June 3, 2020
I hope you are staying safe and keeping well during this difficult time. I know we are all taking things day by day right now and working to manage so many challenges and emotions. With the continued presence of COVID-19 and public protests across the nation, we are being tested, as a people, like never before. And UT has a role to play in all of this — to model compassion and constructive discourse, and to discover, create and share knowledge so that our society may come together and improve during this time of unprecedented change and upheaval.
Set against this backdrop, the university continues to plan for the fall semester, when we will return to campus and continue the learning, teaching and research that has defined this great university for 137 years. Today, I’d like to share a few key updates with you about our summer and fall plans.
Remote Learning, Class Schedules and Room Use
Students who are not able to return to campus this fall, or choose not to do so, will have the option of remote-only learning — i.e., taking all of their classes virtually. Not all classes will be available in this format, so students will need to assess how such a choice would affect their paths toward graduation. More details about the remote-only option, which will have the same tuition rates as on-campus learning, will be available in the coming weeks.
To maintain appropriate social distancing, classrooms will be filled at only 40 percent of capacity for in-person fall classes. The university is working with an architectural firm on design plans for rooms with fixed seating, open seating and other arrangements. Individual colleges and departments will be able to exceed 40 percent capacity in their rooms only with approval from the UT administration.
We will try to make as few changes to the existing fall schedule as possible, but there will be changes, as we will need to move some classes to alternative times in order to reduce density in buildings and on campus. As a result, fall classes will be more spread out than usual and can be scheduled between 8 a.m. and 8 p.m.
Next week, the Office of the Registrar will start to set the final schedule for our 400 largest classes — all of which will offer remote lectures (with in-person learning experiences led by teaching assistants available on campus for some of them) — and then build the rest of the final class schedule based on faculty availability and student enrollment. Some classes will have to move from their usual locations to different rooms.
There will be about 11,000 classes held during the fall semester, and as many as 2,100 of them will be presented online. The online courses will include a range of small and large classes that faculty members and college and school leadership agree can be delivered remotely in a high-quality way. We will reach out to faculty members in the coming days about determining the online courses and make final decisions by July 1.
Students who have already registered will be informed of any changes to their schedules — and will be given an opportunity to make further changes to those schedules — as soon as the university finalizes all course dates and times.
Residence Halls and Other Campus Facilities
We are planning for residence halls to reopen based on the recommendations of the health and medical experts in the Health and Wellness Working Group. We plan to begin communication with students on contracts by the end of June.
The Housing, Food and Facilities Task Force is beginning the process to reopen Recreational Sports and University Unions facilities later this summer. The San Jacinto Residence Hall rooms are being deep cleaned to house student-athletes.
COVID-19 Testing and Screening
In addition to continuing to test members of our community who are symptomatic of COVID-19, we are developing a plan to test asymptomatic individuals on a voluntary basis. Such asymptomatic testing can help us further reduce the spread of COVID-19 on campus while creating a more complete picture of the presence and impact of the disease. We plan to build on-campus capabilities to conduct asymptomatic testing consistent with epidemiological recommendations.
We are also reviewing options and policies for screening members of the UT community who enter buildings on campus for symptoms and will provide more information as we finalize our approach.
Protective Face Coverings
While you have been away from campus, we have begun to develop policies for face coverings. Throughout the summer months, all UT employees who are authorized to work on campus — whether conducting research, helping prepare for the fall semester or maintaining operations — must continue to cover their faces with a mask or cloth covering whenever they are inside buildings unless they are in a private office or space. We will announce a face covering policy for students before the start of the fall semester.
Monday marked the first day of our Research Restart program. More of our researchers can now return to their campus labs and research spaces to resume select time-sensitive projects, if approved by their colleges or schools. This initial reopening will be gradual because while research is one of the university’s core missions, ensuring that our staff, students and faculty are safe and healthy remains our top priority.
We are starting this effort by allowing 30-40 percent of campus researchers who have authorization — including graduate students and postdoctoral fellows — to work on site. Our goal is to continue expanding the number of researchers allowed in our facilities as long as campus conditions and public health guidance indicate it is safe to do so.
The university has acquired personal protective equipment (PPE) such as wipes, gloves and hand sanitizer to support research faculty and staff members as we continue to reopen research operations.
The first phase of Texas Athletics’ return to campus has proved effective and will be extended in preparation for the return of football student-athletes. The process continues to be monitored closely and evaluated regularly with guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, state and local health and safety guidelines, as well as campus and athletics medical staff.
A recent Big 12 directive will enable football student-athletes to begin voluntary athletic activities on campus, with UT’s strength and conditioning staff present, starting on June 15. The Student-Athlete Return to Campus Task Force is finalizing the policies and procedures to safely support these activities. The first phase on-boarding program will consist of a robust screening process that includes testing, physicals and questionnaires. Mandatory physicals, daily screening and COVID-19 safety education/training conducted by the sports medicine staff must be completed before student-athletes may begin the second phase workout program.
Thank you all for your engagement during this challenging moment in the history of our state, nation and world. I will continue to keep you informed as our plans develop in the days ahead. This community is strong and we will get through this together.