UNI disciplines professor who vowed to lower grades of non-mask wearing students, prof still defiant

Earlier this week we told you about a UNI professor who said he was lowering the grades of students who refused to wear masks.

The University of Northern Iowa today released a statement saying that it is “deeply committed” to the health and safety of its campus.

“We strongly encourage everyone to get vaccinated and wear masks correctly while in indoor public spaces and use multiple other tools at our disposal — including testing, reporting and monitoring,” the statement said. “The rate of positive COVID-19 cases continues to drop in Iowa, Black Hawk County and on campus.”

However, under directives from the Board of Regents, neither the university nor faculty can mandate masks be worn on campus, including in classrooms.

“UNI has processes in place to address violations of university and Board of Regents policy,” the statement said. “After an internal review of actions by a single faculty member, the university has taken appropriate measures to uphold compliance with those policies on campus. We cannot comment further on personnel matters.”

According to the Cedar Rapids Gazette, the professor (Steve O’Kane), has been relieved of his in-person teaching duties for the remainder of the semester and will not be eligible for “merit pay” this year.

The Gazette reports the letter said O’Kane will be expected to comply with all university and Board of Regents policies moving forward.

“Failure to follow such policies may result in further disciplinary action up to and including termination,” the letter reportedly states.

According to the Gazette, his specific discipline includes completing training addressing his professional responsibilities as a faculty member; receiving a ‘needs improvement’ performance evaluation for the 2021-22 academic year (meaning he is ineligible for merit pay); and being removed from his in-person course immediately.

O’Kane reportedly told the Gazette he will impose another mask mandate if given the chance to teach in person in the spring.

“I’m just, one, two, three years from retirement,” he told the Gazette. “And if I were to be terminated, this would not ruin my life.”

Author: Jacob Hall


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