Texas State has been persistent in reassuring its students, faculty and staff that this fall we will be getting back to normal—or something approaching normal—with several precautions designed to stop the spread of COVID-19 on campus.
Of course, several universities around the country have sworn that in-person instruction was the best option for fall, only to close shortly after reopening. The University of North Carolina system made a highly-publicized move to online instruction after off-campus student activities led to a sudden spike in COVID-19 cases.
Eight days into the University of Notre Dame‘s fall semester, a similar spike prompted a two-week suspension of in-person instruction. An entire dorm building at Colorado College is locked down for two weeks after students did not socially distance properly. Still other universities—or Greek organizations affiliated with them—are placing students under quarantine or considering a move back to distance learning due to COVID-19 spikes.
Texas State has made sure that by offering in-person instruction for the fall 2020 semester, it has every excuse to keep the football team practicing, charge full tuition and rake in parking permit revenue. The university can give us all the roadmaps, reassurances and checklists it can write—but at the end of the day, none of us should be getting too comfortable as we return to campus.
Dorm residents—do not unpack more than you need. Lab prep instructional assistants—do not make too many agar plates. Faculty—do not get comfortable seeing your students in campus classrooms.
Administrators have made sure to set high expectations in preparation for the inevitable. In an email sent to all current students by President Denise Trauth on Aug. 21, Trauth set Texas State apart from universities like UNC and Notre Dame, emphasizing that she has “faith” in the student body and that “Bobcats respect each other and work together to create a healthy and safe learning environment.”
Texas State Provost Gene Bourgeois also went to Twitter and emphasized that “It. Is. Up. To. ALL. Of. Us.” to avoid closure. But administrators know as well as the average Texas State student the reputation Bobcats have earned for their off-campus antics.
Scholarship website Niche ranks Texas State fifth in the state’s ‘party schools,’ and a glimpse at the Barstool Texas State Instagram account shows that Bobcats are not known for following the rules. Once two weeks have gone by and hordes of students have let the White Claw flow at off-campus parties, leading to a sudden sharp increase in positive tests, administrators will chastise students for not following the rules they set knowing quite well how unlikely tens of thousands of twenty-somethings were to listen.
When it is inevitably students’ fault—and not administrators, since they will escape the blame by pointing out how many emails or tweets they sent—Texas State will move all classes back to Zoom, and the in-person lab activities and exams that faculty planned for will go to waste. The extra money spent on dorm accommodations and parking permits will mean nothing.
So, do not settle in. Until we all start listening to the scientists who tell us ‘normal’ will be unattainable for a few years, if not until we have a reliable vaccine against COVID-19, we should not even hope for in-person campus activities.
Regardless of how many times Texas State administrators want to put the responsibility on students, all of this is really on them. They had the ability to make this fall semester safe for students, faculty and staff by holding classes online; instead, they made the conscious decision to prioritize football and money.
It. Is. Not. As. Easy. As. Admins. Think. It. Is.
– Toni Mac Crossan is a biology graduate student
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