Editorial: Reopening UTA this fall could pose risks to everyone

On April 30, Chancellor James Milliken announced that UT System institutions will reopen for fall 2020.

On May 8, UTA announced it would conduct in-person instruction in the fall.

Frankly, these are questionable announcements.

We understand that there are a myriad of reasons why the UT System and UTA want us to be back on campus, from greater learning opportunities to revenue purposes, and we admit that we want to be on campus, too.

We on The Shorthorn editorial board are all students, and we miss what UTA’s campus has offered us. We don’t enjoy being away from friends or missing out on various amenities and resources.

Virtual lectures and assignments aren’t ideal, and we wish we could say for certain that we don’t have to do it all again.

But we know to keep our expectations realistic, and we realize that we’re going to have to be flexible for whichever way the COVID-19 situation shakes out in Texas.

We hope the UT System and our institution will do the same. Our leaders should prepare plans for a variety of scenarios and communicate those plans with their students and employees.

Milliken said universities are looking to develop plans for reopening that may involve eliminating large lecture classes, having single-person occupancy in residence halls, spreading out schedules and isolating testing.

We find reopening campus a risky move even if such guidelines are enacted.

Health experts predict that a second, and perhaps worse, wave of the coronavirus could hit during the fall and winter.

Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said a second wave is “inevitable.”

If we reopen in the fall, those social distancing guidelines could work and keep spreading to a minimum. Or those guidelines could not work, and we could see a huge spike in cases on our campuses and have to transition to online like we did this semester.

And if a student or employee gets the coronavirus, the fallout and blame could fall on the shoulders of our campus and system leaders.

There are other scenarios yet. If Texas continues to loosen its stay-at-home orders and cases spike in the summer, it may be smarter to conduct the entire semester online from the beginning.

We don’t really know. We don’t have the answers to what’s going to happen.

UT System and UTA leaders likely understand that, they have to admit it.

They have to communicate with employees and students about different situations and prepare them to maneuver through them.

Milliken said campus life will not be like this spring, but that’s not a guarantee he should make.

The UT System and its universities can’t control the spread of COVID-19 in Texas, fix the lack of sufficient testing single-handedly or control which county places a shelter-in-place order.

Some UT System campuses, including UTA, don’t even know if they should hold commencement at any point this year, so why do these institutions and their students have to operate and prepare for next semester as if campuses should and will be open?

“Health and safety concerns will be of paramount importance in our planning,” interim President Teik Lim said in an email to the UTA community.

But if this is true, then not being on campus should be a part of their planning.

Presenting and preparing with a variety of plans is the key to next semester, and perhaps the semester after.

It may initially seem overwhelming, but in the long run, everyone that’s a part of the UT System will benefit.

Communicating the likelihood of plans will help everyone under the UT System be informed, prepared and safe for the uncertainty that lies ahead.

The Shorthorn Editorial Board is made up of opinion editor David Silva Ramirez; Editor-in-Chief Brian Lopez; associate news editor Angelica Perez; multimedia editor Anna Geyer; Jacob Reyes, life and entertainment editor; news reporter Daisy Garcia; and copy editor Andrew Walter.

opinion-editor.shorthorn@uta.edu

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