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USC Aiken, S.C. State, Aiken Tech, other campuses require masks

Published: Aug. 18, 2021 at 9:30 AM EDT|Updated: Aug. 18, 2021 at 1:09 PM EDT
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AIKEN, S.C. (WRDW/WAGT) - Ahead of the start of fall classes, the University of South Carolina Aiken, South Carolina State in Orangeburg and Aiken Technical College in Graniteville are requiring masks on campus.

The decisions, announced Wednesday, follow a ruling Tuesday by the state Supreme Court that the University of South Carolina in Columbia could require masks on campus as a way to curb the spread of coronavirus.

Almost immediately after the ruling, colleges and universities across the Palmetto State began requiring masks. In addition to the local schools, they include Clemson, Francis Marion University and Carolina Coastal University.

In a statement, USC Aiken Chancellor Dr. Daniel Heimmermann said that “based upon local, state, and national conditions starting Wednesday August 18, 2021 the University will require all persons to wear face coverings indoors at all campus facilities except when eating or in personal spaces where adequate social distancing can be maintained.”

James Raby, director of marketing and communication at the university, told News 12: “Mask wearing will be a key part of our Pacer strategy, and we will adjust our COVID-19 strategies as necessary throughout the semester.”

He said those with further questions can refer to the fall COVID-19 plan at https://usca.edu/pacer-ready.

Fall classes start Thursday at USC Aiken.

At South Carolina State University in Orangeburg, students and employees will now be required to wear masks inside all university buildings except in personal offices, individual campus residence hall rooms and while eating.

The move comes a few days after the school adjusted the fall 2021 semester to delay the state of classes until Aug. 23. The university said it would use the time to develop additional campus safety protocols in light of the increase in COVID-19 cases in South Carolina.

Aiken Technical College in Graniteville also joined the list of schools requiring masks.

“Effective August 18, all students, faculty, staff, and campus guests are required to wear face masks or appropriate face coverings while in public areas on campus, regardless of vaccination status,” the school posted on its website.

At other schools in the state:

  • University of South Carolina Interim President Harris Pastides released a statement saying the mask requirement would go into effect immediately on the Columbia campus.
  • Clemson will require masks in all of its statewide buildings including classrooms, instructional facilities, offices, labs, and residential and dining halls except while eating or in private spaces.
  • Coastal Carolina University will require everyone to wear a mask indoors except in individual residence rooms, private offices and if eating and drinking in the dining hall. Masks must also be worn on university shuttle buses.
  • Students, faculty and staff at Francis Marion University will be required to wear masks in all indoor and public areas on campus.

About the ruling

At issue in the court ruling was a proviso of the state budget stating: “A public institution of higher learning, including a technical college, may not use any funds appropriated or authorized pursuant to this act to require that its students have received the COVID-19 vaccination in order to be present at the institution’s facilities without being required to wear a facemask. This prohibition extends to the announcement or enforcement of any such policy.”

The state’s high court said the proviso “does not prohibit a universal mask mandate.”

“Nothing in the proviso manifests the General Assembly’s intent to prohibit all mask mandates at public institutions of higher learning,” the court ruling states. “Instead, the proviso clearly prevents state-supported institutions of higher education from using funds from the 2021-2022 appropriations to fund efforts requiring only unvaccinated individuals to wear face masks.”

South Carolina Attorney General Alan Wilson released a statement on the ruling saying: “We said all along the proviso was inartfully drafted. While we disagree with the Supreme Court’s ruling, we certainly understand its rationale and anticipated this was a reading the Court could give.”

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