The University Insider is The Daily’s first faculty and staff-oriented newsletter. This weekly newsletter will give U-M faculty and staff the ability to see the most important issues on campus and in Ann Arbor — particularly those related to administrative decisions — from the perspective of an independent news organization. It will also provide a better understanding of student perspectives.
The University of Michigan discontinued its two-year indoor mask mandate in most indoor spaces on campus on March 14, with classrooms, University transportation and healthcare settings being the notable exceptions. The campus community had mixed feelings about the decision: some students believed it was an important step toward normalcy, while others thought the removal was ill-advised. Over a month later, campus community members spoke with The Michigan Daily about what has changed since the mandate was discontinued and what policies they would like to see in the coming fall semester.
Kinesiology freshman Mikinsley Burke said though she supported the discontinuation of University mask policy in most indoor spaces, its implementation was initially confusing.
“I was excited that I wouldn’t have to wear a mask anymore, but I was nervous that it was going to make (COVID-19) blow up again,” Burke said. “I thought it was great that we still had to wear them in classrooms, but the ruling of where (you could) and where you couldn’t wear them was kind of unclear at first.”
Burke said though she would like to see the University lift all mask requirements in the coming semester, the University needs to consider everyone’s safety when determining next year’s COVID-19 policies.
“Ideally, I would like to not have masks, but I really think the safe thing would probably be (to) keep wearing them,” Burke said. “I also think it would be important to keep doing student testing occasionally, even if it was monthly, just to get a gauge of what’s going on.”
LSA freshman Logan Brown also said she would be excited if the University discontinued all mask requirements in the fall, but she emphasized that the University needs to take into account the opinions of faculty and staff when deciding mask policies. She felt it was most important to ensure that faculty and staff felt comfortable with this decision because they often cannot avoid being in an in-person classroom setting.
LSA freshman Jacob Vainberg said he believed the University should maintain the mask requirement in classrooms to ensure the comfort of students and staff.
“It kind of depends, I think, (on) how the fall looks,” Vainberg said. “I think it’s solid that we have masks in classrooms because … it’s not really optional to be in classrooms for a lot of students.”
Vainberg said he felt requiring masks in residence halls next semester would not do much to curb COVID-19 transmission due to a lack of enforcement.
“Masking requirements (in the dorms) didn’t really make sense because you were still in contact with those people without a mask in certain places,” Vainberg said.
The University has changed its masking policy for residence halls multiple times throughout the year. At the beginning of the Fall 2021 semester, masks were not required for students in common areas of their own residence halls. In December, the University required face coverings in residence halls in response to a surge of coronavirus cases. This policy remained in effect until the March 14 update.
Two weeks into the Fall 2021 semester, the University decided to stop sending residence hall- and classroom-wide COVID-19 contact tracing notifications, citing high vaccination rates on campus and robust on-campus testing capacity. Burke said she hoped to see increased contact tracing efforts going into the fall semester.
“Living in the dorms this year, it wasn’t as well-managed as I was hoping it was, just because the contact tracing was kind of all over the place,” Burke said. “So maybe focusing on that would be important.”
Students also discussed the University’s upcoming presidential transition. Engineering senior Khalif Adegeye spoke on what he would like to see from the University’s new president.
“I’m more so looking for someone who actively adapts to the current situation at hand, because I feel like there were a lot of hiccups, especially early into (COVID-19), where under Schlissel it really wasn’t handled well,” Adegeye said.
The Board of Regents created a Presidential Search Committee to replace former University President Mark Schlissel in February. They also hosted six listening sessions and opened an online survey to allow U-M community members to voice their opinions on what they would like to see from the next University president. The regents said they expect to name the new president over the summer.
In an interview with The Daily earlier this month, Interim University President Mary Sue Coleman said the University will be consulting similar experts when making plans to address COVID-19 in Fall 2022 as they did for previous semesters.
“We use the people from the School of Public Health,” Coleman said. “We use the University Health Service (UHS). We’ve had COVID planning teams. We will look at the CDC (and) the county health department.”
Summer News Editor Samantha Rich can be reached at email@example.com.