March 11, 2020
Dear UT Community,
I am writing to announce that I have decided to extend spring break for students by one week in response to the spread of COVID-19 (coronavirus). Classes will resume on campus on Monday, March 30, and students should plan on returning prior to that date.
The university will remain open, and the additional week of spring break will provide UT faculty and staff members time to prepare to increase “social distancing” on campus. As recommended by public health officials, social distancing provides guidelines through which individuals avoid group settings and mass gatherings, maintain a safe distance from others and follow good personal hygiene practices whenever possible.
COVID-19 represents a serious public health concern. UT is committed to the well-being of our community members and slowing the spread of the coronavirus while also supporting our students’ educational goals and the needs of staff and faculty members and students during these challenging times.
Social distancing will help us accomplish these aims. It will include:
Shifting many lectures to online instruction.
Reconfiguring classroom space and developing alternative instructional modes for classes that must continue to meet in person, such as laboratories and performing arts courses.
Updating practices in residence halls, dining halls, recreational facilities and libraries to reduce unnecessary contact and promote better personal hygiene.
We will also examine how to support employees and students who have special health needs or are especially vulnerable to the virus.
Students, faculty members and staff members will receive more details from the university or their individual college or school during the coming days. If you have specific concerns or ideas about how the university can best implement social distancing practices, please let us know here.
Students who wish to return to campus as previously scheduled on March 23 will still be able to do so — residence halls, dining halls, health and counseling services and other facilities will be open. Other university operations will also continue during the next two weeks and beyond, with the potential for flexible work arrangements that align with our focus on social distancing. Supervisors will work directly with employees to make changes, if necessary.
In addition to our university initiatives, each of us must act responsibly for the benefit of our entire community. If you are sick or become sick, you should stay home from work and class and avoid close contact with others. Students who are in self-isolation or are unable to return to campus on March 30 for health reasons should request an accommodation. If you have any concerns that you have been exposed to the virus, you should call University Health Services or your medical provider immediately.
Please remember to take preventive measures and be cautious when traveling and interacting with people during spring break. This includes washing your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, and avoiding shaking hands and other physical contact.
I know this is not the spring break we had expected. Typically, March is a special month, when tens of thousands flock to Austin for South by Southwest and students and community members spend time resting and enjoying new experiences around the nation and the world. I am aware that many of you have had to change your plans, and I appreciate the resiliency you have shown throughout these difficult weeks. We must all come together as a community to make the semester as productive as possible.
Please check our website frequently to stay informed.
Gregory L. Fenves