August 28, 2020
As you have returned to campus in recent days, there have been countless examples of courteous and compassionate behavior by Longhorns who have stepped up to Protect Texas Together as we navigate the COVID-19 crisis. But there have also been instances where important safety practices — including mask wearing and social distancing — have not been followed by students, particularly in large group gatherings and celebrations, mostly off campus. But this behavior, regardless of where it takes place, still affects us here on the Forty Acres. We need to do a better job of looking out for one another.
Governor Greg Abbott issued executive orders throughout the summer to encourage and enforce safe practices across our state. These include a prohibition on gatherings of more than 10 people, with limited exceptions, and the required use of masks inside many buildings and in outdoor locations when social distancing is not feasible. If you are off campus, the Governor’s orders still apply to you, as do the restrictions issued by the City of Austin.
We have asked the City to enforce its rules in areas where our students commonly live and gather and are reminding all community members they can call 311 if they are concerned these rules are not being followed. This week, city public health officials reached out directly to many student organizations off campus to review their responsibilities under local orders and rules related to COVID-19 and ensure the safety of the entire community.
In addition, the university has begun to reach out to the advisors and national leaders of student organizations and to property managers when we learn that their members and residents engaged in behavior that violates the state and local orders. We expect the full support of student organizations in having their members follow local and state rules. And, from our conversations, property managers are eager to use our information to improve the safety of their communities.
We know that the start of this new semester is an exciting time for you. But we have a deeper responsibility this year to show accountability in everything that we do. That means being mindful of the dangers presented by COVID-19 and letting our actions reflect our compassion and care for those around us, specifically those most vulnerable to the effects of the virus.
Let’s continue to Protect Texas Together so we can have an outstanding semester of in-person and remote learning, academic discovery and life-changing experiences. I hope you will find ways to take advantage of the amazing continuing opportunities to get involved in university life — including our events and organizations — and to build relationships with your fellow students, and our exceptional faculty and staff. Please mask up, social distance and get tested if you’re showing symptoms or have been asked to take part in proactive community testing. Above all else, use good judgment — not only when you’re on campus, but especially when you socialize or spend time with your friends. That’s how we’ll limit the spread of COVID-19 and continue to enjoy the benefits of the Forty Acres during the months ahead.