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The University Star

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The University Star

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The University Star


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Faculty Senate discusses in-person learning concerns following governor’s order


Students gather for an outdoor class, Monday, Aug. 24, 2020, outside of Old Main.

Due to Gov. Greg Abbott’s executive Order (GA-34), which lifts the state’s mask mandate and increases the capacity of all businesses and facilities to 100%, Texas State Faculty Senate expressed concerns at its March 3 meeting over in-person fall curriculum.
Benjamin Martin, Faculty Senate member and associate professor in the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, believes while he has taken measures to keep himself and his family safe, the lifted mask mandate opens the door to new threats.
“I’ve been about as secluded as anyone over this time. My son has immune deficiency and so I’m very worried about him. We’re protective, though, and I’m willing to be cautiously optimistic about the fall,” Martin says. “However, I’m now worried about a situation where the university will be forced to do something that’s in contradiction to the [Centers for Disease Control and Prevention] guidelines.”
Martin’s concern is the university will not accommodate faculty members, like himself, who not only structure their courses but live around current CDC recommendations.
“We have a legislature that may or may not make us do things and so, in that event, I think I would like to know that the university would allow us to make changes,” Martin says.
Texas State’s Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs Gene Bourgeois maintains that the university will continue to be flexible with faculty and allow them to model their courses in a way they feel is safe.
“There will always be the ability for individuals to work with chairs and directors and their colleagues to make changes in any given semester,” Bourgeois says. “We have been very willing to look at CDC guidelines and follow them to the best of our ability; my first real worry actually is with the governor’s order.”
Bourgeois remains confident the university will continue to enforce policies that promote safety despite pushes for the contrary coming from places, such as Texas State’s Student Government president, who put out a memorandum calling for the elimination of on-campus COVID-19 capacity restrictions and the elimination of the university’s mask policy.
“I think it’s going to come down to whether or not people are going to want to be in a place that is at full capacity and people aren’t wearing masks,” Bourgeois says. “We should say, obviously, despite what the Student Government president put out, we are requiring masks. In terms of next fall, there’s more to come but as of right now, we have every intention of maintaining our masking, distancing and capacity density policies.”
University President Denise Trauth issued a statement on March 3 indicating Texas State will keep its mandatory face-covering policy and classroom capacity restrictions in place through the end of the semester despite the governor’s order.
Trauth says to faculty members that, along with being accommodating toward faculty, it is key the university community is aware Texas State is steadfast in its support for keeping faculty, staff and students safe.
“I think it’s important to say that despite the fact that this is [a] highly political issue, we have not been forced into doing anything,” Trauth says. “I mean we were one of the first schools to mandate masks, and we just did it. However long this lasts, people will have reasons as to why they need to either protect themselves or protect someone they live with and of course we’re going to accommodate that. We absolutely have to.”
Roque Mendez, Faculty Senate member and associate professor in the Department of Psychology, is comforted by the reactions of the president and provost toward the lifted mask mandate but believes promoting their support to faculty is imperative to putting faculty members at ease.
“I feel very relieved by the conversation we had with both of them,” Mendez says. “It’s good news that they’re very flexible, right, and accommodating faculty. I think that message, though, definitely has to be promoted, it just has to.”

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