While walking her dog, Pompeii, through West Campus, government senior Rachel Wolleben said she heard what sounded like a party on 26th Street.
“Just the kind of sheer audacity of the number of people that were there and having a party at all during a pandemic struck me so much that I was like, ‘I'm going to post about this,’” Wolleben said.
Taking inspiration from a classic Vine, she wrote, “@whoever’s throwing a massive party … yOuR MoMs A hOe” in the UT LONGmemes For HORNSy Quaranteens Facebook group. Her post gained more than a thousand reactions and 73 comments.
“I think it can make people a bit angry, especially the people in those groups that are partying,” Wolleben said. “I understand those feelings, but I just hope ideally ‘callout posts’ raise awareness to show the people going to these parties, like, ‘People are watching you. There are indeed consequences to your actions, and you need to remember that.’”
Other students like Wolleben are taking to social media to post about parties and gatherings of large groups of people. Mark Escott, Austin Public Health interim medical director and health authority, said social gatherings are the reason for clusters of COVID-19 and need to stop. As of publication, 636 UT students have tested positive for COVID-19 since classes started Aug. 26.
Business management junior P.J. Chukwurah said he feels embarrassed every time he sees a TikTok featuring UT students disregarding COVID-19 safety measures. He hopes to hold students and UT accountable by tweeting to his 2,262 followers.
“This is a matter of life and death for some people,” Chukwurah said. “The reason I post about these organizations (that host parties) and these memes is to spread awareness and to hopefully put some pressure on UT to act.”
Chukwurah has made multiple posts calling out student parties and the University. One tweet featured a photo from the movie “Bird Box,” where Sandra Bullock wears a blindfold. He said this represents UT “pretending not to see” student parties. Others showed videos from TikTok of gatherings with more than 10 people.
Like Wolleben and Chukwurah, neuroscience and psychology senior Kevin Kim posted about UT parties, but with different intentions. He said shaming partiers is not the best course of action because they may feel attacked and retaliate with more parties.
Instead, he tweeted a TikTok by @a.little.bi.furious, which begins by saying, “If I receive word of any partying going on in the campus that I attend, I’m telling.”
“We should be doing our part,” Kim said. “If I see a party, I feel like a lot of people would also report it just because I feel like parties are not what we're supposed to do right now.”
University spokesperson J.B. Bird said if students on campus want to submit a COVID-19-related behavioral concern, they should contact the Behavior Concerns and COVID-19 Advice Line. He recommends students off campus call 311.
Chukwurah said he’s not opposed to students reporting parties, but he’s less likely to report parties he did not witness in person.
“What I can do is post what I'm being sent and spread awareness,” Chukwurah said. “People have been seeing these tweets. It's more public pressure on UT.”