BOZEMAN — Montana State University extended its mask mandate indefinitely, and some students are not happy with that decision.
“To me and a lot of other students it felt like a betrayal,” said Young Americans For Liberty State Chair Dylan Dean.
Which led to the creation of an online petition started by the Montana State University chapter of Young Americans for Liberty.
Dean explained to MTN News the group's problems with the mandate.
“We have two really," said Dean. "One is just the idea of this top-down control over the students instead of making it a decision for the students or even a lower level like the professors and the other again is that sense of betrayal. We feel defrauded because we chose to come here. We chose to come to this school under the guise of a normal semester.”
But the university says they tried to go another route, but students left them no choice.
“The university, the president asked students to participate in wearing masks voluntarily as a matter of personal responsibility," said MSU Vice President of Communications, Tracy Ellig. "Two days after the start of the semester, we saw complete disregard for that request to voluntarily participate, and so we have gone to a mask requirement.”
Students weighed in when questioned by MTN News.
I think it’s a good idea," said one. "You know, if too many people get COVID then they’re going to go back online, so I think we should do everything we can to stop the spread.”
"I don’t believe in it," said another student. "I think for some people it is very important, and I think it’s mostly a personal decision and it should stay that way.”
“Doesn’t matter," added another student. "It’s not really a problem.”
“I feel like there’s a lot of people like 'you’re taking away my freedoms, you’re taking away my freedoms,' but sometimes there are sacrifices that people have to make," said another." Again, I don’t love wearing masks. I get it. I mean I hate wearing the mask, but after losing family members and things like that, I understand.”
The mask mandate extension was announced last Friday and is for the foreseeable future.
The university did offer a full tuition refund to any student who wanted to leave the university at the beginning of the semester, but Dean argues the decision didn’t give students time to enroll in a different university with classes already starting.
The refund opportunity has since closed.
The rising number of COVID-19 cases in Missoula County has prompted the University of Montana to temporarily expand its mask requirement to indoor spaces on campus.
The COVID Response Team at UM notes Missoula County surpassed previous records for COVID-19 hospitalizations, total daily new cases, and average daily new COVID-19 cases. More than 80% of the active COVID-19 cases are age 20 to 49.
There were 1,619 new COVID cases reported in Montana on Monday, September 20, with a current total of 9,721 active cases in the state, according to the Montana Department of Public Health & Human Services (DPHHS).
Information from DPHHS at this point does not include data on whether new cases occurred among vaccinated or unvaccinated people.
The number of Montanans who have died due to COVID is now 1,887, an increase of 10 since Friday, according to DPHHS.