Face Coverings-Masks Toolkit

This toolkit was published in August 2020 and the information below is most useful during times when masks are mandated in the classroom.  Starting August 2022, this site remains available, although some of the information currently does not apply, such as the suggested syllabus language and some of the FAQs.

Chance of spread wearing masks

Quick Start Guide

For a brief tour of highlights in this Toolbox, start with the Introduction, followed by the video from the American Chemical Society.  Next would be the In the Classroom section, and then finally the FAQs.

Video:  Possible Scenarios

Examples of Possible Scenarios


The evidence is clear that face coverings, such as masks, are a crucial part of keeping coronavirus at bay, and GVSU's policy on face coverings is posted on the Lakers Together web site.  GVSU's approach to ensure that all our mitigation strategies are strong is to emphasize education, to develop a culture of wellness and care.  The purpose of this Toolkit is to provide information and guidance for faculty and staff, especially as it applies to the classroom.

This web page will be updated from time-to-time.  Send any comments about this Toolkit to Associate Vice President Ed Aboufadel.

What We Know About COVID-19

To create a safe campus, it is critical to understand how risk mitigation strategies work to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.  With this knowledge, we can make better decisions.  The following videos can help.  Articles are at the end of this Toolkit.  There are also great visuals on the Internet about face coverings.

What is a coronvirus?

What is a coronavirus?

Droplets, Social Distancing, and Face Coverings

COVID-19 spread, and being smart about cloth face coverings, from the American Chemical Society

Spectrum Health doctor on face coverings

Spectrum Health doctor discusses face coverings on WOOD TV-8

COVID-19 in the lungs

How COVID-19 infects the lungs

Lakers Together video on face coverings

Lakers Together:  Face Coverings

Some Face Coverings Are Better Than Others

Some face coverings to avoid

Compliance In the Classroom

We must take a precautionary approach to our classrooms.  The coronavirus spreads primarily through the air, often from infected individuals with no symptoms, so face coverings are a crucial part of preventing transmission. Starting August 6, 2021, face coverings requirements are tied to the university's alert level.  For all levels except “Near Normal”, face coverings will be required in all indoor spaces, except for limited exceptions

GVSU has adopted an education-first approach to ensuring compliance with our policy on face coveringsMessages stressing the importance of face coverings continue to be shared with the campus community, and all students can acquire a free GVSU mask.  GVSU's Face Covering Compliance Protocol has been published by Human Resources.  A pdf of the protocol can be downloaded and will be posted around campus.

Here are additional recommendations for ensuring compliance in the classroom.  Our approach is to use reason and education first.

Reason and Education

  • Throughout the first week of class, faculty are strongly recommended to discuss the wearing of face coverings in the classroom.  Videos and other educational tools are available in the "What We Know" and "Articles" sections of this web page, and FAQ's are at the bottom of this page.  This web page can be shared in class.
  • Emphasis is on creating a culture of safety, wellness, inclusivity, respect and accountability, with a restorative approach.
  • On a given day, a simple reminder may be sufficient.
  • Other educational responses:
    • "I understand wearing a face covering is an inconvenience, but it is required in classrooms and public spaces. I know you may find this inconvenient or objectionable, but under the circumstances we believe the added safety is worth any inconvenience.  This is not simply a matter of personal choice; a face covering protects others."
    • "Although you may disagree with this or question the face covering’s effectiveness, we’re choosing to err on the side of safety at GVSU. We believe this simple act of safety and courtesy is one that we can all undertake together."
    • Ask curiosity questions:
      • Is there a reason you’re unable to wear a face covering?
      • I would feel more comfortable while we are talking if you would wear a face covering; did you bring one with you?

Providing A Mask if Needed

  • If a student forgets to bring their face covering to class, disposable face masks are available in all campus offices.

Leaving the Classroom

  • It may need to be said that part of the arrangement to offer classes face-to-face is that all must comply with the face covering policy.  As an alternative to this arrangement, face coverings are not required for online courses.  Students who may wish to change their course schedules in light of this policy should be directed to contact their faculty or professional advisor for help with rescheduling.
  • A student who continues to not wear face coverings may be asked by faculty to leave class that day.  The faculty member should follow-up with the student to convey expectations regarding future classroom behavior. That follow-up may be done in concert with others at the university.

Student Conduct Violations and Other Options

  • It may be necessary to remind students of several aspects of prohibited behavior in the student conduct code.  Violations can lead to sanctions.
    • Disruptions:  Substantial disruption of University operations or activities including obstruction of teaching, research, administration, other authorized activities, either outdoors or inside a classroom, office, or other place on which University operations or activities or operations are conducted or held.  (STU 5.2.6)
    • Harm to Persons: Intentionally or recklessly causing physical harm or endangering the health or safety of any person.  (STU 5.2.8)
  • In rare situations, rather than quarrel, class may be ended prematurely or Public Safety may need to be involved.
  • More suggestions for de-escalating public conflicts.

Suggested Syllabus Language

Face coverings, such as masks, are required to be worn in the classroom. Students who have forgotten their face coverings may get a disposable mask at a campus office. The evidence is clear that face coverings are a crucial part of keeping coronavirus at bay and support the university’s commitment to providing all members of its community with an inclusive living and learning environment with equitable opportunities for success. GVSU's policy on face coverings is posted on the Lakers Together web site. Students who are not able to wear a face covering due to a medical condition should contact Disability Support Services (DSR) to discuss their individual situation.

Teaching with Face Coverings and Social Distancing

GVSU's Pew Faculty and Teaching Learning Center can assist faculty in addressing how to approach face-to-face teaching in socially-distanced classrooms with individuals wearing face coverings.


Teaching in a Physically Distanced Classroom (University of South Florida)

Active Learning While Physically Distancing (crowd-sourced article)

A Dry Run at a Socially Distanced Classroom (Inside Higher Ed)

Active Learning in Hybrid and Physically Distanced Classrooms (Vanderbilt University)

Teaching in Face Masks and Shields with Social Distancing - A Non-Scientific Study (Roanoke College)

Avoiding Face Covering Fatigue

  • Instructors should consider scheduling class breaks so that students can go outside for a few minutes.  This will help address face covering fatigue, as well as providing opportunities to stay hydrated.
  • Staff will need breaks to address face covering fatigue and to stay hydrated.

In the Classroom -- Face Coverings/Masks

In Fall 2021, classrooms will not be set up with social distancing.  Until an adequate number of students are vaccinated, and the university's alert level is "Near Normal", face coverings will be required in classrooms to reduce the chance of the spread of COVID-19.

If the person states they have a medical reason for not wearing a face covering, they must have been granted an accommodation from Disability Support Resources after providing documentation from a medical professional.  If it is determined that the person has a documented disability, DSR will use its interactive process to determine alternatives to wearing a face covering, which may include alternative working arrangements or course delivery as well as face shields combined with social distancing.


  • Clear face coverings will be made available to faculty in August, for situations when a student is deaf and needs to read lips is enrolled in one of their classes.

There is not an easy answer to this question.  Faculty cannot disclose a student's DSR accommodation to other students.  The student with the accommodation can self-disclose to other students, but is not required to do so.

General -- Face Coverings/Masks

"Some people think that if you wear a mask for long periods of time you will trap and breathe in excess amounts of carbon dioxide, which could lead to brain damage. That’s just not true. A properly constructed mask provides more than enough ventilation. In fact, one way to test if your mask is well made is to try to blow out a candle through the mask from about 1 foot away. If you can’t do so, your mask might be too tightly woven."

-- Amy Price, PhD, a senior research scientist at Stanford’s Anesthesia Informatics and Media Laboratory.

Source:  5 Questions: Stanford scientists on COVID-19 mask guidelines

At GVSU, face shields will only be allowed as an accommodation through Disability Support Resources, after providing documentation from a medical professional.  DSR can help identify an appropriate face shield.

A simple face shield is not a substitute for face coverings. Face shields do not provide the same degree of protection as a face covering; however, they may reduce how far droplets spread, so may be better than no barrier at all.  It is important that face shields go around to the sides of the face, below the chin, and are close to the face. Face shields that do not meet these criteria are intended to be worn with a mask and provide minimal, if any protection if worn alone, because respiratory droplets can easily move around the smaller shield.

For those interested in face shields as a way for others to see your mouth, alternatives are starting to be available.  Some examples are the ClearMask and the Communicator.  Both are face coverings that “cover the nose and mouth” and are consistent with GVSU’s Face Coverings policy.

Starting August 9, 2021, the answer is yes, until the university is at Alert Level 0:  Near Normal.

Starting August 9, 2021, the answer is yes, until the university is at Alert Level 0:  Near Normal.

Starting August 9, 2021, the answer is yes, until the university is at Alert Level 0:  Near Normal.

As described in this disability issues brief:

  • Individuals with respiratory disabilities such as asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), or cystic fibrosis may not be able to wear a face mask because of difficulty in or impaired breathing.
  • People with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), severe anxiety, or claustrophobia (an abnormal fear of being in enclosed or narrow places),[8] may feel afraid or terrified when wearing a face mask. These individuals may not be able to stay calm or function when wearing a face mask.
  • Some people with autism are sensitive to touch and texture.
  • A person who has cerebral palsy may have difficulty moving the small muscles in the hands, wrists, or fingers. Due to their limited mobility, they may not be able to tie the strings or put the elastic loops of a face mask over the ears. This means that the individual may not be able to put on or remove a face mask without assistance.
  • A person who uses mouth control devices such as a sip and puff to operate a wheelchair or assistive technology, or uses their mouth or tongue to use assistive ventilators will be unable to wear a mask.
  • A person who has cochlear implant sound processors can’t wear face coverings that utilize ear loops.   (The GVSU-issued face coverings would work because they use a neck loop, but if the student forgets their issued face covering, or if it is in the laundry, they would need one of the disposables that may not have the neck loop.)

Contact Deb Sanders, Director of Staff Relations at (616) 331-2215 or [email protected]

Anonymous reporting is available for individuals who prefer to report concerns to the university anonymously through a system hosted by a third-party provider. Visit gvsu.edu/reporting or call 855-799-8302. 

Spectrum Health signage for masks

Page last modified November 9, 2022