Unions for professor and other faculty at Rutgers University has forced another change in the school's mask policy.

Rutgers lifted the universal mask mandate on Sept. 26, as part of efforts to give students "a vibrant, in-person college experience."

"As the COVID-19 virus continues to move from pandemic toward endemic, we are eager to return the university to normal operations as much as responsibly possible," Rutgers Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer Antonio M. Calcado wrote in a message on the university website.

However, three faculty unions took the matter before the New Jersey Public Employment Relations Commission (PERC), and won a temporary restraining order against that policy.

Masking is now mandatory in all school libraries and individual faculty members can require that face coverings be worn in any indoor teaching spaces.

We know there are different views about masking at our university, but we hope there can be common ground among us that each of us must be able to make decisions about our classrooms and workspaces. The administrations unilateral mid-semester change—at a time when the COVID pandemic is still taking 350 lives a day in the United States—does not respect this basic individual right. We know that some of you committed to teaching in person this semester with the understanding that masking would stay in place. - Rebecca Givan, President, Rutgers AAUP-AFT

Rebecca Givan, President, Rutgers AAUP-AFT, says school administrators did not consult with the unions before lifting the mask policy.

"When we learned (with little notice) that Rutgers would no longer require face coverings in classrooms and libraries as of today, we called on the administration to empower and support all teaching faculty and implement mandatory masking for all students in their classroom," Givan said.

The decision to lift the mask mandate "was based on current state and federal practices and is rooted in science and data," Calcado says.

For now, the PERC decisions is temporary, while the full commission debates the issue before making a final ruling. No timetable was given.

Calcado says he is "confident" PERC will rule in Rutger's favor to again lift the mask mandate.

Eric Scott is the senior political director and anchor for New Jersey 101.5. You can reach him at eric.scott@townsquaremedia.com

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