Coronavirus Updates: The latest information on UTSA's response
Thursday, April 2, 2020

President Eighmy announces changes to UTSA instruction and operations

President Eighmy announces changes to UTSA instruction and operations

MARCH 11, 2020Editor’s note: The following message was sent via email today from President Taylor Eighmy to all UTSA students, faculty and staff: 

I am writing with some important information regarding changes to UTSA’s instruction and operations in response to the coronavirus outbreak.

For the past several weeks, my leadership team has worked diligently to minimize the impact of the coronavirus on our campuses. As more cases of COVID-19 are diagnosed across the country and here in Texas, we are taking additional social distancing measures to mitigate community spread. We are taking the following actions in an effort to emphasize our two highest priorities: sustaining the health of our community and ensuring the academic progress of every one of our students.

  • We will extend spring break by one week for students. All classes will be canceled the week of March 15 so faculty and staff can further prepare for online instruction and continuity of academic and business operations.

  • UTSA’s campuses will remain open during and following the spring break extension and normal business operations and services will continue to the degree possible.

  • When classes resume on March 23, they will be conducted via online platforms rather than through face-to-face sessions.

  • Students are encouraged, when feasible, to stay at home with their families or at their permanent residences during the spring break extension and for the duration of the online instruction period.

  • We recognize that some UTSA students make residence halls their home. UTSA housing will remain open for those residents who choose to stay on campus, including the March 16 spring break extension week.

  • Campus services—including Dining Services, UTSA Libraries, Campus Recreation Center, Student Union, Student Health Services and Counseling & Mental Health Services—will remain open. Services and offices that reduce hours for spring break will continue reduced hours during the extension week.

  • UTSA will implement social distancing by asking organizers to consider virtualizing, postponing or cancelling large meetings or events over 50 people. Good hygiene will continue to be emphasized for in-person gatherings of any size.

These changes are in alignment with recommendations and guidelines from the Texas Department of State Health Services, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the World Health Organization, and reflect our deep collaboration with UT System and San Antonio Metro Health. Over 130 universities around the country—including Alamo Colleges District, Texas A&M San Antonio, Texas A&M College Station and Rice University—are making similar operational adjustments.

These decisions have been closely coordinated with the Texas Governor’s Office, the City of San Antonio and Bexar County. We are also coordinating with our fellow public higher educational institutions UT Health San Antonio, Texas A&M San Antonio and Alamo Colleges District, as well as some of our city’s larger independent school districts.

Why are we making these changes? Why now?

While there is still a lot we don’t know about the coronavirus, we expect that it will spread more broadly in Texas. We know that universities have greater risk for transmission, especially in the weeks following spring break when many students, faculty and staff are returning to campus after traveling. Our best chance of slowing the spread of coronavirus is to make these changes now, before we begin to see cases on our campus. Acting now also gives students more time to adjust any travel plans and determine living arrangements. Finally, delaying the resumption of classes to March 23 gives us time to ensure a smooth transition to virtual instruction.  

Why discontinue face-to-face classes and large gatherings?

Our goal is to decrease the need for Roadrunners to spend extended periods of time in close proximity to one another. To achieve this goal, the colleges are developing academic continuity plans to continue instruction virtually by utilizing digital tools to the fullest extent possible. Research, athletics events and other campus life activities requiring a physical presence will be considered on a case-by-case basis. Students, faculty and staff will receive additional information later today from Provost Kimberly Andrews Espy about academic support, impact and adjustments. In addition, Senior Vice President for Business Affairs Veronica Mendez will be sharing more information regarding campus operations.

What about campus events?

Using best practices in social distancing, organizers running spring events or large gatherings that are expected to draw more than 50 people should consider whether they can be conducted virtually, postponed or canceled. All UTSA planned events and large gatherings will be reviewed for potential transmission risk based on a number of factors. We will continue to assess the associated risks of holding campus events and may implement heightened restrictions if needed.

What do you mean by “business as usual” in regards to campus daily operations?

Campus offices will remain open and employees will continue to perform their jobs as they normally do at their designated work locations. Small group meetings and other activities can still take place, though all are encouraged to conduct gatherings virtually when possible. In the weeks to come, we will be exploring additional telecommuting opportunities for faculty and staff, where appropriate and as warranted.

How long will these changes be in place?

We are expecting to continue virtual instruction and social distancing through April 12, at a minimum. If San Antonio experiences a significant outbreak, we may need to increase these restrictions and adopt other approaches. We will assess as the situation develops, but it is possible that virtual instruction will continue through the end of the spring semester. The academic year has been extended to May 8 and spring final exam period condensed to May 11-15 to adjust for cancelled classes next week. At this time, we are still planning to move forward with our spring commencement ceremonies.

What can I do to stay healthy?

It’s critical that we all practice good hygiene and social distancing. Most importantly, stay home if you are experiencing flu-like symptoms!

Many of you will have specific questions, some of which will be addressed in communications coming out later today. Our coronavirus website will continue to be the centralized source for information, and our new FAQs page will be updated regularly. Questions not addressed on the site can be directed to coronavirus@utsa.edu.

I understand that these changes will be disruptive, but we believe that the potential consequences of not taking immediate action far outweigh these temporary inconveniences. 

Once again, I want to emphasize that our highest priorities are to sustain the health of our community and ensure the academic progress of our students. As the coronavirus situation further evolves, we will continue to work with leadership from the Faculty Senate, Staff Senate and Student Government Association as we evaluate our operations and adjust our course over time. My heartfelt thanks to all the individuals who have worked tirelessly to address the many logistics involved in this operational shift.

Thank you for your cooperation, patience and understanding as we all navigate this unprecedented situation together.

 



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