Professor Who Required Masks Now Allowed to Teach Online

The University of Northern Iowa will now allow a professor disciplined for requiring masks in his lab-based course on plant science to teach the course online. Last month, the university removed Steve O’Kane, professor of biology, from teaching the course altogether for violating an Iowa Board of Regents policy against classroom mask mandates.

“This was all worked out with my [department] chair and the dean; I really appreciate what they did, I don’t hold either of them responsible. In fact, they both should be applauded for their efforts,” O’Kane told the Iowa City Press-Citizen. “The problem here lies with the Board of Regents.”

Steve Schmadeke, university spokesperson, said in a statement that “board and university policy has not changed and masks will not be mandated in the class.” O’Kane will instead teach his plant systematics course and lab online, and “another high-qualified professor will handle other classroom duties,” Schmadeke added. “UNI continues to support the rights of all our faculty, staff and students and is pleased to have reached a resolution that protects all of those involved.”

Prior to the agreement, O’Kane’s students had campaigned publicly and internally for his reinstatement to professor of record for the course.

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