By John Kanelis
School is about to commence at Texas colleges and universities very soon.
This will be the most unusual start of an academic year in anyone’s memory, with a pandemic continuing to sicken and kill Americans.
Is the Texas A&M University-Commerce campus ready to go? Is it set to welcome students back on Aug. 24, when it plans to resume classes on the campus. TAMUC officials say “yes.”
Hmm. Well, let’s hold on to that for a moment.
It’s instructive to me that the Lone Star Conference, to which TAMUC belongs, has decided to postpone fall athletic events until the spring. The LSC is among several athletic conferences to make that call. Indeed, at least two of the Power 5 football conferences – the Big 10 and the Pac 12 – have joined some of the lower-tier conferences in postponing such activity. The Big 12, the SEC and the ACC are pushing ahead with football – for now.
I need to stipulate that I don’t have a particular dog in this fight. I don’t attend TAMUC; my children don’t attend classes there; I live with my wife in Princeton, which has its own COVID-19 issues with which to deal.
I remain skeptical about universities’ ability to ensure the safety of students, teaches, staff members and administrators while the pandemic continues to rage across the land.
I wish TAMUC President Mark Rudin well as he prepares to open the campus. He told KETR’s Jerrod Knight that the school is prepared to withstand another shutdown if the need arises. The campus is going to offer a hybrid selection of courses, online and in-person. TAMUC has assembled a strategy aimed, according to school officials, at preparing students for any eventuality.
Dr. Rudin told KETR-FM that he is prepared to go fully online if conditions warrant it.
Whether the school maintains its hybrid educational approach or reverts to an online curriculum, the issue has to put everyone on the front line at the top of its priority list.
My wish for the school is that it enact a mandatory mask requirement, require students to stay apart. Rudin so far is saying only that he intends to “encourage” students to take these measures. My own preference is for the university president – which permission from the A&M University System Board of Regents – invoke some administrative privilege and demand it of the students, faculty and staff.
But that’s just me.
A new academic year is about to commence. Let us all hope for the best, shall we?
John Kanelis, former editorial page editor for the Amarillo Globe-News and the Beaumont Enterprise, is also a former blogger for Panhandle PBS in Amarillo. He is now retired, but still writing. Kanelis can be contacted via Twitter @jkanelis, on Facebook, or his blog, www.highplainsblogger.com. Kanelis' blog for KETR, "Piece of Mind," presents his views, and does not necessarily reflect the opinion of KETR, its staff, or its members.
Kanelis lives in Princeton with his wife, Kathy.