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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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Matthew McConaughey is reportedly weighing a run for Texas governor in 2022.
The Austin resident and Oscar winner has been "quietly making calls to influential people in Texas political circles, including a deep-pocketed moderate Republican and energy CEO" as he decides whether to run, according to Politico.
McConaughey said a gubernatorial run is "a true consideration" while on a March episode of Houston's "The Balanced Voice" podcast.
Although most political strategists doubt McConaughey's commitment and viability as a candidate, some are still intrigued by the possibility.
"I find it improbable, but it's not out of the question," Karl Rove, a top Republican strategist with a long history in Austin, told the political news site. He added that the big question is whether McConaughey would run as a Republican, a Democrat or an independent.
Brendan Steinhauser, an Austin-based GOP strategist, told Politico he's surprised McConaughey isn't being taken more seriously. "Celebrity in this country counts for a lot," he said. "It's not like some C-list actor no one likes. He has an appeal."
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott plans to run for a third term and remains popular among Republican voters, 77% of whom approve of his performance as of April, according to the Texas Politics Project.
Some strategists believe an independent McConaughey run would benefit Abbott. But a recent poll from The Dallas Morning News and the University of Texas at Tyler found that McConaughey would beat Abbott, 45% to 33%, with 22% opting for someone else.
Mimi Swartz, an executive editor at Texas Monthly, mulled a McConaughey run in a recent opinion essay from the New York Times. "Texas may not be ready for a philosopher king as a candidate, much less governor," she wrote. "May the best man win, man."
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Some JuiceLand production facility workers and storefront employees are organizing to demand wage increases, better working conditions (including air conditioning in the warehouse) and pay transparency, among other asks. They are also calling on staff to strike and customers to boycott the Austin-based company until their demands are met.
JuiceLand responded on Saturday. "We are listening," the company wrote on their Instagram story. "JuiceLand crew now makes guaranteed $15 an hour or more companywide."
JuiceLand, which was founded in 2001 by Matt Shook and now has 35 locations in Austin, Houston and Dallas, acknowledged the rising cost of living across Texas and the added stress of the pandemic in an email to employees on Saturday, part of which @juicelandworkersrights shared on social media. "There's no denying that times are tough and financial security means more now than ever," the company wrote.
Organized JuiceLand workers rejected this proposal, according to a recent post on the @juicelandworkersrights Instagram account, and reiterated their demands.
"Cost of living in Austin is rising exponentially and will only continue to get worse with the tech boom," the post read. "$15 is barely a sustainable living."