01 May 2020

Notes from a pandemic: Back to work orders

The Daily Texan is reporting that all University of Texas campuses will be opening this fall. My initial reaction has not changed.


I cannot see any scenario in which UT System campuses being open for fall will not mean a lot of people are going to get sick and some are going to die.

If anything, I’ve gotten even angrier with this plan. Because the Daily Texan article makes it pretty clear that what is driving the decision is not the best interests of the students or the faculty, but money.

Milliken said the UT System has encountered economic hardship as campuses shut down.

The article goes on to describe refunds to students who can’t live in housing, the loss of income from elective surgeries in health institutions, and the drop in funding coming from oil sales (which support the state’s Permanent University Fund).

I’m upset that money seems to be a higher priority than health.

I’m upset that the decision is to try to push everything back to the old model instead of taking steps to create something new, like offering much more remote instructions.

I’m upset that the decision is being taken months before the start of fall, when Texas is deciding it wants to let restaurants and movie theaters and such open again, and we have no idea of how that is going to pan out. The possibility of things getting worse before Fall semester begins is very real.

The one good piece of news is that I was already scheduled to do a semester of courses online. So I personally will not have to go to campus very often.

I wish my students and colleagues had that option.

Update: My skepticism about Texas’s handling of the pandemic and “getting back to normal” feels justified.

The Texas Department of State Health Services reported fifty new deaths from COVID-19 in the state, the largest single day increase during the pandemic. For only the second time since tracking began, it also reported more than one thousand new confirmed cases.

We do not have COVID-19 under control. Not even close. So why is Texas allowing businesses to reopen, exactly?

External links

UT System plans for fall reopening of all institutions

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