Middle Tennessee State University's senior administrators delivered strong messages on the institution's requirement for students, faculty, staff and visitors to wear face coverings and practice social distancing — adding that resuming on-ground instruction this fall may hinge on how well the community follows recommended health practices to deter the spread of COVID-19.
"If you want to be on campus, if you want the university to continue to stay open, you need to do these things: You need to wear a mask, you have to wash your hands, you need to do the things that the CDC and our local and state health officials ask you to do, " President Sidney A. McPhee said in an interview Friday with C-SPAN's Washington Journal.
Also, Provost Mark Byrnes, in an interview with MTSU's public affairs show, Out of the Blue, struck a similar tone. "Masks will be required in the classroom, so it is really important that everybody understands that, everybody is comfortable with that," he said.
McPhee said Monday the university monitors daily the number of active coronavirus cases in Murfreesboro, Rutherford County and the state of Tennessee and that MTSU's leadership is concerned about trends showing steady increases in all three areas.
The president said the university's plans to reopen for the fall with a modified level of in-person classes and a reduced on-campus student housing population could depend upon how our local communities respond to health recommendations, like the wearing of face coverings and following other safety protocols, during the next two to three weeks.
That point was echoed by Byrnes in his interview: "We are doing everything we can to make (campus) safe, but it is joint effort," he said.
McPhee, in a campuswide email July 14 also shared on MTSU's social media channels, reminded the university community that masks and face coverings are now required in all indoor public settings on campus. That includes, but is not limited to, classrooms, hallways, restrooms, meeting rooms, elevators, stairwells, common work areas and reception areas.
As for the fall, McPhee said on C-SPAN that the university is "requiring students to wear masks in any of our facilities. And if they don't, they will either have to resort to online versions of our program — or they will have to find another institution. We are going to be very strict."
When asked by Washington Journal host John McArdle if MTSU would expel a student who flagrantly disregarded the masking requirement, McPhee offered a one-word answer in response: "Yes."
Byrnes, in his interview on Out of the Blue, spoke directly to students, saying, "If you are watching this and you cannot tolerate the idea of wearing a mask in class, and you are signed up for an on-campus class, you might want to explore a remote option."
For more information on MTSU's response to the global pandemic, go to its website, mtsu.edu/coronavirus.