As mask mandates across the state of New York and the United States are being lifted, the Professional Staff Congress (PSC) union representing the City University of New York faculty, voiced its disapproval of CUNY’s decision to end the mask mandate earlier this month. In a release addressed to its members, PSC urged CUNY universities to rethink their decision. The union called the unilateral decision “premature” on CUNY’s part and “made out of political expediency, rather than public health.
While so many students and faculty are tired of wearing masks, PSC believes CUNY should have waited to see how widespread relaxation of vaccination standards and mask-wearing played out in the city before ending the mandate. They suggest that the administration should have meaningfully consulted with faculty and staff through the union, their chapters, and campus reopening committees before ending this precondition for faculty, staff, and students returning to the campuses this semester.
PSC also mentions that CUNY has yet to share ventilation data about many of the spaces students, faculty, and staff currently occupy. The removal of masks under CDC guidelines assume adequate ventilation, of which PSC members are not universally assured. Without autonomy to enforce masking in overcrowded classrooms and stuffy offices CUNY is ‘courting the spread of a disease that remains deadly for many in our community,’ PSC warns.
It has only been two years since the coronavirus pandemic gripped New York; this month marks the anniversary of the pandemic’s beginning. Officials expunged a school mask mandate that had been in place since the fall of 2020, a once major milestone in the city’s recovery from a public health crisis that uprooted the lives of nearly one million students in the nation’s largest school system.
PSC urges that re-opening committees congregate to discuss the impact of the end of the mask mandate at their schools. “Local schools, departments, offices, and classrooms should have the autonomy to create their own masking expectations,” PSC says. “Students, faculty, and staff who live with an immune-compromised family should be entitled to a safer space to work and study.”
COVID still remains a contagious and deadly disease —- undoubtedly, for the unvaccinated, and even for a small number for whom the vaccines do not prevent severe disease or death. PSC is also keen on the fact that as a union their power is unified, and they are only as strong as long as they are united and standing up for each other.
Educators want to establish a caring and supportive environment for students and model such mutual respect in the classrooms. Just as others welcome the end of the mask mandate, many are scared for themselves or loved ones at home who still face the danger of contracting COVID due to the removal of the mask mandate.
PSC also encourages their co-workers to listen to one another and respect the wishes of their colleagues and students who wish to keep their masks up, as the world moves ahead from this pandemic.