Professor refusing mask returns to in-person lecturing

After refusing to wear a mask, Stephen Goniprow had to move his in-person class to online instruction. On Friday, he will be returning to teach face-to-face. Brittany Tankersley | Photographer

By Ana Ruiz Brictson | Staff Writer

On Friday, the political science lecturer who had his in-person class moved online after refusing to wear a mask will be returning to teach face-to-face.

Newly-hired lecturer Stephen Goniprow sent an announcement to his class on Thursday and said, “Dear all: The administration has given us the permission to return to in-person education, starting tomorrow.”

He then added that there will no longer be a link provided for a zoom meeting on Canvas and that students should show up to Bennett Auditorium to participate.

“I’m curious to see whether he caved and finally decided to wear a mask or if the university was just like, ‘We’ll just let him go back,’” Paige Runion, South West, Ark., freshman and a student in Goniprow’s class, said.

“A lot of us started struggling whenever we went on zoom,” Runion said. “So they might’ve seen that and went like, ‘OK, you know the students’ success is gonna be bigger than a policy.’”

A student in Goniprow’s class who asked to remain anonymous due to fear of academic retaliation said students would not wear their mask when they had to come into class to take a quiz, so the anonymous student doesn’t expect students to wear their mask once they return to in-person instruction.

“I’m wondering how he got accepted to return to in-person when he refused to wear the mask,” the anonymous student said.

In addition to this, Goniprow has been assigned to teach three classes in the course listings for the spring 2022 semester — two sections of “U.S. Constitution, its Interpretation and American Politics” and one section of “Fundamentals of International Politics.” All of his classes are set to be lectured in person. Mask mandates may no longer be in effect, but if they are, it is uncertain how Goniprow or the university will respond.

According to Baylor spokesperson Lori Fogleman, spring protocols have yet to be decided. Any situation regarding a student, faculty member or staff member is handled on a case-by-case basis, so there are no specific disciplinary actions as of now.

In the Presidential Perspective released on Sept. 30, President Linda Livingstone announced that mask requirements will continue in academic classrooms and labs.

“We anticipate facemasks in academic classrooms and labs will continue to be required through the end of the fall semester,” Livingstone wrote in the email.

On Oct. 6, Goniprow took some time in his class to talk about his opinion of the email, as seen in this video.

“In the middle of this presidential message that she sent out to both students and faculty, she just drops in there, without explanation, that you guys are going to be required to wear masks for the rest of the semester — just asserts you’re going to wear a mask, you’re going to do what we say, you need to obey this,” Goniprow said in the video. “And I’m not criticizing her policy, so please, nobody report me.”

Goniprow went on to speak about how he believes there is no scientific evidence to support the use of masks against COVID-19. When a student unmuted themselves in the zoom to oppose, Goniprow asked the student to stop interrupting class.

Whether or not masks will be in effect in the spring, Goniprow told his class he doesn’t know if the policy will change in the upcoming years.

“Unfortunately, I think that if you’re like a freshman in this class, you might be wearing a mask until the spring of 2025 when you graduate,” Goniprow said.

Since then, in the Presidential Perspective released on Oct. 14, Livingstone affirmed that mask requirements will continue in academic classrooms and labs, with a shift in COVID-19 testing requirements from twice-weekly to once-weekly for unvaccinated students.