Professor Keith Kashiwada conducts his speech class without a mask and remains mindful of social distancing. (Photo by Juri Dagio)

By Juri Dagio & Cameron Enomoto | Staff Writers

Prior to the start of the semester, the UH Office of Communications sent an email to all students and faculty on August 3 regarding the face mask policy. Since August 2020, everyone on campus was required to wear a face covering and maintain a distance of at least 6 feet from each other. At the time, most classes were in an online or asynchronous format, which meant there would be fewer people on campus.

The August email noted that masking is still required indoors in classrooms, shared laboratory spaces, and additional confined spaces like advising offices. However, this requirement only pertained to students. Teachers conducting in-person courses would be allowed to remove their masks provided that they follow social distancing guidelines. Professor Keith Kashiwada, who teaches Speech 151, prefers to conduct a class without having to wear a face mask.

“I understand the need for precaution, but at the same time I think we are at a point now that it’s fairly safe,” he said. “As far as the ability for me to not wear a mask while I’m teaching, I’m happy that’s the case because I prefer to teach without the mask. I’m hoping that it also makes me more effective. … It’s easier to be understood.”

Professors wearing face masks while giving instruction can be difficult to hear which can cause confusion and miscommunication. Momoko Ishihara, a 20-year-old Liberal Arts student, is in support of her professors teaching without a mask.

Students continue to wear face masks in the KCC library while studying. (Photo by Cameron Enomoto)

“Some professors, especially my art professor, her volume is so small from the corner so I can’t hear any words,” Ishihara said. “Other times when she wears a mask I can’t hear her at all.”

Other students disagreed and feel that the option to wear a mask should be open to everyone and not only professors.

“I think everyone should have a choice,” said Mae Ann Macaraeg, a 23-year-old Liberal Arts and Business major.

Professor Kashiwada also feels that the requirement is one-sided.

“I think it’s unfair to make it mandatory for the students because the Department of Education (DOE) has made it optional,” Kashiwada said. “I think people should still have a choice, and not to say that we should do it the same way as the DOE does it, but it kind of makes sense to me that it should be optional.”

On September 9, the UH Office of Communications sent another email with an update to the masking policy. Effective after Friday, Sept. 16, face masks will no longer be required at UH campuses. Masking will be required for individuals who have been exposed to someone with Covid-19 or if they have contracted the virus themselves. Individuals who have been infected must practice at-home isolation and will be able to return on day 6 if they no longer have symptoms and have not had a fever in the last 24 hours.

Kaimana Aganon-Lee, a 19-year-old Liberal Arts student, is concerned about having the mask mandate lifted.

“I think it’s kind of safe if people don’t wear a mask, but at the same time, I worry that people might come to school with Covid,” Aganon-Lee said. “I probably will be wearing a mask just for safety.”

While faculty and students will have the choice to wear a mask beginning on Sept. 16, UH President David Lassner asks that everyone remain respectful of individual’s choices to wear a face mask and abide by signs outside offices that request visitors to wear masks. Additional information and changes will be updated in the UH COVID-19 Guidelines.