Texas A&M students hold protest for more COVID protocols on campus

Published: Sep. 14, 2021 at 10:52 PM CDT
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COLLEGE STATION, Texas (KBTX) - Texas A&M students gathered at Academic Plaza on campus Tuesday evening to protest what they’re calling the lack of protocols put in place by administration to mitigate the spread of COVID-19.

Protesters say they were prompted to act after a fellow student died due to complications from the virus. They also say the school has put them directly in harms way due to neglect and inaction.

“One of our students has died due to COVID difficulties, and I feel like our voices need to be heard,” Texas A&M junior and one of the protest’s organizers Amanda Harvey said. “I feel like A&M has not provided us a safe learning environment or a safe teaching environment for faculty.”

“I do feel like I could catch the virus and pass it on to some family members of mine who are less fortunate, and they are immunocompromised,” Ellis Howard, another junior protester, said.

“My parents came here from India, so we have a lot of family and friends there. When the COVID situation got really bad there, especially with the Delta variant, a lot of people we knew passed away,” freshman protester Monica Dhingra said. “We’re just very aware of the medical downsides of getting COVID, regardless of age.”

University leadership says they understand everyone’s anxieties and concerns, and they’re doing everything they can. They’re strongly encouraging everyone to wear masks and get vaccinated.

“I think when we walk through all the things that we’re doing, which I think is everything we can be doing given the state guidance we’ve been provided as a public institution of higher education in Texas,” Texas A&M Chief Operations Officer Greg Hartman said. “We’re doing all we can and a little bit more. People want to make sure their voices are heard. We’re listening, and we’ll continue to do everything we can.”

“It is very difficult for an institution to implement safeguards, beyond what we can do of course, when the community maybe is operating under a different standard,” Texas A&M Student Health Services Director Dr. Martha Dannenbaum said.

According to the school’s COVID-19 reporting data, active cases and the positivity rate on campus are steadily on the rise over the past two weeks. Protesters believe administration can be doing more to help keep students safe.

“I would like there to be an online option offered to students,” Harvey said. “I know it’s difficult with Gov. Abbott’s mandates he’s put in place regarding masks, so I would like Aggies to take it upon themselves and have that selfless service that we brag about here at A&M and mask up.”

“I know they probably can’t mandate a vaccine, but I don’t think they’re doing enough to encourage it,” freshman protester Isabella Thomas said. “I haven’t seen any signs on campus. I don’t see what the problem would be with making testing mandatory. They only mandated it for the first few weeks of school.”

According to their reporting data, Texas A&M’s positivity rate during its mandatory testing period over the past three weeks is about 4.3%. The school says that number is partially the product of a large number of asymptomatic individuals being tested.

“I feel like the positivity rate here on campus is far too high, especially since college students aren’t the only individuals living in the Bryan-College Station area,” Harvey said. “When students are unmasked, they have to realize that they’re not only putting their life at risk, but the hundreds of older individuals that they might run into at H-E-B or the bank. We aren’t only affecting Aggies here on campus. We’re affecting the whole Bryan-College Station area.”

“It’s so easy to just wear a mask and get vaccinated,” freshman protester Ella Rydell said. “It’s two simple things that you can do and protect so many different people.”

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