BEAUMONT, Texas — Thousands of college students will begin their freshman year at Lamar University in the middle of the COVID-19 surge, and the university is not requiring masks or vaccinations for the fall 2021 semester.
Incoming students said they will make their own decisions to protect themselves and others, and even with the recent COVID-19 surge, they are still excited to start school.
"I’m so excited to be here,” Gus Dixon, Lamar University freshman, said. “Lamar University is my new adventure. My new journey man. I love it!"
Dixon is excited to see what college is all about, but COVID-19 is something that he worries about, he said.
“This whole Delta variant, too,” Dixon said. "I was like this is a really dangerous thing, and I don't want it to get me because I had COVID before and, I still have a hard time with my taste and smell, so I don't want that to affect me anymore."
Dixon is vaccinated, but it is not a requirement for Lamar students.
Airik Cast has not been vaccinated, but he plans on doing his part in protecting himself and others.
"I plan on wearing a mask inside because, I mean, I understand that the variant's bad, and I understand that it's coming back stronger and harder," Cast said.
While Lamar is not requiring masks or vaccinations, university officials are encouraging students to mask up and get vaccinated.
"We're asking people to use their best judgment, to wear the mask. If you're sick and don't feel good, don't come in," Provost Dr. Brenda Nichols explained.
Lamar University will offer free COVID-19 testing for students, and if a student or faculty member tests positive, they can self-report using a form on the school's website. The university will also offer free vaccinations for students.
School officials are stressing the need for students to be responsible.
"That's the big piece,” Nichols said. “If you're sick, you can't learn. So, we want them to stay well and stay learning."