Language Guidelines for Typical Scenarios

As noted in the Guidance for Supporting Community Expectations, posted at the Dean of Students Office website to support the policy of required face coverings on campus, the well-being of our students, faculty, and staff are always significant considerations.  The guidance was issued to encourage accountability to a community of care, reflecting not only behavior associated with self-care, but also behavior in consideration and empathy for the wellness of others.

Staff and students have expressed reasonable concerns about all members of the community following the requirements for mitigation of the spread of Covid-19. The guidance issued provided scenarios with information regarding practical responses aligning with the policy.  However, there have been additional questions about how to appropriately address individuals that are not wearing a face covering or practicing physical distancing on campus. Recognizing that individuals have varying levels of comfort when it comes to approaching others about a concern, we have provided some example scenarios of options for responding, contrasting a harsh and softer response for staff and students to consider.

As noted in the Guidance for Supporting Community Expectations, it is important to recognize when addressing a situation that you may not know all of the circumstances surrounding an individual’s choice not to wear a face covering, and that there are accessibility, health, cultural, and other reasons that may apply. We do not want face coverings and physical distancing to become a source of conflict or division on our campus.

 

STAFF TO STUDENTS

Scenario

Harsh Response

Softer Response

Chris works in the Student Services Building. Chris goes to the lobby to get a student for a face to face appointment that was scheduled, and sees they are not wearing a face covering.

You can’t be in the building without a face covering, and I am not meeting with you unless you put one on now.

[While maintaining 6 feet of physical distance:] Hi, my name is Chris. Welcome to the office. To minimize the spread of Covid-19, face coverings are required in all buildings and while meeting with staff. Do you have a cloth face covering you can put on, or do you need a temporary one, as we have some of these available?
 

Scenario

Harsh Response

Softer Response

Chris goes to the waiting area to get a student for an appointment and sees they are not wearing a face covering. Staff tells Chris the student refused to wear one when they checked in.

We care about our own safety even if you don’t. 

No one here is going to meet with you unless you put a face covering on now. You need to do that or leave.

[While maintaining 6 feet of physical distance:] Hi, my name is Chris. I understand that you are refusing to wear a face covering, is that correct? As face coverings are required in all buildings and for meeting with staff, if I can get your name and email, someone from the office can follow up and schedule a phone or virtual meeting. Thanks for helping us minimize the spread of the virus.

STAFF TO STAFF

Scenario

Harsh Response

Softer Response

Jesse’s desk is stationed in a central location in an office on campus, and a colleague frequently passes near their workspace to chat with others with no face covering on.

You might not care about your health, but I care about mine and you are just being disrespectful. 

Excuse me, I am sorry to stop you.  I wanted to let you know that I have some concerns about my health and my family’s health. We are being very cautious right now. Since you do have to pass me frequently, I would like to ask that you wear your face covering when you come by. Thank you for helping me with this!

STAFF TO VISITOR/CONTRACTOR

Scenario

Harsh Response

Softer Response

Erin has passed by a couple individuals that appear to be doing some type of maintenance work right outside the building entrance a couple days in a row who are not wearing face coverings. 

I have to walk by you every morning and you are not wearing face coverings. You need to put them on or I will have to report you.

I am sorry to disturb you. Face coverings are required in common areas to help control the spread of Covid-19, and this would qualify since people like myself have to enter the building here. I have concerns about my health and that of my family, so would ask that you wear them. Thank you for helping me with this!

STUDENT TO STUDENT

Scenario

Harsh Response

Softer Response

Alex is sitting at a table in the library when another couple students come in without face coverings and sit at the opposite end of the table.

[Cell phone up to take a picture:] You need to put face coverings on now or leave the library. It’s required. If you don’t, I’m going to have to get Library staff.

[While maintaining 6 feet of physical distance:] Hi, face coverings are required in all buildings in order to minimize the spread of Covid-19, and I think Library staff might make you leave if you don’t wear them. If you need face coverings, I think you can contact the Dean of Students Office, but I am going to have to move if you don’t put them because I am concerned about my own health, as well as that of others I am around. Can you please help me out here?

STUDENT OR STAFF TO STUDENTS

Scenario

Harsh Response

Softer Response

Sam is walking toward Carver when they pass a group of 4-5 students sitting in the Campanile without face coverings and not physical distancing.

[Cell phone up to take a picture:] You all need to get out of there and put your face coverings on now.

Excuse me, I know I am probably not the first person to notice you here. Face coverings are required across campus in public areas, and I am certain that others, besides myself, who are being cautious about their health would appreciate you using them. If you don’t know where to get them, I believe the Dean of Students Office could help you figure that out.  Thanks for being good community members!


When addressing individuals:

  • Use ‘I’ statements; do not speak for others, or use headlines, research or statistics to shape your request (you can continue to share it is a university policy).
  • Try to approach the situation constructively and not critically or blaming (e.g., “I am sure you mean no harm, but I would really appreciate if you would wear a face covering, as I am concerned for my personal health.”)
  • Positively establish boundaries (e.g., telling a person that you appreciate their maintaining 6 foot physical distance), and then ask that they please utilize the face covering if they wish to meet or use a service.

Don’t get pulled into an argument or shouting match, become hostile, take pictures with your cellphone, or threaten retribution. Modeling positive and rationale behavior is more likely to encourage compliance. If an individual becomes upset, do not escalate the interaction; keep your voice low and calm, and continue to repeat your request, sharing that it is based on a policy to protect your health and the health of the community.  Where needed, refer to the Guidance for Supporting Community Expectations for additional steps.

Content adapted from:

https://www.celt.iastate.edu/teaching/effective-teaching-practices/classroom-behavior/, and

https://www.extension.iastate.edu/vp/files/page/files/conversations_about_personal_comfort_and_covid-19_safety_practices_in_the_workplace_8.10.20_0.pdf