U Student Concerned About Professor Not Following COVID-19 Guidelines


Photo courtesy of Chronicle archives.

By Lizzy Seitz, News Writer


The first semester with most students back on campus means the return of activities, clubs, study groups and the ability to share stories before and after classes with fellow classmates. Some of these stories include students who are concerned about COVID-19 not being taken seriously in classrooms. 

The “Fall 2021 Instructional Guidelines: Some Practical Recommendations,” updated Sept. 17, 2021 and shared by Sarah Projansky, associate vice president for faculty, states, “an institution of higher education … may not require an individual to wear a face covering to attend or participate in in-person instruction … or in any other place on a campus of an institution within the system of higher education at any time after the end of the spring semester in 2021. However, following University of Utah public health and CDC guidelines, if students or faculty are exposed, they are expected to wear a mask in class.”

Some students would not go on record about their professors who are not following guidelines, due to fears of being reprimanded for speaking up on their safety.

However, one student — Felicia Montgomery, a fifth year health promotion and education major — was willing to speak up.

Montgomery had a professor who did not follow COVID-19 guidelines. She said while the professor was an older gentleman, he taught the advanced EMT class so was aware of the spread yet would not wear his mask or use hand sanitizer.

“We did wipe down equipment but it felt forced,” she said. “I was more shocked that it was coming from a professor in the medical profession.”

According to Montgomery, the professor had contracted COVID-19 and she speculates other students did too.

As medical students, Montgomery said her class was more adamant about following protocols. However, she said the students did not talk with their professor about their concerns because he seemed to be set in his ways.

Up to this point, the U has only released guidelines, not mandates, regarding mask-wearing.

“Given the parameters we are living in, it’s the best we can do,” said Teresa Garrett, the health and safety branch advisor for the COVID-19 incident management team and an associate professor at the college of nursing.

According to Garrett, the next best thing would be to require anyone who has had contact with someone who tested positive for COVID-19 to get tested. 

“Having masks and testing is important,” she said. “Being positive for COVID and not knowing is easy.”

However, the Fall 2021 Instructional Guidelines urge all faculty, students and staff to “model the vaccination, testing, and masking behaviors we want to see in our campus community.”

These behaviors include getting vaccinated, wearing a mask indoors, getting weekly asymptomatic testing if unvaccinated and quarantining after exposure.

Projansky said for the students who feel their safety is not a priority, it is important to consider the faculty member may just be following guidelines from the U.

If it is a more extreme case of something such as being required to come to class with COVID-19, then talk to the professor, chair of the department or dean on how to handle that situation, Projansky said. 

Garrett said students can always increase their own safety by getting vaccinated, wearing a mask when they are indoors, getting tested regularly and encouraging those around them to get vaccinated. The smaller population of students who are not vaccinated are feeling ostracized, Garret said, but one-on-one conversations can help change some people’s minds.

In her ideal world, Montgomery said COVID-19 mandates would not be just publishing city mandates.

“It would be enforcing them as well as enforcing CDC protocol,” she said. “What the legislature believes in might not be what we believe in.” 


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