Face Covering Guidelines

As of August 17, 2020

I. Face Covering Guidelines

As announced by Abilene Christian University (ACU) on July 2, 2020, face coverings are required to be worn by all individuals (faculty, staff, students and visitors, including contractors, service providers and others) inside all buildings on the ACU campus, including the branch campus in Dallas. Masks are preferred outside, and they are required in all outside campus areas where 6 feet of social distancing is not possible or where congestion is likely. This expectation will remain in place until the University makes an official announcement otherwise. Each of us, as members of a Christian university, has a responsibility to make decisions that place the health and well-being of all members of our community as our highest priority. This is how to “Do Your Part!”

This requirement - a vital part of our many COVID-19 mitigation efforts - is in place until further notice by ACU and is subject to change based on guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and in coordination with the City of Abilene and State of Texas health directives.

The layering of strategies to prevent COVID-19 spread that we expect all members of the ACU community to practice include self-assessment for symptoms, handwashing, cleaning and disinfecting, wearing face coverings, maintaining social distance between other people and staying home when not feeling well. Wearing a face covering is not a replacement for these other COVID-19 preventive measures, and the University strongly encourages the campus community to continue to practice all of these healthy habits daily.

Face coverings, also known as masks, can take multiple forms, but the preferred type to be worn while in ACU buildings are handmade or commercially available cloth masks or disposable masks. Face coverings must be worn properly – covering the mouth and nose – and reusable masks should be washed regularly after use. A face shield is not an acceptable substitute for a face covering (mask). Any employee or student who qualifies for one of the exceptions found below (see Section VII) will be offered a reasonable accommodation. ACU will provide face coverings through numerous distribution channels throughout campus. Full face coverings that prevent the recognition of a person are not permitted. Regardless of the type of acceptable face covering worn, each must conform to CDC guidelines and must be worn in a manner consistent with those guidelines:

Use of Cloth Face Coverings to Help Slow the Spread of COVID-19

II. Face Coverings at Work and Other Public Activities

The requirement to wear face coverings applies to all employees (students, staff, faculty, and temporary workers), contractors, vendors, suppliers and visitors on campus. All of these individuals will be required to wear a face covering to enter the workplace, including all public settings where individuals might encounter others in spaces, such as hallways, elevators and stairways. All members of the ACU community are required to wear face coverings when outside of their private office or when physical social distancing measures may not be feasible.

Examples of public settings where masks are required include areas outside of your enclosed private office such as:

  • Entrances and exits of buildings
  • Building atriums
  • Classrooms 
  • Shared workspaces unless other social distancing measures are in play 
  • Shared work vehicles 
  • Common meeting space, break rooms or lounge areas 
  • Dining facilities, except when specifically eating or drinking 
  • Public restrooms 
  • Campus Center, Library and public event spaces 
  • Elevators and hallways 
  • Outdoors, if safe social distancing is not possible or where congestion is likely

Employees are not required to wear a face covering within their private office space, provided that they are alone in that space. If others enter a private office space, all individuals within that space are expected to wear a face covering. All offices on campus should make extra face coverings available for anyone who enters that area and who may not have a face covering available.

Any employee who has concerns about these guidelines should contact his or her supervisor and discuss options available to support the work that needs to be done while maintaining the health and safety of all employees, students and visitors. Employees should contact Human Resources to determine needs and accommodations available to meet those needs. Any request for accommodation for a disability should comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act. All medical information is protected health information and will be confidentially stored within the Human Resources division.

These rules cover all invited visitors to campus, including parents. Further guidance will be issued prior to any events open to alumni or the general public.

III. Face Coverings in Classrooms

All instructors and students are required to wear face coverings throughout the duration of each in-person class session. Students will not be admitted to class without a properly worn face covering that conforms to CDC guidelines. Any student who refuses to wear a face covering for the duration of a class period will be dismissed, and that student will be counted absent for that day’s class session. If the student refuses to leave the classroom, the instructor may dismiss in-person class for that day; the student will be subject to disciplinary action as described in the Student Handbook. Eating is not allowed in any classroom. All students should enter and exit buildings immediately before and after class, and not loiter in common spaces.

Any student who does not qualify for one of the exceptions below, but who refuses to wear a face covering to class, will be subject to disciplinary action. Any student who qualifies for one of the exceptions found below (see Section VII) will be offered a reasonable accommodation.

Syllabus Statement for Faculty

At least through the fall 2020 semester, faculty are encouraged to include the following syllabus statement in all of their course syllabi for courses that involve in-person instruction:

Abilene Christian University is committed to providing a safe educational environment for all students, faculty, and staff. In order to create the healthiest environment possible, students and instructors must properly wear face coverings over their mouths and noses while in ACU buildings and while in the classroom. In addition, social distancing should be maintained within all classroom environments. Eating is not allowed in any classroom.

Any student who does not bring a face covering or refuses to wear one will be dismissed from class and be considered absent. If a student who is not wearing a face covering refuses to leave class, the instructor may dismiss in-person class for that day.

A student who refuses to wear a face covering will be subject to disciplinary action through the Student Handbook.

IV. Face Coverings in Residence Halls

Face coverings are required to be worn in all public areas of the residence halls. This includes, but is not limited to, lounges, front desks, hallways, classrooms, reflection rooms, community kitchens, laundry rooms, mail rooms and elevators. Guests are only permitted in the residence halls during move-in, during which each student is permitted two guests. After move-in, guests are not permitted inside residence halls. Residents of the room, suite or apartment can pre-determine if face coverings should be worn within their room, suite or apartment when other residents enter. Students who fail to comply with these guidelines are subject to disciplinary action through the Student Handbook.

V. Face Coverings in Research and Teaching Labs

Face coverings are required to be worn in all ACU laboratories. In labs where high heat or open flames are used, the recommended face covering is an FDA-approved medical-grade mask. Medical-grade masks are flame-resistant and available upon request from the Risk Management office. A flame-resistant face shield is a permitted alternative to a medical-grade mask. However, face shields are in short supply and may not be available.

The requirement of face coverings in laboratories does not supersede additional Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) requirements that are specific to a given research operation (e.g., when a respirator would be required). Researchers should consult with the Risk Management Office to determine an acceptable practice in these situations.

VI. Face Coverings in Student Recreation and Wellness Center (SRWC)

Face coverings are required to be worn when entering and moving throughout the SRWC. Face coverings can be removed when a member is at a cardio machine or designated workout space and can be socially distanced. Face coverings should be worn to and from the pool, and can be removed when in the pool.

VII. Exceptions

Please note that face coverings will not be required when:

  1. An individual is younger than 2 years of age 
  2. Doing so has been determined to be unsafe because of an individual's medical condition as evidenced by documentation submitted to the University Access Programs Office (ADA office) for students or to Human Resources (HR) for faculty and staff, in consultation with the Office of the Provost as appropriate. In these instances a reasonable accommodation will be offered. 
  3. An employee has made an accommodation request with HR that has been approved in accordance with the Americans with Disability Act, and that employee has an accommodation specifically addressing the need not to wear a face covering.
  4. A student has made an accommodation request with UAP that has been approved in accordance with the Americans with Disability Act, and that student has an accommodation specifically addressing the need not to wear a face covering.
  5. An individual is working alone inside an enclosed office space 
  6. A person is actively eating/drinking in an area appropriately designated for eating/drinking purposes. Eating is not allowed in any classroom.

VIII. Points of Contact Regarding Potential Guideline Violations

If any member of the ACU community comes into contact with someone who is not wearing a face covering and should be doing so under these guidelines, these individuals should remind the person of the institution’s guidelines in a polite and nonaggressive manner. Please note that the individual may have a medical condition preventing him or her from wearing a face covering and they are not required to provide proof of that condition to those they encounter during the course of their day. Please do not escalate the situation, rather the issue should be referred to the appropriate office for remedy:

  • Student Violations: Dean of Students, Mark Lewis (lewism@acu.edu
  • Faculty and Staff Violations: Human Resources (humanresorces@acu.edu
  • Vendor Violations: Risk Management Office (risk@acu.edu
  • Visitor Violations: Contact your department or office leadership or your supervisor