Photo by Ellyson Ortega
Last week, President Eighmy sent an email to all staff, faculty and students that, aside from commending students for their hard work the previous semester and welcoming new ones, offered updates and expectations for the spring semester.
Despite the recent COVID-19 vaccine rollout, Bexar County is still experiencing a rise in cases with 148,555 active cases. Additionally, surging case counts, both statewide and nationally, revealed the capricious nature of the virus and influenced the university’s decision to continue with much of the same tactics used in the fall semester to keep students safe.
Like the fall semester, many courses are online, with campus services and operations remaining virtual. President Eighmy predicted that the summer term would be conducted relatively the same way but still emphasized the palpability of the University’s plans as more information about the state of the virus is collected. The University continues to follow the Public Health Task Force’s recommendations, created in May 2020 in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Using its five guiding principles — fulfill the UTSA mission in the face of adverse events associated with COVID-19, engaging in a shared responsibility approach, conducting business in a manner that supports the health and safety of the UTSA community, following guidance from public health authorities while remaining flexible to adapt to new information, and respect and consider the diversity of all campus population and present inclusive and equitable solutions – the task force has framed its decisions regarding the spring semester.
UTSA will still offer on-campus testing and is facilitating a proactive testing program among students who live on campus. Through the voluntary program, the university can monitor the active cases on university grounds and allow UTSA to be vigilant about any concerning trends that would necessitate further action. More information about testing locations and the testing program can be found on the Coronavirus Updates tab on the UTSA website. The university still encourages the Five Principles: wear a mask, keep 6 feet a part, wash your hands, check for common symptoms of COVID-19, and stay home.
Additionally, UTSA will continue offering multiple free mental health services for students, faculty, and staff. For counseling, the office of Counseling and Mental Health Services offers virtual individual and group facilitations. The Center for Collegiate Recovery also offers weekly support groups and recovery coaching.
Overall, students remain impatient both with the vague information from UTSA administration and with the ever evolving nature of public health.
“There’s not really a lot that can be done,” junior Destiny Brawley said. “It is almost like everyone is too scared to make promises, so the university reasons it’s better to just not say anything at all.”
For seniors the “flexible” and “adaptable” assertions by the University are putting a halt to their plans for commencement.
“I am definitely frustrated,” senior Jaelyn Nelson expressed. “I know large gatherings are still unsafe, but I have family members who are trying to make travel arrangements and I can’t even give them tangible answers.”
Although much of the COVID protocols remain the same as last semester there are still questions left unanswered and confusion on how the virus will impact commencement and future instruction.