Lack of communication on new basketball arena upsets School of Social Work students

Mason Carroll

UT President Gregory Fenves announced last week the administration is now seeking proposals for the new basketball arena. Two possible locations were named, one of which would replace both the Recreational Sports Center and the School of Social Work.

Not all students are excited by the news. For many students in the Steve Hicks School of Social Work, finding out about the new arena in a University-wide email came as a shock.

“We were just blindsided (that we weren’t told) and wondered where we would have classes,” social work junior Sarah Jones said. “I think they should have communicated with (social work students) to see what we wanted in the first place.”

This is not the first time students in the social work school have felt left out of major changes to the school. Last semester, social work students were also told in a campus-wide email that their school would be renamed as the Steve Hicks School of Social Work.

Social work junior Danielle Redhead said students in the school should have been told about both changes ahead of time instead of finding out with the rest of the student body.  

“With the stadium, I am just mad because it was lack of communication, and this has happened before,” Redhead said. “I was initially angry but then that turned into disappointment. We are already overlooked as a major and as a school, and once I saw (the email) I thought, ‘Of course they didn’t tell us.’”

Gary Susswein, chief communications officer for Fenves, said the administration aims to be completely transparent in announcing the arena project. He also said when the Steve Hicks School of Social Work was renamed, they deliberately wanted to have an element of surprise at the event in order to thank Regent Hicks.

“While we understand that some individuals may have wanted advance notice, it was important to let the entire community — every one of whom may be affected by this project — know as quickly as possible and to hear about it straight from University leadership,” Susswein said in an email. 

Jones said what hurt her the most was not the possible relocation of her school, but the lack of communication between social work students and administration. 

“We were shocked that was how we found out, along with the rest of campus, not ‘Hey social work students we are relocating you here, and the plan is this,’” Jones said. “We wish we got some type of plan or just been told first.”

Susswein said it is the administration’s top priority to find a solution for the replacement of the buildings if the Steve Hicks School of Social Work is chosen as the new location for the basketball arena.

“We understand their concerns and that if, in fact, we build at that site, we will work hard to develop a strategic solution that will serve the School of Social Work well,” Susswein said. “We are very mindful about the needs of students, staff and faculty and how they would be impacted by it.”