EL PASO, Texas (KTSM) — Faculty members at the University of Texas at El Paso are reacting to the university’s decision to abide by Gov. Greg Abbott’s executive orders prohibiting mask mandates and not enforce the El Paso health authority’s mask mandate.
UTEP sent a statement to KTSM 9 News that stated, like other government agencies, it will comply with the governor’s order and cannot compel people to wear masks.
The city of El Paso also said it cannot enforce the mandate at UTEP for the same reason since UTEP is a state institution and it is subject to the order of the governor.
The president of the UTEP Faculty Senate, Dr. Guillermina Gina Núñez-Mchiri, said there are other state agencies who are asking staff to mask up, including local school districts.
“We are all funded by the state,” Núñez-Mchiri said. “We respect the laws, but at a time where there’s fluidity of new data and new information, I think we need to listen to our local health officials and our local leaders.”
Núñez-Mchiri said she has spoken with UTEP faculty and said many are riddled with anxiety and have concerns about students returning to campus without taking the precaution of wearing face masks.
“This university serves this region,” she said. “We cannot isolate ourselves from the community we live in because our community is in our classroom.”
Sixty-three percent of UTEP’s student population is vaccinated, Núñez-Mchiri said.
“If we (faculty) don’t feel safe, it is hard to do our job and fulfill our duties,” she said.
Núñez-Mchiri said she is calling on fellow faculty and leadership to lead by example, to show up to school with masks on.
UTEP begins classes on Monday.