Learning about Texas A&M campus traditions and making friends through Fish Camp and Transfer Camp will look different this year as leaders make the switch to a completely online experience.
Both optional, extended orientation camps are run by A&M students, with Fish Camp intended for incoming freshmen and T-Camp — coordinated by Aggie Transition Camps — for transfer students. Leaders from both organizations said details are still being sorted out following their initial announcements last week.
It’s the second change of plans for the camps this year. Both groups typically host events off campus — Fish Camp in Palestine and T-Camp in Trinity — but both had decided in May that they would run their programs at the university. Fish Camp head director Ryan Brown and ATC executive director Emma Bianchi both cited health concerns and recent spikes in COVID-19 cases as reasons for the decision to govirtual.
“We had a plan, and we had all these measures in place that really would have helped us be able to [run Fish Camp] safely, but at the end of the day we can’t control who these freshmen are going home to,” Brown said. “We have to think about their families and the surrounding people, the surrounding employees with Texas A&M, the custodial staff and all the different pieces that are indirectly affected by Fish Camp happening as a program.”
Brown said that Fish Camp at A&M was going to cost attendees about $200, similar to previous years in Palestine, but the virtual format will be less expensive, so those who are registered will receive a significant refund. The virtual event will cost $25 to cover the price of items including a 12th Man towel, a T-shirt, mask and water bottle being mailed to attendees. Anyone who decides they don’t want to attend the virtual event can get a full refund, he said.
When camp registration initially opened up, Brown said the 3,500 spaces for seven camp sessions filled up within a week. Registration is open again through July 15, now that there are no physical limits on how many people can attend each session.
Bianchi said T-Camp leaders are also working through details for partial refunds for attendees and full refunds for cancellations. She said there will be more updates later this month, including information on how to register now that the camp will be able to accommodate more people online.
The shift to a digital format comes after a recent A&M graduate created an online petition against hosting in-person camps that garnered more than 1,500 signatures. Brown said he spoke with the former student who organized the petition to hear the concerns of those who did not want an in-person camp. In the end, Brown said, data about novel coronavirus cases is what led to the final decision.
Both Fish Camp and T-Camp will keep original dates for their events.
“We want to make [incoming students] feel like part of the Aggie family, no matter the format, no matter where they’re participating in the fall semester, whether that’s in College Station or back home,” Bianchi said. “We want them to know that they have a place here, and we’re going to support them through their time at A&M.”
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