The Daily Gamecock

Student senate passes bill to recommend university ends mask mandate

A bill to recommend that USC end its mask mandate passed in a close vote of 19-18 with one abstention after several hours of debate at a student senate hearing on Feb. 16. 

“It's not that it's not that one person decided the fate of this bill, it's that 19 people decided the fate of this bill, and that's what's important to me,” author and co-sponsor of the bill Griffin Sheffield said. 

About a dozen people sat at the back of the hearing to listen to the debate over the mask mandate.

“Me personally, I'm all for choice, and that's why I came here to support this bill,” said Emma Farrell, a political organizer and vice president of USC Turning Point USA who came to view the hearing from the audience. “This was the first time in a very long time that students that were not senators actually came to watch the hearings, and I think that more students should do that more often.” 

Many of those who spoke in favor of the bill raised concerns about not knowing what the university plans to do as COVID-19 cases plummet.

“We have no rollback plan. So this really just sends a message to the university that this is what the students believe in this,” Dylan Peddemors, a second-year international business and economics student and one of the four co-sponsors of the bill, said.

As shown by the close vote, plenty of senators did not view the bill as a responsible recommendation to the university.

Natalie Trimble, a student senator representing the college of nursing, expressed concern over the impact getting rid of the mandate could have on nursing school students and professors who do clinical work with COVID-19 patients. She is also a pharmacy employee and said she feels that her constituents may experience the effects differently than most of USC.

"I remember in committee meeting, a statement that was said multiple times was that vaccines don't work. And then when we came to the floor, vaccines were praised as something that does work,” said Trimble. “I personally believe in vaccines, I am vaccinated. So I found it interesting to me when things are being contradicted.” 

Two additional bills were introduced regarding the sexual health of USC students. 

One would recommend the creation of a specific tab on the My Health Space website for HIV and STI testing appointments. The other would recommend the installation of condom dispensers and sexual health information for students in every dormitory building — rather than just in the student health building. 

“I just wanted to make sure there was a resource for them that was private but was also placed in a manner that it was geared towards those that might not have had any education or any sexual experiences at all, which is why I also want to include the informational packets with the contraceptives,” student senator Christian Frederick, a second-year political science and environmental studies student who sponsored both bills, said. 

Fredericks also plans to amend the bill to include female condoms and dental dams. 

A bill to recommend that USC make its standardized test optional policy for admissions permanent  passed after a shorter period of debate.