Dear UT Community,
During the past few days, we have all watched how Hurricane Harvey has devastated large parts of our state on an unprecedented scale. UT’s Marine Science Institute in Port Aransas lay in the path of the hurricane and was severely damaged by the wind and rains, though, thankfully, all of our students and employees are safe.
To our UT students and their families who have been directly affected by the storm, know this — The University of Texas stands with you during this challenging time. Nearly one-third of our undergraduate students come from affected regions in Texas. Many of you returned to campus last week and are safely in Austin. Others are still home with your families. Our thoughts and prayers are with you as we await your return to campus.
If you cannot make it to Austin before Wednesday’s start of classes, instructors will accommodate your absences and make sure you have the time and resources to catch up on the work you miss. Faculty members will be asked to provide the greatest level of flexibility and support for students impacted by the storm. Students can fill out the Absence Notification Request Form with Student Emergency Services, but are not required to do so if it is not feasible.
To the UT students who are now on campus, we welcome you to the Forty Acres for a new semester, but we also recognize this is a difficult time to begin the academic year. If you are in need of counseling or feel that you might benefit from the resources our UT Counseling and Mental Health Center offers, I encourage you to reach out to them for support.
Although many Longhorn Welcome events are still scheduled, I have consulted with student leaders and decided to cancel the annual university-wide Gone to Texas celebration on Tuesday due to the impact of Hurricane Harvey on our community. The colleges and schools are making decisions about their welcome-back events on Tuesday, and they will be in touch directly about them.
I also urge all students, faculty and staff to get involved and contribute to the Hurricane Harvey recovery effort. The Red Cross is accepting donations for victims of the flooding and winds in Texas. In the coming days, UT and student leadership will organize and sponsor efforts to generate support for statewide relief projects, and you will hear more about them during the week.
As we start a new semester, we do so with a renewed sense of purpose. We are here to learn, teach, discover and create for the benefit of our society. So, let’s do what Longhorns do. Let’s rise to the challenge.
Gregory L. Fenves