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The University Star




The Student News Site of Texas State University

The University Star

The Student News Site of Texas State University

The University Star

Lamar University students prepare to leave Texas State

Interim+Vice+President+of+Student+Affairs+Mary+Ellen+Cavitt+%28right%29+takes+a+photo+of+students+from+Lamar+University+after+they+arrived+at+Texas+State%2C+Tuesday%2C+Aug.+25%2C+2020%2C+outside+of+the+Performing+Arts+Center.

Interim Vice President of Student Affairs Mary Ellen Cavitt (right) takes a photo of students from Lamar University after they arrived at Texas State, Tuesday, Aug. 25, 2020, outside of the Performing Arts Center.

Once an evacuation order was issued for Jefferson County in response to Hurricane Laura, students and staff from Lamar University with no way back to their hometowns were forced to shelter on Texas State’s campus. Several days later, after a lifted evacuation order, the group plans to return home.
On Aug. 27, after the brunt of the storm hit Beaumont, Texas, where the school is located, residents were told to stay indoors and off the roadways until first responders had the opportunity to survey the damage throughout the city.
The evacuation order was lifted the same day, and the group will now depart San Marcos on Aug. 29.
Abruptly evacuating Beaumont due to the hurricane was exhausting for students like Fernando Arriazola, a chemical engineering freshman at Lamar. He says he found out the morning of the evacuation they were leaving and was told if he did not have a ride of his own he needed to get on the bus to Texas State.
“On the first day of school I’m doing this all on my own, I’m away from family,” Arriazola said. “What do I do? It was just really chaotic—’are we going to leave in time?’”
Arriazola says his biggest concern was not knowing how his family, which lives primarily in the coastal town of Pasadena, Texas, was doing. He explained that while he knew his uncle had evacuated, his parents and grandparents disagreed on whether to leave the county.
51 students and nine staff from Lamar were housed in the San Gabriel and Gaillardia residence halls and Bobcat Village Aug. 25 after Lamar officials decided to close campus in conjunction with the evacuation order.
“The housing staff started going through each residence hall [at Lamar], really, knocking on the doors of each of the residents and asking them ‘Do you have any means to leave?’” said Dr. Vicki L. McNeil, vice president of Student Engagement at Lamar. “We only brought those students that did not have any sort of transportation.”
She says both Texas State and Sam Houston University extended offers of shelter to the Lamar evacuees, and the decision to come to Texas State was based on the availability of beds and rooms for students, rather than the recreation center floor at Sam Houston.
“While the trip was longer, it [gave] our students a little bit more comfort, because it’s a stressful time. Any time you have to evacuate from any place, it’s very stressful; it’s the unknown,” McNeil said.
Students from Lamar were not sharing any rooms or floors with Texas State students, and though none of the students were tested for COVID-19 immediately before arriving, McNeil says students who required quarantining or isolation because of COVID-19 were able to go home to their parents and did not come to Texas State.
In addition to staying at residence halls on campus, the Lamar evacuees have access to Harris Dining Hall and can use their IDs to access the Student Health Center, telemental-health counseling and computer labs on campus. All classes at Lamar — in-person, online and hybrid —  are canceled through Aug. 30.
Texas State’s interim director of Housing and Residential Life, Kyle Estes, says Texas State began preparing for the arrival of the greatest number of evacuees possible the morning of Aug. 25.
“We started making arrangements for space for them to check in at, making sure that we had tables and chairs in place,” Estes said. “There were a lot of moving parts.”
He says the IT Assistance Center worked to allow evacuees to connect to the “TSUSVisitor” Wi-Fi using their Lamar credentials in case they needed to do anything remotely, while dining services provided food and drinks upon their arrival.
Though Lamar students and staff now plan to leave campus, Texas State is committed to accommodating them for as long as necessary, a gesture McNeil says she is thankful for.
“I must thank Texas State because they’ve been so gracious to us and helpful and supportive,” she said, “It made a real difference with our students, and they do know that Texas State welcomed them with open arms. They could tell that when they arrived.”
Jaden Edison contributed to the source material in this story.

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