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Guest Column: An Open Letter On The University Of South Carolina’s Mask Mandate

“Individuals can make responsible decisions through consent, not coercion …”

Dear University of South Carolina Board of Trustees and Interim President Pastides:

“I deeply respect all persons’ rights to make their own choices”- Interim President Pastides 

The undersigned parties write this letter in protest of the current mask mandate because we believe that individuals can make responsible decisions through consent, not coercion. We are not anti-mask, rather, we oppose mask mandates. If an individual believes that mask-wearing is a necessary action to undertake, then that individual has every right to do so. However, such an individual has no right to compel others to do so. This is because we believe that individuals can and should make responsible decisions through consent, not coercion.

On August 18th, President Pastides enacted a universal mask mandate. However, shortly after his edict, President Pastides was photographed violating his own mask mandate at a Gamecock Alumni Meeting. This is not a mere matter of hypocrisy, it is a symptom of a much deeper problem: President Pastides fails to recognize that students at the University of South Carolina are adults. We are capable of making clear and well-informed decisions.

Furthermore, this return to a universal mask mandate ignores the data available. While some University students did contract the virus last year, virtually none were hospitalized, and none died. Every update from University administration emphasized that COVID transmission did not occur in the classroom or in university facilities. Promising a return to normalcy, the University urged its students to take the COVID-19 vaccine.

We were promised that we did not need to wear masks if we simply did our part to flatten the curve. We did our part. Even students with initial concerns about the vaccine made the calculated choice for the betterment of the Gamecock community. And yet the University pulled the rug from under our feet, basing their decision-making on hypotheticals and unproven assumptions. All data from the CDC has shown that breakthrough cases resulting in hospitalization or death are virtually nonexistent. The verdict is out: Vaccines work, and, like mask-wearing, students are able to weigh the risk and make the decision to be vaccinated. We do not need draconian, regressive mask mandates when vaccines give students the ability to protect themselves and others.

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Pastides, the Administration, and many Faculty repeatedly lecture us on the importance of the Carolinian Creed. The Carolinian Creed calls upon every student to a set of obligations, such as to practice integrity and uphold respect.

The Carolinian Creed concludes, “Allegiance to these ideals requires each Carolinian to refrain from and discourage behaviors which threaten the freedom and respect every individual deserves.” By breaking the promise of a return to normalcy through vaccinations, the university has violated our trust and failed to practice integrity. By backtracking on the previous policy reversal and his failure to abide by his own mandate in the presence of alumni, Pastides failed to uphold the respect for the Creed. This violation of the students’ trust and respect is the kind of behavior that threatens the freedom and consideration that every individual deserves. It is our obligation as Carolinians to discourage such behavior.

Therefore, the undersigned parties demand that the University of South Carolina and Interim President Harris Pastides abide by the principles upon which they claim to uphold and defend by revoking the universal mask mandate. In the event, the University fails to change its policy, South Carolina lawmakers should call a Special Legislative Session to rectify this injustice.

Sincerely,

Young Americans for Freedom at UofSC
Turning Point USA at University of South Carolina
University of South Carolina College Republicans
Network of Enlightened Women at UofSC
University of South Carolina College Libertarians

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