Campus Reform | USC reverses mask mandate after policy deemed discriminatory

USC reverses mask mandate after policy deemed discriminatory

The University of South Carolina reversed its mask mandate after the state attorney general sent a letter to the school stating that their policy was against the law.

A state senator wrote a letter to the attorney general that alleged his actions were politically motivated.

The University of South Carolina reversed its mask mandate after the state attorney general sent a letter to the school stating that their policy was against the law.

On August 2, Alan Wilson, the SC Attorney General, tweeted a letter sent to USC President Harris Pastides. The letter interpreted a legislative proviso, or provision, which prohibits discriminatory mask mandates on South Carolina university and college campuses. 

“The Legislature possesses the ultimate authority over health policy and has prohibited mandatory vaccinations and masking at schools and colleges, siding with a student’s liberty interests,” Wilson said in the letter.

Wilson concedes that the legislature could be interpreted to require a mask mandate for all students, but the university cannot force only unvaccinated students to wear masks.

 “One reasonable interpretation is to prohibit discrimination by requiring masks for the unvaccinated,” he wrote.

 USC reversed its previous mask mandate on Tuesday morning following the letter.

“In light of this...the university will not require anyone to wear face coverings in our buildings, except when in university health care facilities and when utilizing campus public transportation, effective August 3,” USC President Harris Pastides said in a statement to The State. “We continue to strongly encourage the use of face coverings indoors, except in private offices or residence hall rooms or while eating in campus dining facilities.”

[RELATED: Universities mandate masks for vaccinated students, employees]

On August 3 South Carolina Senator Dick Harpootlian, a Democrat, bashed Wilson in a two-page letter obtained by The State, claiming Wilson’s letter contained poor reasoning and was motivated by a political agenda. 

“I disagree with your so-called legal analysis and I am concerned about your decision to needlessly insert yourself into the business of the university and the deleterious public health consequences that will follow,” Harpooltian stated.

“Based on my observation of your service as Attorney General, this type of activist, outcome-oriented reasoning calculated to further some political agenda or ambition is a hallmark of your tenure. Nevertheless, given the gravity of the matter, this episode is particularly offensive," he wrote. “I am disappointed but not surprised.”

[RELATED: Monmouth University requires vaccinated students to wear masks for fall semester]

According to The State, Wilson has asked the South Carolina Supreme Court to make a ruling on whether the University of South Carolina can implement a mask mandate.

The Supreme Court will soon decide whether or not to hear the case and could choose to hold a hearing in the near future. The suit points out that the issue is time-sensitive since students return to classes on Aug. 19. 

When contacted for a comment, USC referred Campus Reform to an earlier statement posted on The State.