State Universities Encourage Masks, But Won't Require Them For Now

Jul 9, 2020

Credit South Dakota Board of Regents

None of South Dakota’s public universities are planning to require masks in the fall semester. Instead, they’re strongly encouraging masks by setting an example through social media and other platforms. 

South Dakota State University in Brookings and Dakota State University in Madison are deferring to the Board of Regents on masking policies as conversations continue between the board and university presidents. The BOR is meeting on July 22nd. Spokesperson Janelle Toman says in an email, “While an agenda has not been finalized yet, it seems likely that further planning for fall semester will be discussed.”

In the meantime, other campuses are actively encouraging masks. Justin Fraase is Vice President of Enrollment, Communications and Marketing for Northern State University in Aberdeen.

“We have posters throughout campus, throughout our tv system. Everything that’s pushing—‘Mask Up, Wolves’ is pretty much the phrase that we’re using," he says.

Fraase has watched campus visitors put on a mask once they realize employees are wearing them.

“So we’re really trying to set the tone that it’s ok to do, it’s highly recommended that you do. Except at this point we’re not able to require or mandate that.”

South Dakota School of Mines and Technology in Rapid City is taking a similar approach. A recent Facebook post shows President Jim Rankin wearing a mask and encouraging students and staff to do the same.  

President Rankin doesn’t think it’s necessary to require masks on campus just yet.

“We think that students and faculty and staff will understand the importance and know that we’re highly encouraging them," explains Rankin. "And I think you’re still going to see a lot of our community wearing a mask when they’re on campus.”

In addition to encouraging masks, campuses are considering other precautions like increased cleaning in communal spaces and offering single-occupancy dorm options. School of Mines is also adding cameras in classrooms to give students an option of coming to the classroom or streaming the lecture online.