Return to campus: KU UCU Open Letter on face coverings

Kingston UCU sent an open letter to the Vice Chancellor and senior management on 16th September regarding face coverings. The letter was signed by 200 members of staff expressing their deep concern over Kingston University’s change of policy on face coverings to a position of ‘encouraging’ rather than mandating their use in enclosed teaching spaces, labs and workshops on campus, in light of increased rates of community transmission and the dominance of the Delta variant.

However, the interim University registrar has responded to say that ‘the current Covid-19 regulations and government guidance for HE settings mean that we are unable to mandate face coverings on our campuses. The guidance makes it clear that face coverings and social distancing are no longer advised for staff, students and visitors in communal spaces or teaching rooms and that we cannot refuse education to students who choose not to wear a face covering’.

Yet the government guidelines continue ‘The government has removed the requirement to wear face coverings in law but expects and recommends that they are worn in enclosed and crowded spaces where people may come into contact with people they don’t normally meet‘ which would seem to perfectly describe crowded lecture theatres. The guidance on face coverings, updated 17 September 2021, says ‘Businesses, including transport operators, can also ask their employees and customers to wear face coverings.’ As of 18th September in 20 other UK universities face coverings have been made mandatory in all teaching spaces. In London masks are mandated at LSE, Royal Holloway, Roehampton and Birkbeck. Kingston could choose to prioritise the health and safety of its staff, students and local community.

Members should continue to Contact Us about health and safety concerns including mask wearing, ventilation and cleaning, individual and general risk assessments, and make use of national UCU guidance on Coronavirus

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