Gov. Ducey, ASU Pres. Crow duel over mandatory masks

Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey issued an executive order Tuesday afternoon aimed at preventing Arizona State University from enacting a new policy this Fall which requires unvaccinated students attending in-person classes to wear a mask at all times, among other COVID-related regulations.

Ducey responded to the newly announced policy through a series of tweets Monday night calling the policy “social engineering at its worst.” He went on to say that “Health policy should be based on science, not virtue signaling. In America, freedom wins”.

The order itself outlaws the vaccination requirement and the ability of publicly-funded universities and community colleges to inquire about students’ vaccination status. It also waives any requirements which mandate that students wear a mask, as well as those which require mandatory COVID tests for students (unless there is a known outbreak).

Crow responds

Arizona State University President Michael Crow issued a statement in response to the order, saying that the university would comply and “communicate changes in protocols to the university community.” Clarifying the university’s original policy, Crow said that “We did not communicate a vaccine mandate.”

In an interview days before the executive order, Crow emphasized the need for a return to normalcy. Regarding the unvaccinated, Crow went on to highlight the need to continue to follow the guidelines set down by the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention), which just a few short weeks ago required vaccinated people to mask-up indoors while being near other people. 

Ducey reacted to Crow’s statements by saying that the vaccine is effective, but that receiving it is still a private choice. He reminded Crow that public education is a right that taxpayers pay for under the Arizona Constitution, and argued that such limitations on students restricted their constitutional right to public education.

Campus politics

University policy related to COVID regulations has become a contentious issue in Arizona at every level of education, and has brought heated debates to the forefront of legislative bodies ranging from school boards to the State House and Senate floors. However, one particular aspect of our state, mainly the reopening of most of the major urban hubs (maskless) in the past few months, has caused major stress on the ruling bodies of publicly funded Universities across the state. 

Ducey has recently become more vocal in leading the charge against mandates in the state and on campuses, even going as far as saying that the Biden Administration has been more reasonable than some of ASU’s policies.

Arizona continues to see an increase in vaccinations, a low daily COVID-case count, and low COVID-related hospitalizations.

Other Arizona Republicans have concurred with Gov. Ducey’s point of view. State Rep. Travis Grantham called the policy “discriminatory and onerous” and said that he would propose withholding funding from Arizona State if the policy remains (this was before Ducey’s order). Appropriation funding for the University accounted for about 10% of ASU’s total revenues in 2019, amassing to about $328 million dollars.

Calvin Delgado is the southern Arizona correspondent for the Western Tribune

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