Face coverings will still be a part of campus life in MU classrooms and other indoor gathering spots, at least for another month.
The UM System Board of Curators on Monday voted to extend its COVID-19 mask requirement for another 30 days, to Oct. 15. The decision applies to all four UM campuses.
The move came six weeks after the administration temporarily imposed a mask policy for its four campuses. That policy was set to expire Wednesday.
In extending most aspects of the temporary policy, the new policy that will be in effect until Oct. 15 has one significant difference: students and faculty who have been vaccinated will not be required to wear masks to indoor events where attendance is voluntary, including sports and social events.
Also, while mask-wearing will continue to be enforced in classrooms and other indoor settings in which attendance for students and faculty is mandatory, enforcement of mask-wearing at sports and other voluntary events will be based on an honor system. Participants who don’t wear masks will be expected to self-report whether they are vaccinated, President Mun Choi said.
During the meeting, which was held online and by conference call, Choi provided curators with a detailed look at COVID-19 hospitalizations in Boone County, which is home to MU. He followed up with a comparison to how other universities that play athletics in the Southeastern Conference are handling the current state of the pandemic.
Choi said that the UM System’s limited mask requirement was working to minimize illnesses on the university system‘s four campuses.
After Choi’s presentation, curators motioned several resolutions.
Curator Todd Graves motioned to extend the mask policy except for vaccinated individuals. It also included taking off the mask policy for events where attendance is voluntary.
Some curators didn’t like the division that this could cause between the students.
“I don’t want to separate the student body. The student body should be as one, and it would be divisive to make some people wear masks and others not,” Curator Keith Holloway said.
This motion failed with a vote of 6-3.
Curator Michael Williams motioned to modify the current mask policy to require masks in all public indoors spaces.
“I feel like a complete hypocrite now, especially if we are going to have the honor system in one place and not the other. What is the difference between wearing a mask at a basketball game and wearing it in the classroom? I feel we should either be all in or all out,” Williams said.
After several questions and arguments to this motion, it was withdrawn.
The new mask policy passed with a vote of 5-4.
Voting to extend the mask mandate were Holloway, Julia Brncic, Maurice Graham, Greg Hoberock and Robin Wenneker.
Voting against the measure were Graves, Williams, Jeffrey Layman and chair Darryl Chatman.
Meanwhile, the Columbia School Board unanimously approved extending a mask mandate in school buildings and on school buses Monday evening. It is part of the districts larger plan to address the spread of COVID-19.