How are universities regulating how faculty may discuss COVID-related topics such as mask wearing and vaccinations with students?
Via Keith Whittington (Princeton), we learn of the University of Iowa’s policy. According to it, faculty are not allowed to ask students to wear masks in their classroom or office, nor allowed to ask whether students have been vaccinated. Nor are they allowed to discuss the value of getting vaccinated or wearing masks:
Q: May I make statements in the classroom regarding mask usage or vaccinations?
A: You may only make statements regarding mask usage or vaccinations in the context of course material discussions of health-related issues. Outside that context, if you are asked, you may share your personal choice regarding the decision to wear a mask or be vaccinated without making a statement regarding the value of the choice or any value judgments about decisions not to be vaccinated. Remember that there is a power differential between you and your students, and they may perceive you asking them to wear a mask or if they have been vaccinated as a requirement that they do so.
Whittington says, “That’s an academic freedom problem & potentially a First Amendment problem.”
Does your university have a COVID-related speech policy, and if so what does it say?
UPDATE (8/13/21): Inside Higher Ed has an article on this, and reports that “the university officially removed the guidance from its website Thursday, posting a ‘revisions in progress’ notice.”