May 20, 2020
Dear UT Community,
Yesterday, we shared plans with staff and faculty members about the second phase of financial mitigation measures the university is taking in light of the ongoing COVID-19 crisis. These will involve very difficult employment decisions affecting staff members in revenue-generating units, including possible furloughs and reductions in force. Revenue-generating units fund their operations in a variety of ways, including through service charges, fees and memberships. Their budgets primarily come from providing services to paying internal or external customers.
These measures are necessary because of the impact of COVID-19 on the university’s finances. They will affect our co-workers, colleagues and friends significantly, and we hope that you will show understanding for those in revenue-generating units. Moving forward, we will continue to address hard financial realities, and it is likely that there will be more difficult employment decisions to make in the months ahead.
As the spring semester comes to an end with commencement this weekend, our six working groups continue to plan for the upcoming fall semester, and we have begun to make some key decisions:
Fall Semester Schedule
The fall semester will begin as scheduled on August 26, and classes will run until Thanksgiving. Students will not return after Thanksgiving and, instead, will participate in reading days and final exams remotely. With COVID-19 still expected to be active this fall, we hope to avoid the possibility of students becoming infected during the Thanksgiving break and then spreading the virus to classmates upon their return after Thanksgiving. We are still developing the details for how this new schedule will affect course syllabi, residence hall living and other key campus functions. We will continue to provide additional information as we move forward.
In-person Commencement Ceremonies
Since students will not be returning to campus after Thanksgiving, all in-person commencement ceremonies for the fall semester will be postponed. This is another difficult but critical decision, given the continued risks associated with the spread of COVID-19.
Our planned in-person, university-wide commencement ceremony for the Class of 2020 will take place on campus at some point in 2021. Spring and fall 2020 graduates will be invited to this in-person celebration. The date and plans for this event will depend on the evolving COVID-19 situation, and we will update our graduates as soon as we have a clear sense of when we can host all of them safely. We thank our 2020 graduates for their understanding and flexibility as we work to provide them with a celebration that is fitting of their extraordinary achievements.
The university-wide virtual commencement ceremony will take place this Saturday night as planned.
During the next few days, we will announce specific plans for resuming research on campus. Research is at the core of UT’s mission, and during the COVID-19 crisis, our researchers have been busy working to track and fight the spread of the disease while continuing a limited number of other critical and time-sensitive projects. Now, it’s time for a larger force of our researchers in the social and behavioral sciences and humanities, as well as the natural sciences, to return to what they do best: finding solutions to global problems, addressing important societal issues and improving life for people around the world.
Lab directors and principal investigators will be given direction on the university’s “Research Restart” plan, including how to apply to reopen their operations and the necessary steps they must take, including safety precautions and required mitigation plans.
Masks on Campus
Throughout the summer months, all UT employees who are authorized to work on campus must cover their faces with a mask or cloth-covering at all times unless they are in a private office or space. As we have seen with the recent positive tests among several staff members, there is still a very real risk of the virus spreading, and we must take appropriate precautions.
Updates from Working Groups and Campus Announcements
Below, you will find summaries from the working groups, followed by additional news and policy announcements.
This has been a very challenging week for our community. Just know that we are in this together, and we will get through this together. Thank you for your dedication and understanding as we navigate this ongoing crisis.
Gregory L. Fenves
Interim President Designate