May 12, 2020
Dear UT Community,
As we near the end of the spring semester, the university has established six working groups to plan for the upcoming fall semester. They are collecting information, meeting with stakeholders, consulting with health care professionals and developing strategies toward our goal of safely returning students, faculty and staff to the Forty Acres.
There are many factors to consider as we move forward — first and foremost among them is the health and well-being of our university community. We are making our plans for fall with the best available information, while understanding that we must be able to respond to any future changes in the prevalence of COVID-19 in Austin.
Below, you will find a brief summary from each of the working groups, followed by additional news and policy announcements. We plan to regularly provide you with similar updates in the weeks ahead.
Gregory L. Fenves
Interim President Designate
Working Group Updates
The Health and Wellness Working Group is finalizing a model that predicts testing needs based on different reopening scenarios and designing an operational plan for symptomatic testing and surveillance. The group continues to draft guidelines and recommendations for health strategies such as the use of face coverings, social distancing measures and tactics for protecting high-risk individuals on campus.
The Academic Planning Working Group is designing scenarios for the fall semester that explore everything from the overall academic calendar to plans for social distancing in the classroom. These include a proposal to better spread out classes between 8 a.m. and 8 p.m. to reduce density in buildings during peak hours. The working group has also established task forces for online education, experiential learning and labs and performance spaces.
The Student Life and Engagement Working Group has organized a number of teams to plan for the fall semester. The student come-back team is establishing detailed guidelines for resuming a variety of student engagement activities. The housing, food and facilities team is developing plans that facilitate social distancing, monitor density and elevate sanitation standards within our facilities. The care and prevention team is drafting policies and procedures to support students’ physical and mental well-being. The student input and messaging team will gather feedback, brainstorm messaging topics and create and develop messaging implementation plans.
Interim Vice President for Research Alison Preston is working closely with interim Provost Dan Jaffe and the associate dean for research of each college and school to develop a plan to gradually reopen research spaces and resume research activities in a phased manner. Once initial reopening dates are identified in the near future, researchers will receive detailed guidelines and best practices for safely working on campus with their teams, and with patients and study subjects.
The Operations Working Group is putting together a timeline for the incremental reopening of campus facilities. The group has established task forces for readiness and human resources in order to determine physical infrastructure needs, personal protective equipment needs and guidelines and policies to ensure the safety of staff, faculty, students and visitors.
Texas Athletics is creating policies and procedures to safely return coaches, staff members and student-athletes to campus. Athletics’ four cross-functional task forces are working with Vice President and Athletics Director Chris Del Conte on preliminary contingency plans.
In the interest of the well-being of our campus community and based on the latest information and guidance available, the university has extended domestic and international travel restrictions to June 30 (whether paid for by UT sources or external sources). A decision will be made by June 15 about travel beyond July 1.
Limited exceptions can be requested for faculty, staff and graduate students for important domestic and international university-related business travel. International travel will be permitted only for COVID-19-related research, and individuals will be required to follow guidance for requesting restricted region travel approval and are encouraged to contact Global Risk and Safety for assistance.
Domestic travel exception requests must be approved by the relevant dean or vice president prior to the submission of a Request-to-Travel (RTA), and that approval should be included when the RTA is submitted. International travel will follow the guidelines issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), International SOS (ISOS) and U.S. Department of State (USDOS) for dates later than July 1.
International travel will not be permitted (unless related to COVID-19 research) due to closed entry to/exit from numerous countries, restricted flight options, quarantine requirements, strained health systems and the potential outbreak of civil unrest. UT-sponsored undergraduate student travel remains prohibited.
UT will not permit reimbursements from any source for deposits, down payments, change fees or non-reimbursable airfares booked after March 26 for travel at any future time if the travel has not followed protocol.
Effective March 27, all visiting delegations to UT have been canceled through July 1, with the possibility that this date could be extended, per CDC, ISOS and USDOS guidelines.