Southeast Missouri State University student publication

Southeast offers mask exemptions; requires medical documentation

Friday, August 21, 2020
Resident Assistants Ashley Moellenhoff, Hayley Huntly and Darian Forleet distribute keys on the first day of Residence Life's drive-thru resident check-in, Saturday, Aug. 15. Returning students drove from tent to tent at the Show Me Center receiving information and a health screening before receiving their keys.
Photo by Matt Wagner

The Classroom Safety subcommittee of Southeast has created a process for individuals who may be physically or medically incapable of wearing a mask for extended periods of time to apply for an exemption from classroom protocols.

Vice President for Equity, Access and Behavioral Health and Dean of Students Sonia Rucker said the main contacts for students applying for a pass are the Dean of Students Office or the Center for Behavioral Health and Accessibility, while faculty should apply through the Human Resources Office.

“We have basically come up with a requirement for medical documentation which outlines specifically why they shouldn’t be wearing a mask,” Rucker said.

Interim Director of the Center for Behavioral Health and Accessibility Millicent Odhiambo is the main person who will review medical documentation for students.

Rucker said Southeast created their benchmark for applications based on what other schools are doing and information from the Americans with Disabilities Act.

“We did decide that medical reasons are the primary reason we would exempt someone, because we want to make sure we keep the campus as safe as possible,” Rucker said. “It’s important to us to have as many people as possible wearing masks.”

The committee did approve other reasons people may acceptably apply for a mask, but the application is so narrow it may never be applied for at Southeast. For example, if someone has trauma associated with face coverings, they could feasibly receive a pass after review from Southeast.

Approximately 10 students and 10 faculty members have applied for a pass so far.

Rucker said the most common reasons people apply are for asthma or lung disorders.

Before an exemption is given, the student should try to adjust their schedule to limit time on campus or wear a face shield instead of a mask. The shield is further away from the face and allows for easier breathing.

Students with hearing impairments and their interpreters have been given a clear shield as well to allow for lip reading.

“A lot of the students we’ve been corresponding with have other underlying conditions, so we’ve been working with them to make sure we could give them other accommodations so their time on campus is very limited,” Rucker said. “Most of them we’ve been able to get into either completely online schedules or HyFlex hybrid schedules.”

For more info on mask exemptions, contact the Office for the Dean of Students.