TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — As the fall semester begins at Florida State University and new COVID-19 cases among students begin to increase, calls are growing for a campuswide mask mandate.

What You Need To Know

  •  Since Aug. 9, 2,490 FSU students have tested positive for COVID-19

  •  The Graduate Assistants United union asked campus administrators Friday to implement a mask mandate for campus

  • FSU President Richard McCullough told union representatives that he did not believe he had the authority to impose a mandate

Such a requirement would represent a significant escalation from the university's current policy of "expected" mask use, and campus administrators contend they don't have the authority to order a mandate in the first place.

The issue was thrust to the forefront of an FSU Board of Trustees meeting Friday, when faculty members representing the Graduate Assistants United union pleaded with university leaders to consider implementing a mandate.

"I will not be able to live with myself if I have to bury one of my students or colleagues this year or, God forbid, they have to bury one of their children," GAU member Roxie Brookshire told the board.

FSU's new president, Richard McCullough, told the gathering the State University System would not allow him to impose a mask mandate, particularly given Gov. Ron DeSantis' vocal opposition to mandates.

"We are not in the same position as some of the school boards and local schools are," he said. "We are in a different position than that. So, essentially, our hands are tied."

Since Aug. 9, 2,631 COVID-19 tests given to FSU students and faculty have turned up positive, according to the university's COVID-19 dashboard. Of those positive tests, nearly all — 2,490 — involve students.

There are ample indications that most students aren't complying with the university's expectation that students wear masks, according to FSU sophomore Evan Rumie. He estimates just 5% of his classmates are attending class masked.

"Some of them already have the vaccine and they just see, like, they think 'Oh, it's pointless — I'm already vaccinated' or 'I've already had the virus,' or they're just tired of wearing a mask," Rumie said.

That mindset, GAU members warn, could prove deadly.

The administration should be "asking students who can't comply with any of the protocols for safety to leave the classroom to protect my colleagues and other students," Brookshire said.