Northern Iowa professor who required masks ordered to teach from home

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University of Northern Iowa

CEDAR FALLS, Iowa (AP) — A University of Northern Iowa biology professor who required masks be worn in his classroom and threatened lower grades for students who refused has been relegated to online teaching and stripped of his eligibility for merit pay.

UNI professor Steve O’Kane Jr. had circulated a resolution among his colleagues saying faculty should be allowed to manage their classrooms, pushing back against a state law banning mask mandates.

Regents President Mike Richards in May barred administrators from requiring masks or vaccines. He’s maintained that position despite the more contagious delta variant.

O’Kane received a disciplinary letter from UNI College of Humanities, Arts and Sciences Dean John Fritch, The Gazette of Cedar Rapids reported. Beside the loss of merit pay and removal from in-person classes, the letter requires O’Kane to complete training addressing his professional responsibilities as a faculty member — including following university policies — by Nov. 30.

Despite the letter’s warning that he could be fired if he fails to comply with university policies on face masks, O’Kane said he will require masks again in the spring if he’s allowed to return to in-person teaching.

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