UTEP plans for in-person activities after spring break, president announces

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Anahy Diaz

UTEP’s new Interdisciplinary Research Building (IDRB) serves as the University’s COVID-19 vaccine program.

Noelia Gonzalez, Staff Reporter

UTEP President Heather Wilson announced in a campus-wide email sent Wednesday, the university’s intention to increase in-person activities after spring break and plans for the Fall semester to be in-person. 

Wilson said the university is planning to increase activities on campus starting March 22. This also includes allowing offices to reopen during normal business hours, though not necessarily 100% of personnel on-site, on June 1.

We know circumstances may change and we will continue to monitor the situation and adjust accordingly, including monitoring the impact of variants of the disease,” Wilson wrote. “But people also need time to plan and adjust their lives. 

According to Wilson, with Texas likely reaching 1 million COVID-19 vaccinations administered per week starting next week, the university plans to make it possible for faculty, staff and students to get members of their households vaccinated at UTEP. 

During a news conference on Tuesday, President Joe Biden said the United States was “on track” to have available vaccines “for every adult in America by the end of May.”  

In the meantime, Wilson said UTEP will continue to make vaccination available to faculty, staff and students based on the state’s eligibility guidelines. And despite Gov. Greg Abbott’s executive order to lift the statewide mask mandate starting March 10, Wilson said people can anticipate masks and social distancing will be required on campus at least through the end of the semester. 

In the summer, because of the vaccination levels of nursing students and faculty, sections for nursing will be held on campus without social distancing required. Likewise, principal investigators of research programs should plan to hire students and engage them in research this summer. 

The Provost will work with other health professions faculty to adjust social distancing guidelines for cohorts of vaccinated groups to improve the quality of instruction for the summer terms,” Wilson wrote.  

This includes plans to schedule more in-person class options in Summer Session 2 and after July 1, if health conditions continue to improve, UTEP expects social distancing will be relaxed on campus. 

According to Wilson, UTEP will plan for the Fall semester to be in-person using distance-enabled technologies to increase access to excellent education, not just because the presence of disease requires it. 

“We won’t be the same when we return; we want to be better. We certainly have more tools and technologies to overcome distance. But we also know that we are very social creatures,” Wilson wrote. “Our students and our teams need to be together more as soon as it is safe to be together again. The summer gives us time to adjust back to a more normal fall. At this point, we expect health conditions will allow these changes.” 

Noelia Gonzalez may be reached at [email protected] @OfficialNoeliaG on Twitter.