FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. (KNWA/KFTA) — The University of Arkansas announced Wednesday it will require face coverings in indoor spaces on campus amid rising concerns about the spiking COVID-19 Delta variant.
The UA System Board of Trustees voted Wednesday morning to pass a resolution requiring all its campuses to implement face covering policies.
“The Board directs each campus, division, and unit to implement face covering policies for students, faculty, staff and guests, regardless of vaccination status, in indoor public settings where physical distancing cannot be assured in accordance with CDC guidance regarding the COVID-19 Delta variant,” the resolution stated.
The UA system is headed by the flagship university in Fayetteville. Acting Chancellor Bill Kincaid sent a campus-wide email shortly after 3 p.m. detailing the campus’ mask mandate.
“Effective immediately, masks will be required indoors (in all university facilities, including classrooms) when at least 6-feet of social distancing can’t be maintained,” Kincaid said in the email. “There are limited exceptions including dining areas when consuming food and drink, in private offices and residence hall rooms. This goes for everyone, whether you have been vaccinated or not (though we continue to encourage everyone to get vaccinated).”
Coleman Warren is the UA Student Body President. He said the mask mandate could prevent the situation from forcing a virtual transition—something leaders want to avoid after most students had a stunted learning experience last year during the pandemic.
“It allows us to stay in person and be safe with our entire campus community,” Warren said. “We’re trying to prevent the spread of a disease that’s preventable through masks.”
State Sen. Greg Leding (D) said he applauds the decision, noting he thinks it could prevent the virus’ spread.
“The first goal here is to protect as many people as possible, keep as many people from getting sick as possible,” Leding said. “Also, you don’t want to see disruptions to the school year.”
State Sen. Bob Ballinger (R) said he thinks the UofA is simply trying to appease people and disagrees with the mandate.
“If you give the opportunity for the University of Arkansas to make the more socially-woke decision, that’s what [it’s] going to do,” Ballinger said. “That tends to be the direction they go more often than not.”
Warren said the requirement could save lives and the college experience for students.