AUSTIN, Texas — The University of Texas held a virtual press conference Friday to answer questions about the university's preparation for online learning, shelter-in-place conditions on campus and other challenges affecting students and their families.
UT took questions from reporters in the chat box in the Q&A portion of the briefing.
UT officials were asked if the university would reimburse any of the students' tuition.
Students will not get reimbursement for spring semester tuition, according to UT.
"Tuition dollars really support our educational mission here at UT and as the university transitions to this remote learning environment, our funds for in-person student activities and support services are being utilized so that our students and faulty have the necessary digital resources, including learning platforms, enhanced support, complete coursework in the online environment and the transition to virtual academic advising and services," said Jennifer Love, director of One-Stop Center for Campus Enrollment Services. "So, this policy of continuing to support the tuition dollars for the spring semester is consistent with all the UT systems and schools around the state. So, no reimbursement before the spring term is planned."
J.B. Bird, director of Media Relations, followed up to Love's response and said UT would reimburse for services such as recreational sports, parking services, housing and dining, and other charges outside of tuition at a pro-rated rate. Bird also said students may seek opportunities for greater financial aid should a student's circumstances change during the COVID-19 crisis.
Another question was asked about the grading policy for the spring semester and what the pros and cons were to using a pass-fail system versus an a-minus grading system. In a letter sent to UT students, President Greg Fenves said undergraduate students will have the option of taking all classes on a pass-fail basis, and graduate students will have the option of taking all classes credit-no Credit. Students will have until May 29 to make this choice, according to Fenves.
"Grading is something that is part of a faculty governance, so it was really important that the conversation happened with the faculty because faculty are the keepers of academic standards. That, in coordination with our board that evaluates our accreditation, is also essential," Larry Singell, senior vice provost for resource management, said.
Singell said the option for students to drop classes would be extended to the end of the spring semester.
For students looking to transition into the online learning format, Love said Texas One-Stop had launched on its website a central place for students to seek resources to continue their learning for the spring semester. Keep Learning will provide tips and tools for navigating the transition to remote learning and staying on track toward earning a degree.
UT officials canceled classes on Friday, March 13, after Austin Public Health announced there are were confirmed cases of coronavirus in the Austin area. On March 17, UT officials said it would move all classes online for the rest of the spring semester to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
"Starting on March 30, we will be moving all spring semester classes online. We are asking students not to return to campus this semester unless there is a specific need," UT tweeted on March 17.
On March 17, UT officials said when classes resume on March 30, undergraduate and graduate instruction will transition to remote delivery through Zoom, Canvas and other methods. UT also announced that students were required to move home from their residence halls and emergency housing would be available on a case-by-case basis. The university said the emergency housing would go to students who have compelling reasons to remain on campus, or who do not have other living arrangements.
UT said it will offer pro-rated refunds on housing and dining contracts and coordinate those decisions with financial aid packages.
All on-campus programs, gatherings and events with more than 10 people through May 1 will be canceled, postponed or moved online, according to university officials.
The university announced on March 25 that it was officially postponing its May 21-23 commencement and graduation ceremonies. UT said a virtual commencement will be planned for that week. Bird said UT alumna Brené Brown would participate in the virtual spring commencement. President Greg Fenves asked Brown if she would be willing to participate in both the virtual and rescheduled commencement ceremonies.
Brown agreed, adding, "What starts here does change the world and we can start doing that right now. Like, right now, we can show the world who we are right now, you know? You know, with open hearts, clean hands, horns up."
Fenves said in the letter to UT students that a university-wide ceremony on the Forty Acres would still be held later in the year.
UT officials said nearly half of its 7,300 students in residents halls had checked out and the remaining students would have the opportunity to check out until May 20, as well.
Officials said university health services was available to students living on campus and were also transitioning to medicine options.
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