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Students protest dropping mask mandate; UNR releases statement

Students at the University of Nevada, Reno walked out of class Monday, Feb. 14, 2022 in protest...
Students at the University of Nevada, Reno walked out of class Monday, Feb. 14, 2022 in protest of the university repealing its mask mandate.(KOLO)
Published: Feb. 11, 2022 at 4:28 PM PST|Updated: Feb. 15, 2022 at 12:03 PM PST
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RENO, Nev. (KOLO) - The University of Nevada Reno released a statement following Monday’s demonstration where students walked out of class in protest of the university repealing its mask mandate.

“As an institution of higher learning, it is a responsibility within our educational mission to provide an environment where perspectives and experiences are shared safely, with respect and with a thorough understanding of points of view which sometimes may differ. Today’s (Monday’s) demonstration was an example where there was an exchange of ideas and constructive, peaceful action regarding public issues.”

Students gathered near the library Monday, Feb. 14, and marched across campus. They were also joined by faculty who oppose dropping the mask mandate.

Dozens gathered to voice their disapproval of the decision and why they think it’s too soon for people to be letting their guard down.

”I think dropping the mask mandate is premature,” said graduate student Alex Milham. “We still have high transmission, we’re still hearing about lots of cases, those of us teaching from our students, and it’s just not safe yet. “

An online petition calling on the Nevada System of Higher Education to reinstate the mask mandate through the spring semester had more than 1,900 signatures from students, staff and faculty as of Tuesday, Feb. 15.

It began circulating last week following Governor Steve Sisolak’s announcement that he was dropping the mask mandate in Nevada.

University President Brian Sandoval says individual schools cannot impose stricter mandates beyond those set by the NSHE.

ORIGINAL STORY: A petition calling on the Nevada System of Higher Education to reinstate masks on campuses has gathered more than 900 signatures.

The petition sponsored by the Nevada Graduate Student Workers expresses “deep concern with the repeal of the masking mandate.”

NSHE institutions dropped mask requirements Thursday, the same day Nevada Governor Steve Sisolak announced he was rescinding the mask mandate.

The petition calls on NSHE leadership to reinstate mask requirements through the Spring 2022 semester as long as the COVID-19 transmission rate remains high as reported by local health districts.

The petition says in part: “This will enable us to have an in-person presence throughout the remainder of the Spring 2022 semester, as is clearly preferred by the majority of workers and attendees. Our petition was originally rooted in the safety and comfort of everyone at UNR, as well as the desire to limit the number of absences due to infection. We have since expanded our petition to be rooted in the safety and comfort for anyone at any NSHE institution, as we call on the Board of Regents for change.”

In a letter to students and staff, UNR President Brian Sandoval said that individual NSHE institutions cannot unilaterally impose more stringent face covering requirements beyond Nevada law. “Stricter face covering requirements, according to NSHE’s legal determination, involve systemwide policy decisions that fall outside of an individual institution’s discretion,” Sandoval said.

He also encouraged those NSHE employees and students who wish to continue wearing masks on campus to do so.

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