TUESDAY November 14, 2023 VOLUME 113 ISSUE 15 www.UniversityStar.com
University Camp sale to not be voted on By Staff The sale of University Camp was planned on being approved at the Nov. 16 Texas State University System Board of Regents meeting, but on Nov. 9, the item disappeared from the agenda. The meeting item, which originally was on page 371 of the agenda and detailed the potential sale of the 126-acre property, now reads “This page is intentionally left blank.” Needmore River Ranch, the prospective buyer for the property, obtained an appraisal for the land at $4.6 million. If the Needmore River Ranch buys the property, it will pay the appraised price of $4.6 million and make an “unrestricted donation” of $4.4 million to
Texas State to be paid out over three years, according to the agenda. In total, Texas State would receive around $9 million for the sale of University Camp; $4.6 million for the sale and $4.4 million from the unrestricted donation. According to the deleted meeting item, Texas State would use the money from the sale to “have funding available for other strategic initiatives.” Needmore Ranch is a 5,000 acre property along the Blanco River in Wimberley, Texas. Greg LaMantia, the owner of the ranch, came under controversy when he received a permit to extract 289 million gallons of water from the Trinity Aquifer annually in 2019.
PHOTO BY SARAH MANNING
The sun sets behind the trees along the Blanco River, Thursday, Aug. 10, 2023, at University Camp in Wimberley, Texas.
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Former Texas State basketball player reflects on Israel experience By Deondre Hayes Sports Contributor
PHOTO BY KATHERINE REA
This week at Texas State Texas States Student Involvement brings many different people, cultures and organizations together to indulge in a number of different events all over campus. From Texas State’s fall fest to the
Bachelor of Fine Arts showcase for choreographed performances this week, there is always fun events for students to pursue and enjoy on a week-byweek basis.
Texas State women’s basketball alumna Da’Nasia Hood started her professional basketball career after signing her first contract to play in Puerto Rico last spring. The former Texas State standout then experienced an eyeopening culture shock after landing in Israel to begin her second professional contract amid the country’s ongoing conflict with Hamas. “It was only my third day. I had only slept there for two nights and had only finished one practice before they started the attacks,” Hood said. “I was in and out of [a] bomb shelter and taking cover for safety. Also with the league being on hold I wasn’t even playing basketball, so I decided to just come home.”
SEE WOMEN'S BASKETBALL PAGE 9
PHOTO BY KATHERINE REA
PHOTO BY SARAH MANNING
PHOTO BY MANDALYN LEWALLEN
PHOTO BY KATHERINE REA
SEE STAR SNAPS PAGE 5
Texas State graduate forward Da’Nasia Hood (32) shoots the ball over a Troy defender, Thursday, Feb. 2, 2023, at Strahan Arena.
Tantra, locals see new moment for music in San Marcos By AnaBelle Elliott Life and Arts Reporter Tantra, a coffee shop locals claim served as a San Marcos music hub which closed during the pandemic, opened its doors again on Nov. 1. COVID-19 caused a halt in the live music scene of San Marcos, but with the new opening of Tantra, some locals have questioned if the music community will be impacted. “I think the music scene has changed a lot since [COVID-19],” George Pappas, a local musician who does
solo projects under the name "The Homily," said. “But there's Hippie San Marcos that I think was traditionally based out of Tantra. That was a cultural hub for what people think of as San Marcos.” Tantra originally opened in 2005 as one of the first venues that Matthew Driskill, a local sound engineer and Texas State alumnus, came to when he came to San Marcos in 2017 to attend Texas State. He said it was what got him involved in the music scene. Driskell believes Tantra’s live music times will allow a wider variety of people to enjoy the music scene.
SEE COMMUNITY PAGE 5
PHOTO BY KOBE ARRIAGA
Tantra Coffee Shop opens its doors to customers with its grand opening on Wednesday, Nov. 4, 2023, at Tantra Coffee Shop in San Marcos.
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Texas State honors Veterans Week By Lesdy Hernandez News Reporter Veteran’s Day celebrations kicked off early this year with week-long festivities all through the city recognizing veteran’s bravery, sacrifices and achievements. On Nov. 7, the Student Involvement and Engagement Department hosted the annual Veteran's Day Commemoration Program where song performances, remarks and special recognitions were presented for members of the community, faculty & staff and students to enjoy. Lt. Col. William B. Selber, who served in the United States Air Force, was the alumni keynote speaker for the program and shared his experience during his almost 20-year-long career. “It is a little surreal because about 19 years ago, a young second lieutenant commissioned into the United States Air Force not too far from here,” Selber said. “ I was a little timid then, but I was excited to be joining the military.” During his introduction, it was stated Selber recently completed a twoyear assignment as the commander of the 451 Intelligence Squadron at Fort Gordon, Georgia, and next year will begin his own transition out of military service. Selber shared the importance of talking about the loss of wars and sharing the truth behind the issues that may be difficult to speak up about. “We have to open ourselves up and be vulnerable, tell our stories,” Selber said. “Not just the ones about bravery and gallantry, but also the ones about shame and humiliation and about the wars of war.” Dr. Angelica Coronado, director and attorney for the Attorney for Students at TXST, attended the event and said it is important to acknowledge
and recognize the efforts veterans have given to protect their nation. “They have given so much of their life in service to others and so have their families, my husband is actually a veteran,” Coronado said. “I have several family members who are veterans and currently are in the military.” Coronado said Texas State hosting this annual event is a great way for the university as a whole to take time to honor this important event. For the third consecutive year, Texas State was awarded the Veteran Education Excellence Recognition Award (VEERA) by the Texas Veterans Commission’s Veterans Education Program for its continued support towards student veterans and military connected students. During the program, Texas State President Kelly Damphousse shared some remarks and recognized the continuous support towards the veteran population on campus by the variety of veteran programs available. “The level of services we’re able to provide for our students is adjudicated by our Office of Veterans Affairs, our Veterans Advisory Council, the Veterans Academic Success Center and more,” Damphousse said. “We all work so hard to serve our veteran population.” Research Coordinator for the College of Applied Arts, Alyssa M. Livernois, also attended the event and encouraged people to take a moment to reflect on how the sacrifices and efforts veterans have made is important. “I, myself, live with a Marine Corps veteran, and it is very important to me to not only be a strong advocate for their rights every day,” Livernois said. “But also anticipate what they could look forward to in the future as well.” Veteran Aaron Bamsch and his daughter, nursing freshman Mackenzie
PHOTOS BY MEG BOLES
(Top) San Marcos Academy Corp of Cadets march at the Veteran's Day Parade, Saturday, Nov. 11, 2023, in Downtown San Marcos. (Bottom) Veterans ride a parade float at the Veteran's Day Parade, Saturday, Nov. 11, 2023, in Downtown San Marcos.
Bamsch, attended the program for the first time and talked about how it is important for families to have events such as the commemoration program to honor their loved one who have served. “These men and women have fought for our country for years and they only get one day to celebrate, and although I think they need to be appreciated more, I am grateful for everyone who has served, including my dad,” Mackenzie
said. Aaron served in the military for 11 years and said he hopes the tradition of this holiday continues to grow. “It is a great day to acknowledge all of those of us that have served and show appreciation for the sacrifices that we all have given for this country,” Aaron said.
Unique San Marcos River fish officially extinct By Candace Taggart News Contributor The San Marcos Gambusia was officially delisted from the Endangered Species Act by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service due to extinction on Oct. 16, with it last spotting sometime between 1983-85. The San Marcos Gambusia was a species unique to the San Marcos Springs. The fish was first discovered in the late 1960s with a small population of 1,000. Within the next decade, there were approximately 18 of the fish left. Tim Bonner, professor of aquatic biology, said the late discovery and population decrease doesn’t make any sense with the river’s environment at the time.
“I cannot point to the extinction of any species that has happened in such a short window of time,” Bonner said. “I know about the changes in this river system, but nothing happened between the 60s and 80s that stands out as a direct link back to the extinction of this organism.” There are still seven endangered species isolated to the Edwards Aquifer springs systems: Comal Springs Riffle Beetle, San Marcos Salamander, Texas Blind Salamander, Fountain Darter, Peck’s Cave Amphipod, Comal Springs Dryopid Beetle and Texas Wild Rice. A majority of these species are labeled endangered because they are endemic species, which means they’re “highly evolved” to a specific location’s ecosystem. Carrie Thompson, director of operations at the
PHOTO BY FELIX MENKE
Meadows Center, said the challenge for endemic species is how dependent they are on conditions remaining stable over time. “The species that live in the San Marcos Springs are acclimated to having relatively constant temperature and flowing spring water that's historically been very pristine,” Thompson said. Because of these species’ acclimation, though, the drought and even the rapid stormwater from the storms on Oct. 26, can change the conditions dramatically for these species. The limits of an endemic species are why they’re labeled as endangered, but this doesn’t exactly mean they are completely declining. This might be the case with the Fountain Darter, a less than an inch-long fish initially thought to only occupy the San Marcos and Comal River headwaters. A “quite abundant” population of the Fountain Darters has now been found in a part of the San Marcos River that runs through Martindale, Texas. “If we've got fountain darters in the upper San Marcos River at Martindale, the San Marcos headwaters and in the Comal River, that represents three populations rather than two, and a lowered risk of extinction,” Bonner said. While not technically listed as keystone species, the loss of each of these endangered species could either harm or be an indicator of harm in the Edwards Aquifer river systems according to Fish and Wildlife Biologist with U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services (FWS) Amelia Hunter. “The Peck’s Cave Amphipod is the top predator among the invertebrates in the Comal River, and if it or any of these species disappeared, it would be a huge loss,” Hunter said.
SEE ENVIRONMENT PAGE 3
A white egret stands in a patch of Texas wild rice in the San Marcos River, Wednesday, Nov. 1, 2023, at Sewell Park.
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Local political organization starts petition for police reform By Ryan Claycamp News Reporter Local political action committee Mano Amiga Safe Communities launched a petition to create a ballot measure to repeal the civil service protections for the San Marcos Police Department (SMPD). According to an email from Tatiana Salazar, a bilingual communications specialist with the city of San Marcos, civil service protections exist to provide job security, efficient hiring and promotion processes separate from politics, and establishes guidelines for disciplinary processes. "The city of San Marcos adopted civil service for police and fire on Oct. 30, 1974," Salazar said in an email. "Once established through such an election, these provisions remain in effect until repealed via another election, without the need for periodic reviews or renewals." The petition to repeal civil service protections comes in response to San Marcos City Council not adopting the "Hartman Reforms" when renegotiating the meet and confer agreement with the San Marcos Police Officers Association. The Hartman Reforms are a series of proposed reforms named after Ryan Hartman, a former SMPD Sergeant who was driving with an open container when he crashed his truck into Jennifer Miller and Pamela Watts, resulting in Miller's death. Hartman received a six-month paid suspension for the incident. Under state law, cities are allowed to meet with the local police association to meet and negotiate what practices and policies would best serve both the police and the local community. These agreements are called meet and confer agreements. "[City council] just gave us crumbs," Sam Benavides, the communications director for Mano Amiga Safe Communities, said. "So we are now going after the entire process by which that contract exists." The Hartman Reforms seek to end the forfeiture of vacation days in lieu of suspension, end third party arbitration for disciplinary procedures, end the delay between when an incident occurs and when an officer is interviewed, make documented officer misconduct more easily available to the public and to end the 360 day rule, formerly the 180 day rule, under which misconduct incidents can only be investigated for 360
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days after they occur. "Since our city and police association clearly lack to the political will to implement these common sense reforms in good faith, we're just going to take that power into our own hands," Benavides said. One of the largest goals behind the petition is to change how disciplinary procedures are handled for police. "In any other workplace your boss can question you about your wrongdoing," Benavides said. "That should be after any amount of time transpires and it should be the same case within a police department." Councilmember Mark Gleason believes the city of San Marcos should honor their negotiations with the Police Officers Association instead just meeting all of Mano Amiga Safe Communities' demands. "Do we understand that we are having a hard time understanding and retaining officers? There's lots of nuances on both sides of the discussion and it is always going to be difficult," Gleason said, during the city council's May 16 meeting that approved the current meet and confer agreement. Mano Amiga Safe Communities launched their petition in October at the Lost River Film Fest. Jordan Buckley, director of the Lost River Film Fest, said he believes there is a double standard between the treatment of citizens and police when it comes to breaking the law, something he hopes the petition will help address.
"Our taxpayer money could be spent in ways that uplift and support healing instead of letting certain people go free for crimes whereas other people get locked up in cages," Buckley said. According to Buckley, during the meet and confer meetings SMPD Chief Stan Standridge revealed that 94% of law enforcement agencies in Texas do not have civil service protections. "I wrote the city manager and was like 'What was that quote Standridge said? Did he say 94% of law enforcement agencies in Texas don't have civil service protections?'" Buckley said. "She reached out to [Standridge] and he confirmed that." Mano Amiga Safe Communities is looking to gather 15,000 signatures by April in order to secure having the repeal of civil service protections for SMPD on the 2024 ballot. "We'll still collect as many signatures as we can throughout the duration of the time that we have, even if we meet our goal early, just to continue having these conversations with our neighbors," Benavides said. Currently, there is no permanent location to sign the petition, but Mano Amiga Safe Communities are hoping to make it available in local businesses just like they did with their petition to decriminalize marijuana in 2022.
FROM PAGE 2 ENVIRONMENT Donelle Robinson, a Fish and Wildlife Biologist with U.S. FWS also agrees that these species would cause an impact to the aquifer's ecosystem if they went extinct. This is in part because the Texas Wild Rice and Fountain Darter are found throughout the entire river system, despite being endangered. Although there are some species succeeding, the threats are not diminishing. The drought is still damaging, and sometimes the recreation happening in and around the San Marcos River harms the Texas Wild Rice, causing it to need “constant management.” “These threats include this severe drought and sediment that comes in from development in urban areas causing extreme flooding, and these can alter the habitat and change the food source,” Thompson said. Since the passage of the Clean Water Act in 1972, Bonner said the San Marcos River has had consistently good water quality, and because of that, there’s no indication the San Marcos River’s curINFOGRAPHIC BY MEAGAN WALTERS
FROM FRONT UNIVERSITY Texas Representative Erin Zweiner said Texas State University Chancellor Brian McCall reached out to her on Nov. 9 to inform her Texas State will not be voting to sell the 126-acre property. “That’s not a final decision from the university,” Zweiner said in her Nov. 9 FaceBook Live video. “My ask was, ‘Please give the community time to interact with this. Please give the community time to look at options.’… We are going to be sitting down with the folks at Texas State University to talk about options.” Texas voters overwhelmingly approved Proposition 14, which creates the Centennial Parks Conservation Fund to improve and create state parks, in the Nov. 7 election. In her Nov. 9 FaceBook Live video, Zweiner said because the Texas Legislature and Texan
voters are in support of more parkland, now is not the time to sell public land to a private owner. Zweiner posted a letter she wrote to Texas State President Kelly Damphousse and Chancellor Brian McCall expressing gratitude for Texas State’s decision to not proceed with the sale of University Camp. “My hope is that if Texas State University decides that [University Camp] does not align with its educational mission, it will make every effort to keep [University Camp] in its natural state and in the hands of public access,” Zweiner said in her letter to Damphousse and McCall she shared on FaceBook. The University Star will provide updates to this story as more information becomes available.
(Right) Missing page 371 from the TSUS Board of Regents meeting. This page has since been removed.
rent water quality will further impair the endangered species. However, water flow can be another threat, especially with the drought that only recently changed from Stage 4 to Stage 3. “We have flows down at 70 cubic feet per second, and we haven't experienced that since the 1950s,” Bonner said. “It’s usually running at around 170 cubic feet per second, so we are in new territory on the San Marcos River to see how the fountain darters and other species are going to respond to that.” The Edwards Aquifer Habitat Conservation Plan is one reason river systems like the San Marcos and Comal rivers have maintained water quality and endangered species populations. “These spring systems are essentially islands in the middle of Texas because they’re so different from the areas around them,” Robinson said. “The Habitat Conservation Plan keeps the river flowing by protecting the land and the species.”
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Opinions in The University Star are not necessarily those of our entire publication, Texas State University’s administration, Board of Regents, School of Journalism and Mass Communication or Student Publications Board.
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Rethink the sale of University Camp By Editorial Board The potential sale of Texas State’s University Camp was set to be discussed at the Nov. 16 Texas State System Board of Regents meeting, but the item was removed from the agenda on Nov. 9. Once the news hit the public, it created an uproar among Texas State students, faculty and alumni. University Camp is a 126-acre property along the Blanco River. It is home to cabins and campsites open to anyone who is or has been a part of the Texas State University system. Guests can swim in the river, tackle the ropes course and participate in other recreational activities. Over the years, University Camp has become a property that many people know and love. The sale of University Camp would be a disservice to the Texas State community. For the past two summers, The University Star’s editorial board has taken advantage of all that University Camp has to offer. “Camp Star” is a time when the editorial board gets to team build and learn how to efficiently run a newspaper while have a good time in the process. "[Camp Star] was a three-day retreat that Krantz, our director, set up for us," Sarah Hernandez, former managing editor at The University Star, said. "Although we had worked together before, we weren't friends. 'Camp Star' helped with that." In August of this year, 10 of The Uni-
PHOTO BY NICHAELA SHAHEEN
University Star editors and staff stand outside Bluebonnet Lodge, Friday, Aug. 11, 2023, at University Camp in Wimberly, Texas.
versity Star's editorial board and staff members got to experience "Camp Star." We learned each of our unique communication styles and how to work with each other by staying at University Camp for three nights, taking advantage of the team-building exercises and spending time with each other in nature. The University Star would not be able to function the way it does without "Camp Star." Though some of the magic comes from the people, a lot of it comes from the beauty of University Camp. Being able to run around outside and enjoy the river brought us closer than any kind of workshop on campus ever could. Uni-
versity Camp offers something the Texas State campus itself never will. "The first year that 'Camp Star' was brought back was the first year that we were going to be fully in person," Hernandez said. "It was super important for us to set the foundation with the editorial board at 'Camp Star' so we could bring that bonding experience, that friendship and that familiarity with each other to the rest of The Star to help us come out of the pandemic." Texas State planned to move forward with selling the property to Needmore River Ranch with virtually no input from the public, leaving a multitude of people
upset, and rightfully so. "To think that the university would get rid of something that has been so foundational for so many other groups, like The University Star editorial board, it's kind of disappointing," Hernandez said. "How can you replace that? A retreat at the student center wouldn't be the same as it is on the river." Because of the lack of communication, state representatives have begun to speak on the matter, explaining the community should have been given a chance to respond. During a Facebook Live video on Nov. 9, Texas Representative Erin Zweiner said the decision not to vote on the sale at the Nov. 16 Board of Regents meeting will not be a final decision from the university. “My ask was, ‘Please give the community time to interact with this,” Zweiner said in her Facebook Live. “Please give the community time to look at options.’… We are going to be sitting down with the folks at Texas State University to talk about options.” The University Star isn’t the only organization to utilize the camp, and it should not be among the last. Texas State must rethink the decision to sell University Camp. Those in charge of the decision must listen to community voices and realize how much University Camp really means.
Bobcats struggle to find employment By Nikita Arefiev Opinions Contributor Over the years, the terms "college student" and "broke" have become synonymous. It makes sense as college is expensive and not everyone can afford it. Those who take out loans often find themselves lacking money, not for tuition or housing, but instead for food, clothes or other necessities and commodities. Texas State students are no strangers to this, either. However, the typical solution is nowhere near as readily available as one would hope or as one's needs require. According to Metropolitan State University of Denver, as many as 70% of U.S. college students enrolled in full-time degree programs also work at least 20 hours a week. Further, the National Center for Education Statistics said more than half of college students work fulltime. The high cost of education and the daily needs of young adults living away from home make working
a necessity. Seemingly recognizing this need, Texas State partnered with Handshake to offer job opportunities for students on campus and in San Marcos. However, to say it changes much would be a lie. Although there is no denying the fact that it does help to a certain extent and provides additional options unavailable on more traditional job search sites such as Indeed; it doesn't come close to guaranteeing one a job in San Marcos. -Nikita Arefiev is an international relations freshman
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True crime on the internet is harmful By Faith Fabian Opinions Columnist Within the digital world, true crime has established itself as one of the most popular forms of content. Podcasts, TikTok channels, Netflix documentaries and YouTube video series are just a few of the online spaces in which one can find an extensive amount of media that dedicates itself to true crime.
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Despite its popularity, something is unsettling about this phenomenon, and the overconsumption of true crime could hold significant consequences. True crime content on social media most often displays itself as a form of narrative; one that uses real, often heartbreaking, stories and twists them into a struc-
ture conducive to modern entertainment values. In recent years, the presence of true crime on the internet has only grown. One year ago, college students everywhere sat in shock and mourned the deaths of four students at the University of Idaho. On TikTok, however, the content surrounding the incident ran rampant. There were thousands of videos discussing the violent details of the crime, using hashtags with the legal names of the victims, and speculatively placed blame on anybody they could. The nature of these videos, despite garnering an abundance of views and audience engagement, proved to be very distressing to victims' families and those being wrongfully accused of the crime online. In the weeks after the incident, with the absence of a police arrest, online speculators and “true crime lovers” began pointing to the surviving roommate as a suspect. On top of mourning the loss of their child, one of the victim's parents had to make a statement urging social media creators to withhold blaming the surviving roommate, calling for sympathy for the girl who was in an unthinkable situation. More people on the list of the wrongfully accused were the student’s neighbor and a University of Idaho professor, Rebecca Scofield, who later filed a lawsuit against the creator accusing her. The wave of true crime videos surrounding the Idaho murders is one instance of many in which true crime content has lost itself to a slippery slope. The harm happens when people center a real event around their own personal theories, ideas and emotions without regard to families, victims and sensitivity surrounding the event.
Another issue surrounding the current obsession with true crime is that it can have harmful effects on those who over-consume it. According to a survey of listeners of the true crime podcast “Serial,” it was reported that despite being true crime lovers, many listeners had to step away from the genre for a while after experiencing symptoms such as high blood pressure and anxiety. In another study published by Vivint.com, Gen-Z is the highest consumer of true crime media with an average watch time of 4.6 hours a week; 60% on YouTube and 17% on TikTok. As college students who are already taking on stressful course loads, extracurriculars and jobs, adding too much true crime to their agenda may have negative effects on anxiety levels. This is not to say that all true crime is bad. There are many ways in which public engagement with crime can bring more awareness to dangerous situations and bring attention to issues that need justice. However, to prevent true crime content from becoming harmful, experts suggest putting education above obsession, honoring the victims and considering if the media we are consuming is respectful. -Faith Fabian is an English sophomore The University Star welcomes Letters to the Editor from its readers. All submissions are reviewed and considered by the Editor-in-Chief and Opinions Editor for publication. Not all letters are guaranteed for publication.
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Dancers perform at the Bachelor of Fine Arts showcase, on Friday, Nov. 10, 2023, at Evans Auditorium.
PHOTO BY ALYSSA BEAULAC
(Middle) Conner Redden, lead singer of the band Flight By Nothing, serenades the crowd during Fall Fest on Monday, Nov. 6, 2023 at LBJ Ballroom.
PHOT O BY K A T HERIN E REA
PHOTO BY MEG BOLES
Texas State police officer Duke receives pats on the nose, Wednesday, Nov. 8, 2023, at the Quad.
PHOTO BY MANDALYN LEWALLEN
Texas State junior outside hitter Sophie Childs (9) high fives the crowd after a Bobcat win against Coastal Carolina, Friday, Nov. 10, 2023 at Strahan Arena.
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Texas State Cheerleaders perform during the run out for the Texas State Women's Basketball team, Saturday, Nov. 11, 2023, Straham Arena.
From front page (Top) Students showcase their rendition of the choreography "Lost in the Crowd" by Reisa Dinatale on Friday, Nov. 10, 2023, at Evans Auditorium. (Middle) Student clings onto mechanical bull while he is thrown around during Fall Fest on Monday, Nov. 6, 2023 at LBJ Ballroom. (Bottom Left) Texas State redshirt freshman outside hitter Samantha Wunsch (8) after the game against Coastal Carolina, Friday, Nov. 10, 2023 at Strahan Arena. (Bottom Right) San Marcos High School color guard participates in the Veterans Day Parade, Saturday, Nov. 11, 2023, Downtown San Marcos.
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LIFE & ARTS
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PHOTO BY CARLENE OTTAH
Tyler Wesley (left), actor for Roger Davis, and Riley Thornton (right), actor for Mark Cohen, rehearse a scene for "RENT", Sunday, Nov. 12, 2023, at the Patti Strickel Harrison Theatre.
"Collage of memories": RENT to bring Texas State closure and connection By Carlene Ottah Life and Arts Reporter Based on Puccini's opera "La Bohème," "RENT" follows a year in the life of a group of impoverished and artistic friends in Manhattan's East River, focusing on their dreams, losses and love stories with a gritty, bohemian setting in New York City in the late 1980s, under the shadow of HIV/AIDS. Jonathan Larson created the musical with many other artists while working for the New York Theatre Workshop. Trad Burns, the lighting and scenic designer for "RENT," worked with Larson on the original musical. The 1990s East Village neighborhood became his artistic home and the inspiration for the set. Working on the production, Burns said the group became close. "I thought it was very important to have this place that we all called home, and this musical is about found family," Burns said. "I wanted to bring that moment of the early 1990s to life, which is when the musical takes place." Larson died the night before the show's premiere due to an undiagnosed condition, so he never saw it with an audience. Due to the emotional connection Burns had with the musical, he purposefully stayed away from "RENT" after its opening night on Broadway. Trad, now a professor for the Department of Theatre
and Dance, said working on the Texas State version of "RENT" provided closure for an early part of his life. "It's not an exact duplicate, but it's a collage of memories," Burns said. "I think one of the things for me on this project that's been the most satisfying is getting to remember a time of my life that was really incredible and formative." While each show of "RENT" is different, Burns said what is happening in the world around everyone influences what the crew puts on stage. Riley Thornton, musical theater sophomore, plays Mark Cohen, an aspiring filmmaker wanting to be a part of the bohemian lifestyle. He said he hopes the audience takes away the message of loving people for their differences from "RENT." "It's such a strong, current theme, especially right now in the world," Thornton said. "It's so powerful that hating people for their differences is so detrimental to society. Loving people for their differences is the key to so many problem-solving answers." Burns also wanted to show what it felt like to live in a big city, especially one not considered safe, and how various artists flocked to it and turned it into a bright and colorful mecca. To make the set feel more like home, he had pictures from the 1990s replicated of the murals around the neighborhood he lived in onto the set. "When [people] visit New York, you see this big overwhelming city, and it's hard for people to imagine it be-
ing a home," Burns said. "I wanted to showcase how artists could make anything, even when it's terrible and dirty, feel like home." The connection to this period extends past the audience and applies to those working on the show. Cameron Thomas, a musical theater junior with a choreography focus, plays Joanne Jefferson, a passionate lawyer trying to improve the world. As "RENT" is one of her favorite musicals, Thomas said she learned the importance of knowing her character and their world. "'[RENT]' is a show that has so much new lines and so many layers and so much complexity that you'll miss if you don't dig deep into the research and know the history behind these characters and who they really are," Thomas said.
RENT Dates: Nov. 14-18, Nov. 18-19 Times: 7:30 p.m., 2 p.m. Location: Patti Strickel Harrison Theatre To purchase tickets, go to txstatepresents. universitytickets.com.
TXST Musical Theatre alumni “breaks a leg” By Jacquelyn Burrer Life and Arts Contributor From staging musicals in their backyard to training as a professional ballet dancer, Paul Amrani, Texas State musical theatre alumni, recently landed a position as a dancer with the 2023-24 national tour of “Chicago the Musical.” Amrani said their musical theatre career began with watching musicals at the local theatre in Iowa City, the Hancher Auditorium, which inspired them to tell their parents they wanted to be a dancer. Soon after, they enrolled in ballet classes at 3-years-old. When Amrani was in fifth grade, Amy Phelps, Ph.D., Amrani's mother, said Amrani began writing a musical called “GOLDEN!,” which was born out of songs written by Amrani. “[His friend] would write the lyrics, and then he would figure out a melody,” Phelps said. “We staged that whole musical with some of his friends, and they performed it at his school, and he performed it in the backyard again [and] raised more money for the children's hospital.” Amrani’s love for dance eventually began to grow into a love for musical theatre after transferring out of the Houston Ballet Academy back to public school in their senior year of high school, where Amrani began auditioning for musical theatre programs around the country. “Texas State wasn't on my radar at first because – coming from the ballet world – I was really only auditioning for the couple of schools that I'd heard of,” Armani said. “Then one day, I was binge watching videos of ‘Legally Blonde The Musical’ on YouTube, and I found the videos on the Texas State YouTube channel…I [realized], ‘I have to be auditioning for this.’” After getting accepted into the musical
PHOTO COURTESY OF LU CHAVEZ
Paul Amrani poses on the steps of the Quad, June 2022, at Texas State University.
theatre program at Texas State, Amrani said what drew them in were the unique resources available, such as networking, mental health resources, budgeting lessons and more. Once they were in the
program, Amrani said it helped them figure out who they were beyond their identity as a dancer. “I can't even believe that I got to go [to Texas State],” Amrani said. “I think the
biggest things that I learned were not just how to sing, dance and act [because] that obviously came along with the major, but it really helped me grow as a person and as a human, not just as an artist. I feel like I really came out of my shell in my time at Texas State.” Kaitlin Hopkins, founder of the Texas State Musical Theatre program, said Amrani was dedicated to giving back to the program and the community through helping support incoming freshmen as well as giving tours of the facilities for prospective students. “Seeing the students [succeed] after graduation is so rewarding,” Hopkins said. “There is no better feeling than knowing you contributed to students being able to do what they love and achieve the level of success they deserve after years of commitment to their craft.” After graduating in 2022, Amrani made the move to New York and began auditioning for jobs while working as a barista at Starbucks. “From my senior year to when I booked ‘Chicago,’ I went on over 100 auditions,” Amrani said. “You're just showing up or submitting videos into the void. That can be really taxing because it would be nice to have a concrete answer. But when that 'yes' does come around, it feels really special, and you can't take it for granted at all.” Phelps said it's amazing to see Amrani succeed in landing a position with the tour, especially after watching the amount of time put into the audition process over the past year. “He's put so much time and energy into it,” Phelps said. “He's a smart kid, and he could do so many things. I think he'll probably go towards directing later, but it's really fulfilling to see them so happy and doing what they like.”
The University Star
Tuesday, November 14, 2023 | 7
LIFE & ARTS
Haley Velasco Life and Arts Editor firstname.lastname@example.org
FROM FRONT COMMUNITY “Having at least one not-late-night music scene is pretty great for some of the less hardcore people in town,” Driskill said. “It's always good to have a variety of times in which you can see a show, not just from 10 p.m. to 2 a.m. It's very nice to have that 7-11 p.m. crowd.” Pappas, who plays in six local bands, used to play at pre-pandemic Tantra and met people who would become his bandmates while frequenting the coffee house. He said San Marcos is broken up into several different music genres and groupings; one branch is San Marcos Fest and other festivals hosted by Apogee Presents. Pappas also said Cheatham Street has a more singer-songwriter, country culture. He said the Stellar Open Mic night community had its own culture that consists highly of college students. “It's not all one sound, but there's a cultural cohesion for that [hippie] branch of San Marcos," Pappas said. Stellar Coffee, along with its open mic night, closed down in September this year, dispersing the regular attendees to other music-sharing spaces. Pappas noted that several of the live music events he’s seen tend to be focused on college-aged attendees, whereas Tantra had more regulars who weren't college
students. David Russell, local musician and Texas State alumnus, has been waiting for Tantra to reopen since it closed in 2020. Russell first discovered Tantra as a freshman at Texas State in 2011. Walking from his dorm to the coffee house, he created a network of other musicians at Tantra’s weekly open mic on Monday nights. It was the first stage Russell performed on in San Marcos. “Tantra felt like one of the centerpieces of community and live music in San Marcos,” Russell said. “Tantra had an identity that was so authentically San Martian. I always saw it as being part of the definition of San Marcos.” Magnus Timbre, who plays shows and books events in San Marcos, said he is looking forward to going to Tantra for the first time soon. “I think Tantra reopening is a chance for the San Marcos music scene to flourish,” Timbre said. “We've been losing a lot of venues and small businesses lately; Stonewall and Studio San Martian; little shops around town, like Solid Gold. Pretty soon all you have left is bars to go to, shows at and to hang out at generally, and bar culture isn't for everyone."
PHOTO BY KOBE ARRIAGA
Customers enjoy the soft-launch grand opening of Tantra Coffee Shop, Wednesday, Nov. 4, 2023, at Tantra Coffee Shop in San Marcos.
Scan the QR code to keep up with the events at Tantra Coffee Shop.
PHOTO BY KOBE ARRIAGA
Customers sit outside in the picnic area of Tantra Coffee Shop, Wednesday, Nov. 4, 2023, at Tantra Coffee Shop in San Marcos.
Witches of the river: The magic and mysticals of San Marcos subculture By Brianna Bordosky Life and Arts Contributor The magic of witchy shops, occult societies and a thriving pagan culture has been quietly shaping the San Marcos community for years. Unknown to many, there's a mystic world amongst Hays County, where the supernatural meets the everyday. Today, the subcultures of paganism, miraculous healers and other metaphysical realms have had a resurgence through markets and social media meet-ups. Places like the Abracadaver Witches’ market and the TXST Pagan Student Fellowship are just a few of the places where those interested in these practices have found their connections.
ILLUSTRATION BY MADELINE CARPENTER
“There’s a big range, a variety of vendors as well as guests that show up to these events to expand their horizons,” Danielle Hughes, operator of The Magic, the Moon and Me Guidance, said. “When they’re walking around the events, they are engaging with the different vendors, talking to them and getting different information about it. All of the local businesses, artists and creators are so willing to support each other and provide that really welcoming and inclusive experience.” As a tarot card reader and Reiki energy healer, Hughes uses her work experience to attest that a portion of the Texas State student body is heavily involved in the subculture, and make up a large amount of occult people in the community. “College students are much more open to [the di-
vine] being that they are at the beginning of a career path. They’re working on creating a career, doing the education to… build a life for themselves,” Hughes said. “College students really can benefit from the service. The beautiful thing about card reading is that it provides them guidance around those things. I’ve had different clients come in and want to know about their major in specific. ‘Am I on the right path? Am I doing the right thing?’” Fawn Gregg, owner and operator of local esoteric shops Herbs and Oddities and Stonebound Treasures, has been a significant member of the culture since she was a freshman at Texas State in 2008, priding herself on spreading the positive and welcoming nature that her business and colleagues have to offer. “I love creating any kind of space that brings people together who are seeking in any capacity," Gregg said. "I’m open to anything and everything. I want to facilitate spaces where people can reconnect to Earth’s medicines and power of healing. Being of loving service is a spiritual practice.” Many of those in the community that follow these unique practices are aware of the historical and current negative connotations their subculture has. Most are unbothered by the misconceptions and even encourage those who may be repelled by their interests to join in on the conversation. “We don’t label things. It's just people getting together to discuss different things they’re fascinated by,” Gregg said. “All of those divisive labels that we give ourselves and we pass on to others, those are just barriers to love, barriers to connection and their temporal constructs. There’s no weirdos that walk into my shop. These are my people.” Gregor Ælfweald, Priest of Three Flames Kindred and council member of San Marcos Pagans and Heathens, has experienced the realm of paganism and the metaphysical outside of San Marcos previous to becoming a local. Ælfweald speaks for the larger circle when he recognizes this lifestyle is not for everyone, but there is an incredible amount of acceptance for those willing to learn more. “You have to be the kind of person who won’t listen to what everybody tells you,” Ælfweald said. “It's a person who’s curious, who has a certain amount of wonder about the world, and I guess a certain amount of courage to go find that as well.”
The University Star
8 | Tuesday, November 14, 2023
David Cuevas Sports Editor email@example.com
Johnson leaves mark on Texas State volleyball By Kobe Arriaga Sports Reporter Graduate student outside hitter K.J. Johnson, a transfer from Fairfield University, has had an immediate impact on Texas State volleyball by leading the team with her experience and offensive talents. Johnson, who began her collegiate volleyball career at Baylor, joined Texas State in her final year of eligibility and was immediately expected to carry the weight of leading a much younger group of girls for a school that consistently has carried high expectations. Johnson was aware of the expectations being lied upon her shoulders as she made the transition to a new team in her final year but felt that this could be an opportunity for her to leave a mark on the future of Texas State volleyball.
Texas State graduate student outsider hitter K.J. Johnson (17) serves the ball against Coastal Carolina, Thursday, Nov. 9, 2023 at Strahan Arena.
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“They were telling me beforehand that this team lost such a big senior class, and with me being a fifth-year player I felt that they would’ve appreciated my perspective and my experiences,” Johnson said. “I just knew that I wanted to come here and help in any way that I can, both on and off the court.” Johnson led Texas State in kills during the 2023 season with 324 while also posting 241 digs and eight blocks. Head coach Sean Huiet knew about Johnson’s talents long before she became a Bobcat, and always wanted Johnson to be a part of Texas State volleyball–– even before her sophomore season in college. “We’ve known about K.J. for a long time because she’s a Texas kid, and she was always on our radar,” Huiet said. “We played them whenever she was at Baylor, but for her fifth year it was sort of perfect for us because we could really use an outside hitter that could help lead a much younger team.” Huiet said he was always aware of how talented an offensive player Johnson is but was most impressed with
her maturity off the court and her ability to lead a newlook Bobcat squad to yet another West Division championship in the Sun Belt Conference. “I give respect to K.J. with how she leads and how she gets people to trust in her,” Huiet said. “It’s weird to say that someone who's only been with our program for five months is going to have a really big impact when it’s all said and done but I think that’s just kudos to who she is as a person.” As the season progressed, freshman middle blocker Ally Adair had the benefit of learning from Johnson in a limited amount of time. Adair said Johnson and herself immediately became closer after just a handful of conversations and knows Johnson is leaving behind a lot of knowledge that she can gain for herself as she anticipates growing into her own role in the future. “In a couple years I will be in [her] position as the older and more experienced player, and I want to be able to help the incoming freshman the way that I’ve been helped this year,” Adair said. For Johnson, her future is undecided as of now, but her freshman teammates don’t want to see her go so soon, pushing for Johnson to associate herself with Texas State further in a coaching role. Whether Johnson’s future foresees her as a graduate assistant coach, or as she jokingly mentions, the new water girl on the sidelines, she said it is impossible for her to forget the memories she has made at Texas State in just a short amount of time. “I’m honestly going to miss every single thing about this journey,” Johnson said. “I love this sport and if I had any more years to play, I would definitely keep on playing because I just can’t get enough of it.”
Caleb Johnson: TXST's offensive line anchor By: James Horton Sports Reporter Texas State’s offensive line is anchored by transfer redshirt senior Caleb Johnson, who has spent the better part of the last decade playing collegiate football. At six and a half feet tall and 335 pounds, Johnson's size is noticeable on the field. His stature attracted the attention of high school teammates who coined the nickname 'Big Country' for him. But, while attending the University of Incarnate Word, Johnson’s decision to shave his head led to a new name, given to him by his Texas State offensive line coach Jordan Shoemaker. “He used to have hair, and he used to try to hang onto it,” Shoemaker said. “He’s thinning a lot like me. [He] walked into a meeting one time, and he shaved his head, so it was on from that. ‘Big Show.’” Named after former WWE wrestler 'Big Show', Johnson has continued to shave his head bald. Things like nicknames are a part of what Johnson loves most about college football. With his tenure coming to an end after this season, he remembers the best parts of his playing time. “The comradery between the teammates. The relationships you build," Johnson said. "There’s guys that I even remember from JUCO that I still have good relationships with, that I wouldn’t have at all without football. That’s the biggest thing.” Johnson’s desire to foster relationships with his teammates has impacted those around him as well. Fellow offensive lineman Jimeto Obigbo transferred to Texas State from UIW with Johnson and said knowing he was coming with Johnson was important.
PHOTO BY KOBE ARRIAGA
Redshirt senior offensive lineman Caleb Johnson gazes the crowd after the game versus Troy, Saturday, Oct. 28, 2023, at Bobcat Stadium.
“It definitely played a part,” Obigbo said. “I wanted the comradery of the line since we did so good at UIW. I know what [Johnson] is going to do, and he knows what I’m going to do.” With seven years of college football experience under his belt, teammates look to Johnson as a helpful resource on the field. “He calls the front,” Obigbo said. “If I get something wrong, he’s there making sure I’m good. We just work hand-in-hand.”
Shoemaker has been with Johnson since UIW and has seen his development on and off the field. “His biggest improvement that I’ve seen is just his growth into a true young man,” Shoemaker said. “The maturity that I’ve seen over the years, you know. Not having to worry about his classes anymore, him being lazy in the classroom. Everything is important to him. And [I'm] also seeing him become a great leader.” This season Johnson won the starting center job after battling through spring and fall practices, making him the focal point of the offensive line. After spending the entirety of last season as an All-American left guard, he has embraced the new role. “I enjoy it,” Johnson said. “I really like every position. As long as I’m starting, I don’t really care that much. I think it helps me, knowing every position.” Obigbo doubles as a roommate for Johnson, as the two share a house with the rest of the UIW offensive linemen transfers. He said he is just as grateful to have Johnson as a friend as he is to have him as a teammate. “He’s a great guy,” Obigbo said. “He’s a helping hand. A shoulder you can lean on when you need one, just a great person to be around.” Johnson’s lone year as a Bobcat has been one of the most exciting in Texas State’s history in the Football Bowl Subdivision. With larger than normal home crowds, Johnson said he has enjoyed playing at Bobcat Stadium for his final season of college football. “It’s really great, I enjoy it,” Johnson said. “It’s really some good juice for the team too because we know y’all are behind us, as a student section and as a whole. I don’t know the numbers, but we had one of the most in attendance since 10 years ago as a whole. So, the support is awesome, it really pumps us up.”
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Haley Velasco Sports firstname.lastname@example.org
FROM FRONT WOMEN'S BASKETBALL While in Israel, Hood lived in a local hotel along with a teammate. Many of her other teammates were Israeli residents and had no option but to stay in their local living conditions while the basketball league came to a pause due to the nation's conflict. In the heat of frequent attacks, Hood said she had to take cover in the hotel stairwells when local emergency sirens would sound off. The sirens prompted Israelis to take cover and remain inside in the event of the Iron Dome, a defense system that launches guided missiles to intercept incoming rockets and other mid-range air threats, firing projectiles. “It was just my luck that the attacks started when I got there,” Hood said. Since the Hamas attacks began, over 5,000 rockets have been sent into Israel. According to the Israeli military, the Iron Dome successfully neutralized most of them. Israel retaliated with airstrikes prior to sending troops and tanks on foot into the Gaza Strip, with a declared goal of eliminating the Islamist militant group. The death toll in Palestine has climbed over 10,000 since Israel began its ground assault on Oct. 27. The toll includes over 5,000 Palestinian children. The war tensions between Israel and Hamas were relatively steady in recent years, giving Hood comfort when she was considering moving there, she said. Israel is home to many of the premier foreign basketball leagues overseas and has played a part in current and former WNBA players’ careers. The opportunity seemed to be a great addition to Hood’s professional resume and could’ve helped reach her goal of playing in the WNBA. "This is still something I want to do as far as playing basketball," Hood said. "As women though we just don't have as many opportunity's to play here on our home land. It can take a couple of years to play in the WNBA, so this is something we have to continue speaking up on." After returning safely to San Marcos from Israel, Hood got a chance to reflect on her journey. This helped her put into perspective how much playing professionally in the United States, where she can be watched by her family and friends, would mean to her. The idea of playing basketball professionally came to Hood early. During her sophomore year of high school, she was in touch with Texas State women’s basketball Head Coach Zenarae Antoine, she said. “One area I pay a lot more attention to is when a student athlete says they want to be a professional player or a coach because I have my expertise in that area,” Antoine said. “In Da’Nasia’s case of wanting to be a pro we
PHOTO BY SARAH MANNING Texas State graduate student forward Da'Nasia Hood dribbles past a Troy defender, Thursday, Nov. 2, 2022, at Strahan Arena.
have different conversations to prepare her for that next phase and take what we’ve learned from the journeys of previous professionals we have coached and mentored.” Hood finished her career as a Bobcat touching multiple pages of the record book. She is currently fifth in all-time scoring with 1,845 points, fifth in rebounds with 837, third in successful three-point field goal attempts with 186 and a three-time All-Sun Belt Conference First Team selection. Despite some of the great accomplishments Hood has achieved, the road to playing professional basketball in the U.S. for the WNBA is a long one that few may travel. John Hollmon, a San Marcos is a basketball player development specialist who’s experience working with NBA, WNBA and overseas athletes. Hollmon began working with Hood during her junior season at Texas State and continued to work with her leading up to her departure for Israel.
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“There was no doubt she was going to be a pro. I knew from the jump,” Hollmon said. “Whether it be the WNBA or overseas I knew she would be a pro. I believe she is capable, and her skillset is high enough for the WNBA. [The] only thing I feel slowing her down is out of her control. There are just too few roster spots and teams available to play in that league.” There are currently multiple former NCAA midmajor players who are thriving in the WNBA such as Kierstan Bell, a Florida Gulf Coast guard, who recently won the WNBA title with the Las Vegas Aces. “It’s important that these women advocate for midmajor players and get scouts to take a chance on inviting them to training camp,” Antoine said. Hood is set to begin her third professional basketball contract in Finland in the coming weeks. The opportunity to play again professionally is cherished by the San Antonio native who continues to exceed any limitations placed on her on her route to a successful professional career.