UT students voice concerns about fall reopening plan

Hannah Ortega

Some students have expressed frustrations with UT’s fall reopening plan, specifically regarding the cost of tuition, online learning and double-occupancy rooms in residence halls.

Details of the plan announced on June 29  include requiring people to wear masks inside of campus buildings, creating a symptom-monitoring app for students and keeping tuition rates the same, according to the Protect Texas Together website. Alcess Nonot, Senate of College Councils president, said the plan needs to better address issues about tuition and online classes.

“The main frustration that a lot of students have with the fall reopening plan is … the uncertainty, and I don't think that is something that can be fixed really easily,” Nonot said. “I do feel like the University could put extra precautions and make the plans more clear so that students know in the event that cases start rising really heavily in August, what is plan B going to be?”

Currently, the Protect Texas Together website lists student death, percentage increases in positive COVID-19 cases and personal and protective equipment shortages as reasons for campus closures. 

Nonot, a biology and human development and family sciences senior, met with professors and Gregorio Ponti, Graduate Student Assembly president, as part of an online education task force.

“I’ve been in countless meetings where faculty are trying to create modules and trying to help educate their own colleagues about how to teach online effectively while also balancing their kids and working over the summer,” Nonot said.

Former economics junior Luke Chitwood said the University’s reopening plans made him feel more sure of his decision to transfer to the University of North Texas, which he made a few months ago. 

“For my identity as a disabled student, … I always struggled with not being able to go to class and then finding clemency for the work that I missed,” Chitwood said. “Now, the school is saying, 'Oh, if you come down sick, all the resources will be online.' They're basically telling us that there won't be any forgiveness.” 

At a June 29 press conference, UT Interim President Jay Hartzell said tuition costs did not decrease because the University offers “very high-quality online courses.” Currently, at least 3,500 out of 11,000 courses have moved online, according to an email from Hartzell. 

Biomedical engineering junior Kavya Alapaty said she believes online classes are not worth the same price as in-person classes. 

“Even the classes that are in-person, a lot of them are hybrid,” Alapaty said. “I really don't think that I'm getting the same value for my money as I would be in a regular, normal, in-person class, and so the fact that it's going to be costing the same exact price is completely ridiculous to me.”

Alapaty also said she worries about the roles of double-occupancy dorms and dining halls in spreading COVID-19 and would rather continue online learning for another semester.

“Honestly, as much as I want to go back to UT and, you know, leave my parents' home, I think that it would be definitely in everyone's well-being to stick to remote learning,” Alapaty said. “I don't know how much is going to change between now and mid-August.”