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Texas A&M - San Antonio students 'frustrated' over in person learning first day back amid COVID spike

Students and some staff feel there is a lack of concern by university leadership as the coronavirus continues surging locally.

SAN ANTONIO — Texas A&M University - San Antonio is welcoming students back on campus for the 2022 spring semester Monday with the message 'Community. Safety. TOGETHER.' as a way to lift spirits and share health guidelines as COVID-19 continues surging locally. 

However, some students feel they 'are not part of the community the university is speaking about'. Though Cyrena De Leon is ready to begin her final semester, the college senior wishes university leadership would have opted for virtual learning, at least, temporarily.

"I felt kind of insulted. We're paying so much money to go to this university and they're not really taking our concerns to heart when they're deciding or making these decisions for us," said De Leon.

KENS 5 reached out to other area universities and confirmed those schools are either delaying the spring semester or starting virtually. In Texas A&M - San Antonio's latest update, the university wrote 'no schedule or modality changes for classes are anticipated'.

To keep the campus community safe, the university is encouraging safe practices, making testing available on campus and providing N95 masks to students who wish to use them. On the university's Facebook page it said faculty and staff are prepared to be flexible in making arrangements for students. Apparent flexibility De Leon said she had difficulty with last semester.

"Some of the classes that I took last semester, I reached out to the instructor and I had explained that I was concerned about about COVID exposure. [The professor] told me was, 'Well, you know, there is no way for me to do this online'. Now, that makes it more frustrating," said De Leon.

De Leon fears she will face that again this semester now that she is dealing with a possible exposure to her mother, who tested positive for COVID on Monday.

"I have emailed my professors to see what options I have since meet for the first time tomorrow. I'm waiting to see what to do for class since I shouldn't be on campus," she said.

Scott Gage, an associate professor of English, also disagreed with the university's stance to move forward with in person instruction. He also serves as director of A&M – San Antonio’s AAUP chapter.

"I think it puts students in a vulnerable position. We have students who have family members they care for, we have students with children they care for and creating an environment where they could be exposed to the virus shows a lack of care and concern," said Gage.

He said at best university leadership should have followed the models set by other colleges within the community or given faculty more freedom to decide how to handle their classes. He said pre-semester meetings at TAMU-SA were held virtually, and only made sense to carry on with that modality with students.

“At minimum they should have given faculty the option to choose whether or not if we wanted to teach face-to-face while the pandemic is surging again or take our courses temporarily,” he said.

Here is a statement sent to KENS 5 by Interim Vice President for University Advancement and External Relations Adriana Contreras:

"After consultation with President Matson, the Chancellor and she decided it would be in the best interest of our students to have in-class instruction. The Texas A&M System is encouraging everyone to get vaccinated, wear masks, be tested, and provide flexibility to the faculty to meet student needs for instructional purposes."

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