COLLEGE STATION, Texas — As the Aggie community is still mourning the loss of sophomore student Kirstyn Ahuero, her passing has inspired some students to speak out for change.
Texas A&M students have organized a protest against the university to be held on campus Tuesday afternoon, regarding Ahuero's passing following complications due to COVID-19.
“I just don’t think the university is taking [public health protocols] as serious as they should," commented Maya Budhrani, TAMU sophomore. "There’s a lot of, ‘yeah, you should do this,’ but there’s no follow-through, no consequences,”
Students like Budrhrani plan on attending the protest, which has been advertised through social media posts sharing a digital flyer. The flyer does not claim any connection to a particular student organization, but lists a central message insisting students will no longer tolerate the deaths of students from the coronavirus, due to what the organizers claim to be Texas A&M’s inaction.
“Under the rules and regulations of the state of Texas, as an institute of public higher education, we have to live within the boundaries of the rules that we have for us," said Greg Hartman, TAMU chief operations officer, in a virtual press conference Monday, "But we think we’re doing everything we can, if even more.”
Hartman answered media questions about A&M's COVID-19 response, commenting that university leaders would like to offer more vaccination sites if needed. He insisted the school is taking public health very seriously.
Some students KRHD spoke with on Monday noted that they understand the university is facing legal restraints from the state government, in regards to issues such as mask mandates.
“I do feel like if they had the opportunity to have a mask mandate, they would have one," said Brianna McCain, TAMU sophomore. "Because, I have so many teachers that are highly recommending [masks], and who are giving us extra credit and allowing us to do open-note exams for wearing our masks to class,”
Someone who claims to be a protest organizer created a Change.org petition on Monday, which calls for changes such as improved contact tracing and notification, better online learning options for student, and better quarantine implementing sanctions. As of mid Monday afternoon, the petition had several dozen signatures.
Not all students feel this is necessary, however.
“You have no obligation to protect others anymore, because they can protect themselves at this point,"said Alex Rochester, TAMU senior . "If the university wants to ensure that people get vaccinated, you can’t do a vaccine or mask mandate. You’ve got to give incentives for these things,”
During a late afternoon virtual TAMU faculty senate meeting with A&M president M. Katherine Banks, professors expressed concern that the university is not properly communicating with the Health Science Center, and that university research is being negatively impacted by COVID-19, among other concerns.
One professor asked what legal protections the school had if individual departments wanted to issue mask mandates, insisting her department wanted to issue a mandate. Another professor condemned what she considers the university's lack of COVID-19 contact tracing.
Texas A&M has issued a formal statement in regards to the passing of Kirstyn Ahuero, commenting:
“The Aggie family mourns the passing of sophomore biomedical engineering student Kirstyn Katherine Ahuero. Her desire to become a psychiatric nurse was a true calling to serve those in greatest need. We ask all Aggies to come forward and honor this Aggie. Here.”
The protest will take place Tuesday from 5 - 7 P.M. at the Academic Plaza on campus. Organizers ask that everyone in attendance wear face masks.