Professors respond to inauguration protests


In response to the J20 UT Walkout planned for this afternoon, some professors on campus are making attendance exceptions for students, while the vast majority will conduct classes as usual. 

As of Thursday evening, nearly 600 UT students said they will be protesting the inauguration of Donald Trump. Students plan to walk out of class at noon today, eventually joining the city-wide protest, One Resistance, downtown later in the afternoon. Another 1,200 people said they were interested in the event, meaning they might attend, according to the J20 UT Walkout Facebook event page.

While the University maintains its stance on protecting students’ First Amendment rights, class attendance penalizations for students who choose to walk out of class are at the discretion of the professor, according to the Dean of Students.

“Individual faculty members set the expectations for attendance of their classes and communicate these with students at the start of the semester,” the Office of the Dean of Students said in a statement to the Daily Texan. “As with previous demonstrations, the University will protect the free speech rights of the UT Austin community and work to ensure public safety.”

In some cases, professors are making attendance exceptions and providing other accommodations to students choosing to protest the inauguration. 

Cary Cordova, an assistant professor in the College of Liberal Arts, announced an attendance exception for students choosing to walk out of class. 

“Attendance normally counts for 15 percent of our grade …. She said there will still be class, she just won’t take attendance,” said linguistics sophomore Elizabeth Doyle, who is taking a class with Cordova this spring. “She probably felt that students who are protesting should not … feel that their voice couldn’t be heard because they were stuck in class.”

Cordova could not be reached for comment.

History senior Elizabeth Dean said her professor, whom she preferred not to identify, gave students an alternative way to access an in-class assignment. 

“It’s important to have an organized mass presence to reject Trump and what he stands for,” Dean said. “Students participating in a march is basic free speech, and they shouldn’t be penalized. Kids miss class all the time for things like being hungover and don’t get in trouble.”

Geography freshman Diego Britton, on the other hand, said his professors hadn’t made any mention of the walkout and he didn’t feel the protest warranted accommodation from professors.

“I don’t have class, but if I did, I would expect some sort of penalization [if attendance were mandatory], but I would be willing to make that sacrifice in order to participate,” Britton said. “We, as students, are obligated to attend class, and missing it for whatever purpose comes with consequences. But if anything, walking out in the face of these consequences only reinforces the message we’re trying to send.”

Theater and dance freshman Alaya Balderas-Gallego, however, said she felt students shouldn’t be penalized for walking out of class. 

“If it were any other election or circumstance I wouldn’t say that [students shouldn’t be penalized], but professors need to understand that the inauguration is going to cause a great deal of distress for students that feel threatened by Trump’s proposed policies,” Balderas-Gallego said.