Below are answers to some of our students' Frequently Asked Questions about COVID-19 and our plans for the Fall 2020 semester. If your question is not answered below, please visit the FAQ section of The University of Texas at Austin's Protect Texas Together website. If you have another question to submit, please do so here and we will work toward getting it answered for you.
Health and Safety
Masks, Cleaning Supplies and Cleaning Protocols
Wearing cloth masks at all times when inside university buildings will be mandatory except when alone in a private office; eating at a campus dining facility; when students are in their own residence hall rooms; or when an alternative has been approved as part of the Americans with Disabilites Act or religious observance accommodation processes. Students needing ADA accommodations should contact Services for Students with Disabilities. All other students with special considerations should contact Student Emergency Services.
Students, faculty and staff should be prepared to bring their own cloth masks to campus; however, masks will also be available for purchase through vending machines situated across campus.
Hand hygiene products and cleaning stations will also be available across campus and within UTSOA’s buildings. Students, faculty, and staff are encouraged to carry their own personal hand sanitizing products. All classrooms and studios will be cleaned thoroughly at the end of the day, but students have the responsibility to clean and disinfect their individual spaces, including the desks and chairs that they use, upon entry and departure.
How does UT plan to test students for COVID-19?
University Health Services (UHS) will be doing testing for symptomatic students. To augment existing campus testing capacity, UT is setting up a facility that could perform up to 1,500 tests per day, barring any disruptions to the supply chain. Those with symptoms should call the University Health Services Nurse Advice Line at 512-475-6877. Proactive community testing for asymptomatic students will be done on a voluntary basis.
Additionally, all students, faculty, and staff coming to campus will be expected to conduct daily symptom screening with the university’s Protect Texas Together app, which will be launched by mid-August.
What happens if I, or someone else at UTSOA, gets sick?
University Health Services will be doing testing for symptomatic students. If you get sick, stay home and call the UHS Nurse Advice Line at 512-475-6877. The results of COVID-19 tests will be communicated directly with the student. The university’s health care entities are bound by federal privacy laws and cannot share a patient’s (student’s) medical information with anyone, including parents, without the patient’s authorization. Should the student choose to provide their authorization, information will be shared with their parents.
The university, under agreement with Austin Public Health, will also conduct contact tracing for UT community members who test positive for COVID-19. Contact tracing helps slow the spread of COVID-19 by identifying individuals who have been in close contact with those who test positive, so that they know to get tested, or when necessary, to self-isolate. Information voluntarily shared with contact tracers will be kept confidential and use for public health purposes only.
Students with special circumstances, including COVID-19 symptoms, can also contact Student Emergency Services who can help meet your basic needs and provide absence notifications for class. UTSOA will be as flexible as possible to accommodate the educational needs of students who are ill or have other special circumstances. As always, our Student Affairs team will be available to provide guidance and support for navigating accommodations.
Quarantine and Isolation
In order to prevent COVID-19 infections on our campus and in our local Austin community, the university is requesting that students self-quarantine for 14 days prior to arrival in Austin. To effectively self-quarantine, please stay in your home and limit in-person interactions as much as possible throughout the two-week period – you can learn more about how to self-quarantine here.
UT community members who test positive or have been identified as high risk because of exposure will be expected to self-isolate or quarantine, as directed by health care professionals. If they cannot self-isolate or quarantine safely in their residence – whether living on or off campus – they will coordinate with the university to access isolation spaces through Austin Public Health at the Crowne Plaza Austin. The facility will be available to those who need to self-monitor due to COVID-19 exposure, have symptoms consistent with COVID-19 but have not been tested or are awaiting test results, or have tested positive for COVID-19. It is also open to those who live with high-risk individuals or live in a group home.
What counseling and mental health services will be available for students for the fall semester?
The Counseling and Mental Health Center will provide its full array of services to students via telehealth. They will extend virtual hours and offer evening appointments. CMHC and other facilities are converting rooms for students to use for private teletherapy appointments without having to worry about roommates or family members overhearing confidential conversations.
CARE Counselors will also provide counseling services to students by phone. To contact UTSOA’s dedicated CARE Counselor Abby Simpson, leave a message at (512) 471-3115. Additionally, leading up to and throughout the semester, we will be providing students with self-help resources and mental health guides in order to help you manage the added stress and uncertainty of this challenging time.
For immediate resources, visit: https://cmhc.utexas.edu/index.html
SPACES AND RESOURCES ON CAMPUS
How is UTSOA maintaining social distancing in our buildings?
Over the summer, we have transformed several larger spaces to accommodate socially distanced teaching in the fall, including the Mebane Gallery, the Materials Lab collection space, and the former Visual Resources Center. We have shifted class meeting locations to take advantage of these larger spaces, and we have outfitted several additional teaching spaces with Zoom-enabled technology so remote students can participate in in-person classroom instruction. We are also working to limit non-SOA access to the Goldsmith Courtyard and Loggia, so these outdoor spaces will also be available for instruction.
UTSOA facilities staff have also been working with the university over the summer to ensure our buildings are functioning properly and can accommodate adequate social distancing. We are following all established building inspection and re-occupation certification processes, including furniture plans, HVAC system assessments, social distancing signage, among other things. Once we’ve reopened, we will also limit access to elevators, stairwells, hallways and restrooms based on facility square footage. Location-specific signage will provide guidance, with restroom capacity generally limited to 50%.
For more information about how the university is managing building and facility re-opening, visit: https://protect.utexas.edu/campus-operations/
What will access look like for facilities like the Tech Lab and Build Lab? How are we going to be managing these spaces?
In the campus-open scenario, we expect our support facilities like the Tech Lab and Build Lab to be available with limited capacity. Reducing density and ensuring proper cleaning procedures, however, means their availability will be reduced.
The Build Lab will be open Monday – Friday from 9AM- 6PM, with no weekend hours. Capacity will be limited to 10 occupants, with a one-hour limit per visit. The Build Lab will be reserved for Wood Design Tuesday / Thursday from 2:30 – 5:30 p.m.
We are currently putting together more thorough guidelines and protocols for student use of the Tech Lab and other resources. More information will be forthcoming.
Will I still be charged the UTSOA fabrication fee?
Students will not be charged the $50 fabrication fee this semester.
Will I be able to access the library?
The University Libraries will offer closed-stack services, meaning that librarians will receive materials for visitors instead of allowing them to browse. Those needing physical materials from the library that are not available online will file a request with the library and will be notified when the material is available. The first floor of the Perry-Castaneda Library will be open for studying, and some classrooms that are too small for classes at 40% capacity will be available for studying as well.
How will studio work? How will we be limiting access and ensuring social distancing?
The presence of an in-building workspace for design students is a core component of our academic culture. We will provide students in hybrid studios with a dedicated workspace, albeit in a highly-modified mode to accommodate health safety recommendations.
We have shifted many studios to morning timeslots to enable lowered densities in studio. Each student will be assigned to a single dedicated desk, and many of our studio spaces will be split into morning and afternoon studios so each studio cohort can meet for their assigned class while maintaining social distancing. Desks cannot be moved throughout the semester as they have been strategically situated to adhere to distancing guidelines.
Studio desks may also be available for students to use outside of class hours, but students will not have nearly the same number of hours as in a conventional semester. If we are able to extend hours, we will institute a system of shifts, so it is clear when different student cohorts may and may not be able to work at their assigned desks. Faculty have been asked to consider this limited availability when structuring their studio assignments.
What if I have back-to-back classes, one in-person and one online? Will there be spaces available on campus if I can’t get back to my room?
To the extent possible, students are encouraged to return to their rooms or apartments to participate in online courses. Because this is not always feasible, however, space in the first floor of the Perry-Castaneda Library and other spaces to be identified will be available for this purpose. A website with a list of these spaces will be put online by the university before the start of classes, and we will share it with the UTSOA community. UTSOA is also working to identify spaces in our own buildings that will be available on a reservation basis.
COMMUNITY AND ACADEMICS
I’d like some additional clarity about what a “hybrid” class means
We categorized nearly all of our classes as “hybrid” in an effort to maintain the educational environment of our programs, while also providing considerable discretion for instructors to determine the relative proportion of in-person and remote instruction. The hybrid modality allows us to maintain flexibility as we move forward to the fall, and will evolve in response to changing public health concerns. Instructors will be providing students with more information as to the expected breakdown of in-person versus online components, so be sure to check back for additional information and clarity as the semester nears. Importantly, any “in-person” experience will look very different than it has in previous semesters, and will be determined by individual faculty.
Can I take a hybrid class completely online?
Nearly every one of our hybrid classes will have an online-only option. However, online-only studio students will not have an assigned studio work desk. For design studios and CRP practicums, we are working to match the capacity of true online only studios to the number of online students, and hybrid studios to those in residence.
When will we know for sure how many of our classes will be online, and how much of a hybrid class will be online?
To help ensure that students understand the delivery mode and expectation of their classes, the university is requesting that faculty post their syllabi no later than August 17th, one week prior to the final fall registration period. All Fall 2020 syllabi should provide students taking a hybrid course with information about the mix of delivery modes in the course and expectations for in-person attendance. If students become ill or face other challenges due to COVID-19 and are not able to attend in-person class sessions, faculty will work with the student to provide adequate accommodations, whenever possible, to allow the student to complete the class remotely.
I’m concerned the quality of my education and experience will be diminished.
The School of Architecture is committed to offering you a rigorous, safe, and vibrant academic community, whether in-person or online, despite the challenges created by the virus – and the quality of your education remains our utmost priority. Over the summer, faculty have been working hard to ensure that the quality of your educational experience is not diminished, and they have been collectively brainstorming innovative and creative ways to engage the hybrid and online-only models of teaching this fall. Many faculty members have also participated in online instruction workshops and engaged other university-provided resources to support the development of online courses.
We recognize that teaching and learning will look different this year, and that the current situation is less-than-ideal. We also believe that adjusting to this new mode of learning will also provide you with new skills and flexibility that will serve you in your future careers.
How are we ensuring students still feel connected to their peers and the school?
UTSOA has a suite of Zoom and YouTube-based lectures, events, and programming planned throughout the Fall 2020 semester, so our students, faculty, and staff have ample opportunities to (virtually) come together and connect outside the classroom.
We are also looking to develop recommendations and lessons learned from the Spring 2020 semester to support individual faculty members and students foster more frequent and meaningful opportunities for connection and collaboration. This will include things like using platforms like Slack or Google Hangouts for Instant Messaging, creative ideas for connecting with your class- and studio-mates while working remotely, standing Zoom check-ins with your cohort and more.
If you have suggestions for what worked for you last semester, please let us know
Within the university, the Division of Students Affairs will also offer new support groups, workshops and recreational opportunities to help students cope with the stressors caused by COVID-19. UT has also developed a virtual student portal – the Longhorn Connection – which will deliver innovative options to connect students to activities, events and each other throughout the fall semester.
Faculty Office Hours & Additional Academic Support
In-person and/or online office hours will be determined by individual faculty members. Spaces that are too small to be used as a classroom may be an alternative for in-person office hours, or office hours may be conducted by phone or Zoom.
Beyond faculty office hours, we will be providing students with additional resources and avenues for academic support, including work-life balance guides and self-study tips which we will share throughout the semester. We are also looking into other avenues for providing our students with mentorship and other support, so stay tuned.