‘It’s very dead now:’ UTEP empty on first day of semester


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The dashboard reveals that 19 people tested positive for the virus and 6 people reported their positive status to the university between Sept. 28 and Oct. 4.

Paulina Astrid Spencer, Entertainment Editor

24-year-old Maximiliano Sarmiento is a nursing student who’s worked at the information desk in UTEP’s Union East building for a while. He said the Union looks “very dead now.”

“We used to have around 150 students on the second floor at the dining area,” Sarmiento said. “But right now, 20 would be the highest.”

UTEP welcomed only a few people back to campus Monday, Aug. 24. With new safety guidelines in place because of the coronavirus pandemic, the university saw low traffic on the first day of classes.

From the parking lots to the hallways and stairways, there weren’t many people at UTEP on the first day of the fall semester. The Union buildings and library, which would have been usually packed around that time, were almost empty and silent.

Cut-outs of Paydirt Pete wearing a mask were everywhere at UTEP. There were numerous signs plastered on almost every wall informing people on campus of UTEP’s new safety rules – to wear a mask at all times and to practice social distancing, among other rules.

Earlier this month, UTEP President Heather Wilson announced the university’s plan to move forward with the university’s recovery status, opening campus under “low-density operations”. This means that only essential personnel can remain on campus while others operate remotely. Groups must be restricted to less than 10 people at a time with a mandatory separation of six-feet and the use of face coverings.


As UTEP shifted to remote learning, most classes are now being offered online or in hybrid mode which is a mixture of online and in-person. Only about 100 courses are being offered in person this fall, while over 2,500 courses are being offered exclusively online.

Sarmiento said all employees received training prior to the re-opening of the campus, and the start of the new semester.

“We had a training for sanitizing everything and getting to know the steps of customer service,” Sarmiento said. “We have to keep a six-feet distance and we are always wearing a face mask and always using hand sanitizer.”

Kayla Kuhajda, 20, a first year UTEP dance student, said this was not what she expected her first semester at college would be, but is still excited to start classes. She attended her first virtual classes at the library and said she was content with the outcome so far.

“It’s really different but the teachers really made an effort,” Kuhajda said. “For me, the classes today, they really tried to interact with the students as much as they could. Especially with the other students, we met each other even through online, so it was really good.”

Aside from requiring face coverings and social distancing, to promote the health and well-being of everyone, UTEP is offering a free coronavirus testing program for those who qualify. For more information about testing, visit their website at consent.utep.edu.

Paulina Astrid Spencer may be reached at [email protected] and on Twitter @Paulinaaspencer.

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  • UTEP expects that the novel coronavirus will still be present by Spring 2021, so the university won’t be fully open any time soon.

  • Sign at one of the tables located in the Union building West Monday Aug. 24.

  • An empty auditorium at UTEP during its first day of the fall semester.

  • Students at the Collaborative Learning Center inside the Library from The Universoty of Texas at El Paso in El Paso Monday August 24, 2020.

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