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(staff/Austonia)

A petition calls on the UT System to cancel in-person classes, offer tuition cuts and provide hazard pay at the University of Texas. The pleas of UT employees, students and alumni were heard at a UT Board of Regents meeting held virtually on Thursday, less than a week before UT's in-person and online classes are set to begin on Aug. 26.


"The UT system can't make any money if all the students are sick, dead or unable to attend because of high tuition costs in a global pandemic and economic crisis," UT Austin sophomore Bennett Burke said at the meeting.

Members of the Texas State Employees Union presented their petition at the meeting calling for the university to lower tuition by 10%, issue $500 of hazard pay per month for essential workers, end furloughs and layoffs, and move in-person classes with more than 10 people to an online format until the number of coronavirus cases decreases.

The university recently said it was relying on students to make wise choices to help keep the UT community safe, with interim President Jay Hartzell calling it "an exercise in trust." Burke said students could not be trusted with that task.

"I've already witnessed a number of my fellow students going out and about in large groups, no masks, getting ready to party it up," Burke said. "The plans to simply trust that students will be responsible and follow all the guidelines—I don't think they're going to go very well."

After the period for comments from the UT community concluded, the Board of Regents meeting continued with its agenda.

"This is not an action item at this time, but we will consider your comments," Chairman Kevin Eltife said.

UT Austin has reported a total of 478 COVID-19 cases since March.

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