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Less than a week before classes begin at the University of Texas at Austin, students, alumni and faculty called on System officials to cancel in-person learning in a virtual Board of Regents meeting Thursday.
“I urge you to make enlightened and courageous decisions during the pandemic that will protect all of us and put the overarching humanitarian concerns ahead of short-term financial stress,” said Anne Lewis, a professor at UT-Austin and an executive member of the Texas State Employees Union, the Texas Tribune reported.
The coronavirus pandemic has forced schools and universities to come up with a new plan for the year to slow the spread on campuses. UT-Austin will do a combination of remote, in-person and hybrid (online and in-person) classes. More than 75% of the total class seats at UT-Austin are online, the Daily Texan reports.
BACK TO SCHOOL: UT-Austin’s list of scenarios that could lead to shutdown includes student death
Earlier this summer, a UT-Austin custodian died after contracting COVID-19. Students have criticized the university for plans that seem to put finances over student safety.
“I know finances often play a role in decisions made by the Board of Regents so to put in a way that speaks to that: the UT System can’t make any money if all the students are sick, dead or unable to attend because of high tuition costs in a global pandemic and economic crisis,” UT-Austin sophomore Bennett Burke said in the meeting, according to the Texas Tribune.
UT-Austin employees have also created a petition asking officials to revise its reopening plan moving classes with more than 10 students online, lowering tuition by 10% and issuing hazard pay to essential workers.
In the meeting, System Chancellor James Milliken said reopening the university was not motivated by revenue.
“This is not an issue of health and safety versus revenue,“ Milliken said, the Daily Texan reports. “Our obligation is to provide a high quality education that our institutions … deserve, and we have to do it in a way that keeps our campuses as safe as possible.”
UT-Austin will begin classes for the fall semester on Aug. 26.