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

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

The Battalion

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It’s not too late to change A&M’s course

Photo by Photo by Robert O’Brien

Students protest the university’s current COVID-19 protocols in the wake of the death of biomedical sciences sophomore Kirstyn Katherine Ahuero.

Echoing throughout central campus and down Military Walk, their chants could be heard from down the block.

“What about Kirstyn?”

“What about me?”

”What about my life?” 

“Kirstyn” is biomedical sciences sophomore Kirstyn Katherine Ahuero, the first known Texas A&M student to die due to COVID-19. She was 20 years old. 

Her death has sparked a call for safety among A&M students and faculty. Gov. Greg Abbott’s restrictions on mandated masks and vaccinations leave university officials in a chokehold, but instead of working around these restrictions, the university has opted to go back to fall 2019 protocol with majority in-person classes and only one round of mandatory testing. While signs posted throughout A&M’s campus encourage mask-wearing, it doesn’t take long to see most people aren’t wearing one.
On Tuesday, Sept. 14 students took to Academic Plaza to protest A&M’s lack of action.

Neo Koite, wildlife and fisheries sciences junior, helped orchestrate the protest. 

“We understand that [the university] can’t provide vaccine and mask mandates,” Koite said. “But we have [to] come up with other ways such as online or hybrid class and non-mandatory class.” 

Koite went on to detail how mandatory in-person classes encourage students who are sick to come to class.  

Campus guidelines do not require students to do much of anything. While there’s a very nice flowchart available on the COVID-19 guidelines page, you’ll notice the continued use of the word “should.” Students should do this. The faculty should report that. While there is a moral obligation to quarantine when exposed, getting tested and vaccinated isn’t a requirement. Although the university’s COVID-19 response page states that they have “​​deployed significant resources to help the state monitor and fight this virus,” campus officials can’t seem to find within their own researchers’ data the importance of increased classroom exposure notifications, virtual options, social distancing and increased testing. 

It’s a shame that a university that prides itself on its contribution to public health and research can’t seem to properly manage its own campus’s safety.  

That’s why protesters organized an itemized list of actions needed from A&M’s administration. Ranging from improved contact tracing to better quarantining regulations. 

Grace Hess, a biomedical sciences junior, explained how not everyone is in the position to get sick. Texas college students’ medical coverage is one of the lowest in the country, with about 13.5 percent of Texas students uninsured. 

Since Sept. 11, Texas A&M has reported 1,498 positive cases. In total, over 60,000 Texans have died, enough to fill more than half of Kyle Field. While cases reported are down in the state of Texas, so is testing. With little flexibility available to college campuses, the clusters of social life go on. So too do the unreported infections.

“I’m [going] to my classes learning about viruses and the pandemic [and] it’s so frustrating that the institution that is teaching me these things isn’t even listening to itself,” Hess said. “I’m convinced that they don’t care.”

To date, A&M has not posted any information on their website or on social media detailing the loss of the first student to COVID-19. 

Amanda Harvey, wildlife and fisheries sciences junior, who also helped organize the protests, wants everyone to know that “[they’re] trying to publicize [Ahuero’s] death to let others know that a member of the Aggie family has been lost.” Protest leaders Harvey and Koite are trying to get A&M officials to listen to students’ concerns. The death of an Aggie shouldn’t be swept under the rug. 

The Aggie community prides itself on selfless service and leadership. It’s never been an “I” mentality, but a lending hand on this campus. Politics and beliefs shouldn’t cause a division between life and death. Texas A&M’s mission is to gain more understanding through research. 

We have the research. What we need now is for A&M to listen. 

Protest leaders have created a Linktree where you can find their statement of beliefs, petition and COVID-19 resources. You can access this here

Kaelin Connor is a psychology senior and opinion writer for The Battalion. 

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