Repeal of Stetson University College of Law Mask Mandate
Repeal of Stetson University College of Law Mask Mandate
Why this petition matters
February 8, 2022
Dear Stetson University College of Law:
We are voicing our concerns because we were promised—explicitly—that operations at Stetson University College of Law would return to normal. As of today’s date, the Gulfport Campus is at an 83.81% verified vaccination rate. Students have reached an 80.98% verified vaccination rate. There are ZERO students who are currently in COVID isolation. We firmly believe that these numbers speak for themselves.
In an email sent to students on July 7, 2021, Stetson promised that the mask mandate at the College of Law would be lifted upon the Stetson Law Community reaching a 70% vaccination rate. By July 7, 2021, the Delta variant had already emerged. The WHO knew about it. The CDC knew about it. It was covered by news programs and the public knew about the Delta variant. Everyone knew there would be even more variants, like Omicron. Still, Stetson students were promised there would be no more mask mandate for vaccinated students at a 70% vaccination rate.
We have exceeded that threshold and have seen no change.
We are equal parts disappointed, sad, and helpless. Students have been following Stetson’s protocols since the 2020 Spring semester. We have followed rules. We have shifted to online classes. We have adapted to hybrid learning environments. We have been flexible. In spite of everything we students have done to abide, obey, and tolerate Stetson’s rules, we still have not received the one thing we were promised on July 7 of 2021. We all ask that Stetson rescind its mask mandate as promised.
As a nation, 64% of Americans are vaccinated. Herd immunity can be achieved by both vaccination and natural infection. The current nationwide vaccination goal is 80%. 65% of Florida’s population has been fully vaccinated. By all measurements, in our microcosm at Stetson’s Gulfport campus, we are within national guidelines, above the national average, and above the state average.
Still, we have seen no change.
We must ask: what is the next step? Students at Stetson have been kept in the dark too long. In fact, there does not seem to be a plan to return to normal. Each and every time a “return to normalcy” becomes a possibility, Stetson has unilaterally made changes to its supposed plan and delayed a return to normal.
The only guidelines and plan Stetson issued was breached by not returning campus to normal after reaching a 70% vaccination rate. Do we students need to achieve a higher vaccination rate? A higher vaccination rate may not be possible. People with certain allergies or medical conditions are not be able to be vaccinated. Not to mention a variety of religions bar certain medical procedures, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Scientologists, Christian Scientists, and Rastafarians, to name a few. At Stetson, we pride ourselves on this school’s unique cultural diversity and these medical and religious aspects may make a higher vaccination rate an impossibility at the College of Law.
A central tenant of law school is networking. We have professors and our fellow classmates who don’t even know what each other actually look like. “Oh I did not recognize you without the mask,” may have started out as a joke, however, this joke has some very real consequences when it comes to obtaining letters of recommendation for employment opportunities on the horizon for all Stetson students.
We understand Stetson is not to blame for this pandemic. Wearing masks, initially, was a national mandatory precaution that we agree needed to be followed. That said, everywhere we look, people are maskless. Prominent law schools like the University of Florida Levin College of Law and Florida State University: College of Law have repealed their mask mandates. Moreover, these schools are promoting and encouraging their law students to network with each other. Both the Levin College of Law and FSU’s College of Law have hosted several social events with their law students. Students at these prominent schools are gaining a leg-up on Stetson students simply by being able to network with their classmates and faculty.
Looking at the Pinellas County Justice Center in Clearwater, there are absolutely no mask requirements. In fact, Chief Judge Rondolino issued an administrative order eliminating a mandatory mask requirement. Throughout St. Petersburg and Gulfport, mask mandates have been done away with.
At Stetson? Still, no change.
In terms of networking, these are just some minor issues. These are issues, however, we need to speak about with Stetson.
What is more troubling is that students have heard of a Faculty Party on the horizon to be held in the Advocacy Center. We would like to this discuss immediately.
If Stetson prefers not to take into consideration the problems students are facing as a result of this mask mandate, we can change tack. From a liability standpoint, Stetson University would not be held liable for any of the unlikely harms of rescinding the mask mandate. Governor DeSantis signed a bill into law which eliminates liability for private businesses with regards to COVID transmissions. No one is asking Stetson to create a completely safe utopia, nor is Stetson legally obligated to create said utopia.
Many European countries are no longer requiring masks full time in school. Many of the countries do not require masks when the students are seated or require them at all. We encourage Stetson to look beyond our own shores and see what other countries are successfully doing to combat COVID. Even in America, mask mandates and COVID restrictions are withdrawing, with states ending their mask-mandates in schools.
Masks lead to an incredible amount of waste and pollution. Studies have shown the effect of masking has had a drastically negative impact on the environment.
In sum, we are asking Stetson to rescind its mask mandate based on scientific, logical, educational, monetary, and environmental reasons. At the very least, Stetson must provide qualitative and quantitative reasons for significantly hampering our law school experience and address the arbitrary and illogical COVID restrictions.
Despite the Safer Campus Task force’s Guiding Principle to “prize integrity, equity and transparency in our deliberations,” we students have received no insight whatsoever about how any decisions have been made.
We are asking for answers. We are asking to speak with those in charge of making COVID-related decisions. We are asking for Stetson to honor its promise.
We are asking for change.
Very Truly Yours,
Stetson University College of Law Students