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The Antelope

The Antelope

Don’t make us dig for buried mask mandate updates

Last week, UNK Communications emailed the weekly COVID-19 update as usual. Aside from the general information copied and pasted onto these emails, some information was buried that pertains to UNK students, faculty and visitors.

The mask mandate extension.

Two days before hitting the original deadline of Oct. 6, UNK announced its extension to Oct. 15.  This deadline change should have been better-communicated to the UNK community.

Granted, the Oct. 4 COVID-19 policy changes were in red text, including the information vaccines in Student Health. But the continued mask requirement was still buried below the active positive case numbers and information about vaccinations.

In the original announcement, senior director of marketing and communications, Todd Gottula, sent out a press release Sept. 14 with the title, “UNK stresses vaccinations; Masks required in classrooms, labs beginning Wednesday.”  We appreciated the bold title, but like the headline, the mask mandate was not mentioned until later in the press release.

We should not have to dig for this information.

In the future, UNK policy updates should be communicated with more clarity, especially since this update affects all of campus.

Some students and even some professors attended class last Thursday uncertain if the mask mandate was still in place. Many read the social cues of the room before putting on masks.

This announcement warranted more than a red bullet point in a Phase 3 status description.  

The Sept. 13 COVID-19 update listed 36 positive cases on campus. This number dropped to 17 in the Sept. 20 update, and rose to 19 in the Oct. 4 update.

Even though an update was not sent this week, there are seven positive cases on campus. At the beginning of the school year, UNK Communications established that updates would not be sent out if the number of positive cases was below 10. To provide the UNK community with a little more peace of mind, we recommend that an update still be sent every week.

John Falconer, senior advisor to the chancellor, said the deadline was extended to “clip off the peak of infections on campus and in Kearney.” 

This was decided, so the mask mandate would not have to be reinstated shortly after being lifted. 

At least the other Nebraska universities are firm in their stance on masks. But since when do we copy our NU sisters?

We appreciate that UNK officials do what is best for UNK students, and in this way, our university has become somewhat like the rebellious teenager in the NU family.

Throughout the 2020-21 school year, UNK stood firm in its mask policy, even when Kearney officials abolished the citywide mandate. Before this school year began, UNO, UNL and UNMC enforced mask mandates, while UNK refused.

We are grateful for a university that puts the students first. 

But it’s time to stop being lukewarm with this decision. Masks or no masks?

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