August 11, 2020
Dear UT Community,
Thousands of UT faculty and staff members are hard at work preparing for the start of the fall semester. Many students are beginning to return to Austin for on-campus learning, while many others are setting up for immersive remote learning at home. As a community, we are gearing up for another semester of exceptional educational experiences — regardless of format — which means life-changing classes and teaching, visionary creative opportunities, innovative research and scholarship, and so much more. No matter where you will be this fall, I just want you to know how much I’ve appreciated the adaptability and resilience you’ve shown throughout this summer. I couldn’t be prouder of our amazing Longhorn community.
Reduced Population Density on Campus
We currently project that 45% to 50% of undergraduate students have chosen to take all of their courses online in the fall. Over 60% of UT faculty members will teach online-only this semester, and there will also continue to be a dramatically reduced number of staff members on campus as those who can continue to perform at a high level from home will continue to do so. Further, there will be substantial reductions in the numbers of students living in on-campus housing during the upcoming semester. Given the current state of COVID-19 in Texas and its future unpredictability, this broad reduction in population density will help us stay safe, maintain social distance and limit spread on the Forty Acres during the months to come.
But having fewer people on campus is just one way we can be healthier and safer this semester. There’s also our extensive, in-house testing capabilities, which are being developed with the goal of proactively testing up to 5,000 community members per week; a robust contact tracing team; and isolation capabilities. And there are many personal steps that each of us must take to protect ourselves and those around us. That’s where The Commitment to Protect Texas Together comes in.
Commitment to Protect Texas Together
The core values of The University of Texas at Austin are learning, discovery, freedom, leadership, individual opportunity and responsibility. All of these values are essential to our mission, but that last one — responsibility — is going to be more important than ever during this upcoming semester.
Not all of us will be back on campus at the end of August, but those who return must transform old habits and embrace new measures and behaviors for their safety and for the safety of those in the Longhorn community and throughout Austin. It is on us — to mask up; to avoid large gatherings where social distancing can’t be achieved and adhere to city rules that prohibit them; to monitor our symptoms; to wash our hands; and to follow campus guidance. In essence, it is on us to commit to our responsibilities.
And in that spirit, I am asking every member of our community who is returning to campus to make The Commitment to Protect Texas Together. This is a voluntary code of conduct and a statement of shared purpose — a series of actions that any one of us can, and should, take to protect our community during a public health crisis unlike any other in modern history. If you are coming back to the Forty Acres, please make The Commitment to Protect Texas Together today.
Longhorns Online Academic Portal
The university recently launched Longhorns Online, an academic portal for all UT students, providing a wide range of resources for the semester’s reimagined college experience. These include academic advising services, college-specific assistance and guidance for choosing the right classes, with an emphasis on staying on track for graduation.
Longhorns Online also has many resources for our students that extend far beyond the classroom experience, including:
Information about financial aid opportunities, including grants, scholarships and loans;
Virtual career resources and advising, experiential learning and internship opportunities and information about advanced degree programs; and
Virtual UT experiences including a 360-degree campus tour, online events and activities, and community engagement and global education opportunities.
If you are a student, I strongly encourage you to familiarize yourself with Longhorns Online and use it for assistance and guidance throughout the semester.
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I hope you are all having a wonderful week and, especially if you are in Austin, staying cool. I know these are difficult times, but we’re going to make it through them. And, I am certain we will emerge on the other side stronger, more united and more determined to change the world than ever before.