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Penn State Outlines Fall Semester Face Mask, Social Distancing Policies

Penn State will officially require all students, faculty, and staff to wear face masks and social distance in classrooms, labs, offices, and campus buildings this fall, the university announced Thursday morning.

The university provided a lengthy update on its official fall semester public health guidelines in a news release. Although administrators see the guidance as a “living document” that’s subject to change, a brief summary of classroom expectations for students and instructors includes:

  • Wearing face masks or other approved personal protective equipment
  • Maintaining social distance of at least six feet from other individuals
  • Practicing good personal hygiene by covering coughs and sneezes, staying home when sick, and washing hands or using hand sanitizer before or after class
  • Following related guidance communicated by Penn State via public postings and signs relating to traffic flow, maximum occupancy of spaces, assigned seating, and closed-off rooms and sections

Additionally, students and employees are also required to avoid large gatherings on campus and downtown when possible. Penn State has already purchased more than 500,000 face masks to distribute across its campuses, but students are encouraged to arrive with their own as well.

Classes with more than 250 students have already moved online for the fall semester. In the meantime, administrators are reviewing Penn State’s 1,700+ classrooms, seminar rooms, and labs to determine social distancing capabilities and potentially repurpose them for the semester.

Penn State will also install distance markers, directional arrows, signs, and “other visual cues” in classrooms and high-traffic areas to promote social distancing. It’ll also “reconfigure” study spaces, common areas, and shared locations.

According to the university, those who put others at risk will be “held accountable in a manner consistent with how other violations of Penn State guidelines and policies are managed.”

“It is absolutely essential that people follow guidelines for masking and social distancing — we know these efforts make a difference,” Damon Sims, vice president for Student Affairs, said in a release. “Even if it is inconvenient or difficult, we have no other choice but to fulfill our personal and collective responsibility to protect ourselves and others.

“This is a serious matter and whether we can keep the virus at bay in our communities and continue with on-campus resident instruction will largely depend on the actions of our entire community — including students’ behavior inside and outside our classrooms, but not only our students,” Sims added. “Our faculty and staff must honor these critical expectations, too.”

Administrators expressed those who don’t comply with safety regulations will be referred to the Office of Student Conduct and may be subsequently punished. However, details surrounding conduct violations remain to be seen.

“We know students are concerned for the health of themselves and others, and we hope they will honor and follow these requirements and guidelines and that their peers also will encourage good behavior both on and off campus,” Danny Shaha, assistant vice president for student rights and responsibilities, said. “However, instances where students do not comply with these requirements in University buildings and classrooms, and put others’ health at risk, will be addressed.”

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About the Author

Matt DiSanto

Matt proudly served as Onward State’s managing editor for two years until graduating from Penn State with distinction in May 2022. Now, he’s off in the real world doing real things. Send him an email ([email protected]) or follow him on Twitter (@mattdisanto_) to stay in touch.

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