;



The Masked Professor vs. the Unmasked Student

Breaking News
tags: public health, colleges and universities, COVID-19



Matthew Boedy, an associate professor of rhetoric and composition, sent out a raw emotional appeal to his students at the University of North Georgia just before classes began: The Covid-19 Delta variant was rampaging through the state, filling up hospital beds. He would teach class in the equivalent of full body armor — vaccinated and masked.

So he was stunned in late August when more than two-thirds of the first-year students in his writing class did not take the hint and showed up unmasked.

It was impossible to tell who was vaccinated and who was not. “It isn’t a visual hellscape, like hospitals, it’s more of an emotional hellscape,” Dr. Boedy said.

North Georgia is not requiring its students to be vaccinated or masked this fall. And as in-person classes return at almost every university in the country, after almost a year and a half of emergency pivoting to online learning, many professors are finding teaching a nerve-racking experience.

The American College Health Association recommends vaccination requirements for all on-campus higher education students for the fall semester. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends face coverings, regardless of vaccine status, for indoor public spaces in areas where the rate of infection is high.

But this is not how it has worked out on more than a few campuses.

More than 1,000 colleges and universities have adopted vaccination requirements for at least some students and staff, according to The Chronicle of Higher Education. In an indication of how political vaccination has become, the schools tend to be clustered in states that voted for President Biden in the last election.

But at some campuses, particularly in Republican-led states with high rates of contagion — like the state systems in Georgia, Texas and Florida — vaccination is optional and mask wearing, while recommended, cannot be enforced. Professors are told they can tell students that they are “strongly encouraged” or “expected” to put on masks, but cannot force students to do so. And teachers cannot ask students who have Covid-like symptoms to leave the classroom.

At least nine states — Arizona, Arkansas, Iowa, Oklahoma, Florida, South Carolina, Texas, Utah and Tennessee — have banned or restricted school mask mandates. It is unclear, education officials say, whether all of these prohibitions apply to universities, but public universities depend on state funding.

Read entire article at New York Times

comments powered by Disqus