RIC, JWU to make masks mostly optional on campuses in coming days

UNDERGRADUATE STUDENTS at Johnson & Wales University, pictured, will have the option to finish their juris doctor degree a year early through a joint program with the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth Law School. / PBN FILE PHOTO/JAMES BESSETTE
STUDENTS at Johnson & Wales University will have the option to obtain a law degree from the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth School of Law in an accelerated program in which students can earn an undergraduate degree and law degree in six years. / PBN FILE PHOTO/JAMES BESSETTE

PROVIDENCE – Both Rhode Island College and Johnson & Wales University will be making masks optional on their respective campuses, including inside most buildings, in the coming days.

JWU Providence Campus President Marie Bernardo Sousa announced late Wednesday that the university will as of March 18 no longer require masks to be worn indoors. She said the policy change was made because of “steadily” declining COVID-19 cases across the country and more of the population becoming fully vaccinated.

RIC President Frank D. Sanchez on Tuesday said that the state college will drop its mask requirement for most campus settings on March 21. However, masks will still be required in all classrooms, faculty offices and classroom labs and student services offices, Sanchez said, unless “the professor, staff member or tutor expressly waives that requirement.”

“Some of our faculty are at higher risk for COVID-19, or live with close family members who are, and yet remain committed to classroom instruction. This one simple mitigation effort honors that commitment and affords added protection,” Sanchez said.

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Bernardo-Sousa said masks will still be required on the Wildcat Wheels transportation service – federal guidelines require masks while taking public transportation – to and from JWU, and in the university’s health services office.

JWU and RIC, like most local colleges, required masks indoors on campus since the start of the academic year, regardless of vaccination status. Other local colleges that have modified their respective mask mandates, including making them optional, are the University of Rhode Island, the Community College of Rhode Island, Roger Williams University, Bryant University, Salve Regina University, the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth, Stonehill College and Wheaton College.

James Bessette is the PBN special projects editor, and also covers the nonprofit and education sectors. You may reach him at Bessette@PBN.com. You may also follow him on Twitter at @James_Bessette.

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