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UNI biology professor can continue teaching after going against Board of Regents guidelines on masking

University of Northern Iowa biology professor Steve O'Kane had been relieved of his in-person teaching duties after requiring students to mask up in class.

CEDAR FALLS, Iowa — A biology professor at the University of Northern Iowa can continue teaching his class online after he violated a Board of Regents policy by requiring students to wear face masks in class

UNI released a statement Wednesday evening that says it and Steve O'Kane reached an agreement after "listening to the concerns and working closely with all parties involved." 

O'Kane will finish teaching his Plant Systemics course and lab online this semester. UNI says another "high-qualified professor" will handle other classroom responsibilities. 

"UNI continues to support the rights of all our faculty, staff and students and is pleased to have reached a resolution that protects all of those involved," the statement says. "As noted in previous statements from the university, under Board of Regents directives, neither the university nor faculty members can mandate that face coverings be worn on campus, including in classrooms. An exception to this is in limited spaces where masks are required, such as a health care or campus childcare setting or service."

RELATED: Some central Iowa schools implement medical, religious exemptions for mask mandates

In an interview with Local 5 on Sept. 30, O'Kane said the masking issue extends beyond the university. He asked the school, the Board of Regents and the state government to set aside politics and prioritize moral and ethical issues. 

Under the policy that prevents Iowa's public universities from requiring masks, O'Kane said "statistically, it's almost certain that we've killed people, it's almost certain that we've given people long COVID."

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