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YSU faculty members to protest university’s COVID-19 plan for fall semester

YSU’s decision-making process came under scrutiny after Mahoning Matters reported on recent Facebook posts by Julie Gentile, YSU’s director of Environmental Occupational Health and Safety who is the head of the committee that determines how the university implements pandemic safety protocols.
YSU 12062019
(Photo by William D. Lewis | Mahoning Matters)

YOUNGSTOWN — Members of YSU-OEA, the faculty union at Youngstown State University, will protest outside Tod Hall at 9 a.m. Friday over the YSU administration’s COVID-19 plan for fall semester, which begins Aug. 30. 

Despite a surge of new COVID-19 infections due to the delta variant’s spread in Ohio, YSU is not requiring face masks or vaccines.

In areas where not everyone is vaccinated, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends “consistent and correct use of masks,” especially in areas where the CDC lists the level of community transmission as substantial to high.

Mahoning County is currently listed as having substantial community transmission, as are Trumbull and Columbiana counties, a news release states.

YSU is one of the only public universities in Ohio not requiring social distancing or masks to be worn indoors, the release states.

The Ohio State University has announced students, faculty, staff and visitors are required to wear masks indoors at all campuses facilities regardless of vaccination status. Masks are required outdoors for unvaccinated individuals when social distancing is not possible. The University of Cincinnati also announced an indoor mask mandate and Kent State University followed up with a similar indoor mask mandate last week.

Some public universities are also requiring students living on campus and faculty and staff to be vaccinated before the start of fall semester. Cleveland State University has said it would require all students living on campus for the fall semester to be vaccinated against COVID-19.

YSU’s decision-making process came under scrutiny after Mahoning Matters reported on recent Facebook posts by Julie Gentile, YSU’s director of Environmental Occupational Health and Safety who is the head of the committee that determines how the university implements pandemic safety protocols. 

Several of the posts were labeled by Facebook as containing misinformation about COVID-19, and other posts criticized mask and vaccine mandates. 

YSU-OEA has requested the data used to formulate COVID-19 protection policies on campus, maintaining that current measures do not align with CDC or city and county health department guidelines.

“We are becoming increasingly concerned that the university policy is out of step with best practices and with current science, and we’re troubled by the university’s reluctance to deploy even the most basic, sensible and recommended measures to protect students, staff and the community at large,” Mark Vopat, YSU-OEA spokesperson, said in the release.

“Administration has even prohibited faculty from requiring masking and social distancing in their own classrooms. This prevents us from protecting our most vulnerable students and colleagues, and the vulnerable family members and communities they may return home to,” Vopat said.

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