Thousands call on the USG to require face masks on 26 college campuses this fall

Dozens of Georgia colleges will not require students and faculty to wear masks -- a much different policy from other colleges in the South.

FOX 5’s Christine Sperow spoke with two college professors who say requiring them is the only option.

“To me, it’s a matter of safety for students," said Dr. Janet Frick, an associate professor at UGA.

About two months out from the start of fall classes, 26 universities in Georgia will not require students and faculty to wear masks.

That includes the University of Georgia and the Georgia Institute of Technology.

Some college professors have made it clear: face masks must be required.

“If we do not have an expectation that everyone on campus will be wearing masks, it becomes an unsafe learning environment for students," Dr. Frick said.

Sign up for FOX 5 email alerts

Her son is an incoming freshman and agrees that face masks should be required.

“If an 18-year-old rising freshman thinks it’s a no-brainer to wear a mask to class where you’re in an enclosed space with other people, it’s such a simple intervention," Dr. Frick said.

The 26 colleges are under the direction of the University System of Georgia, whose policy recommends -- but not requires -- face masks.

Other southern colleges like the University of Florida and the University of Alabama do require them in indoor public areas such as classrooms.

At least 2,000 people have signed a petition calling on the USG to amend its policy, as of Tuesday evening.

“I think we are an outlier at this moment, with respect to both Georgia Tech and the Board of Regents as a whole, in terms of not requiring face masks inside buildings," said Dr. Joshua Weitz, a professor at Georgia Tech.

Download the FOX 5 Atlanta app for breaking news and weather alerts.

The university had 36,000 faculty, staff and students last fall.

“This policy is going to elevate risk unnecessarily, and my hope, and indeed really my expectation, is that the USG must change this policy," Dr. Weitz said.

A spokesperson for the University System sent a statement to Fox 5 saying they "strongly encourage everyone to wear a cloth face mask in areas of campus where social distancing cannot be practiced."

The spokesperson also said they are following guidelines from the CDC and Georgia Department of Public Health.

RELATED:, FOX launches national hub for COVID-19 news and updates.

Know how the COVID-19 outbreak is impacting Georgia