Texas State students speak out against plan to return to campus

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Alondra Vasquez

Texas State Provost Gene Bourgeois announced the vast majority of summer II classes would move online in response to a surge of COVID-19 cases in San Marcos and Hays County. The university plans to resume face-to-face instruction during the fall semester, beginning Aug. 24.

Marilyn Espericueta, News Contributor

After Texas State moved classes online for the latter half of the spring 2020 and summer I and II semesters, students are criticizing the university’s plans to resume in-person campus activity in the fall as COVID-19 cases continue to rise in San Marcos and Hays County.

In early June, President Denise Trauth introduced the “Roadmap to Return”, charting the university’s path toward in-person instruction. Although the phased plan is extensive, many students are left confused about how it will be implemented.

On July 2, Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs Gene Bourgeois announced the transition from nearly all face-to-face classes to an online format for summer II, beginning July 6. An estimated 5,000 students were set to be on campus. However, with the recent changes, only about 200 students are estimated to attend in-person classes.

Before this action was taken, political science junior Jordyn Galvan dropped both of her summer II courses in fear of COVID-19, believing she would have to return to campus. Galvan said it is too difficult to pinpoint when testing may be needed for asymptomatic individuals. She wants to ensure she and others will be safe on campus.

“I’m susceptible to the virus,” Galvan said. “I don’t want to [contribute to] spreading the virus and allowing my professors to get the virus who are at risk as well.”

Major features of the Roadmap to Return include a requirement for the usage of face coverings on campus— inside, outside and on university shuttles—and social distancing. Victoria Villareal, a liberal arts senior, said requiring masks on campus is not enough to guarantee safety.

“How will social distancing be fully practiced every day? I think masks help, but then also, how do we force wearing masks?” Villareal said. “I just don’t think it’s a foolproof plan, especially with how high the [case count] is right now.”

With significant budget cuts and an expected drop in enrollment, campus administration is beginning to work with tighter finances while working to maintain retention. For every 1% drop in enrollment, the university loses about $2.6 million. The estimated enrollment drop for the fall, according to Trauth, could be up to 8%, which would amount up to about $20.8 million lost.

Catherine Wood, an interdisciplinary studies senior, said she believes the university could be prioritizing financial gain over student safety due to issues raised by the pandemic. She said the possibility became evident with the decision to move the majority of summer II classes online four days before they began.

“Students had already made their payment; that’s when they decided to switch [to an online format]” Wood said, “I’m worried that’s going to happen in August.”

Sydney Zentil, a history senior, said the Texas State administration takes more time promising action than taking action to protect faculty, staff and students from the risks of COVID-19.

“By spending so much time assuring the Texas State community that ‘the administration is evaluating the situation,’ ‘it’s going to be fixed’ and ‘we’re going to take precautions,’ they’re putting the entire community at risk and significantly [putting faculty at a disadvantage by forcing them to] switch up their course material as cases go up,” Zentil said.

In a July 2 email to students, Trauth said those who are not able to or choose not to return to campus in the fall will have remote learning opportunities available. She added that not all classes will be available in a remote format, so “students will need to meet with their advisors to assess how such a choice would affect their paths toward graduation.”

Andrew Humphreys, a history senior, said he fears students returning in the fall will keep COVID-19 numbers rising in San Marcos, the city that leads the county with the most cases.

“It’s crazy because students have been at their family homes hanging out with their friends in their hometowns, and requiring us to come back brings students from all around Texas to come back into one single spot,” Humphreys said. “It just seems like a melting pot for coronavirus.”

For more information on the Roadmap to Return, visit its official website. For a full Q&A with President Denise Trauth regarding the roadmap, you can visit our story.


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