Students and staff left puzzled by new mask guidelines

After NYU lifted parts of its on-campus mask mandate earlier this week, community members are unsure of where exactly mask wearing is optional or required.

A+white+board+with+blue+handwritten+letters+sitting+on+a+desk.+The+words+say+%E2%80%9CMarch+31st+%28today%29.+Please+Continue+to+Wear+Masks+during+your+visit.+Thank+you.%E2%80%9D

Rachel Cohen

On Tuesday, the university lifted parts of its on-campus mask mandate. The unexpected decision has left students and faculty looking for more guidance on how to navigate the new mask mandates. (Staff Photo by Rachel Cohen)

Rachel Cohen and Abby Wilson

When students arrived at Palladium Athletic Facility’s turnstile on Thursday, March 31, they did not think they would need to wear a mask — some had shown up without them. To their surprise, they were met with a message written on a whiteboard stating that mask wearing was still required.

Following NYU’s announcement that mask restrictions would be eased for some on-campus locations starting on Wednesday, March 30, students and staff have been left confused about where mask wearing is optional.

In the universitywide announcement, NYU said that mask wearing is optional in locations where attendance is not mandatory, such as residence hall lounges, gyms, and common areas and lounges at the Kimmel Center for University Life. However, the Palladium gym and 404 Fitness were still mandating masks as of March 31.

“The email said gyms, and then we showed up and have to wear a mask,” Tisch senior Robbie Keyes, who went to Palladium to pick up golf equipment, said. “I figured the university would be the overarching authority — that the email would solve everything. It’s putting the blame on the people that work here.”

As many expressed their frustration about mask wearing while standing near the gym entrance, an employee told one student that Palladium staff was unsure if the gym was considered a mandatory or optional space. Although it is not mandatory for students to visit the gym, employees are required to report to their shifts.

A security officer in Palladium said they were only informed about NYU’s decision through the universitywide email and had received no other communications as of midday on March 31. They said some guards at a different location had been instructed by a staff member to ensure students are wearing masks when they enter NYU residence halls.

Another security guard at 404 said they and other employees have been waiting to receive an email from NYU Athletics clarifying the university’s mask policy.

“Everyone’s coming in with a mask on,” the guard said. “The way they worded the email was confusing for everybody. This is what NYU does.”

Students also questioned the mask wearing guidelines at other locations around campus. Stern first-year Marian Camacho, who was studying at Kimmel, said she thought the email was unclear in outlining where she needed to wear a mask within the building.

“Right now, I’m not necessarily in a Kimmel lounge — I’m in the hallway,” she said. “They probably could have specified a little bit more, specifically saying which floor and which lounges because they all have names.”

Steinhardt junior Yeji Chung, a public health ambassador who was sitting at Kimmel, said she has not seen strong reactions from students about the lifting of mask restrictions. She said most community members have continued to wear masks in NYU buildings. 

University spokesperson John Beckman said that “context matters” when it comes to mask wearing guidelines on campus. He did not provide a list of places where mask wearing was optional and noted that masks do not have to be worn when a community member is passing through a hallway.

For the most part, we’d advise members of the University to focus on the list of settings where masks will still be required, such as classrooms, the libraries, or settings where individuals’ attendance is required, and to make use of both common sense and context about those settings where attendance/presence/participation is mandatory and those settings where it’s discretionary,” Beckman wrote in a statement to WSN.

NYU said it will continue to monitor COVID-19 data in New York City and on campus in anticipation of easing additional restrictions.

Contact Rachel Cohen at [email protected] and Abby Wilson at [email protected]