With University of Texas at Austin classes beginning Wednesday, students' concerns for their safety were exacerbated when a photo and video circulated showing members of UT Greek life gathering off campus without masks or following social distancing guidelines.
Photo taken by my colleague on UT’s west campus today. Sorority rush. No masks, but if you look closely they are we… https://t.co/pfqDihZ18V— Catherine Weaver (@Catherine Weaver)1598317015.0
In response, university spokesperson J.B. Bird said all UT students are expected to "recognize their deep responsibility" in protecting the campus and surrounding community by wearing masks and social distancing.
"The students who were in the photo on social media put themselves and others at risk and should get tested through the university's Proactive Community Testing program," Bird said. "We are reaching out to the advisers and national offices of the groups whose members were at the gathering to reinforce our expectations and will continue to look to the City of Austin to enforce its orders on public gatherings."
Many students were immediately outraged, expressing their frustration via social media.
It’s crazy because these are the students that come into Austin, get together and spread Covid, then go out into th… https://t.co/p7DI8G0LpJ— Ernesto (@Ernesto)1598362664.0
UT Admin and Greek Orgs both disregarding safety measures for their own selfish interests https://t.co/tO2ypj05B3— PJ Chukwurah (@PJ Chukwurah)1598296048.0
Some have pointed out that the students aren't entirely to blame since the university has continued to push ahead with in-person class plans, even as their own models suggest between 82 and 183 students will arrive on campus with COVID-19.
Counterpoint: we shouldn't blame UT students for our many policy failures. Did @UTAustin have to start this semest… https://t.co/7ZJZpstge2— Ilya Finkelstein (@Ilya Finkelstein)1598324698.0
On Monday, UT Austin's Interim President Jay Hartzell said there will "almost certainly" be COVID-19 clusters on campus as they proceed with reopening.
The university has maintained that concerned students should trust their peers to make good choices and avoid large gatherings.
UT's Panhellenic Council announced earlier this summer that fall recruitment would be "totally virtual," stating on its website that Bid Day—when potential new members find out which sorority they've been invited to join—"will not involve large, in-person gatherings as it has in the past."
The Panhellenic Council did not respond to requests for comment on Tuesday pertaining to the social media posts.
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