No one wants to have an 8 a.m. class in their university schedule, but at least they usually don't take place in a parking lot. But there's also not usually a pandemic.
A photo has gone viral on Twitter showing a class at Texas State University in San Marcos taking place in a parking lot, with students sitting spaced apart in single chairs.
The photo was taken by Cade T., a music education student who didn't want his last name used. A senior, Cade hopes to be a music teacher one day, which means learning how to play different instruments.
"We were outside because, with wind instruments, being inside is far, far more dangerous," he said. "That class can only really happen outside because we don’t have the facilities to house all of us with social distancing guidelines."
He posted the photo on Twitter with the caption, "This is what my $25,000 tuition buys me at Texas State! Loving my 8am class." It now has more than 16,000 retweets and 122,000 likes.
Cade, however, doesn't want the image to be misinterpreted or for his music program to be blamed. He said his teachers and program are doing their very best to cope with pandemic restrictions.
"It’s really unfortunate that the best music school, probably in the nation, 100% in the state, is very, very behind on resources," he said. "The problem that really is happening is coming from the top, from the university."
His program's facilities are actually the university's former recreation center, he said, and just don't have the space to accommodate social distancing, especially with wind instruments involved.
"There’s not enough space for the class that we need. That’s why we were outside — it’s the safest," he said.
In a statement, Texas State University told BuzzFeed News that the class is led by John Denis, assistant professor of Music Education in the School of Music.
"When Denis learned that the primary way the coronavirus spreads is through the air, especially when air conditioning is in use, he looked to science to find a solution to ensure his students had a chance to continue their education while keeping them as safe as possible," the school said.
"Being outside, combined with wearing special masks that allow them to play instruments, provides the safest learning environment possible for the students who are working to graduate and become music teachers."
Cade added that COVID-19 means that some of his classes have moved online, or are a hybrid of online and in person. He said people have also been adhering to masking rules and he has generally felt safe.
Still, it was odd being outside. He said students who walked by were staring and there was noise from cars driving by.
"It obviously doesn’t feel good to be paying this much money to be sitting outside," he said. "My mindset is I’m just doing the best that I can and my teachers are doing the best they can."