Undergraduate hybrid classes — excluding pharmacy and nursing courses — were moved to an online-only format through January, Daniel Jaffe, UT interim executive vice president and provost, announced to students and faculty Jan. 8.
In-person classes are not required to go online, but Jaffe asked faculty members to consider doing the same, according to the announcement.
Architecture professor Lawrence Speck, who has a hybrid class this spring, said he was initially worried because he does not believe classes with an in-person component can be transferred to Zoom and be of the same quality. However, he said because of the way his class is scheduled, the changes will only affect one day of his class.
“I understand the University administration is under a lot of pressing forces from a lot of different constituencies,” Speck said in an email. “It would have been nice to know of this change earlier, but it is not going to affect my classes negatively.”
Abimbola Adelakun, assistant professor of African and African diaspora studies, said the changes aren’t much of an issue since they will only last through January.
“For now, all we have to do is just survive January and see what unfolds in the next couple of months,” Adelakun said.
Business freshman Kirsten Richards said she is taking her first on-campus college course this semester: a hybrid swimming class. Richards said while she was excited to interact with people in an in-person class, the news of her class going online for the first two weeks was not a surprise.
“Nothing really shocks me at this point,” Richards said. “I just don’t know what’s going to happen this semester. Are they just going to give up on it or what?”
Kathleen Harrison, communications manager for the Office of the Executive Vice President and Provost, said the University is continuously monitoring public health conditions, and the decision was made after discussions between campus leaders and public health experts.
“As the health care resources and ICU availability became limited, the University began discussions and made the decision based on the latest information available in order to minimize additional strain,” Harrison said.
Harrison said pharmacy and nursing hybrid classes will remain partially in person because there is more “flexibility” required for labs.
“This approach will help allow for a delayed return of students to the Austin area as much as possible and ensure capacity for testing and contact tracing to occur without adding any additional strain to health care workers and resources,” Harrison said in an email.
Austin is currently in Stage 5 of its COVID-19 risk-based guidelines, and new cases have pushed intensive care units to near capacity, leading to the opening of an alternate care site at the Austin Convention Center on Jan. 12, according to the Austin American-Statesman. There are 6,279 active COVID-19 cases and 591 people hospitalized in Travis County as of Jan. 18, according to the Austin-Travis County COVID-19 dashboard.
In response to the news, Capital Metro suspended its UT Shuttle service through Feb. 1, according to an announcement on its website. UT is also requiring returning dorm residents to be tested for COVID-19 within four days of arriving on campus, according to previous reporting by The Daily Texan.