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SMU Lifts Temporary Mask Mandate

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SMU will no longer mandate masks on campus according to a university announcement on Friday, Oct. 7. The lifted mandate will go into effect Monday, Oct. 11.

“For the remainder of the fall semester, faculty will have the discretion to require students to wear masks in their instructional spaces (classrooms, labs, etc.) and during research activities,” the announcement said. “Masks must also be worn in the health center and on public transportation including campus shuttles.”

SMU President R. Gerald Turner cited low COVID case numbers at SMU and within the local community for the lifted mandate. The SMU COVID-19 dashboard is based on self-reported results, and currently shows 31 active cases of COVID-19 on campus.

“At this point, we are confident that 70% of faculty, 62% of staff, more than 70% of our students living on campus and nearly 60% of our total student population are now fully vaccinated,” Turner wrote.

SMU originally unmandated masks this past May, yet reinstated a temporary mask mandate a week before classes began in August in response to a surge in Delta variant COVID cases.

“Many of our campus members will welcome this move, while others may be apprehensive,” the announcement reads. “It was not an easy decision, but it was data-driven and thoroughly discussed.”

Brandon Choi, a Meadows Student Senator and first-year music education graduate student, is one such apprehensive student. Choi is particularly worried about the potential impact unmasking will have on Meadows students, who especially rely on in-person instruction.

“Lifting the mask mandate will devastate our educational experience,” Choi said. “Rehearsing and performing in-person are core requirements for our degree, and a single positive COVID case robs that experience from the students. There are no alternate, online platform that is remotely close to what we do and learn in an in-person space.”

Still, others welcome the university’s decision to make masks optional.

“I think they’ve done a really great job managing the risk, so I don’t think it’s necessary to keep wearing masks on campus,” SMU senior Kyle Mistele said. “I fully support that they’re allowing professors to require them in classrooms, but I’m glad they’re not mandating it across the board anymore.”

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