Students living off campus worry about COVID-19 safety as residences host in-person events

Andrew Zhang

Some UT students living off campus are concerned about their health as some residences host in-person events during the pandemic.

The city of Austin has issued ordinances restricting gatherings to 10 people or less until Dec. 15. Multiple off-campus student residences, such as Scottish Rite Dormitory and Skyloft Austin, are holding in-person events without stating a limit on how many people can attend, according to documents provided to The Daily Texan.

Skyloft Austin is hosting several events in September, including a pool party and a Halloween decoration party, according to an email Skyloft sent to residents obtained by the Texan. 

“Don't miss our awesome September events!” the email said. “At each event, we have freebies, prizes and good times guaranteed!”

Kelsi Garrison, assistant regional manager for Nelson Partners, the owner of Skyloft, said in an email that Skyloft can host events outdoors where social distancing and wearing masks are enforced. She said events take place over several hours, which can limit the number of attendees.

Large gatherings inside apartments and amenity spaces of Nelson Partners properties are currently prohibited, according to the Nelson Partners website.


Skyloft resident Melissa Porras Paniagua, a business honors and marketing junior, said she thinks it is hypocritical that Skyloft asks students to social distance, limit elevator capacity and wear masks in the building, while also promoting these gatherings.

“They write in their emails and text reminders for these events to ‘wear a mask’ and ‘remain socially distanced,’ but I'm still not convinced this is being strongly enforced,” Porras Paniagua said in an email. “If (Skyloft) expects their residents to practice social distancing and keep everyone safe, they need to be setting the example.”

According to emails provided to the Texan by a resident, SRD, a private, all-women’s dormitory north of UT campus, has reported at least four cases of COVID-19. SRD hosted more than a dozen in-person events in August, according to a schedule obtained by the Texan. SRD did not respond to multiple requests for comment.

SRD resident Claire Rudy said she’s disappointed the dormitory hosted about the same number of events during move-in this year as last year. She said residents will also sometimes host organization events on SRD property, such as Bible studies or friendship-bracelet making. 

Rudy said she thinks people might believe it’s OK to gather with others if they live with them. 

“SRD is a lot about building a community,” Rudy said. “That’s why they have all these activities the first week, and that’s wonderful. But I worry that, especially right now during the pandemic, they’re not taking it as seriously as they need to.” 

Business junior Cheney Melton said she believes that most people in West Campus are not taking the pandemic seriously. She said that although her apartment isn’t hosting events, she sees gatherings happening at nearby apartments, which makes her feel unsafe.

“I do occasionally have to go to campus, and knowing that (people who aren’t being safe) may have to go to campus and cross paths (with me) is kind of frustrating,” Milton said. “You can have no regard for your own health … but in this situation it impacts so many people.”