A professor at the University of Georgia, who has previously retired but was hired back to teach an upper-level psychology course, quit the course midclass last week because a student refused to wear a face mask correctly.
The student arrived without a mask and was given one to wear, but she didn’t cover her nose.
The professor, Irwin Bernstein, said he was at risk of COVID-19 because of his age and various health issues.
“At that point I said that whereas I had risked my life to defend my country while in the Air Force, I was not willing to risk my life to teach a class with an unmasked student during this pandemic,” Bernstein said in an email to The Red & Black, which broke the story. “I then resigned my retiree-rehire position.”
Bernstein confirmed to Inside Higher Ed that the story was accurate.
A spokesman for the university told Inside Higher Ed that all the students were moved to a new section of the course.
“The University of Georgia is doing everything within its power to protect the health, safety and well-being of our community. The university is a part of a university system and must follow the direction of the University System of Georgia Board of Regents. The USG does not allow its institutions to enact mask or vaccine mandates,” the spokesman said. “However, vaccines and face coverings are strongly encouraged, and UGA is offering numerous incentives for motivation. The university is also providing free vaccines and masks to the community, as well as free COVID-19 testing. In addition, positive cases are required to be reported, and special cleaning and disinfection protocols put in place last year are now standard operating procedure.”
Liberty University has declared a “campus-wide quarantine” from Aug. 30 to Sept. 10, during which all classes will be online.
The university announced that “all large indoor gatherings have been suspended during this period” and “indoor dining locations will be participating in a take-out plan.”
Liberty has 159 active cases of COVID-19, with 492 students, faculty and staff told to quarantine, according to WSET News.
The Mississippi board that oversees the state’s eight public four-year and graduate universities has voted to ban the institutions from instituting a vaccine mandate for students or employees.
“The Board of Trustees strongly recommends all eligible students and employees within the university system get vaccinated against COVID-19,” said J. Walt Starr, president of the Board of Trustees of State Institutions of Higher Learning. “The vaccine is clearly the best protection against COVID-19 infections, transmissions, and has been medically reviewed and approved by our country’s leading scientific experts. However, the board does not deem it prudent to require it as a condition of employment or enrollment, except at the University of Mississippi Medical Center and other clinical settings.”
The board created an exception for the University of Mississippi Medical Center and for students in other health care-related programs at the universities, given they may be required by a healthcare provider to get the vaccine to complete clinical hours within that facility.
Galveston College, a community college in Texas, has moved most of its classes online.
A message from W. Myles Shelton, the president, said, “As a result of the increase in the number of COVID-19 cases in our area, it is necessary to scale back the number of students, classes, and employees on campus when the fall semester begins. This means that the majority of our on-campus classes will be moved online beginning with the first day of classes, August 30, and continuing through Friday, September 17. It remains our intention to return to on-campus classes as soon as possible. During the weeks ahead we will continue to monitor and assess operational plans and protocols for the fall semester.”
Most of the classes that will be in person are in the health professions.
Faculty members at the University of Wisconsin at Madison are questioning whether it is possible for anyone to get permission to teach online, The Wisconsin State Journal reported.
Three Madison instructors with a medical condition or disability who wanted to teach online said they were told the university is denying nearly all requests regardless of one’s health circumstances because of a need to offer as many in-person classes as possible.
The University Committee, a group of professors that represents the Faculty Senate in meetings with administrators, expects to discuss the topic at its meeting today, chair Eric Sandgren said.
A Madison spokeswoman, Meredith McGlone, denied any wholesale rejection of accommodation requests.
“The university is committed to careful and thoughtful review of each accommodation request and meeting its full requirements under state and federal law,” she said in a statement. “There has been no blanket policy dictating the results of accommodation requests. As the law requires, the university reviews each request individually on the specific circumstances involved and responds accordingly.”