We were all in desperate need of relief from midterms, work, and internships when UT Arlington dismissed for spring break on March 6th. We took for granted the late-night cram sessions in the Commons and snack hauls at The Market, never expecting them to be our last for the spring term. While the COVID19 pandemic has our nation quaking with uncertainty, UTA is taking steps to ease students’ worries. Here is a rundown of what we know so far.
Transitioning to Remote Learning
It all began with a petition, that has garnered over 14 thousand signatures as of March 26th, penned by a UTA student who was concerned that extensive travel during spring break would exacerbate the spread of COVID19. In the petition, the student writes “By keeping students off campus for 2 weeks after break, students can effectively quarantine themselves at home in the event that they start showing symptoms of the virus without fear of being penalized for missing classes or getting behind on work.”
UTA took students’ concerns into consideration and announced an initial extension of spring break, which would be followed by online learning “until further notice.” Further notice quickly morphed into classes remaining online for the rest of the semester as the COVID19 condition in the United States worsened, proving to be a pertinent issue for weeks to come.
Transitioning to online classes allows students, faculty, and staff to practice social distancing while providing minimum disruption to their professional and academic progress. Although remote learning and teaching have proven to be a challenge for both students and faculty, it was a necessary and major step the University took to protect its population.
According to the University COVID19 FAQ page, students who do not have access to reliable WiFi or computers off campus can access “Specially designed, socially distant computer labs on campus.”
Closure of University Housing To Encourage Social Distancing
It wasn’t long into UTA’s extended break that the University released an official statement that would shock every Maverick currently living on campus. The statement was delivered through email and a series of automated phone call reminders and reads: “…the university will be delivering academic instruction solely on-line through the end of the spring 2020 semester. As a result of this decision, and in accordance with guidelines from the CDC concerning social distancing during [the COVID19] pandemic event, all students living in a residence hall on campus are required to move back to their permanent residence for the remainder of the semester.”
The closure solely applied to residents living in KC Hall, Arlington Hall, West Hall, Lipscomb Hall, and Vandergriff Hall. The check out process, referred to as an express check out, differed greatly from a typical move out event. Residents only had a two hour period on one of four days available to have all of their items removed from their room. Additionally, in order to mitigate the spread of COVID19, cleaning supplies and dollies were not available for residents to check out and utilize during the check out process.
While the announcement of the express check out process came as a shock to on-campus Mavericks, especially to those who had already gone home during the extended break, but shutting down residence halls was a necessary step. Even without a pandemic event, the close living space of hundreds of students makes dorms susceptible to the brisk spread of illness and bacteria. Students who do not have a suitable place to live off-campus or could not move out within the 72 hours allotted were given the option to fill out an exemption form which was reviewed on a case by case basis.
Allowing Students to Continue Earning Work-Study
With housing services closed and campus resources and classes being handled remotely, the next concern for the University and its students was how work-study should be approached. For many Mavericks, work-study makes up a large portion of their financial aid package while providing an opportunity to earn money and gain real-world work experience. When UTA announced the extension of spring break to assess the spike in COVID19 cases in the U.S and how it would affect our learning environment, it left many students uneasy but steadfast, nevertheless. We would just go back to business as usual after the extended break, right? But then the news broke that classes and University services are transitioning to remote and online methods for the remainder for the semester, and the question arose of what that would mean for students who depended on their work-study income to make ends meet.
While many work-study jobs require person-to-person interaction and access to campus, UTA departments quickly launched into action to protect students from the United States’ rapidly increasing unemployment rate triggered by the COVID19 outbreak. Long term projects for student workers were assigned to complete remotely. Implementing these projects allows students to continue to get paid and contribute to the workplace while practicing social distancing.
Issuing Prorated Refunds
As of March 26th, the University does not plan to refund any portion of tuition since classes are still available remotely. But that doesn’t mean you won’t see a refund in your MyMav account. According to the University’s COVID19 FAQ page, UTA Housing will be rolling out refunds for students who moved from residence halls.
Unused meals and dining dollars will be credited by Dining services and parking permits will be refunded as well (please note – if you have a parking citation you still have to pay it off). Refunds can take up to 30 days, so practice patience and kindness as the University staff works to ease stress for students during the pandemic event.
The on-going COVID19 pandemic is something no one saw coming and is nothing like anything this generation of college students have seen before. Everyone is experiencing some type of disruption in their life, but the UTA staff and administration have taken drastic steps to reassure students during this time of uncertainty. For more information on the University’s response to the COVID19 outbreak, check out this FAQ page. Check on your friends and family while practicing social distancing and patience; we will get through this together.
I'M CURRENTLY A COLLEGE FRESHMAN STUDYING JOURNALISM AND FIGURING OUT LIFE ONE DAY AT A TIME.