Halloween is a day of camouflage. It’s a holiday built around strangers coming together in celebration.
Unfortunately, this previously endearing tradition is now a scary reality for UT students. With its ill-enforced COVID-19 regulations, the University is unprepared to handle Halloween this year.
UT doesn’t have any policies in place to specifically mitigate the damage a major holiday can cause on campus during COVID-19, especially one that traditionally involves close contact like Halloween.
Classes are going fully remote to minimize travelling risks and campus density during Thanksgiving and Christmas, but there’s nothing set up specifically for holidays like Halloween that fall during regular instruction times.
UT needs to do more to minimize the spike in cases Halloween could present.
Eleanor Breed, UT media relations specialist, assured me that events like Longhorn Halloween are going to stay completely virtual in order to prevent community spread of COVID-19.
“We made (LH Halloween) that way because of concern for public health,” Breed said. “We want students to continue to stay vigilant about not gathering in large groups, so the whole event really is completely online and asynchronous.”
This is a good move, but it’s hard to trust that there’s prominent concern for public health on campus when as little as 1% mask use is reported in the stands at games.
Gone to Texas was marketed as a completely virtual event, yet a demonstration was still held in front of the tower that brought in droves of unmasked students. Walk down Speedway at any given time during the day and you count at least three groups with people not wearing masks or socially distancing.
COVID-19 safety enforcement has been lax, to say the least.
University communications did not provide me an answer as to why this is the case, specifically regarding Gone to Texas. Rules can only keep us safe when they’re being enforced. Judging by the University’s track record, I’m afraid that COVID-19 rules will not be adequately enforced on Halloween.
Pablo Pratt, an international relations and global studies senior, says that it’s concerning how there’s no special attention designated to Halloween when both UT and its students are becoming increasingly lax in their attitude about COVID-19.
“I went to highschool with one of the kids who hosted a party,” Pratt said. “I tried to ask him what the point (of partying) was, if he understood the consequences, and he told me not to worry about it.”
As Halloween approaches, it’s obvious that risky behavior, like partying and mass gathering, is only going to increase.
Resident assistants and other on-campus staff should be provided with adequate personal protective equipment so they can closely monitor activity on the Forty Acres and make sure everyone is behaving in a safe and responsible manner.
If UT won’t commit to disciplining students who behave recklessly, they should at least provide students with masks, hand sanitizers and cleaning supplies to mitigate the potential for community spread over this weekend.
Students can only go so far to hold their peers accountable. UT needs to step up. Our community cannot keep operating under the assumption that blanket regulations with little enforcement can adequately protect the community. This weekend, UT needs to make students aware of the increased risk that Halloween can present and enforce stringent COVID-19 guidelines.
Roland is a radio-television-film freshman from Houston, TX.