand why it is important for us to have a semester with a full campus experience? My strong appeal to all of us as members of the same community is that we do this together because it is needed -- not because it is mandated or required.

Acting as good members of the Bobcat family, we will observe the following guidelines:

  • Without having to be prompted or asked, each of us will voluntarily wear a face mask in indoor public spaces on campus.
  • If we are in outdoor spaces on campus, wearing face masks is optional.
  • If social distance can be maintained in rooms with 10 people or fewer, wearing a face mask is recommended, but not needed.
  • In an instructional setting (classroom, studios, labs), if the instructor can be at least 6 feet from the class group, the instructor's use of a mask is recommended but not needed.
  • If we are exercising strenuously in Hosaeus Fitness Center or its associated facilities, wearing a face mask is recommended but not needed.
  • If there is rampant disregard for the need to wear face masks in indoor spaces or if the number of coronavirus-related hospitalizations in Gallatin County shows a sustained increase, MSU will revert to mandating face masks for every faculty, student and staff member.

If an MSU student needs a special accommodation regarding the need to wear a face mask while indoors, please contact the MSU Office of Disability Services. If an MSU employee needs a special accommodation in regard to the need to wear a face mask indoors on campus, please contact the MSU Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) coordinator.

In addition to wearing face masks in indoor campus spaces, as members of the MSU community we will continue to take sensible precautions in our daily lives. We will wash our hands frequently and thoroughly; we will keep our distance from others when possible; we will get tested if we develop COVID-19 symptoms; and we will stay home if we are ill. (Free testing for students showing symptoms of COVID-19 is available at the MSU Student Testing Center in the Bobcat Stadium parking lot.)

Because the best tool to end the pandemic is to be vaccinated, I urge you to take advantage of the free COVID-19 vaccinations available via University Health Partners for MSU students, faculty and staff. To sign up for an appointment, visit montana.edu/covidvaccine.

Can we get this done? Can we wear face masks indoors without being mandated to do it because we understand that it is important for us to have a good semester on campus? Some people will be skeptical, but I think we can get it done. We have been eagerly waiting to come back to campus to learn, to work and to live in community. We are all tired of wearing face masks, but we don't want to risk getting sick and we don't want others to get sick. We have better things to do than monitoring each other's behaviors and judging other people's convictions.

There has to be a better way. The Bobcat Way.

I believe each of us is capable of understanding this and agreeing to wear face masks in these circumstances because we are committed to acting as responsible adults in a civic society.

That's what Bobcats do.

Sincerely,

Waded Cruzado
President, Montana State University