Tiffany Haddish attended the premiere of the film "Sonic the Hedgehog" in Los Angeles on Feb. 12. Credit: REUTERS/Mario Anzuoni
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Sam Houston State University welcomed students back for an uncertain fall semester this week with a free, in-person comedy show starring movie star and comedian Tiffany Haddish.
The indoor event, held on the first day of class, allowed up to 675 students into the school’s Johnson Coliseum, which has a capacity of roughly 6,000 people. It angered some students and staff members who worried the school isn’t taking student safety in the coronavirus pandemic seriously.
The event happened during a week in which universities around the country are beginning to realize the risks of having students on campus and changing their policies accordingly, including the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill and the University of Notre Dame, which both moved their classes online this week after seeing surges in coronavirus cases. Sam Houston State is proceeding with a hybrid model of online and face-to-face instruction and is hosting an array of in-person events during its Welcome Week, including a “speed friending” event and Greek life gatherings.
The comedy show required face coverings, in accordance with a university policy that mandates the wearing of masks “unless [students] are in a private space or are engaged an activity for which wearing a covering is impractical (such as eating).”
Emily Schulze, a spokesperson for Sam Houston State, said that the venue was sanitized before the event, all employees wore face masks and shields, and “22 air handling units in the coliseum provided abundant fresh air circulation throughout.” Meanwhile, event coordinators provided a small bottle of hand sanitizer and a mask to every student. Staff placed in the audience enforced the mask requirement, Schulze said.
Seating was spaced in accordance with guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Schulze said, which meant leaving every other row vacant. Leaders of the university’s Welcome Week were shown sitting in folding chairs distanced from one another at the venue in the moments before the event, according to a photo the school’s Department of Student Activities posted on Facebook Tuesday evening.