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Local restaurant promotes healthy eating one bowl at a time

Brotherhood and 'Hierarchy': Alumni triad produces feature film set to debut in 2022

Opinion: Mental illness is not a detriment, it can be a gift

Softball sweeps Coastal Carolina to win 17th straight game







'TEXAS STATE IS NOT AN EXCEPTION' Asian students reflect on lack of campus representation, inclusion By Sarah Hernandez Assistant Life & Arts Editor Timia Cobb Assistant News Editor

Lights illuminate the UAC Arch, Monday, March 29, 2021, at Texas State. PHOTO BY JEFFREY HALFEN


Why Texas State spends $7 million annually on electricity By Payton Russell Life & Arts Reporter At the end of a long school day, after whiteboards are wiped clean and students return home, Texas State's buildings continue to stay bright overnight. While campus walkways stay lit during all hours of the day, it comes at a higher price than one might think. Electricity puts a 5% dent in the university’s annual operating budget. It costs the university nearly $7 million dollars annually to keep buildings running 24/7. However, with campus constantly buzzing with activity, Texas State’s Chief Financial Officer Eric Algoe sees no time for making the switch from power to total darkness. "Altogether, there is still quite a bit of activity in many of our buildings overnight," Algoe says. "We also do most of our custodial work and some maintenance work during the overnight hours to stay out of the daytime rush in buildings." Electricity on campus also powers Texas State's heating and cooling which, due to the age and sizeable square footage of many campus buildings, must stay on even at night. Algoe says heating and cooling each building takes an exorbitant amount of time, meaning if the temperature swing is too great, the university runs multiple risks. "If we were to let buildings heat up or cool down in those overnight hours too much, we would not be able to get them back to comfort in time to reopen," Algoe says. "Furthermore, large temperature swings inside buildings runs the danger of humidity condensation creating flood-like conditions." Jim Vollrath, Texas State's director of Utilities Operations, manages the production of these 24-hour heating and cooling systems within buildings through a number of power plants across campus. These systems reach each building through pipes that run beneath the floors of the university. “Steam is used in the buildings and then converted to heat with large furnaces; they're massive,” Vollrath says. "Then we make chilled water. We distribute it under the buildings at 45 degrees, and they use that instead of refrigerants in the buildings’ A/C systems.” Texas State's Star Park, containing research wet labs, which are research labs used for handling chemicals, liquids or gaseous substances, ranks as one of the highest energy consumers due to its HVAC (heating, ventilation and air-conditioning) systems designed for those purposes. Some of the largest buildings on campus like Alkek Library, the LBJ Student Center and the Student Recreation Center also top the energy consumption list due to their abundance of square footage. When the pandemic hit, the cost to heat and cool these large buildings shot up dramatically. Utilities Operations placed a strong emphasis on student and staff safety. With early scientific theories warning the

Heather Tran was walking near The Square when she was confronted by three male students pulling at their eyelids to mock her monolid eye shape. While being mocked and told “This is what white privilege looks like,” Tran got an unnerving feeling and the reassurance that racism was not a hallucination. “I have faced racism [like] every other minority,” Tran says. “I have faced racism from adults to kids, to people my age and I've experienced it here at Texas State...Texas State is not an exception.”


City residents debate need for Amazon delivery station By Timia Cobb Assistant News Editor

The LBJ Student Center's star shines at night, Monday, March 29, 2021, at the LBJ Student Center.

A new Amazon facility will soon make its way to San Marcos, with hopes of creating more jobs and revenue in a city with over 100 years of long-running family trees and prosperous small businesses. However, residents are on the fence about whether a town with such history needs a trillion-dollar corporation to sustain economic growth.


The Amazon Fulfillment Center, Monday, April 5, 2021, at 1401 E. McCarty Lane. PHOTO BY DOUGLAS SMITH

Lights illuminate Jones Dining Center, Monday, March 29, 2021, at Texas State. PHOTO BY JEFFREY HALFEN

Texas State students walk around campus at night, Monday, March 29, 2021, at Alkek Library. PHOTO BY JEFFREY HALFEN

virus could be contracted by airborne spread, Vollrath's department prioritized allowing fresh air into the buildings, regardless of cost. “It takes more energy to air condition or heat outdoor air than it does to circulate air,” Vollrath says. “Because safety is our first priority, last year we made a decision to sacrifice energy.” Despite this, Vollrath and the Energy Conservation


Amazon's new delivery station, set to reside at 1346 Fortuna Road, is expected to arrive by the end of 2021. The 1.1 million square foot delivery station will deliver larger luxury items, such as couches and televisions, to homes. With the delivery station, the company will have two facilities in town, the other being its fulfillment center located at 1401 E. McCarty Lane. Residents like Jessica Robinson believe the increase in warehouses in addition to Texas State has made it more expensive for locals to reside in the town. Robinson, a mother and San Marcos native, purchased her first home in San Marcos in 2008 for $117,000 before deciding to move due to a change in her marital status. She says the same home now goes for twice the price. “I feel like local people who have families here, who have not just their own children but have their aunts, their uncles or cousins, there's a lot of us here where, you know, it's people I grew up with going to high school and a lot of them don't live here anymore but did come back to visit those aunts, uncles, parents, and it's great to have these new businesses to have more to do, but as far as it being family-friendly, [San Marcos has]


The University Star

2 | Tuesday, April 6, 2021


Brianna Benitez News Editor starnews@txstate.edu

FROM FRONT INCLUSION Trinity Building 203 Pleasant St. San Marcos, TX 78666 (512) 245 - 3487

Editorial Staff Editor-in-Chief: Jaden Edison stareditor@txstate.edu Managing Editor: Gabriella Ybarra starmanagingeditor@txstate.edu News Editor: Brianna Benitez starnews@txstate.edu Life & Arts Editor: Cristela Jones starlifeandarts@txstate.edu Opinion Editor: Valeria Torrealba staropinion@txstate.edu Sports Editor: Sumit Nagar starsports@txstate.edu Design Editor: Molly Gonzales stardesign@txstate.edu Multimedia Editor: Hannah Thompson starmultimedia@txstate.edu Engagement Editor: Eryka Thompson starengagement@txstate.edu Podcast Editor: Kim Davis Jr. starpodcast@txstate.edu

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About Us History: The University Star is the student newspaper of Texas State University and is published every Tuesday of the spring and fall and once a month in the summer semesters. It is distributed on campus and throughout San Marcos at 8 a.m. on publication days with a distribution of 4,500. Printing and distribution is by the New Braunfels HeraldZeitung. Copyright: Copyright Tuesday, April 6, 2021. All copy, photographs and graphics appearing in The University Star are the exclusive property of The University Star and may not be reproduced without the expressed written consent of the editor-in-chief. Deadlines: Letters to the Editor or any contributed articles are due on Monday the week prior to publication. Corrections: Any errors that are in the pages of The University Star and brought to our attention will be corrected as soon as possible. Visit The Star at universitystar.com

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Texas State business freshman Heather Tran (left) and communication studies and English senior Amrin Madhani talk with each other, Friday, April 2, 2021, at Mochas and Javas. PHOTO BY NATALIE RYAN

Tran, a business freshman, is one of the few Asian students who attend Texas State. While the university identifies as a majority-minority institution, its Asian student population represents less than 3% of overall students. Being a part of this minority population has made some Asian students feel overlooked or like they are the university's "token" students viewed merely as racial statistics. While the Asian student population has established on-campus organizations like the Filipino Student Association, Korean Culture Club, Indian Student Association, Vietnamese Student Association and Asian-founded sororities and fraternities, Tran says Texas State does not value its Asian student community. She says the only positive, inclusive interaction she has had at the university was with the Office of Institutional Inclusive Excellence Student Initiatives (IIE-SI). “We don’t have the support of adults, and I understand that there's like the Inclusion Diversity Office...they’re great honestly and they're really supportive, but other than that, I'm pretty sure the majority of Texas State does not care about their students,” Tran says. The belief that Texas State does not care for its students intensified for Tran after University President Denise Trauth released a campus-wide email on March 18 in response to the killings of eight people, six of whom were Asian women, at spas in Atlanta. Tran says Trauth’s response was minimal and unemotional. “There's so many things that piss me off about this because when people that look like me and people that have the same names as me are getting killed and [are on the receiving end of ] hate crimes, Denise Trauth sends out a three-paragraph email, and those are short paragraphs, those are like the paragraphs that you write in eighth grade to [achieve the minimum],” Tran says. In the five-sentence email, Trauth says students can contact the university’s Counseling Center if needed. While Tran appreciated the suggestion, she says the response could have benefitted from a more thorough approach. “I'm sure there's a thousand ways [Texas State] could’ve responded,” Tran says. “I know they also offer free counseling, but that's only so many sessions. Then after what, like, five sessions what happens to me then... Do I just go back into the real world? Am I supposed to be okay with this? I understand there's not many things that they could do. At the same time, they could at least fake how much they care, because they're not doing a very good job at least faking." Raymond Vagell, an applied anthropology doctoral student, says the email seemed like more of a reaction to an incident rather than a sincere sentiment. Vagell adds he does not feel represented on campus and does not associate Texas State with Asian students. “It's like, okay, but we're not working on the core of this problem, right? Like, discrimination and hate crimes and things like that. So, what are you going to address on campus?” Vagell says. “Address hate crimes, address how students are feeling unsafe, [address what] the resources are. It's not really just the counseling part. So I felt like

the email meant something, and it's good that she sent it out, but I felt like there needed to be more.” In an emailed statement to The University Star, Trauth says the March 16 shootings and racism Asian citizens have faced over the past year is heartbreaking. “I know our Asian and Asian American students, faculty and staff were deeply affected by the murders in the Atlanta area,” Trauth says in the statement. “Some may have experienced anti-Asian bias personally and even been fearful for their safety. This is appalling and unacceptable.” Her response to the Atlanta shootings was to assure Asian students, faculty and staff that the Texas State community supports them, she says. “I also shared [the] university Counseling Center resources in that message because when individuals in our community are grieving, the Counseling Center is available and expertly staffed to help students cope with trauma,” Trauth says in the statement. To support students confronted by racism, Trauth says events hosted by IIE-SI will take place during April, leading up to Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month in May. Some students believe the lack of Asian representation extends to the university's classroom curriculum. Texas State provides students an Asian studies concentration if they major in international studies, minors in Japanese and Chinese languages and offers brief coverage of Asian culture in some world literature courses. Amrin Madhani, a communication studies and English senior, says she wants to see the university expand its curriculum so students can learn more about Asian cultures. “A lot of the English classes that are offered don't necessarily have a practice for like Asian studies or Asian literature; it’s [mainly] around medieval or European Renaissance, or there's a good amount of African American literature, and a little bit of Spanish literature, but there's nothing for Asians that we might take to understand our literary background,” Madhani says. “We can have an introduction to Asian history class, or in music or in English or anything...Sometimes it becomes hard to see the diversity when there really isn't much being offered by the university in terms of academics." Gary Ray, associate vice president for Enrollment Management and Marketing, says the university is focused on furthering the academic success of all students. Asian student enrollment at Texas State has climbed from 893 in 2015 to 1,037 in 2020, he notes. “Although that doesn't say that you're totally inclusive, that means that you're attracting at least a good core of students from all different backgrounds that are choosing Texas State because they feel that it is in an environment that can lead to their success. And then when you look at the actual number of degrees — and we're awarding to students from all backgrounds — that's a pretty powerful argument that Texas State is a place in which it is valuing and empowering students to be successful whatever their dream might be,” Ray says. While the university says it places focus on student success, calls from its students regarding equal representation

remain. Tran says her expectations have not been met since she arrived at the university, which she believes is part of the reasoning for the low number of Asian students on campus. “I chose Texas State because I knew it was like a more [liberal school] and more diverse and open-minded, and that's why I chose Texas State because I knew I wasn't gonna get as [many] racist comments as say, [Stephen F. Austin University] or [the University of Texas at Arlington]...It was just kind of a disappointment because I wanted to see more kids who look like me,” Tran says. After arriving on campus, students like Vagell are left wondering where the diversity Texas State prides itself on is. To transform Texas State's campus into a more diverse and inclusive space, Vagell says the university must expand its reach to every underrepresented student group.


APPLIED ANTHROPOLOGY DOCTORAL STUDENT “I feel like, you know, [diversity, equity and inclusion] efforts should not be focusing on just one race," Vagell says. "The word diversity doesn't really mean that, you know, we get one population onto the campus, and then our job is done... diversity really means true diversity. And I feel like, as far as I know, [in] the time that I've been on campus, I haven't seen a lot of diversity and inclusion geared toward Asian students.” Vagell says sharing a post on social media is not enough. The best thing allies of the Asian student community can do, Vagell believes, is to use more than words to combat racism. “For Texas State, specifically, and because we're just not that visible, I feel like, you know, wherever we go, we don't really see our own people,” Vagell says. “So it's definitely more important that I know I'm surrounded by people who actually care.”

The University Star

Tuesday, April 6, 2021 | 3


Brianna Benitez News Editor starnews@txstate.edu


Amazon cargo containers sit waiting to be used for hauling goods, Monday, April 5, 2021, on East McCarty lane. PHOTO BY DOUGLAS SMITH

completely lost its appeal," Robinson says. “I just feel like [Amazon is] too big or risking too much for such a small, beautiful, comfortable town that it used to be...We've just lost so much comfort to try to go with this growth."


MOTHER AND SAN MARCOS NATIVE Robert Dorsey, a local real estate agent and Texas State alumnus, has lived in San Marcos for 13 years and believes inviting more companies to the city is making San Marcos a more attractive place to live. He says bigger businesses provide students in the area with an opportunity to work and stay in San Marcos. “I think the main thing that the city is attempting to do right now is to retain the talent that the university is actually putting out," Dorsey says. "For a long time, we were just a pass-through city... We were building and creating all of these amazing individuals, and then they were just basically moving back home or to the city that they came from." Dorsey says the jump in traditional housing prices is not attributed to the establishment of company warehouses but rather the supply and demand for homes. Parents of college students look to purchase investment properties in the area and investors look for rental properties to attract bigger corporations, he says. “We have enormous demand for everybody moving here," Dorsey says. "It's just created this huge demand for housing, and it's not something that can be quickly fixed, so we have all these people trying to move to this area, currently, but really, like, very small inventory of homes to sell them.” The Greater San Marcos Partnership (GSMP), a nonprofit economic development organization that represents the city and assists companies interested in joining the San Marcos community, has been working with Amazon as it prepares to launch its new delivery station. Jason Giulietti, president of the GSMP, says the goal in partnering with any company is to better the community. He believes attracting large businesses will result in more jobs and gives those visiting or temporarily residing in San Marcos more reason to stay. “Our goal at the partnership really is driven by bringing better, high-quality jobs to our residents," Giulietti says. “If we can provide and attract good jobs to our community, our residents will only be better, because they're now given an opportunity to get, maybe, hopefully, a better paying job, one that has better benefits, one that has better opportunity, on top of community partners." Giulietti says GSMP is aware of the

increasing worries of residents and plans to confront the issue by implementing its “Five-year Economic Development Strategy," a guide to how the city plans to manage its growth over the next four years. “10 years ago, [San Marcos] did not look like it does now, where there's very little distinction from one community to the next because of the growth,” Giulietti says. “So, we recognize that, we understand that, but we also are realistic in the sense that no matter how much we like or dislike it, it’s going to continue to happen and actually probably faster than expected. So, we need to embrace it, and I hate to say that because [for] some folks I know that’s not what they want to hear. For many, it is what they want to hear, and it is beneficial for the quality of life because by having that level of growth, it creates more opportunities.” Amazon workers protesting and reports of unsatisfactory working conditions surfacing have created cause for concern about what more of the company's presence would mean for San Marcos. But Giulietti's experiences "with Amazon [have] been really positive," he says. "Every employee I speak to, whether it's in the facility or quite honestly outside the facility just randomly meeting people, they are just, they really rave about the organization," Giulietti says. "So, I can't really give any credence to the negative stories out there because my personal experience with our local Amazon facilities is nothing but positive.” Hayden Hartrick, a film junior at Texas State, worked at Amazon’s distribution station in Kyle for almost four months. The company's starting pay of $15 influenced his decision to work there. However, the longer he worked with the company, the more difficult it was to navigate both his personal life and job. “The job started out like every new job does, where it's kind of exciting to be doing this stuff, then it quickly became an ominous thing every time I would go in it...I felt like a robot,” Hartrick says. “I ended up leaving because, first of all, the work was grating on me as a person, and I would come out of every shift feeling like a shell of a [person]...I think some of that comes from me just not being the type of person to enjoy monotonous work.” “If I were to work at Amazon for a while, I would have a better shot at finding jobs that also pay $15 an hour, that aren't as intensive and aren't as robotic,” Hartrick adds. “[The pay] definitely kept me there for a while, and I know people that I think still work there, and that's the reason they're staying is because it pays well.” City Council member Maxfield Baker says he is uncomfortable with Amazon's presence due to the company's leverage on small businesses. “While they do offer a more competitive wage than a lot of jobs in San Marcos, there are a lot of negative side effects, I think, as well as just the reality that Amazon, being one of the largest companies in the world, could afford to pay much more than a minimum living wage of $15 an hour," Baker says. Baker appreciates that Amazon is paying workers higher than minimum wage. But inviting companies to reside in San Marcos cannot fix the city's economy, he says. “We are in the middle of our budget process right now, and the hole in our budget, in general, is such that this project of Amazon is not going to seal that, you know," Baker says. "The idea that we're going to keep bringing in these larger and larger companies and eventually create this positive budget and then be able to lower taxes. I think [it] is unrealistic."

Wezmer band member Rachel Ditzig sings a song, Friday, March 26, 2021, at Studio San Martian. PHOTO BY NATALIE RYAN

Cashier Connie Cervantez (right) talks to a student while completing a transaction, Thursday, April 1, 2021, at The Lairs in the LBJ Student Center. PHOTO BY RASIKA GASTI

Dead Traffic band member Hayden Cougar sings a song, Friday, March 26, 2021, at Studio San Martian. PHOTO BY NATALIE RYAN

Texas State business marketing junior Madison Vanacore (left) and business management junior Lorena Cabrales work on their business class homework, Thursday, April 1, 2021, on the second floor of Alkek Library. PHOTO BY DEVON BATES

Fool in Utopia plays a show, Friday, March 26, 2021, at Studio San Martian. PHOTO BY NATALIE RYAN

The University Star

4 | Tuesday, April 6, 2021


Cristela Jones Life & Arts Editor starlifeandarts@txstate.edu


Local restaurant promotes healthy eating one bowl at a time By Tania Zapien Life & Arts Reporter A new eatery in San Marcos is drawing locals in with its modern spin on traditional Mexican food and aromas of freshly made vegetables, various meats and spice-filled salsas. Nearly 30 years after receiving a part-time job as a line cook at a café in Massachusetts, Andrew Silver brings his experience as a chef and business owner to San Marcos in a unique, vibrant way with Fresco, a Latin-inspired salad and grain bowl experience. Located in the retail level of The Lyndon at the Springtown Shopping Center, Fresco opened its doors to the public on Jan. 25. “In short, Fresco means ‘fresh’ or ‘cool’ and I like to think that we are both of those things,” Silver says. Inspired by the diversity he encountered during his line cook job and the intoxicating energy the fast-paced kitchen held, Silver opened his first restaurant in 2003, Zocalo, a casual fine dining spot located in Charlottesville, Virginia. Derived from a similar flavor profile as traditional Mexican food, the idea of Fresco was developed over the last two years with the help of Silver's friend and business partner, Joe Muth, whom he met while studying at the Culinary Institute of America in New York. After attempting to open the first Fresco location in Austin, Silver was presented with the opportunity to establish his restaurant in San Marcos instead. Silver was skeptical about opening Fresco in San Marcos, as he was unfamiliar with the area and worried about catering to the college population. However, he quickly recognized how important and popular nutrition was among the younger generation. “I get the feeling that it might only be for Instagram but, either way, it's great,” Silver says. “I know I never thought about eating well when I was in college." To keep its promise of “building a better bowl," all individual ingredients are selected from fresh produce and spices. Silver describes his new business as "approachable but elevated," promising delicious, nutritious and affordable options for every lifestyle. Starting at $9.85, customers can choose from a selection of lifestyleinspired bowls, including vegan, keto, paleo and double protein. For the same price, customers can create their own bowls with a variety of fresh ingredients and house-made toppings. Customers have a choice of up to three bases which include fresh greens, grains or Fresco's signature Cuban-style black beans; up to two proteins including meat and vegan options; and up to five or 15 toppings at no additional cost. Finally, customers have the choice to finish the bowl off with one of seven homemade dressings and vinaigrettes. “We really wanted to create a line of delicious ingredients that stand on their own but also combine very harmoniously,” Silver says. To tie it all together, Fresco also offers all customers three freebie toppings: Cilantro, a fresh lime squeeze and hot

Fresco owner Andrew Silver serves Texas State graduate student Aricelda Calderon her first Fresco bowl, Tuesday, March 23, 2021, at Fresco. PHOTO BY TANIA ZAPIEN

Fresco is located in the Springtown strip on the bottom level of the Lyndon at Springtown apartments.

Fresco offers a variety of colorful, natural Agua Frescas to pair with any bowl. PHOTO BY TANIA ZAPIEN




sauce. Classic favorites like avocado and hard-boiled eggs as well as a rainbow selection of house-made Aguas Frescas are also available for a small additional price. “There’s a lot of brightness and acidity and those are the things that keep your palate happy,” Silver says. Bianca Galvan, a Texas State alumna and university systems administrator was Fresco’s first customer, highly impressed after trying it out. Galvan spotted Fresco’s sign while driving through the Springtown strip. A quick search on Instagram sparked her interest in what it had to offer. Although her diet is not completely vegan, Galvan says she loves eating mostly plant-based meals and is attracted to restaurants that offer them options. “I would highly recommend Fresco to everyone looking for a healthy, energizing, delicious option, especially great for anyone short on time,” Galvan says. “Andrew and all of the staff were so welcoming...The vibe and food matched their name. Everything was bright and fresh.” Silver says maintaining a positive relationship between his team and customers is a top priority for Fresco. Silver and Muth make it a point to talk to every customer, introduce themselves and ask what they liked or what they would like to see in the future. The same openness and transparency also apply to their staff members. “[Silver and Muth] are learning along with us and let us voice our opinions on how things work or what we can do better,” says Sommer Shepherd, a criminal justice sophomore and employee at Fresco. Putting in the effort to go the extra mile and create a welcoming environment has resulted in great reviews and high return rates in just the short time the restaurant's been open. For Silver and his team, this response reaffirms that they are on the right track to offer an experience that people truly enjoy. “People have so many dining choices, so when someone walks through your door, you just have to be beyond appreciative and flattered that they chose to spend their hard-earned money on your business,” Silver says. As for the future, Silver hopes to establish those same connections with different departments within the university community and continue to provide opportunities to students at Texas State. “We just got approved by the Bobcat Club to be a vendor for the university’s sports teams, and [we] catered food to the cheer team the other night which was very exciting,” Silver says. "We just want to become one of the benchmark places that you know, seniors tell the freshmen about and then those freshmen become seniors and they tell the freshman about and they’re like, ‘Oh, make sure you check out Fresco because they’ve got you covered when you want a delicious, affordable meal that makes you feel great afterward.'" Fresco is open for dine-in and takeout, daily from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. For more information or to place an order, visit its website.

FROM FRONT ELECTRICITY Committee typically push to lessen energy expenditure on campus. Valeria Vargas, a psychology sophomore, serves as the committee’s senator at large and works with her team of fellow students to pass legislation that promotes safe, cost-efficient and reliable energy. “We just passed a piece of legislation to try and help, if the snowstorm were to happen again, to allow students oncampus to keep their electricity,” Vargas says. Because Texas State purchases energy from the City of San Marcos, when Winter Storm Uri made its way through the city, students experienced darkened buildings after the city's energy dealer rationed energy to special zones like hospitals and sanitary districts, not including the university at large. With the university's electrical reliability in the hands of a separate entity, officials like Vollrath contemplate

the switch to on-campus electricity generation. However, with the city placing taxes on city sectors that produce their own power, Vollrath insists remaining a "non-generating" entity could prove to be more financially viable. “Texas State used to generate a portion of the electricity on campus,” Vollrath says. “We’ve talked and done studies to determine if it would be more cost-efficient or reliable [to generate our own] than getting it from the city, but it could be cost-prohibitive to switch over. Not saying it is, but it is difficult to forecast.” Texas' energy costs are low already, set at 8.6 cents per kWh (compared to 14.3 and 16.9 cents in New York and California). The state also pushes local organizations to lessen their yearly electrical costs, motivating Algoe to make energy-sustaining choices for the

campus. “Various Texas laws and government codes require us to pursue reductions in our energy cost per square foot every year,” Algoe says. “This pursuit of increased energy efficiency is a constant driver in our decision-making around utility operations.” Beyond finances, saving energy, as Vargas believes, is simply the right thing to do. Alongside her team of fellow students, Vargas works to brainstorm methods of energy preservation both on campus and in her home, such as keeping her room lights off when not in use, hand washing her dishes and changing the thermostat sparingly. “My restroom and my closet lights have been off for a while now, but it’s fine,” Vargas says. “I’ve been telling my roommates, ‘Use the light from your room to light your restroom to save energy.’”

On campus, Vargas hopes to push students and departments across campus toward energy preservation in their classrooms, noting more than half (54%) of the university budget comes from student tuition and fees. To reduce that number, Vollrath and Vargas rely on on-campus departments to hold themselves accountable for their individual energy consumption, knowing the first step toward lowering the $7 million dollar spending begins with a few thoughtful clicks of a light switch. “It’s a big university that wastes a lot of electricity, ” Vargas says. “I think it’s important to keep in mind just to save energy, water and everything.” The University Star has pending open records requests for Texas State's utility bills dating back to the 2018-19 school year.

The University Star

Tuesday, April 6, 2021 | 5


Cristela Jones Life & Arts Editor starlifeandarts@txstate.edu


Texas State alumni (from left to right) Collins Uzowulu, Russell Reed and Xavier Alvarado pose for a photo, Tuesday, Jan. 12, 2021, on the set of "Hierarchy".

Texas State alumnus Russell Reed holds a production video camera, Sunday, Dec. 27, 2020, on the set of "Hierarchy". PHOTO COURTESY OF ABRAHAM M.


Stone played by Texas State alumnus Collins Ozowulu, Tuesday, Dec. 22, 2020, on the set of "Hierarchy" PHOTO COURTESY OF ABRAHAM M.

Xavier Alvarado on the set of "Hierarchy" as Reach.

Texas State alumni (from left to right) Xavier Alvarado as Reach and Collins Uzowulu as Stone on the set of "Hierarchy."



BROTHERHOOD AND 'HIERARCHY' Alumni triad produces feature film set to debut in 2022 By Andie Mau Life & Arts Contributor

"We are slowly but surely getting more and more recognized as Black creatives in art, and it’s very motivating for young guys like us," Uzowulu says. "There’s been so many people who have paved the way that we can’t forget of course but, at the end of the day, it’s our job to keep that dream going for young Black creatives even after us."

Inspired by the works of Ava DuVernay, Spike Lee, Issa Rae and Jordan Peele, three Texas State alumni are paving the way for filmmakers by highlighting the experiences of Black culture and brotherhood in their new film, "Hierarchy". The film is a crime drama action story "IN THE PAST, THERE written and produced by alumni Russell Reed, Collins Uzowulu and Xavier HAVE BEEN MANY Alvarado. United by their shared love of film, they forged a brotherhood that OTHER BLACK STORIES continues to influence their future film TOLD FROM OTHER aspirations. “Both [Reed and Uzowulu] are ETHNICITIES THAT knuckleheads and in a good sense, like MAY CAPTURE OUR we all have our unique qualities that make us a great team,” says Alvarado, SKIN, BUT NOT THE producer and actor of older brother Reach in the film “Hierarchy". “Overall, TRUTH IN OUR WAY it's been a good journey and is going to OF LIFE OR CULTURE. continue to be a good journey.” Despite their differing majors — Reed IT'S IMPORTANT in business, Uzowulu in engineering and THAT WE HAVE A Alzarado in mass communication — all three alumni say Texas State provided SAY SO ON HOW WE a community that fostered valuable connections and instilled their team’s go- DEPICT OURSELVES getter attitudes. ACROSS ALL GENRES “[Texas State] had a great community,” Alvarado says. “I definitely saw the [BECAUSE] PROPER importance of community and building REPRESENTATION a team and friendship, especially with the arts. Everybody's pretty open and IS EXCITING AND willing to work. So that definitely gave me a sense of confidence in being able to INSPIRING." ask questions of people.” Collins Uzowulu, writer, co-director and actor of younger brother Stone in -XAVIER ALVARADO, “Hierarchy,” says he primarily based the TEXAS STATE ALUMNUS AND film on "Four Brothers" directed by the 'HIERARCHY' CO-DIRECTOR late John Singleton, a renowned Black filmmaker whose action and command of the Black experience in the U.S. In the 2019 UCLA Hollywood influenced Uzowulu to create his own Diversity Report, researchers found that film. people of color made up only 27.6% of

lead actors and 32.7% of all film roles in the film industry. Black people made up only 9% of these film roles compared to their white counterparts who made up 77%. For Alvarado, being a Black filmmaker in an industry that is predominately white is important because it shows they are just as worthy to contribute and tell their stories to a wider audience. "In the past, there have been many other Black stories told from other ethnicities that may capture our skin, but not the truth in our way of life or culture," Alvarado says. "It's important that we have a say so on how we depict ourselves across all genres [because] proper representation is exciting and inspiring." "Hierarchy," shot in Austin, takes place in an undisclosed area of Texas after two adoptive brothers become entangled in criminal activity. However, the narrative takes a shift as the brothers are forced to evade law enforcement and the greedy Russian mafia. The story's plot centers on the strength of brotherhood but also the moral ambiguity of class division and its unexpected consequences. “Everybody has reasons and has certain perspectives on why they do what they do, and so the story kind of encompasses them [and] their downfalls," says Reed, co-director and cinematographer of “Hierarchy". "There's good times and you learn a lot about these brothers. You learn a lot about the decisions that they make and why they make them.” The name “Hierarchy” derives from the complexity of the U.S. class system and how that division affects the brothers' choices and subsequent consequences, according to Alvarado. “‘Hierarchy’ is something we came up with in terms of levels, right? There’s levels to any class system,” Alvarado says. "So, basically there’s layers to this story. There’s layers to these characters. There’s layers to how they administer their

quest.” Uzowulu had always harbored a love for action films by filmmakers such as Spike Lee, Denzel Washington and Chiwetel Ejiofor. Uzowulu decided if he was ever to star in one, he would have to make it happen himself. “If there's anything that you want to accomplish, you can just make it happen yourself. You don't have to wait on anybody and anything in this world to make it happen,” Uzowulu says. Originally a short film, “Hierarchy” is similar to the group’s past projects, such as Reed’s award-winning short film “Baby Nick,” in which Uzowulu plays the main lead and Alvarado plays the rival character. "Baby Nick" is a film centered on two parallel underground fighters with equal yet varying purposes to fight. The trio is expanding on the success of "Baby Nick" and seeking new heights with “Hierarchy,” which is the longest project they have worked on to date. “We were not tired of making short films, but we told ourselves, you know, let's challenge ourselves and make a whole movie,” Uzowulu says. The camaraderie between the filmmakers will feed into the on-screen relationship between brothers Reach and Stone as well as the major themes of kinship woven into the action flick. “We've had times when we fought. We've had times when we loved each other, we laugh,” Reed says. “I feel like it's really a brotherhood, and I wouldn't trade the relationship I have with them for the world.” “Hierarchy” will be available in April 2022. Updates on “Hierarchy” and other future film projects can be found on its production YouTube channel ViLITE or Instagram @sabiproductions. Cristela Jones contributed to this story.

The University Star

6 | Tuesday, April 6, 2021


Valeria Torrealba Opinion Editor staropinion@txstate.edu

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.


Mental illness is not a detriment, it can be a gift By Lindsey Salisbury Opinion Columnist In society, mental illness is viewed as a disability; an unfortunate stain on someone’s life. The ignorant view people with mental illnesses as helpless and make it their prerogative to fix them. However, popular writers, composers, artists and even presidents have been diagnosed with varying mental illnesses — and all innovated and found success in their respective fields. While some psychiatric workers — along with friends or family of those diagnosed — believe that mental illness is a hindrance, mental illness can explore new ways of thought that fray the line between the rational and irrational and facilitates a creative and ingenious perspective. People with mental illnesses are capable of a long and successful life, but the heavy chains of stigmas must stop interfering with how others perceive them, and how they perceive themselves. Ally Kewish, a digital media innovations senior, was diagnosed with depression and anxiety her freshman year at Texas State. Though she wishes she did not have depression and anxiety, she feels she would not be who she is without them. Mental illnesses do not necessarily define people diagnosed with them, like Kewish, but it is a part of them in some way — a lens that they see the world through. Kewish even finds this lens helpful at times. “It is a struggle, but it is a part of who I am, and I wouldn't change it,” Kewish says. “[Having anxiety and depression] has actually helped me, I find a lot of my creativity through my emotion, and so when I feel very emotional, negative or positive, I feel I am able to draw from my feelings and create something unique." Genius is widely speculated to correlate with mental illness. Aristotle made the connection, claiming that “no great genius has ever been without some madness.” Archimedes, who had expertise in geometry during his time, was described as “bewitched by some familiar siren dwelling in him.” He often neglected his body for days, forgetting to eat or bathe, and yet had a renowned prowess for geometry apart from any other. In addition, curator, essayist and author Joshua Wolf Shenk wrote a biography titled “Lincoln’s Melancholy: How Depression Challenged a President and Fueled his Greatness.” Shenk talks about Lincoln and his “melancholy” through tangible primary sources and first-hand accounts of Lincoln’s close friends and family. It is uncertain whether we can create a specific connection between creativity and mental illness, but we can make a connection between mental illnesses and the positive impact they can have on someone’s life. However, the overall successes and achievements of Lincoln and so many other famous individuals prove that those “under some emotional weight need a purpose that will both draw on their talents and transcend their lives," Shenk says. Shenk also makes the point that the burden of “sadness and despair that could tip into a state of disease” can also be a gift of “capacity for depth, wisdom, and even genius." A research paper in 2005 written by Alice Flaherty of Harvard Medical School demonstrates the similar use of unusual activity in the frontal lobe that happens in both “creative thinking” and “mental illness” alike, including “manic depression or schizophrenia.” The unusual activity in the frontal lobe is suspected to cause


the combining of information “in innovative ways.” The evidence shows that mental illness is not a disability; it is a different way to see the world and can actually be a gift in disguise. The negative stigmas surrounding mental health can not only cause harm to how people with mental illnesses view themselves, but they also impede their ability to seek help when they do need it. Dr. Richard A. Martinez, the coordinator of Educational Programming and Outreach at Texas State, says it is important to de-stigmatize mental health, adding that mental health is not talked about enough. "So many people suffer in silence, or they are getting their own help [non-therapy or medical related], but they are not necessarily talking about it or talking about how it has been helpful for them. Oftentimes people think, ‘If I go to counseling something is wrong with me,’ ‘I’m broken,’ or ‘I’m crazy,’ when that is not true at all," Martinez says. Psychiatric professionals, counselors or peers can give those struggling all the information and the resources in the world but, at the end of the day, it is up to those struggling to want to make a change. The stigmas surrounding seeking help play a huge role in hindering people’s ability to find the necessary outlets to maintain a healthy life.

“Sometimes we need to ask the hard questions. We, as family and friends, are not open to having those conversations about mental health, or we are reinforcing [the stigmas],” Martinez says. Martinez says eliminating the stigma surrounding mental health would help people a lot sooner — "before they are at their breaking point." “There is so much untapped potential in people,” Martinez says. “People are just kind of missing out, growing as a partner, friend, family member, but it will only happen if society normalizes this discussion.” For years, people with mental illnesses were thrown in psychiatric hospitals and were regarded as diseased and corrupted. Sticking to that mindset, and not realizing mental illness is a gift, more people diagnosed with mental illnesses will likely experience isolation and mistreatment for years to come. This negative connotation toward people with mental illnesses needs to stop. People diagnosed or struggling with mental health are not weaker or less than; they are unique and powerful. Lewis Carroll says it best: “I am not strange, weird, off, or crazy; my reality is just different from yours.” - Lindsey Salisbury is an English sophomore


Letter to the Editor Re: Bobcat Cares aid distribution By Christopher Murr Director of Financial Aid and Scholarships Recently, an opinion piece appeared in The University Star about the Bobcat Cares Emergency Grant. The piece was entitled “Bobcat Cares aid was haphazardly distributed”. Several points raised in the piece expressed a misunderstanding of the application and awarding process. I believe it is important to clarify these points and help readers better understand the serious approach taken in awarding emergency grants to students who are facing significant challenges during the pandemic. The opinion piece states that unlike the emergency grants offered at the end of spring 2020 “this time around [spring 2021], emergency aid was given to students based only on their 20202021 FAFSA filing.” The implication is that a different approach was taken in awarding emergency grants between the two semesters. That assertion is incorrect. Both of the Bobcat Cares Emergency Grants for spring 2020 and 2021 were prioritized based on the FAFSA. The FAFSA data is perhaps

the best source of financial information to understand a student’s (and their family’s) starting financial resources and potential resilience to facing unexpected economic challenges. However, it is just the starting point. Throughout the year, students have submitted special circumstances requests to Financial Aid and Scholarships (FAS) after experiencing significant changes in their resources (e.g., due to their loss of a job, their parents’ reduction or loss of income, medical bills not covered by insurance, etc.). Once these requests are received, FAS specialists then review and compare a student’s current financial situation with the income and resources reported originally on their FAFSA. If their current resources have been significantly affected, their FAFSA is updated to show their current lower financial resources and higher need. Not only are these students potentially eligible for more assistance through standard federal and state student financial aid programs, but their higher need is then reflected on their FAFSA that is used for assessing need for the Bobcat Cares Emergency Grants. Therefore, the opinion piece’s statement

that a “student's FAFSA does not display the financial effects the pandemic has had on her, his or their life,” is somewhat misleading. The piece also asserts that unlike “the previous Bobcat Cares application, this application did not allow students to explain the financial insecurity the pandemic had caused them.” The spring 2020 application did request students to explain their related expenses. However, this information was not used to rank students. Instead, this information was required to determine eligibility (i.e., compliance) for the Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund I (HEERF I). These HEERF I federal monies funded most of the Spring 2020 Bobcat Cares Emergency Grant program. With changes in HEERF II rules (the funds available for the spring 2021 awards) that information was no longer needed for compliance purposes. Thus, the related question was dropped from the spring 2021 application to make it easier for students to complete as well as to get aid to more students more quickly. In fact, the expense question from HEERF I actually restricted some needy students from qualifying for assistance

in spring 2020; contrary to what the opinion piece suggests. Unfortunately, there are never sufficient funds to meet the full need of all our students during this crisis. During the spring 2021 Bobcat Cares Emergency Grant application period, over 15,000 applications were submitted by students suffering financial hardships brought about by the pandemic. All eligible students (just over 98.5% of applicants) were awarded grants by Financial Aid and Scholarships totaling more than $9.4 million. Of the 1.5% that were not awarded by FAS, due to their not meeting federal program eligibility requirements, many received funds through the Dean of Students Office. As we plan for the awarding of emergency grants for the summer and fall of this year, we will continue to help as many students as possible through a fair and equitable approach that prioritizes awards based on exceptional need; as required by the U.S. Department of Education.

The University Star

Tuesday, April 6, 2021 | 7


Sumit Nagar Sports Editor starsports@txstate.edu



Softball sweeps Coastal Carolina to win 17th straight game By Sumit Nagar Sports Editor Texas State softball (24-3 overall, 8-0 Sun Belt) defeated the Coastal Carolina April 1-2 University Chanticleers (816 overall, 1-8 Sun Belt) in a 3-0 series sweep. The series win increased the Bobcats’ win streak to 17 while putting the Chants on a three-game losing skid. In the first game, the Bobcats got on the scoreboard 3-0 off a three-run home run by senior outfielder Arieann Bell in the bottom of the second. Coastal scored off an RBI single by junior infielder Abbey Montoya to cut the deficit to two. Yet, that did not last long as Texas State senior infielder Tara Oltmann stepped up to the plate with two runners on base and hit a homer out to left field. The Bobcats would lead 6-1. A solo-homer by the Chants at the top of the fourth brought the score to 6-2. The Bobcats held that lead well into the late innings, but Coastal went on the attack at the top of the sixth. RBI singles by junior outfielder/ infielder Sydney Guess and senior outfielder Stavi Augur cut the lead down to two. A run by senior infielder Ally Clegg cut the margin down to one. Despite the comeback attempt, Texas State held on to win 6-5. While game one was a nailbiter, game two was a rout as the Chants did not score until the sixth inning. For the Bobcats, their first two scores were off wild pitches in the first and second innings to give them a 2-0 lead. At the bottom of the fourth, Texas State junior catcher Cat Crenek hit a solo homer followed by a pair of unearned runs from redshirt freshman infielder Sydney Belvin and freshman outfielder Piper Randolph to go up 5-0. Coastal scored off an RBI double at the top of the sixth, but it was all for nothing as Texas State grabbed the 5-1 win. The final contest of the series was another nailbiter as both teams were tied for multiple innings before the Bobcats scored on a walk-off home run. Texas State was first to score as freshman utility Hannah Earls scored an unearned run to go up 1-0 via a fielding error. The Chants tied it at the top of the third off an RBI single from Guess. In the fourth, a bunt by freshman infielder Riley Zana allowed Augur to run in and give Coastal a 2-1 lead. An RBI double by Earls tied the score again at 2-2. In the fifth inning, both teams experienced situations where there were at least two runners on base, yet neither could capitalize on either opportunity. The Chants could not get anything going in the sixth and seventh innings as three runners went up and three came down in each period. At the bottom of the seventh, Texas State senior infielder Hailey MacKay stepped up to the plate. With the score tied, one out and a 2-1 count, she hit a deep shot out to left field to give Texas State a 3-2 walk-off victory. “I knew I’d been seeing the ball really well,” MacKay says. “It was just a matter

Texas State sophomore outfielder Ben McClain (19) and junior outfielder Isaiah Ortega-Jones (17) play rock-paper-scissors before a game against UTA, Thursday, April 1, 2021, at Bobcat Ballpark. The Bobcats won 2-0. PHOTO BY KATE CONNORS

Texas State freshman pitcher Jessica Mullins (4) pitches the ball to a Chanticleer player, Thursday, April 1, 2021, at Bobcat Softball Stadium. Texas State defeated Coastal Carolina 6-5 in the first game of a three-game series. PHOTO BY VANESSA BUENTELLO

Texas State senior infielder Hailey MacKay (25) runs toward first base after hitting a pitch, Friday, April 2, 2021, at Bobcat Softball Stadium. The Bobcats won 3-2. PHOTO BY RASIKA GASTI

of time until I got a hold of one. [I] just tried to keep it as simple as possible in that moment [and] put a good swing on a good pitch.” Head Coach Ricci Woodard says MacKay was due for a big moment for a while. “I told her, ‘If you’re gonna go, go. Don’t get cheated,’ and she didn’t,” Woodard says. The Bobcats will now look to match the university's winning streak record of 18 as they will host the Texas A&M University Aggies (25-8 overall, 4-5 SEC) on April 6. Junior catcher/utility Haley Lee leads the Aggies in batting average (.435), home runs (14), RBI (32) and hits (37). Junior pitcher/outfielder Makinzy Herzog has a team-high 36 runs and nine doubles along with a .356 batting average, 25 RBI, 36 hits and eight home runs. In the circle, Herzog has a team-best 9-2 record, a 1.59 earned run average and 77 strikeouts. For the Bobcats, sophomore infielder Sara Vanderford leads the team batting average (.474), home runs (seven), runs (24), doubles (12) and hits (36). Her batting average is also ranked No. 28 in the nation. Oltmann has a team-high 28 RBI and seven home runs along with a .411 batting average, 19 runs and 21 hits. Freshman pitcher Jessica Mullins has a team-high 11-2 record and 96 strikeouts along with a 1.68 earned run average. Senior pitcher Meagan King sports a 7-1 record with 21 strikeouts and a team-best 1.44 earned run average. The matchup is slated for 6 p.m. on April 6 at Bobcat Softball Stadium. ESPN+ will broadcast the game.

Texas State senior outfielder Arieann Bell (19) is greeted by her teammates at home base after a home run, Thursday, April 1, 2021, at Bobcat Softball Stadium. Texas State defeated Coastal Carolina 6-5 in the first game of a three-game series. PHOTO BY VANESSA BUENTELLO

Texas State graduate catcher Tucker Redden (2) prepares to catch an incoming pitch during the fifth inning against UTA, Thursday, April 1, 2021, at Bobcat Ballpark. The Bobcats won 2-0. PHOTO BY KATE CONNORS

Baseball loses series to UTA By Skylar Williams Sports Reporter Texas State baseball (12-17 overall, 3-6 Sun Belt) fell 2-1 in its three-game series April 1-3 against the University of Texas at Arlington Mavericks (12-15 overall, 3-3 Sun Belt). In the first game, both teams were scoreless for five innings. In the bottom of the sixth, Texas State junior infielder Justin Thompson hit a solo home run out to left field. Soon after, sophomore infielder/outfielder Jose Gonzalez scored on a wild pitch to give the Bobcats a 2-0 lead. Texas State managed to hold on as it prevented the Mavericks from getting on the scoreboard. Bobcats' senior pitcher Zachary Leigh pitched for a complete game with seven strikeouts, three allowed hits and no runs. “Honestly, every time I go out that’s the plan, to go nine [innings],” Leigh says. “The first few starts of the season hadn’t been what I wanted. Just got to keep going out and trusting my stuff and when I pitch like that, good stuff is going to happen.” The second contest quickly turned into a rout as the Mavericks went up to bat at the top of the second inning. Senior infielder Josh Minjarez hit an RBI single to put UTA on the board. Following the run, sophomore pitcher/ outfielder JD Wadleigh hit a twoRBI single. Freshman infielder Cason Gregory advanced the score to 4-0 off a pitching error. Continuing in the top of the second, UTA senior outfielder Connor Aube hit a two-run home run to cap the inning with a 6-0 lead. Texas State got its first score in the bottom of the third off an RBI single from junior infielder Dalton Shuffield to cut the deficit to 6-1. UTA responded at the top of the fifth with a two-RBI shot from senior outfielder Anthony Dominguez to extend its lead to 8-1. The Mavericks hit a solo home run to go up 9-1 at the top of the sixth. The Bobcats scored a final time in the seventh as Gonzalez hit a two-run homer, but that was it for both teams as UTA won 9-3. The last match of the series was uneventful early on as the game was scoreless for the better part of three innings. In the bottom of the third, Texas State got on the board with an RBI single from graduate catcher Bryce Bonner to third base and a run from Gonzalez off a throwing error to go up 2-0. Senior outfielder Chase Evans

extended the Bobcats' lead in the fourth with a two-RBI double. An RBI single by Thompson put them up 5-0. Graduate pitcher Garrett Hermann threw for six innings without allowing a run. In the seventh inning, UTA finally got on the board as Wadleigh hit an RBI single out to right field to bring home sophomore infielder Tyler Rice. Despite being down 5-1 entering the eighth, the Mavericks responded to the deficit. Aube had the first at-bat of the inning and hit a solo home-run out to left-center. The tide immediately shifted to the Mavericks' favor as Minjarez took the plate with the bases loaded. With a 3-2 count, he hit a grand slam to take a 6-5 lead, immediately putting the Bobcats on their heels. To add insult to injury, Gregory hit an RBI single to go up 7-5. Texas State took the plate in the bottom of the eighth but could not respond as the team only got one hit. In the ninth inning, the Mavericks advanced their lead to 10-5 via an RBI double down the left-field line from Minjarez and a two-RBI single from senior catcher/infielder/outfielder Andrew Miller. The Bobcats created one last scoring effort with a home from Gonzalez down the left-field line, making the final score 10-6 with a win for the Mavericks. Looking forward, the Bobcats will face the University of Texas at Rio Grande Valley Vaqueros (13-15 overall, 5-7 WAC). Leading players for the Vaqueros include junior utility Freddy Rojas Jr., the fifth-year infielder Christian Sepulveda and graduate catcher Conrado Diaz. Rojas leads the team with a .727 slugging percentage, .364 batting average, 17 RBI and six home runs. Sepulveda leads the team with 18 RBI with a slugging percentage of .516 and a batting average percentage of .344. Diaz has a slugging percentage of .462, 15 RBI and a batting average of .297 percent. For the Bobcats, leaders for the team include Thompson, Gonzalez and Bonner. Thompson leads the team in RBI (28), hits (39) and home runs (four). He also has a .342 batting average and a .518 slugging percentage. Gonzalez has a slugging percentage of .598, four home runs, 13 RBI and a .310 batting average. Bonner leads this season with a batting average of .293, 11 RBI and a .500 slugging percentage. The matchup will take place at 6 p.m. on April 6 at the UTRGV Baseball Stadium in Edinburg, Texas. The WAC Digital Network will stream the contest.

8 | Tuesday, April 6, 2021

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