February 19, 2021
Dear UT Community,
We may have survived these historic storms – snow, ice, and 144 consecutive hours of below-freezing temperatures – but like many of you, our campus continues to face an evolving power and water situation as we look to resume operations. Like many of your residences, our campus facilities have been affected by the weather, and they are unlikely to be ready immediately for full operations after the thaw. Staff members are working hard to prepare the campus for Covid-era, low-density occupancy, but there is huge uncertainty over how much work must be done; we know it is considerable.
We expect it will not be business as usual for a while, and we will need to gradually restore both our physical space and campus operations, along with our research and learning plans. Some campus operations and activities may be able to resume safely more quickly, such as Proactive Community Testing (PCT), vaccine operations, and some limited extracurricular activities. Others, such as in-person classes, will take more time.
For these reasons, campus will remain closed through at least Wednesday at 8 a.m. Classes will also be canceled with a few exceptions.
Faculty and Students
We believe in learning and student engagement and seek to restart these critical activities – even if it must be done slowly and in an optional way. On Monday and Tuesday, faculty members may use their class times creatively to keep students connected, such as presenting optional lectures, holding Zoom discussion sections, offering office hours, or providing discussion materials. But nothing can be required in terms of materials or assignments, and neither faculty members nor students are obligated to participate. We trust that faculty members will communicate any such plans clearly to their students as soon as they are able. As for the rest of the week, we need to prepare for a time of transition. Students will be coming back from serious adversity, and faculty members should consider delaying due dates for major exams or assignments this coming week.
As I said earlier this week, the lost class time will not affect spring break, and I will add that our academic calendar will remain as scheduled – there will be no extension of the semester. Faculty members will have flexibility in how they deliver and account for the missed material and will be encouraged to communicate their plans to their students as soon as possible. Faculty and students are receiving further information about planning for next week and beyond from our provost, Dan Jaffe, and VP/Dean of Students Soncia Reagins-Lilly, respectively.
Given the campus closure, staffing will remain at essential levels. Even this has been a challenge – some essential staff members have been unable to make their way safely to campus and/or are dealing with no power, no water, frozen pipes and other emergencies in their homes. Many of our staff members who are on campus or can work virtually are literally working around the clock to serve our students’ needs.
Information will be sent to all employees from Human Resources regarding accounting for time, and how to handle the next few days.
Health and Safety
The health and safety of every member of our community remains our top priority. Drs. Amy Young and Terrance Hines will be sharing shortly the work we are doing to keep the community safe and healthy. Their message also outlines our plans to move forward with Proactive Community Testing (PCT) and COVID-19 Vaccine Operations on Monday.
At present, the campus water supply is stable; any water pressure issues on campus are investigated as they are reported. Presently, all on-campus residence halls have operating, flushable restroom facilities. Portable restrooms are also being delivered across campus to be used in open buildings that do not have working facilities. If you come across a water leak or facilities-related issue on campus, we ask that you please report them by calling 512-471-2020 or visiting the facilities service center.
Students, faculty and staff can stay up to date on where to find bottled water, warming stations on campus and other important information by visiting the Emergency Website.
My heart is warmed by the many stories I hear of our employees work to support our students on campus, even while I worry about the work-life balance of our incredible people. Many of our dining staff have spent the night on campus for the past several days to help provide warm meals, even as demand for food increased and we provided free meals to thousands of students without meal plans. Others have slept in their offices to help keep campus running, or worked long hours remotely in spite of difficult home conditions. Our team has quickly opened warming stations and provided meals to hundreds of students in need. We have also had campus partners who have assisted in supplementing our food supply to serve our students. Our staff and faculty members are dedicated to the health and well-being of our students, and I am thankful for every one of you doing the work behind the scenes, delivering for our community.
I wish I could tell you every story I’ve heard. To get started, we are resuming the UT Shout-Outs on Texas Connect social media platforms (Twitter, Facebook, Instagram) so we can tell those wonderful stories of the care and efforts for our community. If you have a story to tell about heroic efforts during this storm, please tell us about it.
You have all demonstrated resilience and determination to get through these winter storms, and I am very grateful for every one of you and your efforts to support our students, our campus and one another.
Stay warm, be safe, and take care. We're almost there.