Campus organizations protest at tower, demand for vaccine, mask mandate at UT

Marisa Huerta

On Wednesday, campus organizations and community members demanded the University implement weekly testing and a COVID-19 vaccine and mask mandate during a protest at the UT Tower.

The rally was assembled by the Texas State Employees Union and featured speakers from various student organizations and UT medical professionals. City Council members Kathie Tovo and Greg Casar also spoke at the event. 

Amanda Cavazos, an organizer for the Texas State Employees Union, said the organization is simply asking for better workplace safety. She said the group tried contacting University leadership and the UT System Board of Regents about increasing COVID-19 safety measures, but didn’t hear back from either. 

“They are an employer and they have the responsibility to the students and the people that work for them, and they should take every step possible to make sure they are safe,” Cavazos said. “Every day, these workers come to work face-to-face, and I share their fears about getting infected on the job.”

Former UT employee Rachel Sidopulos said she quit her job after 14 years due to a lack of COVID-19 safety measures. 

“I have two kids, eight and 10. They’re too young to be vaccinated,” Sidopulos said. “They said, ‘Even though I’ve been working from home for a year and a half, I had to be at my desk in order to fully do my job.’ And I said, ‘I needed this (office space) to protect my children,’ but they refused, so I quit.”

Suseth Muñoz, vice president of the Senate of College Councils, said her organization released a similar set of demands wanting the University to implement more COVID-19 safety measures. She said the rally was a necessary step for their voices to be heard.

“This rally demonstrates that these concerns are very vivid, not only within undergraduates but also graduates in the greater UT-Austin community,” said Muñoz, an English, government and youth and community studies senior. “The University can read our demands and also see what the Austin population is asking for in our survey, where 80% of respondents agreed that they wanted to alter COVID-19 policies.”