Can You Talk about the Mask Policy in the Classroom?

Keith E. Whittington, Princeton Professor of Politics
The Volokh Conspiracy, Reason Magazine

Excerpt: The University of Iowa has declared itself to be a largely mask-free campus for the Fall of 2021. The state legislature banned mask mandates by cities, counties and public schools, but not state universities. Nonetheless, the board of regents for the state university system adopted a policy that masks can be required only in very limited circumstances. In the face of faculty protests, the University of Iowa provost has followed that up with more detail, including some very interesting language about what faculty are allowed to say about the mask mandate.

Although the regents said that masks are "strongly encouraged" but not "required," the provost’s guideline indicates that professors may not even "ask" students to wear masks, or about their vaccination status. These policies could run against the guiding principles that emphasize the importance of fostering a culture of robust debate on campus. Avoiding any speech that might make the unvaccinated uncomfortable is certainly in some tension with those principles.