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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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Hope, concern and nostalgia: Bobcats return to campus for first day of class

Texas+State+students+walk+by+the+Arch%2C+Monday%2C+August+23%2C+2021%2C+at+the+UAC.

Texas State students walk by the Arch, Monday, August 23, 2021, at the UAC.

Returning to campus on the first day of school was a rush of nostalgia for Brittney McKinney.
After spending the last 17 months settling for a virtual learning experience in a world of social distancing, McKinney, a music senior, was overjoyed to experience the back-to-school bustle on her last first day at Texas State.
“It’s been really interesting actually, it’s really nice to be back on campus again after basically two years of being stuck behind a computer. I’ve only had one class so far, but, for the most part, everything felt pretty good, everyone was spaced out really nice and almost everybody had a mask on, and the teacher was really good on making sure everyone felt comfortable,” McKinney says.
With the fall semester in session, Texas State students express excitement and worry for the return of in-person classes and activities this school year. As part of Texas State’s COVID-19 return plan, the university strongly recommends faculty, staff and students to get vaccinated, wear masks indoors, get tested regularly and report positive tests to Bobcat Trace.
87% of classes this semester are scheduled to be in person. Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs Gene Bourgeois says faculty have been awarded the choice to decide when they want to teach in person or virtually.
“Roughly 87% of the classes will have a face-to-face component, and about 13% will be online. That includes the ability by faculty to go online or to have a Zoom session, or two, or three during the semester, at their discretion,” Bourgeois says.
Out of the 45 contact hours in class each semester, at least 39 hours must be done in person, Bourgeois adds.
Because of Gov. Greg Abbott’s executive order prohibiting the enforcement of masks in government-funded public offices, buildings and facilities, public universities cannot require face masks. While McKinney is relieved to experience a sense of normalcy with the return to campus, she is concerned about the university’s inability to mandate masking.
“I wish there was a mask mandate at the very least. I’m from California and all of the schools there, everyone [is] required on campus anyways to have a vaccination and a mask,” McKinney says. “Being here it’s kind of weird that we’re open but there is no mask mandate.”
This school year, vaccinations will not be required at large university social events. However, booster vaccinations will soon be available on campus for moderately to severely immunocompromised persons. The Student Health Center will provide Pfizer booster vaccinations starting Aug. 27 and estimate to have Moderna booster vaccinations around the first week of September.
Jeremy Marmolejo, an international studies junior, missed life on campus and says that these are early days and hopefully more people will be open to getting vaccinated in the future.
“There’s definitely a lot more work to be done in terms of, you know, getting people vaccinated and just getting as educated as possible and being as careful as possible,” Marmolejo says.
Before incoming freshman and returning students could move into university residence halls, students were required to submit a negative COVID-19 test. Texas State Student Health Center Director Dr. Emilio Carranco says only a small number of students tested positive.
“We did set up a testing site on campus, and we were able to test almost 1,500 students … we found 16 positives, and those students were instructed to return home to isolate and then to get a PCR test to confirm the rapid antigen test,” Carranco says.
Texas State’s COVID-19 testing site is located between Flowers Hall and the Evans Liberal Arts building. Testing is available Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Faculty, staff and students must register online to schedule a testing appointment.
Despite masks or vaccinations not being required on campus, Jennifer Soliz, a music education junior, says her first day back on campus went well and professors made their students feel comfortable.
“Some of my classes are a little bit better than others but some of them are still a little bit squished, I guess because I’m in the music program. So, everybody is usually wearing masks in the music building, which is really nice because I feel safe,” Soliz says. “Certain professors are a little bit stricter on the masks, not like requiring it but like saying ‘strongly encourage’ and to socially distance.”
For more information visit Texas State’s COVID-19 updates and statements site.

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