Following Up on This Week's Town Halls

March 27, 2020

Dear College of Education Community,

Thank you for making the time to participate in any of our three recent College Town Hall virtual meetings for faculty, staff, and students. It was wonderful to see so many of our college community members together, and hopefully the information shared gave you more clarity and understanding of how we will continue to navigate the coming weeks.

Town Hall Recordings

Please let us know if you have further questions, or would like to participate in future town halls by sending a note to educationtownhall@austin.utexas.edu. We will host these periodically to provide updates to the community.

Amidst the concern we have for our own and our loved ones’ health, and in the face of great uncertainty, there are still remarkable acts of kindness all around us in the college community and beyond. We have observed countless examples of caring, small and large acts of kindness, and steadfast commitment to speak up for others who are especially vulnerable in these unprecedented times.

Extending Grace

We wanted to send this message as a “check-in” a few days into the new procedures at the college and the university. It is clear that the past several days have been challenging—new work circumstances, decisions about childcare and eldercare with changes at schools, and shifts in our everyday basic needs, such as shopping and recreation. We will all likely need to take extra time and care for ourselves, especially given that educators tend to think of others first. Just as you extend grace to others, be sure to extend that same patience and understanding to yourself. Social distancing should not equal social isolation, so we should ensure we are connected to friends, family, and colleagues, even if we’re connecting in a virtual manner.

The sudden changes in our routine have created circumstances where many of us have shared, or have had colleagues share, personal situations regarding health, family status, and other lifestyle concerns. The spirit of trust in our community is strong, as we ourselves have heard these personal situations, and shared our own. We appreciate the courage and vulnerability that so many members of our community have demonstrated, and it is important for us all to endeavor to support and understand the unique circumstances that so many of us are working through. Although we all are intensely busy, it’s a good idea to check in with colleagues and remind them that we appreciate the sacrifices and changes that all of us are managing, as well as the work of the college.

Support and Care for Colleagues, Friends, and the Community

We also wanted to preemptively discuss how we support and care for our colleagues, friends, and community members who might become infected by COVID-19. Nobody intentionally contracts this illness, and, as we heard from President Fenves recently, the circumstances of how people become ill are typically in the normal social interactions we all engage in. Our social distancing protocols will hopefully halt the spread of COVID-19, but we should be prepared to learn that some of our community will show symptoms; as a college community, we want to support anybody impacted by a diagnosis, as well as their colleagues and loved ones.

There is an all-too-familiar fear that comes with events such as pandemics, and history reminds us that xenophobia, racism, and othering can accompany the disease (here is an article discussing how Asian communities are being subjected to racism). Allyship and supporting our colleagues, both near and far, will help us emerge from this period as a stronger community—not a diminished one.

Lastly, our college leadership team is meeting daily to ensure we are as responsive as possible to the rapidly changing situation at UT, in Austin, and across the nation. These circumstances may lead us to revise and revisit procedures. Please know we will work diligently to make sure that any changes or updates will put the safety of our community first. We ask, as always, that you work with us as we share the best information and direction we have at the moment.

Dr. Chris Brownson shared a document about COVID-19 support available from the Counseling and Mental Health Center (CMHC) and University Health Services (UHS). Please review and keep this handy, not just for your reference but also for your peers and colleagues who might benefit from all the CMHC and UHS have to offer.

Thank you for your resilience and care for our community.

Charles R. Martinez, Jr., Dean and Professor
Lee Hage Jamail Regents Chair
Sid W. Richardson Regents Chair

Richard J. Reddick, Associate Dean for Equity, Community Engagement, and Outreach
Associate Professor, Educational Leadership and Policy
Fellow in the W. K. Kellogg Professorship