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UofSC students weigh in on campus mask mandate

Published: Aug. 18, 2021 at 6:51 PM EDT
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COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) - Along with their laptops and textbooks, University of South Carolina students will need to pack their masks for the first day of class Thursday because they are now required to wear them.

Tuesday, UofSC’s Interim President Dr. Harris Pastides reinstated the university’s mask mandate after the South Carolina Supreme Court ruled that a temporary law passed in the state budget, called a proviso, did not prohibit institutions of higher learning from imposing mask requirements on campus.

Pastides had initially announced the face-covering mandate in July, but the university rolled it back after South Carolina Attorney General Alan Wilson sent a letter to Pastides, writing that he believed the mandate violated the law.

PREVIOUS STORY | SC State Supreme Court says UofSC can impose a mask requirement on campus

With the mandate back in effect following the Supreme Court’s ruling, people are required to wear a face-covering inside buildings on campus, except for when they are in their own dorm room or private office, or when they are eating.

Some students said they had planned to wear masks when classes resumed, regardless of if they were required to do so.

“I was kind of glad to hear about it,” UofSC junior Nohl Johnson said. “I have the vaccine, and I’m not too, too worried about it, but I would still feel much safer, being around people indoors with masks on.”

“We want, you know, to live a normal life, but it’s to protect people from spreading the new variant and to protect family, too, so if you’re going to see older family members. There’s older teachers here, you know, the staff and faculty that work here too, we don’t want to be giving them COVID for, you know, the things that college students do,” senior Olivia Charlop said.

Other students said, because they are fully vaccinated, they were not planning to mask up if they had not been required.

“Honestly, I was not hoping to see it back in place,” junior Alexandra Hughes said. “It’s a lot to wear your mask all the time, and now, being vaccinated, I was just hoping that we wouldn’t have to go back to all masks.”

“I would not be wearing a mask. I’m vaccinated,” freshman Chase Taras added.

Taras said the back-and-forth over the mandate’s legality to a confusing start to the school year, before he even took his first college class.

“They said that we’re going to have to wear masks, and then they actually took down the mandate, so I was looking forward to that, and then last night, we’re in my dorm, and we got the email that we had to wear masks, so it was a little upsetting,” he said.

Students who were on campus last year, when a previous face-covering mandate was in place said faculty enforced it in their classrooms, and they expect the same to happen this semester.

“We did have to follow it. They would say, like, ‘Put it over your nose, please,’” Hughes said.

But last year, it was a different story off campus, where they said mask-wearing was lax.

“However, the police would give out tickets for people that weren’t wearing masks, so kind of forced you to wear a mask unless you want a really expensive ticket,” Charlop said.

That won’t be the case this year, as the City of Columbia no longer has a mask mandate in place, so students said they believe masks will be even less prevalent off-campus.

“Just where they required, I feel like we have to, and then if you’re going anywhere else, nobody wears them,” Hughes said. “So it’s kind of counterintuitive. Like it doesn’t really, I feel like, work all the time.”

Because they said wearing a mask in hot and humid Columbia can be difficult, students are hoping they won’t have to do so for the entire school year.

“I think if people get vaccinated, we can get rid of this mask policy,” Taras said.

“We did it last year. We can do it again,” Charlop added.

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