Cancel or hold classes online after tragic events

Michael Zhang, Columnist

My walk to class Nov. 1 felt different. It was the morning after the shooting, which occurred roughly 1,500 feet from West Campus on Halloween, and everyone seemed tired and on edge from the events of the night before. Even inside my classroom, the mood was heavy. I could tell that no one was mentally ready to be in class. 

After tragic events such as the West Campus shooting, UT needs to either hold all classes online or cancel classes altogether to accommodate students that may be displaced or emotionally distraught after the incident. 

Public relations sophomore Sasha Haynes shared a similar experience to mine on campus.

“I got the alert from Citizen. … we decided, ‘Yeah, we’re not going home,’ and we stayed (put) overnight. Personally, I’ve been on edge,” Haynes said. “I know there were students concerned over why classes (were not) being shut down. I know it’s off campus, but it’s still very near campus. … I don’t even think they caught the people yet.”

The shooting occurred just under a 10 minute walk from campus, and the morning after, the suspect had still not been apprehended by authorities. 

“I actually know some people personally (who) either just didn’t show up, or their professors moved their stuff online for the day, or even canceled class,” Haynes said.

Professors, students and even student organizations such as Senate stepped in at the time, stating they didn’t think there should be classes the next day and that they were working to excuse student absences the following morning, Nov. 1. If the staff and student body are voicing their concerns against holding classes, who exactly is the administration advocating for when they choose not to listen?

Kathleen Harrison, assistant director of communications of the Office of the Executive Vice President and Provost, provided some insight into the reasoning behind UT’s choice of continuing in-person classes Nov. 1.

“There is no official campus policy regarding cancelling classes or holding online classes after crisis events. … These decisions are made carefully and encompass a number of factors such as communitywide safety concerns, as well as any impact on the academic calendar and general disruption of critical campus activities,” Harrison said. “While last week’s shooting was not on campus, we know many of our students live and work in that area. And we know that an effective learning and research environment must also be a safe one.” 

Despite the lack of timely public announcements regarding the spree of crimes near West Campus, UT seems to be quite aware of the events that transpired. The University must take into account the emotional and physical stress that students went through by staying up late and seeking safety throughout the night. It is frustrating to see UT acknowledge these events and still fail to take action.

UT, fix your mindset. You need to cancel classes, or at least provide online alternatives, following a traumatic incident to protect your students’ safety and emotional health. The academic calendar should not be prioritized over the overall well-being of the student body. 

Michael Zhang is an undeclared PACE freshman from Katy, Texas.