May 6, 2020
Dear UT Community,
As students focus on their studies during this final week of a spring semester unlike any other, the university is planning for the upcoming fall semester. Our goal is to reignite what makes UT so special, including in-person classes, to the extent that health and safety conditions allow. Meanwhile, the state of Texas is reopening slowly and, as we wrote last week, UT will continue to operate in its current mode — with limited on-campus operations.
The university leadership team is currently coordinating six campus-wide working groups — focused on Academics, Health and Wellness, Student Life, Operations, Research, and Athletics — to develop strategies for the fall. Their insights and recommendations will shape the specific decisions we make about how to safely open the Forty Acres. These groups are gathering input and also helping us prioritize key issues, including time-sensitive decisions about housing our students safely in residence halls. We are also working with the Big 12 Conference on the safety of student-athletes and how we will host Longhorn football and other sports this fall.
We will announce the plans for the fall semester as they evolve, with resolution by the end of June. We are listening to our students, faculty and families, and encourage you to follow our progress and contribute your suggestions for the fall on our new planning website.
For generations, The University of Texas has thrived because of our core commitment to delivering life-changing educational experiences. Those experiences have almost always been in person and on campus. We deeply value the inherent benefits and advantages of in-person learning that are so vital to advancing our sense of community, sharing knowledge and spurring creativity. So, we intend to have as many courses, students, faculty and staff on campus in the fall as possible, while maintaining the health and safety of our community members.
Still, in order to safely social distance and prevent the spread of COVID-19, some courses will be organized and presented online. Knowing this, we are working to maximize the effectiveness and learning outcomes of those courses for the benefit of our students.
Throughout campus, our colleges and schools are designing fall experiences that will reflect the exemplary quality and energy that define the UT learning experience, and both build and strengthen connections between our students and faculty. We will also need to implement new schedules and approaches for many of our fall operations in consideration of health and safety. This will include a renewed commitment to social distancing and hygiene both on and off campus — in residence halls, classrooms and throughout the larger community — to create an environment that is as safe as possible and enriching for students, faculty and staff across the university.
Beyond fall planning, another key priority is reviving an important aspect of what makes our university so exceptional: our research mission. We are working to reopen labs to allow faculty members to return to the critical research they have had to put on hold. As these labs resume operations, they will join the more than 60 UT Austin physical labs that are currently open and conducting both essential COVID-19 research and time-critical, non-COVID-19 research. The number of operating labs on campus will increase as we move into the summer months and develop methods for safely operating a greater number of spaces for academic scholarship, scientific inquiry and artistic expression.
The university has much work to do in the days and months ahead, but we know that we will rise to the challenge. Students — we thank you for adapting to the online learning environment, and we wish you the best as you complete these last days of class and prepare for finals. Faculty and staff — we thank you for your extraordinary work in continuing the university’s mission during an unprecedented moment in our history.
Gregory L. Fenves
Interim President Designate