Editor's note: This column was submitted to the Texan by a member of the UT community.
As UT staff members, we’re not in it for the glory. We know that this institution exists to serve its academic and research mission, and for the most part we’re content to stay in the background and quietly keep things running. But now, with COVID-19, we are facing new and unforeseen challenges in doing that. It’s hard to speak of “the staff experience” as if it were one thing; Staff roles are anything but monolithic.
We serve in myriad roles. We are the building supervisor making sure that classrooms are ready for faculty and students to teach and learn safely. We are the administrator making sure students get their financial aid. We are the art historian making our museum collections available to visitors around the world. The IT person working late nights to take everything online this spring. The dining hall worker making student meals. We are the nurse giving you your flu shot and so many others.
Some of us have to come to work, wearing masks for long hours, wondering if today is the day that we might bring the virus home with us. Some of us are working remotely from home, juggling work while caring for kids or aging parents. Some of us are furloughed, waiting anxiously to find out if our jobs will still be there for us. And some of us are no longer here, already affected by layoffs. Many of us have worries and straight-up fear about what the future may hold.
Closing UT to prevent virus spread provides little reassurance to many staff members. Our livelihoods depend on UT being able to fulfill its mission. We have different positions, backgrounds and perspectives, but most of us have a few things in common: We want to work. We want to do our jobs, to do them well, and to do them safely. We can do our part, but we also have to depend on others. We look to our leadership to consider us when making policy decisions, and to remember the effect those decisions will have on us and our families. We look to students and the public to remember us when they decide whether — and how completely — to follow safety guidelines on and off campus. We look to our managers to have compassion and flexibility when we have rough days or rough weeks.
Between COVID-19 and the lingering budget impacts, we know we still have a long way to “normal.” But with creativity, hard work and the support of the UT community, we can weather this storm. After all, we, too, are Texas.
Di Benedetto is the 2020-2021 UT Staff Council Chair.