Masks are the biggest concern at Fall 2021 Town Hall

The university is recommending students to wear masks, but will not require them.


Photo by Alex Liscio.

Michael Gennaro, Social Media Manager

Today, FAU’s Executive Leadership Team answered questions from students and faculty about the Fall 2021 semester. 

Most of the discussion centered around masks and what steps the university is taking to keep students and faculty safe as the highly contagious Delta variant of the coronavirus rages across Florida. 

The university is sticking by its guidelines to recommend students wear masks, but it will not be a mandate. 

Stacy Volnick, vice president of administrative affairs, said, “The consistent message that’s been given to all [state] universities and that we are all following is that we are not requiring masks. This is consistent with what our partner universities are doing in the system.”

President John Kelley said that FAU is just following the state university guidelines when it comes to mask mandates. The university is adopting the same messaging as all other Florida state universities.

“On some things we’re given the flexibility of being able to make our own decisions within the state university system, but issues like this it’s done as a whole. All state universities are following the same protocols,” Kelly said.

Despite the protocols, Volnick said that students should “expect” to wear face coverings and reiterated that the university highly recommends wearing a facial covering.

Bret Danilowicz, provost and vice president of academic affairs, encouraged teachers to ask students to wear masks in their syllabuses. “There’s no place like the front page of a syllabus to try to get their attention,” he said.

If a student needs to miss classes and quarantine because of a positive coronavirus test result or close contact, it will be up to students to notify faculty and then faculty must accommodate the student. If teachers test positive or must quarantine, they may teach from home until they are cleared to return to school. There is no hybrid schedule for staff, however.

Danilowicz said students “will let a faculty member know they are going to be in isolation or quarantine, and at that point, as always in illness, the faculty needs to figure out the best way to accommodate that student over the period that they will be out from the class.”

The specifics of how to accommodate students are up to faculty, and teachers may record classes, for example, if they believe that is the best way to accommodate a student that must miss class time.

There will be mobile vaccination clinics on the Boca Raton campus on both Monday and Tuesday next week and a $150 gift card incentive for faculty and students that are fully vaccinated. When asked, Volnick did not provide more details regarding the gift card. The time for the vaccination clinic was not specified.

The clinics will have both one and two-shot vaccines, though faculty isn’t sure if the two-shot vaccine is Pfizer or Moderna yet. Students that want to get vaccinated on Monday or Tuesday can do so at the Majestic Palm room in the Student Union. The clinics will return in four weeks for those that choose a two-shot vaccine so that they can be fully immunized.

Students that don’t attend the Boca Raton campus can get vaccines from student health services on their respective campuses.

Volnick said booster shots will be provided to students as they become available.

Beyond virus concerns, President Kelly said he was happy to see in-person graduations and touted FAU’s performance even during a difficult year hampered by the pandemic.

Kelly said, “We did extremely well. One of our best years ever… In the performance metrics this year, we finished number three, right after FIU and USF.”

The metrics are a key performance indicator that affects the university’s funding and its reputation, Kelly said.

Kelly said that students are finishing faster on average and that the four-year graduation rate has increased. The cost of a students’ education is falling, as well. 

Gov. Ron DeSantis’ controversial academic freedom bill was briefly discussed, specifically the language in it that allows students to record lectures. Some professors and students criticized that part of the law specifically.

David Kian, vice president of legal affairs and general counsel, said that recording of personal statements is not permitted, but admitted that “the classroom discussion area is tricky. It will be a bit of a challenge for faculty, because if a classroom discussion is part of a lecture. . . It would be allowed to be recorded for the three limited purposes that the law provides.”

Kian said that side discussions or personal discussions that are not directly related to a lecture are not permitted to be recorded.

The Karen Slattery Educational Research Center for Child Development will remain inactive, President Kelly said. Talks are ongoing on how to reopen it, but there is no viable option yet.

“The size and the number of students we can handle really doesn’t make it financially sustainable for the institution right now. The quantity of work needed inside there to get it up to standards is a problem,” Kelly said.

The Town Hall was recorded and will be posted at

Michael Gennaro is a staff writer and social media manager for the University Press. For information regarding this or other stories, email [email protected] or message him on Twitter or Instagram @mycoolgennaro.