Some UT Austin faculty petition against opening campus

The "moov in" for the fall semester at UT Austin continued Thursday with big hopes and new COVID-19 rules.

"Now that I'm here, we've got a small bubble, with just me and my roommates and you know we're super strict about wearing our masks,” said UT freshman Sophie O'Shields.

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UT mom Melissa Chicoria did have one concern. "We're just hoping that once she is here, she can stay, and doesn't get ruined and they shut everything down in a couple of days and say come get your kids,” she said.

On Thursday, during the meeting of the UT System Board of Regents, Chancellor James Milliken said he's pleased with safety measures in place at all of UT's campuses.

"This is not an issue of health and safety versus revenue. Our institutions have a vital mission to provide opportunity to Texans, There are many reasons why our institutional leaders believe this is best achieved with students on campus even when they are taking their classes online,” said Milliken.


COVID-19 campus rules include wearing a mask in all common areas, as well as outside when six feet of separation cannot be maintained and daily self-assessments. There's lab capacity for almost 5,000 daily tests, and contact tracing services will be available

"All UT institutions as you know are providing a combination of limited face to face education, online learning and hybrid models to provide courses this fall, furthermore all can convert any face to face classes to virtual classes if needed,” said Milliken.

UT is opening as other universities in the country have closed campuses following a brief fall restart. There have been COVID clusters in student housing, as well as back to school parties that ignore COVID19 safety guidelines. On Thursday, several UT faculty members, and union activists asked the board for a fall plan reboot.

"It’s absolutely unacceptable that the university's plan doesn't list employee death as a reason the university would end face to face classes,” said union activist Amanda Cavazos Weems.


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A petition was presented with demands beyond all online classes.

"Campus should not be reopened, tuition should be reimbursed, and drastically lowered as long as classes remain partially or mostly online,” said UT student Bennett Burke.

The petition also includes a financial request. Everyone working in the UT System should be provided with an additional $500 a month in Hazard Pay,” said graduate student teaching assistant Erika Slaymaker.

Protective gear is another demand. "Anybody who works or attends UT should be given a high quality access to PPE, not through a vending machine,” said UT employee Frank Netscher.

UT officials indicated creative safety ideas are being considered. "Probably the most fascinating one was the food delivery robots that I saw at UT Dallas the other day, where you put in an order, and then with your iPhone, it sends a signal to the 'bot, to open and get your order,” said Milliken.

RELATED: UT students help develop app to assist students returning to campus

COVID related counseling and mental health services will also be provided on all campuses.

The Chairman of the Board of Regents also brought up a safety and security concern he has. Chairman Kevin Eltif said he is worried about what effects the Austin City Council’s decision to cut its police budget will have on students and staff at UT Austin. Eltif directed UT Austin administrators to track crime and safety issues on and off-campus.

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