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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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The BattalionMay 4, 2024

Analysis: The state of our university

Photo by Ishika Samant

 In light of President Banks’ recent State of the University Address, opinion writer Charis Adkins discusses the aspects of A&M that Banks neglected to mention. From the consolidation of colleges, organizational restructuring and steps back in A&M’s research mission, what wasn’t said is just as telling as what was.

On Sept. 28, President M. Katherine Banks took the Annenberg Presidential Conference Center stage and delivered the annual State of the University Address. This broad speech covered many facets of Texas A&M’s recent successes and future plans, from the installation of Aggie Park to the announcement of the new Aplin Center.
Banks said A&M was “embarking on a scholarship campaign with a goal of an additional $100 million over the next four years” to help students with the cost of attendance, as well as increase usage of open-access textbooks and further developing Student Health Services — all of which is promising for A&M’s affordability and student quality of life.
A&M’s main campus is also looking at an array of improvements, such as much-needed maintenance and revamping for older facilities. There’s also the brand-new School of Performance, Visualization and Fine Arts to look forward to.
A&M has truly come a long way over the span of one year, and the State of the University Address is what helps us to recognize these achievements.
But it’s safe to say there were a few things missing. While a lot was said in the address, perhaps more was conveyed in what was not spoken.
First and foremost, specifics regarding the new unified College of Arts and Sciences was conspicuously absent. You would think something as monumental as the consolidation of three entire colleges would make the list of talking points, but it seems Banks doesn’t feel that way.
She did, however, utilize that old politician’s trick of vague references, so that a number of her statements could be attributed to the new college. For example, early in the speech, Banks said “important steps were taken this year to set the stage for organizational success,” and that she does “recognize that change is difficult.”
Is this referring to the consolidation, the library restructuring or one of the various other major changes A&M has undergone this year in the name of “organizational success?” It’s unclear.
Surprisingly, Banks did mention liberal arts in the address. Unsurprisingly, her primary concern with the subject was how it could benefit engineering and other STEM majors.
“Some of the fastest-growing job markets are for music composers and set designers for video games,” Banks said. “Other areas include developers of medical simulations to help physicians train for surgery. These employees need not only to have technical competences to code but also the passion to compose music and to create visual art.”
Evidently, Banks views the arts as a means to enhance existing STEM education and job opportunities at A&M, not as a valid practice in and of itself. Yet again, the Fine Arts finds itself secondary to its engineering counterpart.
“We will focus on blending the arts with Texas A&M’s strength in engineering,” Banks concluded.
Of course, the consolidation wasn’t the only aspect of A&M’s recent proceedings that didn’t make it into the address.
Despite calling traditions “the heart of Texas A&M,” Banks neglected to mention this year’s curtailed Howdy Week, which hindered freshmen’s acclimation period to A&M, or the resulting fall break.
She also danced around the topic of international affairs. “It’s important to remember that Texas A&M isn’t just one campus,” Banks said. She also spent considerable time praising A&M’s designation as a “top-tier research university.” However, there was no discussion of the major reorganization of A&M’s Qatar campus, part of which resulted in the removal of research capabilities for professors.
While improvements and innovations are undoubtedly being made at Texas A&M, it’s what’s left unsaid that truly sheds light on the state of our university.
Is this the “new golden age” of Texas A&M? Only time will tell.
Charis Adkins is an English sophomore and opinion writer for The Battalion.

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