Masks in Classrooms in the Spring Semester of 2022

Madison Dietrich, Staff Writer

In the spring semester of 2022, face coverings will be required in CAC classrooms where social distancing is not possible.  Faculty, however, may determine that their learning environments allow for social distancing and do not require face coverings (e.g. those where learning is outside or in larger spaces).  Notes will be added to the schedule of classes in cases where face coverings will be required, in order to provide clarity and choice for students. 


Since the beginning of the Coronavirus pandemic, Central Arizona College has not required masks in the classrooms, and professors could not institute this requirement in their individual classes.    


The Faculty Senate President recently contacted Dr. Mary Kay Gilliland, the Vice President of Academics, requesting the change in the mask requirements for the upcoming spring semester at Central Arizona College. In an interview, Dr. Gilliland revealed that she has spoken to some of her colleagues at Pima College, and they have been requiring masks in all their indoor spaces.  This was the spark of the decision that the Academic Division, that consists of 20 members, as well as deans and professors, have made to require masks in indoor classrooms across all the CAC campuses beginning in January of 2022.  


In an interview, Dr. Gilliland has stated that “CAC has not previously required masks in indoor classrooms because Arizona generally is a state that allows people to make decisions based on their own judgment.” 


One important detail that Dr. Gilliland stressed during this interview was that this decision to require masks in indoor classrooms is entirely health motivated, and CAC’s end goal is to make sure they are focusing on health through the entirety of this pandemic.  Dr. Gilliand feels as though COVID-19 has become “politicized”. CAC professors and staff are supporting this decision to require masks because they feel it is safer for both them and their students. They have expressed that they will feel more comfortable teaching in a face-to-face setting come the new year.  According to Dr. Gilliand, because of this decision, CAC will be able to offer more face-to-face and hybrid classes in the spring, and she hopes this will encourage more students to return to in-classroom learning. 


This decision is health motivated only, and the end goal right now is not to increase enrollment but to make current CAC students feel as comfortable on campus as possible.  Dr. Gilliland said that she does not know how this will be received by students but is confident that “people vote with their actions.”  She also stated that the academic division, the deans and professors at CAC, were reluctant to do anything stronger and that requiring masks is as far as they are willing to go at this time. 


Gilliland explained that the college president has not previously required masks in indoor classrooms because CAC takes pride in using the honor system instead of forcing people to make decisions about their health.  However, there has been some conflict among students about wearing a mask in the classroom.  Gilliland stated that she leaves classroom management to teachers. To address this conflict, a few professors teaching face-to-face classes have been offering extra credit to students who wear masks in their classrooms, and this has quickly become a motivator for students who do not particularly enjoy wearing masks. Beginning in January, this will no longer be a form of extra credit since all will be required to wear face coverings. 


Gilliland has stated that this requirement will be coming from her as a way to take the burden of the mask requirement off professors.  Still, she wants to make sure that CAC students know that this is not just a decision made by one person, but it is a group effort by all of the faculty at CAC.  Faculty will watch the numbers of COVID cases, watch how people react to this requirement, and will make changes throughout the semester as needed.  


This change does not affect the whole college, just the classrooms.