UT plans on-campus events for students staying in Austin for spring break while other Texas universities cancel, reduce their breaks

Claire Stevens

UT is holding a series of on-campus, in-person events to provide a safe way to have fun during spring break, while other Texas universities have reduced or canceled their breaks.

 

The series of events, called “Destination Spring Break,” will take place March 14-19, with additional events planned for the weekend before and after spring break. Areas around campus, such as the Texas Union and William C. Powers, Jr. Student Activity Center, will be transformed into cities such as New Orleans and Miami. Destinations will have themed events such as Mardi Gras, said Brandon Jones, associate director for student learning and development.

 

COVID-19 protocols will be enforced at the events, including masking, social distancing and capacity requirements for indoor spaces, Jones said. Students will also be asked to check in at events in case the need for contact tracing arises.

 

“Since August we’ve been working with the Office of Emergency Preparedness to ensure that all of our in-person programming that we’ve been putting on has followed safety protocols,” Jones said.

 

The week will feature food for students to pick up, live music and other activities like an arcade and graffiti wall, Jones said.

 

“We’ve got a series of activities going on to help our students who are going to be here in Austin, just to give them something to do that’s fun, that’s safe and engaging,” Jones said.

 

Some other Texas universities have made changes to spring break as a result of the pandemic. Texas A&M University shortened its spring break to only one day. Baylor University and Rice University both canceled their spring breaks.

 

University spokesperson J.B. Bird said the University will have its regularly scheduled spring break based on the concern for student mental health. He said the break is also an opportunity for students to recover their energy.

 

“The leadership of the University, including the academic planning group that has been working on our COVID response felt it was very important in this extremely demanding semester to have a break,” Bird said.

 

Bird said University officials have been impressed with the job students have done during the pandemic.

 

“Our students did a comparatively good job in the fall, even with the challenges that we faced,” Bird said. “We did a good job overall helping keep the transmission from spreading into the community and keeping numbers manageable on campus.”

 

UT has recorded about 3,500 total COVID-19 cases among students, faculty and staff since March 1, 2020, according to the UT Austin COVID-19 dashboard.

 

In a message to students last Wednesday, Soncia Reagins-Lilly, vice president for student affairs and dean of students, said students should take advantage of the break while continuing to follow COVID-19 protocols.

 

Reagins-Lilly said that if students do travel, they should get tested before and after and quarantine upon return.

 

“Please go relax, refresh and recharge – while staying vigilant,” Reagins-Lilly said in the message.

 

Austin is in Stage 4 of COVID-19 protocols, which advises people to avoid nonessential travel.