Fashion Merchandising students work on their mannequin display
File: Fashion Merchandising students work on their mannequin display. (Heesoo Yang/Staff Photographer)
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Concerns about students masking up dominated conversations in the first Faculty Senate meeting of the new academic year.

The active case count for the coronavirus on campus more than doubled from 78 to 178 active cases during week two of the semester, according to the TCU COVID-19 Dashboard.

This fall’s spike was predicted, said Chancellor Victor Boschini at Thursday's meeting, but testing centers have not been able to meet the demand on campus.

The TCU health center is “jammed,” and Walgreens and CVS are backlogged, causing a delay in students getting tested, said Boschini. 

The health center reports testing only about 25 to 30 students daily.

A request to get more testing teams to come to campus was filed by Vice Chancellor of Student Affairs Kathryn Cavins-Tull.

Testing issues come as Tarrant County’s community spread cases rose to 6,439 Wednesday.

For some faculty, mask misconduct was a glaring issue. But their complaints about students not following the TCU policy requiring students to wear masks around their mouth and nose weren’t met with promises of increased enforcement.

“If you want, you can police the students, you can put up extra signing, and if you don’t want to, you can report it to the dean of students.”

Provost Teresa Abi-Nader Dahlberg

“We are not doing the hard policing,” said Provost Teresa Abi-Nader Dahlberg in response to faculty complaints. “If you want, you can police the students, you can put up extra signing, and if you don’t want to, you can report it to the dean of students.”

Dean of Students Mike Russel said he has talked to about 10 faculty and staff members regarding mask misconduct since the beginning of the semester and is ready to suggest consequences.

Breaking mask policy could result in a non-academic misconduct process, administered by the Dean of Students and several panels, for students who have been confronted by faculty or staff members twice, Russel said at the meeting.

Interim-Code-of-Student-Conduct-effective-August-16-2021

The present TCU student code on non-academic misconduct outlines policies such as sexual misconduct, prohibited discrimination and retaliation but does not yet represent a policy directed toward masks or vaccinations.

Boschini squashed the idea of a vaccination mandate during the meeting.

While the Faculty Senate discussed a bill that could allow TCU to mandate vaccination following the FDA full approval of the BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine, the university's current approach doesn’t permit requiring vaccination or against new employees or students who chose not to get vaccinated, said Boschini.

The composite number of vaccinations reported by faculty, staff and students is 7,497 (up from 7,267 last week), according to Protect the Purple.

In other business from the Faculty Senate meeting:

  • TCU is still on the search for an SIS Dean with the first round of interviews, and should have someone in September of next year.
  • TCU is starting the search for an Honors & Fine Arts Dean, and plan to hire someone in September of next year.
  • TCU is still searching for Registrar hires. They are in the first and second-round interviews, and slate a completion date for this month.
  • Sadler renovation is now underway with the goal to be completed the 2023 school year as the new home of interdisciplinary studies and the John V. Roach Honors College.
  • Advising Software Project and Green Chair Speaker Series projects are to resume.
  • For Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC), Provost announced that TCU is no longer on monitoring. TCU was on monitoring until April 2021 due to insufficient reports for student degrees.

To report your vaccination status, visit the TCU vaccination form made for TCU students and employees.

Zooming out

With most Texas colleges and universities ditching Zoom for the classroom, North Texas schools have all seen an increase in cases since the start of the school year.

In total, TCU has 178 active cases, while Southern Methodist University has 70 and Baylor University, 204, according to the most current data from Baylor University and Southern Methodist University.

Last September despite virtual learning, 244 active cases and the postponement of TCU football's season opener marked the beginning of the school’s largest spike in cases.

Now, many Texas schools are faced with navigating the Delta variant in normal classroom settings.

So far, zero hospitalizations within the TCU community have been reported to Protect the Purple, and the availability of protective equipment and isolation beds are at 65% or greater.

The same cannot be said for Tarrant County as a whole, which has experienced a spike in bed occupancy related to COVID-19 since the summer.

Current data from the Tarrant County website shows that hospital bed occupancy is at 94% with 24% of total beds being occupied by COVID-19 patients.

Texas Governor Greg Abbott posted a tweet that attracted backlash from many in the internet community this week.

Comments showed frustration over Abbott's selectivity of data.

According to the Texas Tribune, Texas hospitals are reporting comparable hospitalizations to the state's peak numbers following the winter surge.

His tweets have not addressed many of the recent coronavirus trends.

Another trend is showing that more and more young people are contracting the virus.

Since the summer, Tarrant County's 45-64 age group has had the largest downward trend in contracting the virus, while residents under 15 have had the biggest upward trend. 

The 25-44 age group has remained stagnant in case count but still leads all age categories in positive cases.

The majority of hospitalizations are occupied by those 65+, followed by the 45-64 group.

Overall, Tarrant County is receiving more positive COVID-19 cases and related deaths than it did last September.

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JD is a journalism major at TCU from Maui, HI. When he isn't too busy studying, he's jamming out or daydreaming about sunset surf sessions.