Over 340 active COVID-19 cases have been reported on campus within the first week of the spring semester.
Fifty-six new cases were reported on January 18, the highest number of daily new cases since the start of the pandemic. Twelve of the cases were faculty and staff, 14 were on-campus students, and 30 were off-campus students.
As the omicron variant has driven surges of the virus on campus, a few SMU ethics professors created a petition on Change.org asking the university to reinstate mandatory masking at SMU. The petition argues that the current policy for optional mask-wearing is “prudentially unwise and unethical.”
The petition outlines four arguments for mandatory mask-wearing: (1) Staff should be treated with the same safety and concern that SMU has offered its students, (2) Wearing masks is a matter of public health, not an individual choice, (3) If SMU follows CDC guidelines about reducing isolation and 5-day quarantine periods, the school should also follow CDC guidelines about wearing masks in indoor public spaces, (4) All influential frameworks about ethics agree that universities should require masks on campus.
The petition has received 411 signatures since it was published on Tuesday.
Meanwhile, neighboring schools including UT Dallas, UT Arlington, Baylor, and TCU have taken extra steps to combat the spread of COVID.
Public universities are prohibited from enforcing mask mandates due to Gov. Greg Abbott’s Executive Order GA-38 for governmental entities. Despite lacking mask mandates, both UT Dallas and UT Arlington have moved to online instruction until February 4.
Meanwhile, private universities such as Baylor and TCU have implemented temporary mask mandates and COVID testing protocols for their students and faculty members. Rice is even requiring vaccine boosters and routine COVID testing, in addition to mask-wearing.