TN students unhappy with chancellor's maskless Instagram posts

The chancellor of the University of Tennessee, Knoxville posted pictures of her without wearing a mask on-campus after the university issued a mask mandate for classes and academic settings.

Students felt the pictures represented a double standard in the application of the university's mask policy.

The week after the University of Tennessee, Knoxville issued a mask mandate for certain types of events on-campus, students reacted to Chancellor Donde Plowman posting pictures of herself maskless on school grounds .

UTK updated its mask policy on August 2 to align with the new Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidelines for fully vaccinated people to begin wearing masks in indoor spaces again. 

The university’s new guidelines read, “students, faculty, and staff are required to wear face coverings in classrooms and laboratories, and for indoor academic events required for students such as orientation.”

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On August 11, Chancellor Donde Plowman published an Instagram post showing her and an another individual standing next to each other without masks

One commenter suggested that Plowman was being hypocritical for not wearing a mask at Neyland Stadium.

”What happened to this rule that was sent out to the school on 8/2? Is it going to be disregarded to you since your the chancellor,” the commenter wrote. “This is absolutely outrageous, first the students are told no masks in the fall, then an email is sent out with a mandatory mask rule, but then the rule doesn’t apply to you?”

The following day, on August 12, posted another picture with a male individual on university grounds. 

In an interview with Campus Reform, UTK student Alexa Petre said, “as a student at the University of Tennessee, I feel strongly that I should speak upon these sanctimonious, pharisaic actions by Chancellor Donde and other leaders in our community.” 

Petre also claimed that the university had already contacted her to clarify that the chancellor did not break any rules because the policy applies only to classes or similar academic spaces.  

[RELATED: Universities mandate masks for vaccinated students, employees]

Campus Reform reached out to UTK to clarify the content of this communication.

Tyra Haag, director of news and information at UTK, told Campus Reform, ““the university implemented a limited mask requirement for classrooms, labs, and required indoor academic events like orientation” and that “mask use is at an individual’s discretion in other circumstances.” 

”Chancellor Plowman will be teaching a course this fall and will be wearing a mask in the classroom,” Haag added.