The effect of large gatherings being prohibited on campus


Graphic courtesy of WT Theatre Facebook page

On March 13, WT Theatre posted this notice to their Facebook page 10 days after the first rehearsal for Kiss Me, Kate, which has been postponed until fall 2020.

West Texas A&M University is known for its community feel and hands-on classes meant to cater towards a more effective learning environment. However, in order to comply with the 10 person limit gathering size, many events have been canceled or postponed across campus which includes sporting events, music concerts and theatre performances.

“For our basketball teams and spring sports [softball, baseball, golf, track & field, equestrian] it’s an empty void,” said Michael McBroom, director of athletics at WTAMU. “Seasons have been canceled and the reasons student-athletes and coaches work so hard in the off-season is because they love the competition the seasons bring. Losing it all so suddenly is a big void in all of our lives.”

The NCAA and LSC have canceled all spring competition and championships but games are likely to return in the fall. For student-athletes, return to campus is voluntary. The campus training room, weight room and locker rooms are closed until April 8, but the outdoor facilities remain open for groups of 10 or less to engage in non-contact conditioning with social distancing.

“We’re all in this together, and together we will come out of this better and stronger than before. We can’t wait to welcome WT fans back to campus for our first games in September,” McBroom said.

The idea of streaming the games and playing to empty stadiums became moot since all competitions were canceled from youth sports all the way up to professional levels. McBroom said that he believes the cancellations to be “the right decision”.

“I appreciate [students’] patience and flexibility as we try to navigate instructions from the university and system,” said Associate Director for the School of Music, Mark Bartley.

Bartley posted on the WTAMU website the plan for the department and the “unique challenges” that come with moving music courses online. On the School of Music webpage, he listed how specific major’s classes will be handled with music, music industry and humanities classes being moved completely online.

“To the extent possible, lessons will move online. However, if both faculty member and student are comfortable with face-to-face and adhere to social-distancing protocols, studio lessons can continue in person,” Bartley said regarding applied music courses.

The status of music recitals, hearings and juries had not been decided at the time the post was made. The department is still working on ways to allow capstone projects to be completed, which for music majors are recitals and performances and in this case may not be made public. Music ensemble courses have all been canceled post-spring break and all concerts and recitals for the ensembles have been canceled as well.

“More than anything else, the online environment robs us of being together as a theatre family and it removes the in-person aesthetic that theater training relies upon,” said Royal Brantley, regents professor and director of theatre in a note sent to theatre students. “Ultimately, learning online can isolate individuals, create doubts and foster questions. With that in mind, you may email, call or text us if you need assistance with anything.”

Courses, advising and juries for the theatre department are going to be held online. The musical Kiss Me, Kate is being postponed to the fall semester and graduating seniors who were a part of the production will have the chance to appear as guest artists when the show is performed. Auditions for the opening show of the fall semester will be held online in April. The BIT award ceremony will not be held this semester but the faculty are discussing possible solutions.

Students received an email on March 24 stating that the Hastings Electronic Learning Center and Amarillo Center computer labs are only allotting 10 people in the lab at a time in order to comply with the university’s response to COVID-19. Access to the labs must be secured through reservation only and will be open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday at the HELC and 7:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday at the Amarillo Center.