Mask Policy Has Faculty Up in Arms

Letter argues Georgia Tech should follow the science of the coronavirus
By Bob Cronin,  Newser Staff
Posted Jul 6, 2020 5:02 PM CDT
Mask Policy Has Faculty Up in Arms
Fans attend a Georgia Tech home football game in 1918, during another pandemic.   (Thomas Carter via AP)

As a research university with a staff of scientists and engineers, Georgia Tech is an institution that shouldn't ignore the realities of science, faculty members say. More than 800 of them—out of a total of 1,100—have signed a letter complaining about the university's plans to reopen its classrooms this fall to students without making face masks mandatory. A professor called the policy "such a flagrant violation of the science that it threatens our core identity as a world class research university," NPR reports. "It's a nightmare for faculty," Janet Murray said. Georgia Tech is bound by the rules set by the University System of Georgia, and faculty members want the school to be able to make such decisions on its own. The faculty also wants contact tracing and large-scale testing. Remote classes should be the standard, the letter said, per CNN. The school plans a combination of remote classes, in-person classes, and hybrids.

The state is confirming an average of about 2,600 new cases of the coronavirus per day in the past week. A biology professor who wants a mask requirement for students said that in a class of 50, there's a good chance that one of them will become infected with the coronavirus. "We have a limited time to change course," he said. Murray expects there will be professors and students who will stay away from campus. Faculties elsewhere are equally concerned. More than 1,000 professors at Penn State signed a similar letter opposing in-person classes, and one said he dreads facing a room of "asymptomatic superspreaders." Paul Kellermann wrote in Esquire that he fears "students will do what students have always done: congregate in packs, drink heavily, and comingle. That is the nature of college culture, with campus serving as a petri dish for the spread of the coronavirus." (More coronavirus stories.)

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