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The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

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‘A new golden age’: President unveils new plans for university

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Photo by Ishika Samant

President M. Katherine Banks speaks to faculty after delivering her State of the University at Annenberg Presidential Conference Center on Wednesday, Sept. 28, 2022. 

After a year of rapidly-announced and implemented changes, President M. Katherine Banks addressed plans for campus improvement at the State of the University address at 3 p.m. on Wednesday, Sept. 28, at the Annenberg Presidential Conference Center.

During the speech, Banks announced A&M’s initiatives to improve the campus moving forward, with increased scholarship opportunities, development of new programs, a new museum and new student activities. Two different protest groups also attended the meeting, peacefully holding signs throughout the entire address. 

Finance senior and Student Body President Case Harris said during his opening remarks that the Student Senate is looking to improve sexual assault awareness, mental health, parking and more to ensure A&M students have the tools they need to succeed. The Student Senate is striving to make Aggies feel more connected to A&M by “building unity through tradition.” 

“We have traditions and culture campaigns where we will make sure that every student that steps foot on Texas A&M, they feel that spirit,” Harris said. 

Banks said A&M is embarking on a scholarship campaign to add an additional $100 million over the next four years to assist with the cost of education, beginning with open access textbooks for students and doubling Student Health Services over the next three years. 

“We are poised to launch a new era of success at our university,” Banks said. “Chancellor John Sharp recently said, ‘We are living in a new golden age of Texas A&M.’”

Faculty is an essential part of A&M, Banks said, and the university plans to hire over 500 faculty members over the next four years, with an investment of $50 million in startup packages. As requested by the faculty, Banks said A&M will finalize a plan for more flexible, remote options for staff, as well as committing an additional $8 million to improve older facilities on campus. 

“I recognize that change is difficult, I’m grateful for all of your effort,” Banks said. “Because of your hard work and commitment to the university, we are in a position to advance Texas A&M like never before.” 

Banks said A&M is working to improve Liberal Arts programs, through intiatives to reinstate the journalism program, with the first set of journalism students set to be welcomed in fall 2023 as part of the new College of Arts and Sciences. Esports was also listed as something A&M looks to include in future plans. 

“I’ve grown weary of hearing about outstanding, respected students who chose to attend other universities because Texas A&M lacks opportunities [for] the arts,” Banks said. “Exposure to the arts expands critical thinking which brings greater job opportunities for our students.”   

The Aplin Center will work to create a more hands-on learning approach with a $50 million donation by Arch Aplin. Professor of soil and crops sciences Steve Hague, Ph.D., said he was most excited to hear about this program. 

“I’m particularly excited about what is going on with the Aplin Center,” Hague said. “That is going to be transformative for the students … They are going to see A&M and see what we really do.” 

The Bush School of Government and Public Service is looking to expand its opportunities by allowing undergrad students opportunities to interact in the school, Banks said, and there have been discussions to add a new museum and library complex at West Campus. A&M is also continuing its plan to increase research opportunities, Banks said. 

“I want to hear your ideas and your concerns,” Banks said. 

Two groups of protestors remained throughout the duration of Banks’ speech. The two groups were Students for Democratic Society, or SDS, and People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, or PETA. The groups silently held signs from their seats, however, Banks’ speech didn’t include either of the complaints. 

Philosophy Ph.D. student Jyothis James is a member of SDS and said the organization was protesting the lack of representation of historically marginalized groups on campus as well as A&M’s decision to keep the Sullivan “Sully” Ross statue in its prominent location on Academic Plaza. 

“This university is significantly underrepresented and historically has been, although there have been improvements in the [19]90s and [19]80s, but has since gone down,” James said. “This primary campaign is to point out the racial discrepancies and the racial tensions that this university upholds.”

Members of PETA were also in attendance. Manager of campaigns Tricia Lebkuecher said records show A&M has nine dogs in its custody currently who are being used for research for A&M’s school of veterinary medicine and biomedical sciences.

“Dogs suffer and die for years, and the least the school can do is give them a loving home,” Lebkuecher said. “We will take them all and give them the homes they deserve.” 

Banks said the Vet School aspires to have the best animal hospital in the world, and will be building a new research and teaching hospital to help educate students on animal health. 

 “We must demonstrate to our country what a great American university can do to improve the lives of every American,” Banks said.

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