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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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Student protesters attend Board of Regents meeting

The Texas A&M University System Board of Regents was met with two groups of silent protesters, one in support of The Battalion and one for increased COVID-19 regulations, on Feb. 17 in the quarterly meeting.
The Reed Arena ballroom was filled with students who held copies of The Battalion and posters regarding COVID-19 in the back of the room for the entirety of the meeting. Though typically not allowed, the board permitted two student speakers to speak at the meeting regarding The Battalion and COVID-19 protests. Although these topics were not considered a part of the voting agenda for the day, chairman Tim Leach said the Board would consider the information presented by students in future discussions.
Serving as a #SaveTheBatt student organizer and the creator of the petition supporting The Battalion, which has garnered 6,980 supporters, sophomore Audrey Shaw spoke on behalf of the group at the meeting.
Editor’s Note: Neither the #SaveTheBatt movement nor the aforementioned petition are endorsed by The Battalion.
With an emphasis on the Core Values of the university, Shaw presented why the student-run newspaper was important to the campus climate.
“The Battalion represents the Core Values of A&M: Respect for students with different opinions as seen in the many editorials from the entire spectrum of political ideology,” Shaw said. “Excellence in journalism, garnering countless awards and ranking highly among national student newspapers; Leadership, allowing students to make their own decisions from the facts presented to them; and Loyalty to the student body reporting on what matters to students by the students; Integrity [through] upholding the strict standards of journalism in every story published; and finally Selfless Service [by] making all of this available for free to anyone who picks up a copy of The Battalion on campus or visit their website.”
Comparing the newspaper’s age to other traditions such as Aggie Football and the nationally famous Fightin’ Texas Aggie Band, Shaw said she is worried about the recent actions of the administration regarding the organization’s operations.
“The administration is attempting to strip [The Battalion] of [its] rights, take away their independent identity,” Shaw said. “The Battalion is independent, as all journalism should be, and this is their identity. Yet, this decision, made without consulting The Battalion staff or professors of journalism, aims to destroy this.”
While Shaw said she supports the idea of a strong journalism department, she is worried that decisions made can affect the independence of the content of the newspaper.
“How can we establish a better journalism department by ignoring one of the most fundamental truths of journalism, that it must be independent,” Shaw said. “Even deeper than this, this decision breaks the Aggie Core Values that The Battalion has upheld for over a century.”
Shaw said this debate regarding the status of the newspaper goes beyond if students have the ability to physically pick up a paper every Thursday on newsstands.
“This is not simply a debate about print versus online. It is a debate about what it means to be an Aggie,” Shaw said. “This is the debate surrounding the censorship and the rise of student organizations on campus, and The Battalion is part of what it means to be an Aggie and it represents all of the ideas of a true Aggie. Moving The Battalion under the purview of the administration would result in a loss of a key component of both the Aggie experience and identity.”
As a current member of the journalism working group and a former sports writer for The Battalion, Jon Heidtke said it was encouraging to see students at the Board meeting.
​​”It’s good to see students caring about an issue,” Heidtke said. “You can learn things in the classroom, but you can also learn things about life. I applaud the students that were there today and have the conviction and the ability to want to continue to support the initiative of The Battalion. It was a welcome sight, [and] they were very respectful.”
With the university’s decision to add two student staff members from The Battalion and their staff adviser, Heidtke said he believes it will add to the conversation with current views from students who are involved in journalism on campus.
“Anytime you can expand a group to look at the lens through a variety of different eyes, that’s always a good thing,” Heidtke said. “It’s important that we do have students on the task force, because they’re the ones that are currently going through the program and seeing all sides of it. Having their input is certainly going to help us be more in tune with what’s going on in the classroom, and hopefully allow us to make a better decision as we go forward.”
Heidtke said with the working group, he believes members have an opportunity to look at the industry and see how A&M journalism can grow.
“We have an opportunity here as a working group to talk to the industry, talk to former students [and] talk to other academic institutions to put a program together that will hopefully be the best in its class and [have a] state of the art facility,” Heidtke said. “Future journalists … will have a great opportunity to learn not only the tenets of journalism, but certainly be able to to survive and thrive.”
#SaveTheBatt supporter and Hispanic Presidents’ Council President Alexia Hernandez said she and other students decided to participate in a sit-in protest at the board meeting to show their support for student organizations like The Battalion.
“We are protesting the administrative overstep of many different student organizations and programs, specifically The Battalion,” Hernandez said. “We are trying to send the message that student journalism should be protected, it should be left alone, it should be independent, and we hope that the Board of Regents can stand with us in having our mission heard.”
The protest was organized independently by students, Hernandez said.
“We are a non-Batt affiliated group … we want to bring awareness to this issue and be right in front of the Board of Regents [to] say, ‘Hey, we’re here and we care about this issue and we’re not going away,’” Hernandez said.
Another group of students attended the meeting to protest the climate of COVID-19 on campus and urged university officials to take action. Speaker Mia Ogolo said with the rise of the omicron variant it is becoming harder for individuals to protect themselves on campus.
“The Texas A&M University System puts at-risk groups in danger while also jeopardizing the entire community’s future health,” Ogolo said. “For at risk populations, the current consequences eliminated by data are enough to cause unparalleled damage, while also treating their lives as disposable. This is made worse by the complications arising from the extended coronavirus pandemic, as well as from symptoms including long coronavirus.”
Ogolo presented a list of demands, which various student organizations coming together to form the Public Health Coalition, have put together to protect the campus community. Demans include the availability of online classes, expanded quarantine options for on-campus students and sanctions for students who are not complying with needed health procedures.
Another group of student protesters also attended the meeting to voice their concerns over COVID-19 regulations. One of these students, visualization major Frey Miller, said their protest had been in the plans for weeks.
“This has been an ongoing grassroots movement founded by the unity of students, faculty and staff … to ask for tighter [COVID-19] protocols,” Miller said.
Miller said it is important to recognize the COVID-19 pandemic is not over yet.
“COVID[-19] is still affecting students even though [Texas] A&M has not really reacted to the intensity of the pandemic,” Miller said.
After finding out another protest was planned for the same time, Miller said they decided to attend as a joint movement.
“We originally planned this demonstration before The Battalion incident,” Miller said. “We thought that by having our group show up it could be a joint movement to show how the administration is failing The Battalion and [student voices], but also failing students by failing to keep them safe.”
There are still things that can be done about the pandemic, Miller said.
“So many other campuses have shown that there are more resources that can be implemented and that students can voice their concerns about COVID[-19],” Miller said.
In addition to the protests, the Board approved construction projects for the Fort Worth, Bryan, Prairie View and San Antonio campuses. The Tarleton State University Fort Worth campus will get a $66 million education building, the second on the campus, while the RELLIS Campus in Bryan will see $7.7 million in water, power, fiber and sewer improvements, according to a Feb. 17 press release.
“These projects are just two examples of how the proceeds of the Permanent University Fund benefit communities all over the state,” System Chancellor John Sharp said in the release. “Most people never realize how their communities are helped by the [Permanent University Fund].”
The release also said the San Antonio campus will see an improved number of beds, adding 340 to the 380 that are currently on campus, costing $32.5 million, and Prairie View A&M will receive a new fire alarm system, costing $11 million.
The board approved an increase to the A&M Bright Complex now totalling $235 million, over the previously approved $205 million, most of which will come from gifts and licensing, the release said.
“The additional money will expand a new indoor football practice facility and academic support center. Locker rooms, player lounges and training rooms also will be remodeled,” the release reads.
The Board also approved the naming of the A&M basketball court after retiringwomen’s basketball coach, Gary Blair.
“[Blair’s] collegiate coaching career spanned more than four decades,” the release read. “He has coached at Texas A&M since the 2003-04 season.”

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