CHATTANOOGA, TN- With schools and universities being back in session this fall, it is putting everyone back at risk during the COVID-19 pandemic.
In addition to this, in early November, Governor Bill Lee signed a bill entitled from having mask or vaccine mandates unless it was exempted from the law by the State Comptroller. The lifted mandate has put the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga in a very interesting position.
For those that returned to campus during the pandemic, it caused an uproar. “I find it very illogical and highly unthoughtful. There are thousands on top of thousands of students, faculty, and staff that walk this campus daily after returning to campus due to the pandemic and the fact that you do not know who is properly vaccinated, tested, or safely abiding by campus guidelines regarding COVID-19 is outrageous. I think that it would be best for our students, faculty, and staff to wear masks until we are in the clear. Yet, there will not be a sense of normalcy” states UTC senior Donyea McDermott.
The loved ones that have college students hours away from home are very anxious and upset as well with Governor Lee’s decision. “Although she is fully vaccinated, it is the fact that my daughter is about 5 to 6 hours away from home. Given that she is putting herself more at risk while living on campus, going to events, and doing other activities outside of her educational livelihood, I am very worried for her with this lifted mandate. I never know when she could be wearing her mask or not or if she is even taking proper precautionary measures. So, the decision to lift this mandate is very ridiculous to me. I truly do worry not only for my child but for other parents that have to feel the same way I do” stated a UTC parent.
Even those that are a part of UTC’s faculty have major concerns regarding the lifted mask mandate. “What if I contract the virus from a colleague and pass it on to a few students I engage with inside and outside of the classroom? The state legislature does not seem to understand that they are putting many lives at risk. Not just for UTC, but for schools statewide. There are going to be a lot of issues that come from this unthoughtful decision being made” stated UTC staff member Christopher Stokes.
The university’s official website does state that its campus will be abiding by the new state law, but they do highly encourage that wearing a mask will be a good decision to maintain throughout the school year. There are a few requirements of where students, faculty, and staff should always wear their masks. Those locations being the University Health Services, Counseling Center, and the Mocs Shuttle buses.
“I find this very crazy! Honestly ridiculous! You lift the mandate, but still make requirements for when entering specific facilities. At this point the whole campus should just not allow masks! The state and UTC has a lot of work to do when it comes to the priorities of safety and health of those that help fund and keep this state and university functioning” stated McDermott.
With the fall semester coming to an end, the university does wish them a warm sendoff back to their families wishing them a happy holiday and that they remain safe during the continuing pandemic.