WT begins return to normal over summer

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The Texas A&M system has decided to begin the process of normalization. (Photo courtesy of WTAMU)

Jonah Dietz, Senior Reporter

As the spring semester draws to a close and the fall semester approaches, it seems only natural to look to West Texas A&M University for information on how it will proceed in the wake of a waning pandemic and a mass vaccination. On April 19, 2021, WTAMU President Walter Wendler sent out an email that declared a more normal fall semester awaits WTAMU students and staff, and the justifications for this. 

“Due to the continued impact of COVID-19 on our day-to-day operating protocols,” Wendler began, “my perspective is clear. We can expect fall 2021 to be very different from what we experienced in fall 2020 and more closely akin to what we are accustomed.”

He shared in the email observations his team had gathered with the aid of various constituency group leader questionnaires, which were sent out on January 28, 2021. The discussion questions asked the groups about student and staff welfare, inquired about the overall perception of progress or lack thereof in both work and learning environments, and tried to assess how individuals would feel regarding continued online work and teaching.

Anticipating safety protocols and varying degrees of adaptation based on Randall County’s COVID-19 fall situation, the Texas A&M University system has decided that, barring any drastic changes, the university will return to “normal” operations beginning June 1, 2021. Bearing in mind that these COVID-19 situations are subject to change, Wendler assured that, “in its wisdom, the A&M System Board and Chancellor John Sharp understand and appreciate local variations related to COVID-19 that may require or allow different responses to the general guidelines that have been promulgated.”

The Faculty Senate responses to the questions demonstrate the mutual assent of the community that COVID-19 and its effects have inflicted a “wound” on the community, and how to go about the healing of that wound in precise terms is still unclear. The questionnaire relinquished very few concrete suggestions and recommendations on how to proceed, only that proceeding with awareness is imperative. The response expressed an “imperative to undertake processes of comprehension, rebuilding, and reflection in Fall 2021 and beyond.”

The Student Government response showed a mutual and almost completely unanimous emotion of eager preparedness to return to normal. Wendler summarized the survey, saying, “the majority of students do not foresee obstacles for the fall 2021 semester. However, 24.25% thought, if the pandemic continues as, in the past, classroom work ethic and attendance apathy, proper mask-wearing, and living on campus requirements would be hurdles to overcome.”

Taking from the experience, students wish to see an upheld access to open educational resources and virtual integration options this fall semester even when in face-to-face classes, but most think the use of hybrid instruction should be a “last resort.”

So, as it stands, this summer things will return to a much more normal pace and structure. And, if all goes well, students, faculty, and staff alike can look forward to a fall semester that will most likely be the true beginning of the end of the coronavirus pandemic.

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