Photo: Smokey VII @University of Tennessee, Knoxville ; Photo Credit: Marit & Toomas Hinnosaar / CC
The Tennessee Conservative [By Jason Vaughn] –
Less than one day after announcing that they were lifting their mask mandate to comply with newly passed state legislation, the University of Tennessee system has reverted back to requiring masks on its Knoxville campus.
According to university officials, the reinstated mandate is necessary in order for them to comply with a federal executive order that requires any federal contractors to follow CDC mask protocol.
Chancellor Donde Plowman released an open letter to faculty and staff in an effort to explain the situation.
“Despite our very low COVID-19 numbers on campus, we are working to maintain compliance with applicable laws. We must put a mask requirement back in place for most UT Knoxville buildings, which we plan to do effective Monday, November 22,” Plowman wrote.
*** CLICK HERE to support Conservative Journalism in Tennessee. We can’t cover stories like this without your support! ***
UT System President Randy Boyd sent an email to employees on Monday announcing a lift to the mandate to place the university incompliance with the new Tennessee law.
According to Plowman, because UT Knoxville is a federal contractor, they are required to follow the federal order issued by President Joe Biden, mandating that all employees who work for federal contractors be vaccinated by January 4 and follow CDC guidance, which includes mandated masks.
“Because federal funding is at stake, the new state law provides federal contractors with the ability to apply for an exemption to the state law, and President Boyd applied on behalf of the UT System to the state comptroller. We received notice of the exemption yesterday, shortly after President Boyd’s email was sent,” stated Plowman.
The university is waiting until Monday to reinstate the mandate because they are waiting to see what happens as a result of a lawsuit filed by the Tennessee attorney general. The lawsuit is a challenge to that federal order, alleging that a vaccine mandate is unconstitutional.
Plowman stated that a court ruling on that lawsuit will help to clarify what UT Knoxville must do legally in regards to the COVID-19 mandates.
Plowman also addressed the situation with students, informing them of the impending reinstatement and asking them to continue to do what makes them comfortable until next Monday.
“In the meantime, please make whatever personal choice you think is best while being respectful of your fellow students, professors, and all members of our campus community. If someone asks you to mask up, please consider doing so. That person may have a reason to be concerned about contracting COVID-19,” Plowman said.
No announcement has been made from any other UT Campus at this time.
About the Author: Jason Vaughn, Media Coordinator for The Tennessee Conservative ~ Jason previously worked for a legacy publishing company based in Crossville, TN in a variety of roles through his career. Most recently, he served as Deputy Directory for their flagship publication. Prior, he was a freelance journalist writing articles that appeared in the Herald Citizen, the Crossville Chronicle and The Oracle among others. He graduated from Tennessee Technological University with a Bachelor’s in English-Journalism, with minors in Broadcast Journalism and History. Contact Jason at news@TennesseeConservativeNews.com