Gators wear masks — or there will be consequences.
Anyone in a UF facility is required to wear face masks and respect social distancing, UF spokesperson Steve Orlando told The Alligator. If students don’t follow the COVID-19 prevention policies, they can lose privileges and even be suspended or expelled.
Parties on- and off-campus are strictly prohibited, according to a Friday email sent to students from Vice President of Student Affairs D’Andra Mull.
“One fun party or night bending the rules will have devastating consequences,” Mull wrote.
She made a similar statement to students July 2 warning students to stay away from Fourth of July parties.
Orlando didn’t provide information about what privileges students would lose.
“Failure to follow COVID-19 related policies and procedures is viewed and will be treated as a serious offense,” Orlando wrote in an email to The Alligator.
Students who don’t wear masks can be barred from classrooms by professors, Mull said during an Aug. 6 town hall. Students who aren’t allowed back in the classroom will be able to make up any work they miss, Orlando added in an email.
In classrooms, faculty are responsible for enforcing the COVID-19 policies, Orlando wrote. UF administration, Student Affairs and University Police will enforce policies on the rest of campus, he added.
If a student continually doesn’t wear masks, respect social distancing or exhibits “egregious” behavior, they can lose their privileges or be expelled or suspended.
Punishments aren’t the only tool UF will use to enforce the mask mandate. The university is posting signs around the campus to remind students about the mask policy and require those who violate it for the first time to take an educational session at Student Affairs’ COVID-19 education office, Orlando wrote.
UF will also have extra masks at information desks in facilities and some available for purchase in the bookstore.
“Widely, students understand that wearing a mask is necessary for protecting the community,” he wrote. “In most cases, an individual likely forgot or left a mask at home.”
To ensure that people on campus are following COVID-19 policies, UF is encouraging students and employees to report violations through the GatorSafe app.
If people contract COVID-19 on campus and the university can prove it, UF will close like it did in Spring, said Michael Lauzardo, director of the UF Health Screen, Test & Protect, in an Aug. 18 Zoom town hall.
As of now, he said UF hasn’t found evidence of COVID-19 transmission on campus but said that he expects it will happen.
“There are going to be people that breach protocols,” he said. “There might be protocols that we have in place that aren't good enough.”
He also said he doesn’t have an interest in remaining open if it will be at the expense of others. If UF needs a temporary lockdown, the university is willing to do that and examine the measures it is taking, he added.
The university previously said it wouldn’t change its operations if a student or faculty member died from the virus.
UF employees who don’t wear masks or respect social distancing while in UF facilities will be asked to leave and reported to Human Resources, according to a July 17 HR policy. Those who refuse may be escorted out by UPD or dismissed.
Not complying with the mask or social distancing policies can also be considered disruptive behavior and punished under UF’s regulation 1.008, according to the HR policy. These regulations cover UF employees and students and allow UF to take disciplinary action against those who don’t comply with orders.
UPD officers are also required to wear masks, according to UPD Capt. Mitchal Welsh. If an officer doesn’t wear a mask, they won’t be immediately punished, but instead reminded about the requirement. If an officer repeatedly violates the mandate, they could be punished, Welsh added. He didn’t explain how they will be punished.
Visitors on UF’s campus are also required to follow social distancing and mask requirements, Orlando wrote. If a visitor doesn’t follow guidelines, they will be asked to leave, Orlando wrote. If someone refuses, UPD officers will remove them from campus.
Alachua County has its own mask mandate requiring everyone to wear a face mask indoors and where social distancing isn’t possible. UF can punish students for not following county ordinances, according to the UF Student Code of Conduct.
Gainesville Mayor Lauren Poe promised to alert UF when students violate Alachua County’s mask order in a July 15 meeting with UF Senior Vice President Charles Lane and city and county commissioners.
While Alachua County has required the use of face masks since May, Alachua County spokesperson Mark Sexton said UF’s and Alachua County’s policies have similar requirements.
“When a student leaves campus and walks across University Avenue, they are in the city of Gainesville,” Sexton said. “It’s important that they don’t have one set of rules for when they are on-campus and another set of rules when they cross the street.”
Alachua County fines residents who repeatedly don’t comply with the mask order, Sexton said. There is an exception for residents who have a medical condition that impacts their ability to wear a mask.
The county sends code enforcers to businesses that residents have complained about. He added that the code enforcers give out masks and keep people who refuse to wear one outside.
“If a violation occurs off campus you will be subject to fines, misdemeanors or even arrest that could have significant impacts on your future endeavors,” Mull wrote in the Friday email.
Ariana Aspuru contributed to this report.
Lianna Hubbard is a reporter for The Alligator’s Investigative Team. The UF women’s study major began as a freelance reporter three years ago. She founded her community college’s award-winning newspaper before beginning at The Independent Florida Alligator. See an issue in your community or a story at UF? Send tips to her Twitter.