University of Texas Classes Move Online for Remainder of Spring Semester
Students will also have to vacate residence halls
By Beth Sullivan,
10:46AM, Wed. Mar. 18, 2020
In its latest response to COVID-19, UT-Austin announced it will be moving all spring semester classes online.
Starting on March 30 – the first day of class after the school’s extended two-week spring break – undergraduate and graduate instruction will transition to remote delivery via Canvas, Zoom, and other methods. In a March 17 letter addressed to the UT community, university president Greg Fenves said in “specific and unusual cases, such as clinical placements leading to professional licensure,” faculty members will work with students to arrange instruction that adheres to social distancing guidelines. Students without off-campus access to a computer or Wi-Fi were directed to contact Student Emergency Services for support.
The announcement came mere hours after city officials banned gatherings of 10 or more people in Austin, though schools and colleges were one of several “critical facilities” exempt from the orders. The move, however, follows that of colleges across the nation, many of which have since announced the cancellation of in-person classes following the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s recommendation against gatherings of 50 or more people earlier this week.
UT is asking that students not return to campus after March 30 if they have living arrangements elsewhere. Students living in residence halls are required to move out, though emergency housing will be available on a case-by-case basis to students who have “compelling reasons to remain on campus, or who do not have other living arrangements.” Fenves said details on how to apply for emergency housing will be made available in the upcoming days. The university will also offer prorated refunds on housing and dining contracts.
In regard to campus operations, staff members working “to support the university’s core priorities” – that is, those providing online learning support, critical on-campus services like utilities, and support for students living in campus – were instructed to continue to do so. “I am pursuing all options to preserve your compensation regardless of your work status,” Fenves said. Some research, including “efforts specifically related to COVID-19,” will continue with social distancing procedures in place, though all lab directors have been tasked with making localized decisions about whether to maintain operations.
“This decision today will create new challenges for many of our students, specifically regarding the completion of courses and credit (especially for students intending to graduate this year), housing, the retrieval of personal items from university residence halls and access to technology away from campus,” said Fenves. As May commencement approaches, Fenves said the administration will determine whether public ceremonies are appropriate upon assessing the public health situation. “Our goal is for all students to complete the courses they are registered for during the spring 2020 semester. I am directing faculty members, deans and university leaders to work to accommodate student needs throughout these difficult times.”