In the midst of COVID-19, our routines have been disrupted; we have new financial and personal stressors and many families are faced with mourning the loss of their loved ones. We have all been forced to adjust to a new reality in order to secure greater public health and safety, which requires sacrifice.
For graduating seniors, it means the delay of the commencement that we’ve worked so hard for. It also means not visiting our loved ones. It means losing the jobs that give us meaning and put food on the table. And it certainly means sacrificing vacations and celebrations, no matter how long we’ve planned for them, saved for them or how badly we deserve them.
While these sacrifices can be frustrating, challenging and even heartbreaking, if it means saving the lives of millions and protecting immunocompromised people, it is worth it. Always.
A total of 211 UT-Austin students traveled to Cabo San Lucas, Mexico, during spring break, with 49 (and counting) now testing positive for COVID-19. By the time of their departure on March 14, the City of Austin had already declared a local state of emergency and UT had shut down campus operations, canceled all programs abroad and implemented social distancing.
The University Code of Conduct outlines prohibited conduct and “expects from its students a higher standard of conduct than the minimum needed to avoid discipline.” The Dean of Students may initiate disciplinary proceedings against students who violate the Code of Conduct. One prohibited conduct is “harmful behavior,” defined as when a student “behaves in a manner that threatens or endangers the health or safety of any student or employee of the University, or of visitors to the campus.”
When 211 UT students, dubbed the Cabo 211, ignored the recommendations of the City of Austin and UT and actively chose to travel to another country to party, they put the health and safety of the University and greater campus area at risk. Within two weeks of their return, West Campus was identified as a hotspot for COVID-19.
It is likely that many of these students returned to campus housing and student apartments, putting thousands of students and people around them at risk. By definition, they participated in university-defined misconduct and have likely contributed to the exponential growth and spread of COVID-19.
All students deserve safe learning and living spaces and we as Longhorns owe it to each other and ourselves to hold one another accountable. This is a stressful and challenging time for us all, but like anything in life, our actions have consequences. The actions of the Cabo 211, unfortunately, have endangered the health and lives of thousands.
As Longhorns, we can choose to ignore misconduct like this or we can call for action. This type of misconduct is not comparable to forging a paper or cheating on an exam — both of which are actions that often result in punishment. In this case, lives are at risk. Is that something that we can ethically ignore?
If it is clear that these students engaged in university-defined misconduct, we should expect that all 211 students be held responsible for their actions in some capacity. At minimum, we cannot ignore this kind of misconduct; we can either choose to learn from this situation or we can continue to be a part of the problem.
Students may address their grievances by contacting the Office of the Dean of Students at email@example.com, by calling 512-471-2841, or by filing an incident report.
Plein is a Social Work senior from Leander, Texas.