UT-Austin administrators discuss pass/fail policies, COVID-19 safety at UT Senate town hall

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Photo Credit: Courtesy of Anna Canizales | Daily Texan Staff

UT’s Senate of College Councils hosted a virtual COVID-19 town hall Monday with the University administration to answer questions about testing mandates, pass/fail policies and COVID-19 safety.

The town hall was hosted by the Senate’s Equity and Inclusion Committee and Academic Policy Committee and featured questions from students, faculty and staff. Sameeha Rizvi, co-chair for the Equity and Inclusion Committee, said the Senate has met with the administration regularly about COVID-19 

Rizvi said she hopes the town hall will help increase transparency and communication between administrators and students.

“It is their role to ensure the safety and security of students especially during this time … but in some cases, there have been areas where a lot of us in the UT community believe they are falling short,” said Rizvi, a public health and social work sophomore. “We're hoping that today they do have answers for a lot of stuff that people just have had questions about for the past few months.”

UT President Jay Hartzell said the University has tested over 3,000 people per week, and there has been no evidence of COVID-19 transmission in classrooms.

“There have been lapses as we all know, but in general, I'm just really proud of the job that you, our student body, are doing,” Hartzell said. “Our campus numbers are quite modest compared to other campuses of our size, and we have a very low hospitalization rate.”

 

Daniel Jaffe, interim executive vice president and provost, said the University does not plan to implement another pass/fail blanket policy like in the spring.

“The rules kind of got changed in the middle of the game in the spring because of the change to online instruction, but now everyone knew going in what the policy was and we kind of don't want to change it in the middle,” Jaffe said.

Soncia Reagins-Lilly, vice president for student affairs and dean of students, said the University is working closely with the city of Austin and student leaders to identify where gatherings are taking place and discourage large events from happening.

“When we become aware of a large gathering, there is follow up,” Reagins-Lilly said. “It may not be public and you don't see it, but we are able to. When we're able to identify who was where, who hosted, who owns the property, there's follow-up.”

Jaffe said when the University conducts contact tracing, the goal is to slow the spread of COVID-19 and not to scapegoat students who may have been in contact with other students. 

“Our fight is not with the student body. Our fight is with the virus,” Jaffe said. “We’re trying to encourage everyone in all the different student communities to help support that fight by cooperating with the contact tracing which is our way to get ahead of the virus.”