Faculty and students hold differing opinions after the temporary mask mandate was issued on Aug. 4 by Chancellor Glenn Boyce.
The University of Mississippi requires all vaccinated and unvaccinated people to wear masks in indoor facilities.
According to the Mississippi Department of Health, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the American College Health Association (ACHA), universities should require masks in all-indoor facilities in addition to six-feet of social distance.
James M. Thomas, an associate professor of sociology, said the mask mandate was “woefully inadequate.”
“I have a 200 person intro class that’s scheduled to be in that auditorium, it is impossible to socially distance in Nutt Auditorium with 200 students,” said Thomas.
Lisa Stone, the strategic communications director, said if faculty and staff want to switch teaching modalities, they must go through their department chair and it must be approved by the dean and the provost.
As for changing to a bigger classroom, faculty also have to go through their department chair to make adjustments.
Fara Shook, a writing and rhetoric professor, said she was relieved after reading the new mandate.
“I was extremely anxious about going into a classroom with the percent of unvaccinated people, as well as how transmittable the Delta variant is,” said Shook.
With the rising levels of COVID-19 cases, combined with all in-person classes, Shook is apprehensive of the future.
“We put a classroom at maximum capacity, that is going to be extremely detrimental and students are going to get sick,” Shook said.
However, Shook continues to have hope for the upcoming school year and urges everyone to get vaccinated.
Similar to Thomas and Shook, sophomore biology major, Catalina Llanos said the new mask mandate put her at ease.
“I believe that reinforcement is definitely necessary, because we can’t tell today who’s vaccinated and who is not,” said Llanos.
She said that wearing masks provides safety to not only the student body, faculty and staff, but to everyone’s family as well.
“If I were to travel back home to see my elderly grandma, I would never want to try to give any sort of exposure to her whatsoever,” Llanos said.
Seth Gerus, a senior accounting major, said he was disappointed with the new issued mandate.
“I think with the progress we’ve made with vaccination, and other research of the virus I figured we were on a forward trajectory, but with this development it kind of looks like we’re backsliding and it’s a lot to handle,” said Gerus.
If the mandate is lifted, Gerus said he will not continue to wear a mask, unless one of his professors enforces them.
“I’m a big proponent of having the choice. (My choice) might not necessarily agree with a mask mandate. I definitely understand why it is important that we would like to respect it,” Gerus said.
However, faculty’s choices can only go so far.
Stone said “once that requirement is lifted, faculty cannot require masks in class or during office hours.”
Faculty can still encourage their students to wear masks, but they cannot not enforce masking.
Despite the differing out looks on the temporary mask mandate, the university looks forward to the upcoming school year.
“We are excited to return to in-person learning and the traditional, vibrant on-campus experience for which our university is so well known,” said Stone.