Georgia public universities to require masks in classrooms

Georgia public universities to require masks in classrooms
© Tom Pennington/Getty Images

State universities in Georgia will require face coverings for all students and faculty in on-campus classes where social distancing is impossible, the University System of Georgia announced Monday.

The move represents a reversal from the university system’s widely-criticized original position making masks optional but “strongly” encouraged, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported.

A petition by United Campus Workers of Georgia calling for the rule received nearly 9,000 signatures. The petition also requests “free, frequent and accurate” on-campus coronavirus testing, as well as a provision that “there will be no penalty, either subtle or overt, for requesting online-only engagement in the Fall.”

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The Hill has reached out to the university system for clarification on whether the other provisions requested in the petition will be part of the fall semester plan.

A separate letter from faculty at Georgia Tech, dated July 2, said signatories were “alarmed” by the failure to follow “science-based evidence” in the plan for the fall semester.

“As academic faculty of Georgia Tech, we assert our fundamental professional and ethical responsibility to provide for the health and safety of students and the integrity of the educational process,” the letter states. “We assert that current reopening plans are inconsistent with a safe return to campus by students, staff, and faculty. Furthermore, we do not feel secure that the education we will be offering to students in Fall 2020 will be free from significant and foreseeable disruption."

“After embarrassing media attention and a spike in cases in the state, the University System came to its senses,” University of North Georgia associate professor Matt Boedy, conference president of the Georgia chapter of the American Association of University Professors, told the newspaper. “It is following the science, not the politics. It is listening to its faculty, staff, and students, who flooded it with pleas. Masks are essential to stopping this virus. Campuses will be safer because of this move.”