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Mask Violation Has SUNY Student On Outside

Justin Honeck

A SUNY Fredonia student recently was suspended until year’s end because he didn’t wear a mask.

“It’s an arbitrary charge, with a disproportionate, severe sanction,” said Justin Honeck, who was supposed to graduate this spring, in an interview.

Honeck was also declared “persona non grata” for the duration of his suspension, meaning he is not welcome on campus and could be charged with trespassing, according to a copy of his hearing decision that he provided.

The chemistry major from Rochester noted those are the same consequences that face someone who is charged with sexual assault.

Dated Feb. 21, the decision from the University Judicial Board states, “You were observed multiple times on campus indoors to not be wearing a mask, which you admitted to. You also admitted there were other times where you weren’t wearing a mask indoors and that you don’t plan on doing so unless someone asks you to. It is your responsibility to comply with the rules, which include wearing a mask indoors. It is not the responsibility of those around you to remind you or ask you to put a mask on.”

The student indicated he agreed to all campus rules and regulations when he took a SUNY-mandated survey in January, according to the decision.

“You can choose to not fill those things out, but then you can’t attend the school,” Honeck said.

The student knew he was in violation of university policies and did not plan to comply, the university’s decision continues. “You discussed that you’ve done your own research and you don’t believe masks are effective, but the University has upheld their guidelines related to mask wearing and you did not follow those guidelines.”

Honeck fired back, “The school is financially incentivized to enact these policies. The rules are most based on getting the school funding. When it’s affecting my daily life where I have to do things so Fredonia gets funding, I have a problem with that.”

The board concluded its letter to the student with a lecture. “It is our hope that you will learn from this and develop more appropriate behavior that will lead to success in the future.”

Honeck said, “They’re targeting me in order to discourage other people from doing this.”

SUNY Fredonia notified Honeck Feb. 7 that he was charged with violations of the student conduct code because he was observed without a mask three times. The last time was the same day of the email, Feb. 7. A hearing on the charge was set for Feb. 9.

Honeck said on each of those three occasions, he was alone when not wearing a mask. When others came near, he either put on a mask or left the room, he said.

Honeck was specifically charged with “failure to comply with reasonable directions from university or town officials.”

After the decision came down, Honeck filed an appeal, which was heard by a separate Appeal Review Board. Honeck’s appeal was denied in a March 4 mailing from SUNY Fredonia.

The university’s mask mandate ended the same day.

Honeck said he’s considering legal action against the school, but acknowledged, “I’m not sure it would be an optimal allocation of my resources. … I don’t have the money. I already paid for the semester. I’m totally in debt to the school.”

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