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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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The BattalionMay 4, 2024

The call of the mighty dollar

Opinion+writer+Garion+Frankel%26%23160%3Bdiscusses+his+thoughts+about+moving+Silver+Taps+online.
FILE

Opinion writer Garion Frankel discusses his thoughts about moving Silver Taps online.

On Aug. 17, The Paul Finebaum Show unveiled Texas A&M football’s triumphant return, with the Aggies hosting Vanderbilt at a 25 percent capacity-restricted Kyle Field. The return of college football (in a socially distanced fashion) will be cathartic, and I fully intend to watch the game with my family while gorging on pizza.
However, the Aggies never play a game at Kyle Field without the 12th Man (whom, I would argue, encapsulates the Aggie Spirit), and the 12th Man includes those students we have tragically lost during their time at A&M. On the same day Finebaum announced the first game of the season, A&M, in coordination with the Traditions Council, released a statement informing the Aggie community that Silver Taps would be held online for the fall semester. Some students attended in person anyway, and I applaud them for it. The reasons for the move to a virtual format were “health and safety concerns” related to the COVID-19 pandemic. This contrast does not make sense epidemiologically.
It is indefensible from an epidemiological perspective for the university to bend over backward to accommodate in-person attendance for college football games while Silver Taps is unceremoniously moved online until further notice. Both football and Silver Taps are outdoors, and hence very low-risk events, but the former is riskier. Even with COVID-19 mitigation policies in place, any football game is a rowdy event that presents multiple public health challenges. For example, loud cheering or singing increases the risk of COVID-19 transmission (even with masks), while copious amounts of alcohol damage the immune system and make complications of COVID-19 more likely. Even though Kyle Field has suspended tailgating for the first game and could suspend alcohol sales, fans will still find a way to drink before the game. Such rowdiness would never be on display or tolerated at a socially distanced Silver Taps. Moreover, the only sounds are the crack of the three-volley salute, the Albritton Bell Tower’s soft chiming and the bugles’ music.
So why is A&M prioritizing one tradition over another, making every concession to the football team but not to the Aggies who are no longer with us? The COVID-19 pandemic is an excuse rather than a legitimate justification. There is no reason that both football and Silver Taps can’t be held in-person. Based on this prioritization choice, I can’t help but fear A&M may have answered the mighty dollar’s call. They have elevated ticket sales and TV deals over tradition and the student body.
I hope I’m wrong. I came to A&M because it was a bastion of virtue and character amid a sea of corporations masquerading as universities. Our history and traditions appeared to mean something, with the Aggie Spirit flowing through every nook and cranny on campus. Now, the only conclusion I can come to is that the primary quality separating us from the school down the road in Austin is the student body’s commitment to preserving the Aggie Spirit.
In our bleak, soulless and polarized world, in which public institutions increasingly attach a numerical value to human life, the Aggie Spirit shines a light through the darkness. All Aggies are part of one family. We may argue and scuffle with one another, but the familial bonds forged during our time in College Station are lifelong. When a member of our family is lost prematurely, the Aggie community should have the privilege of honoring them with the same reverence that we have always accorded during Silver Taps (with appropriate COVID-19 precautions). We now have a lonely new reality where grief is more difficult because we cannot physically mourn together. This pain is only made worse by critics perceiving this change as being financially-motivated. If finances are indeed the motive for moving Silver Taps online, then decision-makers disrespect both fallen Aggies and the Silver Taps tradition.
The university still has time to reaffirm its commitment to our core values and make their motives clear. Students should never be an afterthought in upper-level discussions. We are the university’s lifeblood, and putting purely financial interests over ours could compromise A&M’s history and legacy. Football is part of the Aggie experience too. There’s nothing wrong with keeping as many football traditions as possible during these troubled times. That being said, A&M should have the decency to do the same for fallen Aggies and their families. Silver Taps is safer to hold in-person than football, and it won’t cost the university a dime.
Students have proven that the Aggie values the university claims to uphold are alive and well — administrators should do the same.
Garion Frankel is a university studies junior and opinion writer for The Battalion.

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