University of Texas at Austin: Increase COVID-19 Safety Measures

Target: Jay Hartzell, Interim President of University of Texas at Austin

Goal: Do not value lives of university staff as lesser than those of students.

University of Texas at Austin (UT Austin) has announced that should a student die of a COVID-19 infection, they would close the school. This, however, is not the plan if a staff member or professor dies of the same virus. The university is the seventh largest in the United States and has an enrollment of over 50,000. It plans to bring students back to campus on August 26 despite the fact that Texas is recording surging COVID-19 infections and Austin itself is a designated “red zone,” which indicates the highest concern in terms of the pandemic.

In preparation to welcome students back onto campus, UT Austin has a list of hypothetical scenarios that would trigger an immediate closure of campus. Topping that list is the death of a student. Absent from the list is the death of a faculty member or staff. In fact, the UT Austin community has already lost a staff member. On July 7, a custodial worker died of COVID-19. The school has planned to open despite the increasing numbers of infections and deaths. It seems inexplicable that the death of a staff member would not be held to the same importance as the death of a student. Additionally, the fact that the university system has already had a staff member pass as a result of COVID-19 should signify that plans to reopen are not made in good faith.

Sign this petition to urge UT Austin President Hartzell to value the lives of university staff equally to those of university students and add staff death to the list of situations that would cause school closure.


Dear President Hartzell,

We are in the midst of a global pandemic as a result of a virus whose infection rate can be lessened by social distancing. COVID-19 infections and deaths continue to rise especially in red zones like Austin, where the virus is spreading unchecked. A custodial staff member at UT Austin died of COVID-19 on July 7. Yet, you believe it safe for students to return to campus as early as August 26.

Your plans to reopen, while ill-advised, also do not include a contingency plan for the death of university staff despite the fact that the school has announced that they will swiftly close should a student die. This absolute disregard for the lives of UT Austin staff members is embarrassing at best and morally deluded at worst. I urge you to include staff death as one of the triggers for closing the campus.


[Your Name Here]

Photo Credit: Enrich Schlegel

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