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UNI says professor who required masks can continue teaching his course online

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CEDAR FALLS, Iowa (KWWL) -- The University of Northern Iowa has reached an agreement with a professor facing disciplinary action for his mask policy, saying he can continue to teaching his course online but that their policies are not changing.

Biology Professor Steve O'Kane was pulled from teaching in person classes after he told students he would lower their grades if they failed to comply with the mask requirement within his classroom. 

The University said in a statement on Thursday that Professor O'Kane will continue to teach his Plant Systematics course and lab online and that "another highly-qualified professor will handle other classroom duties."

Professor O'Kane's requirement went against the Iowa Board of Regents which has denied the implementation of a mask mandate at Iowa universities.

"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," the University said. "An exception to this is in limited spaces where masks are required, such as a healthcare or campus childcare setting or service." 

Last week, the union representing UNI faculty filed a complaint regarding the possible disciplinary actions. Several of his students also spoke out in support of Professor O'Kane.

UNI says that the agreement came after listening and working with those involved.

"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 from the University said.