Tag Archives: Chris Major

New law takes toll on enrollment

By Chris Major

Ranger Reporter

Texas colleges faced a new hurdle in student enrollment this spring.

A new state law requiring incoming students under 30 to receive a bacterial meningitis vaccination caused many students to put off their education, said Dr. Robert Austin, vice president of student affairs.

“The big challenge is the cost of this vaccination,” Austin said. “A lot of students had money set aside thinking they needed about $1,000 and now they have to pay another $150, which isn’t covered by financial aid.”

Over 11,000 academic students enrolled in the fall and Austin said a small drop off of 1 to 2 percent from last spring was expected this semester. Preliminary enrollment numbers show a decrease in enrollment of about 5 percent.

“We had a difficult time getting the word out about the vaccine,” Austin said. “We sent letters, emails and put up fliers to let students know, but we think some students just decided to put off dealing with it. It also challenged us because we have a system set up so that if someone wanted to come in, register and do everything they needed to at once, they could. The vaccine messed with that since we don’t have a health center on campus.”

According to Austin, about 58 percent of all applicants enroll for classes. This spring, only about 42 percent of applicants registered.

John Brooks applied, but put off going to school this semester due to the required vaccine.

“I just didn’t have the money for it,” Brooks said. “It’s like adding another book to the list of things you have to pay for.”

Although enrollment is down, Austin said retention rates, or the number of students returning from last semester, is expected to be up. He  said they are looking at several options to make next semester’s transition smoother.

“We have a few ideas we are looking over,” Austin said. “Nothing is in place yet.”

Crystal Murphy, radiography major, said she wished the school had found a way to make it the vaccine less expensive for students.

“It was a lot to pay,” Murphy said. “On top of everything else it was a lot to ask of new students.”

Austin said it is important to get students to enroll and not delay going to college.

“There’s always opportunities for students to put off college, especially in a place with a community college,” Austin said. “Once they put it off, they just delay it semester after semester. We need people to get a higher education, earn a degree or receive skill training so they can go out into the work force.”

9/11 tribute to end theater season

By Chris Major

Photo by Joshua Wagner

A blind date, a crazy musician, a sock puppet and drinking games.

No, this isn’t a Saturday night party. To keep with the theme of remembering 9/11, TheatreAC will end the semester with the play Recent Tragic Events, a story that takes place the day after Sept. 11, 2001.

In Minneapolis, a young woman named Waverly prepares to go on a blind date as she learns that her sister Wendy, a student in New York, hasn’t been heard from since the attacks.

As the evening progresses, Waverly and her date Andrew start to realize they are connected by a series of coincidences.

The couple also is visited by Ron, a musician, his girlfriend Nancy and Joyce Carol Oats, Waverly’s great aunt. Not to be confused with the famous author, Mrs. Oats is played by a sock puppet.

“Joyce’s character kind of brings a new vision about humanity and free will,” said Bianka Torres, who plays both Nancy and Oats.

Monty Downs, a theater arts instructor, said the play makes the audience consider how much freedom they have over their lives.

“It’s really a discussion about what role does choice play in our lives,” Downs said.

“It raises the question of, as humans, do we really have free will or does fate play a part in what happens?”

The play is presented as a sitcom with a serious backdrop. Downs said while it is humorous, it does not take the events of Sept. 11 lightly.

Jennifer Runberg, who plays Waverly, said the play displays the emotions of the time.

“I have an emotional connection with the story because I have a 9/11 birthday, and I remember the fear and all those emotions that marked the day of my birth,” Runberg said.

“The play does a good job of recapturing all the heartache and fear that people felt and brings us all back to a place of uncertainty.”

Downs said the cast is beginning to understand the subtleties of the play.

“The students are doing a good job with the play,” he said.

“They’re starting to get a feel for it.”

“It’s funny and definitely not your normal drama,” Torres said. “Everything seems to subtly fit the question of predetermined or free will.

“It’s been a challenge playing two characters at once, but it’s been a great learning experience, and I’ve really enjoyed working with everyone involved.”


Published: Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Today’s music: Gnarly or nonsense, much of it short on skill, message

Opinion By Chris Major


Chris Major - Photo by Mike Haynes

There are few things in life that I treasure as much as music.

Everything from the precise beauty of classical to the power or rock and hip-hop brings me joy each and every day.

Nothing evokes emotion and influences the masses quite like music.

Whether it is as old as Gregorian chants or some of the songs we hear today, music always has been one the main forms expression for mankind.

It seems, however, that along with all of the wonderfulness of music, a little trash tails along with it.

Every few months, a one-hit wonder comes out with a song that, despite sounding like a worthless track not worthy of attention, becomes a nationwide sensation.

At what point does it stop being artistic? I do enjoy some of the senselessness in music; it’s part of that beauty.

Songs with less gravity are fun and stress-relieving, but a lot of them are ridiculous and over-glorified. Justin Bieber comes out of left field with his “music,” and adult women are falling at his feet.

Then we have the Ke$ha and the Soulja Boy, people who honestly have no business making CDs for a living but somehow keep making money. Is that really what music is?

Maybe I’m alone in this argument, but I have an idea of what music should be. Yes, by definition, anyone can be considered a musician despite a lack of talent, but to me, it takes so much more.

It takes a certain amount of skill at your craft and at least a little bit of a message. It doesn’t have to be serious; just let me know why I’m listening.

I find myself listening less and less to the radio because very few songs have any substance at all to them – just another three minutes worth of revenue.

I want to hear Bach and Chopin, a little Hendrix and Marley. Give me Sinatra and the Roots, operas and musicals, too, if you have any.

That’s what music sounds like, because whether it’s a violin or a guitar performing the solo, it will reach out and touch someone with each and every note.

Consider what music really it is to you. It doesn’t have to be a particular genre or a select few artists – just what hits you as memorable.

A year from now, few will care about Rebecca Black talking about Fridays, but real music, the works of people and groups like Brahms, Santana, the Beatles and Michael Jackson, will stay in our history books, in our memories and in our hearts.

Real music leaves an imprint on us and often changes parts of our culture.


Published: Wednesday, November 03, 2011

Record-breaking first snow fall on Amarillo, AC

By Chris Major

A 100 year-old record was broken Oct. 27.
As morning came, snow had fallen across the Texas Panhandle, bringing residents the first snow of the year. According to a story in the Amarillo Globe-News, Amarillo received around 2 to 3 inches of snow. As much as 3.1 inches were recorded at the weather station on 1900 English Road, breakng the previous record of 2.4 inches set on Oct. 27, 1911. Because of road conditions, Amarillo police responded to 34 minor accidents from 6 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. The high for the day was 38 degrees, melting most of the snow by 5 p.m.


Published: Wednesday, November 03, 2011

3D Scares not worth the extra cash

Photo courtesy of youcantscareme.com

Review By Chris Major

Many people go out during October hoping to get a good scare. One haunted house, 6th Street Massacre at 3015 SW Sixth Ave., attempts to frighten visitors, but the scariest thing there might be the prices.

For $16, haunt fans can enjoy a slightly re-vamped 3D experience. Beginning with an introduction from the puppet in Saw, visitors crawl through an arcade machine into a world that may seem like déjà vu to many. However, it contains a few new elements as well.

The first half of the house uses a lot of old scenes and props from last year, such as the Silent Hill scene, the mirror maze and a slanted room as well as a few of the props.

Nothing out of the ordinary, just the same old tricks. A creepy silhouette follows you, bendy zombies line a few walls and corpses hang from the ceiling.

They added a few new areas later in the house and use 3D glasses to enhance some of the visuals along the way.

A screen in one room shows a woman sliding into a fan, and it sprays as you watch the gruesome scene. The event closes with the classic chainsaw appearance, which will alarm some but won’t bother most enthusiasts.

Most guys won’t find the event too scary, so it’s hardly worth the price of admission – unless you bring along a child or friend to scream constantly and keep you entertained.

In the end, though, it is all too familiar for me.

The screams, the disturbingly attractive cast of female characters and the spray props resemble a lot of last year’s event.

It needs more new elements besides just a new theme and a pair of glasses. For $32 per couple, fans of haunted houses should expect a better show than this one.

Avid goers expect newer settings, more blood and new factors to surprise and scare them.

Predictability equates with comfort, and that’s not what anyone wants in a haunted house.

Feel free to explore others in Amarillo before bringing money to this one. There’s bound to be a better scare somewhere in town.


Originally published: Thursday, October 20, 2011

Parcells Hall renovation complete

Photo by Jackie Sellinger

Construction continues on exterior, Byrd Business Building

By Chris Major

Renovations on the interior of Parcells Hall are complete, and students and faculty are settling back in.

The communication and visual arts departments moved back into the building from their temporary home in Dutton Hall before the fall semester began last month.

“It’s really nice,” said Lee Jones, an art major. “It feels like it took about 1,000 years, but it turned out really well.”

Haley Traves, an English major, said she is excited about the new look.

“You can tell the new architecture apart from the old building, and the bigger offices will allow students to be more comfortable with their advisers,” she said.

“I love it,” said Brenda Walsh, academic adviser of language, communication and fine arts.

“The offices are nicer, and the technology is a lot better for the students.”

Classrooms in Parcells were updated to what are called “smart classrooms” and now feature the latest technology, making it easier for instructors and students to connect and take advantage of online resources.

The inside of Parcells may be complete, but construction continues outside and in Byrd Business Building right next door. Faculty members and classes normally housed in the building have been temporarily moved to Dutton Hall, and other buildings around campus until next summer, when renovations are expected to be complete.

Dr. Carol Buse, computer information systems department chairwoman, said she does not mind her temporary office in Dutton Hall.

“Its OK, but it’ll be nice once we get settled in,” she said. “The hardest part is that everyone’s separated.”

The remodel is the first construction done on the two buildings since 1968. Total costs are estimated to be about $11 million.

Kristin Edford, program coordinator of humanities and philosophy, said the construction has been good for the school and the town.

“It benefits students, teachers and the economy with new jobs,” she said.

“It’s good all around.”


Originally published: Thursday, September 15, 2011