Deaf UChicago student begs university to lift mask mandate so he can understand professors

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A deaf student at the University of Chicago is begging the school to lift its campus mask mandate. 

The school has implemented rigorous COVID-19 prevention requirements for attendance. Instructors and students are not permitted to remove masks to speak, even during class. 

The mandate has made school difficult for some students with disabilities.

“I am an undergraduate at the University of Chicago, a school which I love,” student Declan Hurley said. “But today, I am imploring the University of Chicago administration to lift or modify their mask mandate, which hurts deaf and hard of hearing people like me.”

Hurley is vice president of the independent school newspaper, The Chicago Thinker, and has a hearing disability.

Last fall, the university was more relaxed with its restrictions, allowing individuals to remove masks when speaking. However, the rule has since been tightened, no longer allowing students to remove their masks, even for discussion or to participate in classes.

“This policy allowed me to actually hear my classmates and instructors as masks muffle people’s speech and prevent me from reading their lips,” Hurley explained in a video, referring to the previous rules. “Moreover, people subconsciously change their speech patterns while wearing masks. But this quarter, the university is explicitly banning students and professors from taking off their masks while speaking in class.”

Hurley went on to claim that the university has passed a series of policies that are at odds with the world’s current understanding of the COVID-19 virus.

The University of Chicago campus in 2021. (E. Jason Wambsgans/Chicago Tribune/Tribune News Service via Getty Images)

“Administrators cite the omicron variant, but one report says omicron case fatality rate is one fortieth of that of the delta variant,” Hurley added in the video. “The New York Times says that for a vaccinated 75-year-old, contracting the flu is riskier than getting omicron. And the university allows students to wear cloth masks, which former FDA commissioner Scott Gottlieb says are near functionless against COVID.”

Hurley said that while there are a variety of restrictions he wishes to see abolished, he’d most like to see the requirement for masks during classes scrapped, describing the policy as “cruel.”

“At the very least, I beg UChicago to allow me to hear in class by allowing teachers and students to take off their masks while speaking,” Hurley said. “Anything less is cruel to the deaf and hard of hearing and sinks beneath UChicago’s legacy of free academic inquiry.”

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