COLLEGE STATION, Texas — A group of Texas A&M students stood shoulder to shoulder on campus Tuesday night, holding signs and shouting for change to the university's COVID-19 policies.
This comes after a Texas A&M student died Sept. 8. Her obituary said the 20-year-old sophomore biomedical student died of complications from COVID-19. It pushed some students to speak out on what they said are relaxed policies for COVID-19 on the College Station campus.
“We are doing this protest and we see people walking by laughing at us or people laughing about coughing on other people or have people cough on me in class," one protester, who did not want to give their name, said. "It’s just one little reminder that nobody cares. People are going to continue to prioritize their comfort over the lives of others. How many more people have to die before we make a change?"
Neo Koite is a junior studying Wildlife & Fisheries Sciences at A&M. Koite said students organized the protest to bring awareness.
"It’s making it difficult here to be successful and its hard on our faculty as well as the staff here besides students,” said Koite.
“Mask mandates aren’t technically allowed under Texas Legislation but there is a lot of things they could keep students safe with in terms of social distancing and sanitization policies and again lots more resources for students,“ said Frey Miller, who is in the senior class.
Miller said he understands the position the university is in, but said the campus needs to do more. “Unfortunately, it does come down to the university administration in order to set the precautions that you know all of the professors have to follow, so, in my personal experience, I have a professor who gives extra credit to those who constantly wear their mask to class, so therefore, they skirt around the lack of requirement for mask," Miller said.
As the second largest university in the country, students claimed the campus is too unsafe and Texas A&M isn't providing enough resources at the administration level to have a successful semester. Many are concerned they may take the virus home to their family.
“A&M is a university that constantly emphasizes its respect for the dead," the unidentified student protester said. "We aren’t allowed to walk on the grass, and we have Silver Taps to respect the Aggies who have died and yet, throughout our everyday lives with COVID, they [Texas A&M] have refused to show respect to those who are currently living."
In a Zoom meeting hosted by the university Monday, Chief Operations Officer Greg Harman and Dr. Dannenbaum, who is the director of Student Health Services, said Texas A&M is doing all they can to keep students and staff healthy and safe.
"There's a lot of effort being spent to make sure we are doing everything we possibly can again under the rules and regulations of the State of Texas," Hartman said. "As a public institution of higher education, we have to live within the boundaries of the rules that we have for us, but we think we are doing everything we can and probably even more."
Students said this protest is just the beginning and they won't stop until changes are made.
“Our petition that we just put up yesterday currently has100 signatures so we are hoping to get more than that," Koite said. "I am also working with the Student Government Association on campus."