HELENA, Mont. – Montana campus faculty associations have urged the Montana College System Board of Regents to implement mask requirements this fall.
In a virtual meeting to discuss a separate funding resolution on Monday, two representatives from faculty associations used a public comment period to make adjustments for the fall semester, as coronavirus cases continue to rise in the state.
Amanda Dawsey, president of the University of Montana Faculty Association, thanked the Board of Regents for their efforts last fall and spring semester to keep students and faculty safe. But added that there are big concerns about not having the same protections in place this fall.
âI have received many messages from professors who are very concerned about the safety of their classrooms, laboratories and other indoor spaces, giving the increasing number of covid infections and the low vaccination rate among residents of the college-age Missoula County, among many other factors, âDawsey said. “I’m here simply to urge the board to use all available tools, including a mask requirement, to prevent COVID on campus.”
Bradford Watson of Montana State University echoed Dawsey’s request when he shared his thoughts on behalf of representatives of the Montana University System Faculty Association (MUSFAR).
âSince many of our campuses are in the CDC’s high risk category and we know things can change quickly and drastically with COVID, MUSFAR is asking the board to require face coverings for all spaces interiors, for all campuses this fall, for everyone’s safety. And for that to be extended into the spring semester if necessary, âWatson said.
âProfessors on MUS (Montana University System) campuses have expressed serious concerns about the safety of everyone on their campuses, in classrooms, laboratories and all public spaces,â Watson added. âAnd we know that indoor masking is the most effective way, regardless of immunization status, to keep our communities safe. “
While the board of trustees and higher education commissioner Clayton Christian did not respond to the public comment at Monday’s meeting, a recent note from Christian’s office to the Montana board of directors to CEOs of the university system and to presidents of Montana Community College describes Christian’s position.
“Although OCHE (Office of the Commissioner for Higher Education) does not support full mask requirements or vaccine mandates on our campuses, I encourage each campus to work closely with their local public health authorities. and local governments when issuing advice under changing circumstances, âreads Christian’s August 6 memo. Likewise, campuses should continue to evaluate their event hosting plans, campus operations and testing related to Covid-19, tracing and quarantine protocols in close coordination with local public health authorities. “
Christian’s letter also encouraged campus administrators to support the statewide vaccination campaign in Montana, including the use of vaccination incentive programs:
âMany of our campuses have played a pivotal role in the Montana statewide immunization campaign, and there is no doubt that we will continue to support immunization efforts across the system and across the country. ‘State. Part of these efforts may be vaccination incentive programs. As campuses consider implementing such programs, we will need to follow a consistent approach across MUS that aligns with current state and federal regulations. Campuses can expect to receive further information from OCHE regarding appropriate immunization incentives in the very near future.
The two University of Montana President Seth Bodnar and Montana State University President Waded Cruzado issued letters on Tuesday encouraging the use of masks on campus, regardless of immunization status. None of the campuses have gone so far in requiring masks or implementing mandates.
On Wednesday, a representative of the Board of Regents shared the following response to public comments received at Monday’s meeting: “The board appreciates the feedback received by faculty at Monday’s meeting and continues to closely monitor the pandemic, in especially the progression of the Delta variant. The commissioner’s office, in consultation with the board, has asked campuses to coordinate with local public health and government officials to develop strategies that reflect local conditions. We do not anticipate any change in this direction.