UT-Austin Reveals Fall Semester Plans Amid Coronavirus

Tony Cantu

AUSTIN, TX — Officials at the University of Texas at Austin on Monday outlined final plans for the fall semester that include practicing physical distancing in classrooms and a requirement to wear face coverings amid rising rates of the coronavirus.

Texas Department of State Health Services officials on Sunday revealed the number of coronavirus cases was fast approaching 150,000 across the state. In light of such illness upticks, university officials have implemented a number of safeguards for the upcoming semester.

Interim UT-Austin President Jay Hartzell sent a message to the university community to convey the need for precautions. “Today’s plan provides a framework for the fall that is designed to accommodate the dynamic environment we’re facing and enable us to adapt to changes in the prevalence of COVID-19 in Austin and throughout Texas,” he said.

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To that end, classrooms will be filled to only 40 percent occupancy, Hartzell said. Three types of classes will be offered to accommodate various needs: Online, in-person/hybird and remote. Hartzell noted stuedents will have the option of taking all their classes online.

Protective fabric facial coverings will be required of everyone when indoors, with exceptions made when eating in campus dining areas or while alone in an office, the interim president said.

Other measures include:

  • Residence halls are scheduled to be reopened by Aug. 20, Hartzell said, but students will be required to wear masks unless they are in their rooms. Student dorms will be at double-occupancy levels with a limited number of single-occupancy options to be offered.
  • Faculty members will be given the option of having office hours on campus or offer them remotely, according to the fall semester plans.
  • Accommodations adherent to the Americans with Disabilities Act will be made available, and affected students will be able to request flexible teaching plans.
  • Daily screenings for coronavirus will be implemented for students, staff and faculty, with university labs capable of conducting up to 1,500 such screenings daily. An app will be launched replete with testing information and self-monitoring tips.

Hartzell revealed the plans during an afternoon virtual briefing to which members of the media were invited on Monday. Joining the interim president on the Zoom meeting were:

  • Dan Jaffe, interim executive vice president and provost;
  • Art Markman, chair, Academic Planning Working Group; professor of Psychology and Marketing, director of IC2 Institute.
  • Amy Young, M.D., chair, Health and Wellness Working Group; chief clinical officer, vice dean of Professional Practice, professor of Women's Health, Dell Medical School.
  • Soncia Reagins-Lilly, chair, Student Life and Engagement Working Group; vice president for Student Affairs and dean of students.
  • Alison Preston, chair, Research Working Group; interim vice president for research;
  • Darrell Bazzell, chair, Operations Working Group; senior vice president and chief financial officer;
  • Shawn Eichorst, chair, Athletics Working Group; deputy athletic director and COO.

This article originally appeared on the Austin Patch