The Texas A&M Student Senate recognizes the implications of COVID-19 and demands a change from the university.
The Student Senate held a meeting on Wednesday, Oct. 6, and discussed a resolution concerning changes to A&M’s COVID-19 guidelines. This resolution, which passed unanimously, aims to increase access to resources for students with COVID-19 or students that are close contacts, as well as to provide incentives for students to get regularly tested.
S.R. 74-09 was written by computer science and mathematics sophomore and chair of the Legislative Relations Committee Sen. Jessica Williams. Williams began writing this bill after the death of biomedical sciences sophomore Kirstyn Katherine Ahuero due to COVID-19, which received little response from the university.
“It is saddening and terrifying that we should lose an Aggie when there are such simple steps to lower risk,” Williams said. “After her death and in the last few weeks, there has also been a massive student voice saying that the university’s policies don’t go far enough.”
One of the main focuses of the resolution is to allow students easier access to virtual and socially distant class options. With current guidelines, students can only receive access to these materials if they have a positive COVID-19 test. Students waiting for a test result, even if they are a close contact, are given no way to stay up to date in their classes.
“The 74th Session of the Texas A&M University Student Senate supports changing the documentation requirements for Student Rule 7 to allow those with proof of a scheduled COVID-19 test, for reason of close contact and need to quarantine, to access online classes and receive excused absences until 48 hours after the test.” the resolution reads.
Williams also wants to increase access to student quarantine housing. Currently, there are only 44 quarantine rooms available on campus. These rooms are only given out to students living more than a five hour drive from campus with few exceptions made for special cases. The resolution seeks to also increase the capacity of quarantine rooms by utilizing hotels around College Station if the on-campus rooms fill up.
“Should the demand for on-campus isolation rooms exceed current capacity, the 74th Session of the Texas A&M University Student Senate supports increases in that capacity and the provision of temporary housing in hotels or other community locations by the university,” the resolution reads.
Another key part of the resolution is creating incentives for testing. Currently, there are no incentives for getting regularly tested, and for many students, the thought of having to miss in-person classes deters them from getting tested.
“The incentive changes included stronger online access for those testing positive and isolating while waiting for results, expansion of the vaccine incentive and addition of a testing incentive and are designed to encourage campus members to follow the stated university policies,” Williams said.
The example incentives in the resolution include mostly monetary prizes, such as gift cards and other prizes for those who get tested. Williams said she hopes these incentives increase the number of students who get regularly tested.
Finally, the resolution pushed for clearer communication from the university. Currently, it is unclear what happens to students who fail to report a positive test. The resolution asks for more frequent communication about university guidelines and clearer guidelines to encourage students to follow procedures, even if they are not required to.
“The 74th Session of the Texas A&M University Student Senate supports consistent and transparent university messaging in regards to COVID-19 protocols, including increased messaging about social distancing and encouraging administrators to model university guidance,” the resolution states.
Williams said she hopes this will be the last resolution that the Student Senate has to pass about COVID-19.
“It breaks my heart that this pandemic has gone on for so long and largely desensitized us to the loss of life and normalcy,” Williams said. “I wish there was no need to continue having to address this issue.”
The Student Senate also discussed a resolution supporting the mental health of student-athletes, which passed unanimously, and a resolution concerning support and recognition for the Hindu Aggie community, which will be voted on at the next meeting on Wednesday, Oct. 20.