UT-Austin will enforce violations of coronavirus health guidelines on-campus, but not off-campus

Andrew Zhang

UT will enforce COVID-19 health guidelines on campus this fall through an online reporting process that could result in punishment from the University. However, off-campus violations will not be enforced by University staff or the UT Police Department. 

The University will require masks in campus buildings, ban on- and off-campus parties and forbid action that “threatens the health and safety” of others, according to the Protect Texas and Office of the Dean of Students websites. 

On-campus violations can be reported by community members to the Office of the Dean of Students. Reports can be anonymous, but will be dismissed if they are too vague or lack credibility, according to the Office of the Dean of Students website. Anonymous reporters will not be contacted to answer clarifying questions.

Health guidelines will be enforced for faculty and staff by the Office of the Executive Vice President and Provost, and University Human Resources, respectively in accordance with typical University procedures for discipline, according to the Protect Texas website.

Sara Kennedy, director of strategic and executive communications for the Office of the Dean of Students, said University staff will give student violators a chance to correct their actions when a violation occurs on campus. For example, she said a student who does not wear a mask would be offered one by a staff member. 

“The issue is that someone is threatening the health and safety of the people who learn and work and live in our community,” Kennedy said.

After a violation, Kennedy said a student will be referred to the conduct reporting process and receive an email warning. If a student is reported for violating health guidelines again, they must attend a conduct hearing that will be scheduled within 24 hours, Kennedy said. 

Before the conduct meeting, Kennedy said the student could receive an “interim” sanction that would potentially restrict their access to campus. Kennedy said students may face suspension at the conduct meeting, but she did not provide further details about discipline for violating policies.

Kennedy said the University will not be able to enforce punishments for students off campus, citing an inability to enforce punishments and verify the identity of violators.

“As residents who live in the city of Austin … (off-campus enforcement) is a little bit outside our role,” Kennedy said. “We’re looking at confrontation issues, where someone is not willing to abide by the requirements for our interior spaces here on campus.”

Off-campus students are subject to the City of Austin ordinance banning gatherings of more than 10 people, Kennedy said. Violations can cost up to $1,000, according to the ordinance.

UTPD will not enforce consequences for students who are gathering in large groups unsafely or not wearing masks, but will educate students on proper safety measures, UTPD spokesperson Noelle Newton said in an email. 

“If (a visitor) doesn’t comply (with rules), the university representative can ask the person to leave the premises,” Newton said. “If the subject does not comply with university rules and refuses to leave, it becomes a criminal trespass issue. UTPD will respond to acts of criminal trespass.”

Editor's note: This story has been corrected to reflect that not all violations of on campus policies will result in interim action. The Texan regrets this error.