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TAMS announces fully online spring semester without student, parent input

TAMS announces fully online spring semester without student, parent input

TAMS announces fully online spring semester without student, parent input
October 29
12:00 2020

The university announced Oct. 11 students in the Texas Academy of Mathematics and Science (TAMS) program would not reside on campus for the spring semester, leaving students and parents with questions and concerns.

Parents and students were notified of this decision through an email from Dean Glenisson deOliveira. Students and parents were not consulted in the decision, deOliveira said

The university was in correspondence with public health experts and made the decision based on the fact that a number of TAMS students are minors who may be more vulnerable, deOliveira said.

“The situation in the world right now made everything a little more challenging and different,” deOliveira said. “UNT is very cautious about safety and there are some groups that are often considered to be more vulnerable when it comes to safety issues. Of course, younger people, minors, would be in that category. Because of that, UNT has taken a stance of being extra cautious […] for their decisions when it comes to these populations.” 

Normally, TAMS students reside in McConnell Hall. Currently, a wing of McConnell Hall is being used for students in quarantine.

While the university is making efforts to increase face-to-face events next semester by increasing its number of in-person classes and possibly allowing club meetings, TAMS will remain remote. 

There are 374 TAMS students, according to the TAMS admissions webpage. As the university’s total enrollment for fall is 40,796 students, TAMS students account for less than one percent of the student body.

TAMS parents Chris Summitt and Emily Summitt said they feel it is contradictory for the university to allow football games but not allow TAMS students to live on campus. 

“How could they possibly believe it is safe enough to try and put 10,000 or more people in Apogee stadium, but you can’t let these kids live in a dormitory?” Chris said. “I would respect the decision if it was consistent.”

Chris and Emily said they feel TAMS students are being singled out.

“Really and truly they’re allowing everybody else on campus except for TAMS students,” Emily said.

TAMS senior Halle Summitt said she believes the difference between TAMS students and college freshmen is minimal. 

“It’s hard for me to understand how much of a difference there is between a 17-year-old in the TAMS  program versus maybe a 17-year-old freshman at UNT,” Halle said. “Are they not a vulnerable population because they’re a minor as well?”

Additionally, Halle said she thinks TAMS students may be at a lower risk for contracting and spreading COVID-19 due to a higher level of maturity within the student body. 

“I feel like there could be irresponsible UNT students who are 18 who would not be socially distant and responsible in that sort of way,” Halle said. “But I feel overall as a TAMS body the sense of maturity and responsibility is very high. I feel like any safety regulations or additional measures placed on us would be followed.”

The program sent a survey to parents and students over the summer to find out how many members of TAMS felt comfortable returning to campus residence in the fall. A minority said they wanted to return at the time of the survey. Emily said had they been polled again for the spring semester decision, the results may have been different.

“I think a lot of people expected that they would survey us again,” Emily said. “Things have changed. People know a lot more about how to live with [the virus], how to social distance, how things go if you want to try to have a semi-normal life. The numbers of who wants to live in the dorms again are back up because these kids want to […]  get back to living with their friends.”

Chris and TAMS parent Dwayne Purvis said they reached out to several members of the administration to petition this decision. Both parents said they have received no response from certain administrators on separate occasions. 

Purvis created a visual presentation as an appeal to the administration, which includes multiple arguments as to why students should be able to choose to return to campus.

The presentation includes how TAMS students are less than one percent of the population. Purvis said he believes with TAMS students attending in-person, “incremental risk to the university is trivial.” 

According to the university’s COVID-19 dashboard, the highest number of active cases on campus occurred the week of Oct. 16, at 57 cases. Emily said she feels comfortable enough with the university’s safety protocols to send her daughter to campus. 

“The COVID numbers are good,” Emily said. “I feel good about it and I’m willing to send my kid like a lot of other people are. [University officials] simply do not wanna do it and they keep citing safety reasons.”

Chris said his daughter sacrificed extracurriculars like her former high school’s swim team and orchestra to be in the TAMS program. He also said his daughter is missing out on a normal student experience because of the university’s decision.

“Those things were really important to her, and she sacrificed those to go to TAMS believing she would have opportunities to socialize and participate in academic clubs and other things to fill those voids,” Chris said. “Her friends that are seniors at Denton High School are participating in swim team, they’re participating in the orchestra, they’re having that social interaction that everybody needs.”

The residential component of the program is a large part of the learning experience, deOliveira said.

“It is a residential program, and that’s part of the impact it has,” deOliveira said. “We bring all these very talented young people together and as they are in one community and live together, that has an impact in their growth. They are able to influence each other, collaborate and work together. That is a part of the culture and the formula for success for the program historically and in the long term.”

Because of this, Student Government Association TAMS senator Navya Chintaman said the residential aspect could be a deciding factor in whether students join the program.

“McConnell Hall is a very big part of the TAMS community,” Chintaman said. “A lot of us left our high school because we wanted to escape in a sense. We wanted better opportunities. We wanted a community that was like-minded. If in hindsight I knew that I was going to spend a majority of my time at TAMS online, I don’t know if I would’ve come because that’s a huge investment in something that might not be giving you back what you want.”

Chintaman said in the future the university needs to consider student and parent input and communicate more effectively. 

“They should’ve done a survey. “I think it was wrong to not consider student opinion at all,” Chintaman said. “We’ve all chosen to pay tens of thousands of dollars. We’ve left our public schools to come here and pay college tuition and to feel like you’re getting cheated of that early college experience is wrong […] I understand how people think they don’t have our best interest at heart. Whether they do or not I don’t know.”

Featured Image: The Texas Academy of Mathematics and Science,TAMS, located in McConnell Hall on W Sycamore Street. TAMS students were notified that they will not return to McConnell Hall in the spring. Image by Samuel Gomez

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McKenna Cowley

McKenna Cowley

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1 Comment

  1. Houston Daddy
    Houston Daddy October 29, 12:40

    Support TAMS students’ opinion and passion.

    Reply to this comment

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