UT System postpones commencement, requires students to leave residence halls

Cindy Folefack
Editor-in-Chief

Students without alternative housing options will be accommodated on case-by-case basis

Editor’s note: This story has been updated to reflect new guidance from University Housing

In a letter addressed to UT System’s academic presidents, Chancellor James Milliken laid out the system’s next steps to address the coronavirus pandemic. The steps were determined with input from UT Presidents, Milliken and leadership from the Board of Regents.

The letter details five “highest priority” measures to limit the spread of infection including moving all instruction online, limiting residence hall occupation to students who don’t have a suitable alternative, postponing spring commencement ceremonies, reimbursing or crediting students for unused prepaid campus services such as housing and dining plans and establishing a system-wide emergency fund to address student needs.

“Each of your institutions is unique, and you will have the latitude necessary and appropriate to accomplish these necessary steps while ensuring that your students continue their education — and for those on track for graduation, finish their requirements for degrees  — while receiving the support they require,” Milliken wrote in the letter.

This news comes days after UTD students started a petition to be refunded for tuition. The petition was later amended to request refunds for parking passes, meal plans and housing instead of tuition. The letter did not specify whether parking passes would be included in the reimbursements, but said that “specific campus services” would be reimbursed or credited and UT System would work with institutions on system-wide guidelines for the reimbursement plan.

University Housing sent out letters to residents on March 18. The letters state that residents in Canyon Creek Heights and residence halls have until March 29 to move out. Move-outs after that date will have to be scheduled by appointment between April 1 and May 11 and residents without alternative housing options will be accommodated on a case-by-case basis.

University Village residents have until May 11 or the date in their renewal housing agreement to move out. After that date, limited housing will be available on a case-by-case basis. Letters to all on-campus residents said that “information on reimbursements or credits for housing and dining will be forthcoming.” UTD’s coronavirus update page indicated that payments for residence halls and dining plans would be credited for unused portions, but there have been no confirmations of crediting or reimbursements specifically for University Village and Canyon Creek Heights residents.

Those on track to graduate will receive their degrees on time, but commencement will most likely be held in the fall and unique research activities will be managed by institutions.

Several campus buildings including McDermott Library, the Activity Center and Rec Center West have been closed to non-essential personnel. Milliken’s letter doesn’t provide details on how the emergency funds will be used and distributed among students, but said the fund is being established.

“No one recognizes better than you the disappointment these actions will bring and the hard work that will be required to implement them,” Milliken wrote. “Under these circumstances, though, our commitment to the health and safety of students and their families, our institutions, and our larger communities requires no less.”

Students who may be facing difficulty as a result of the changes from the coronavirus outbreak have several resources for help. International political economy senior Sarah Whipple, in collaboration with other UTD students, created UT Dallas COVID-19 Mutual Aid, a public Facebook group for students to help others on campus during the extended break by providing goods such as food as well as services. Additionally, UTD parents put out a call on the UTD subreddit to provide assistance to international students stuck on campus. While the Comet Cupboard is closed for the spring semester, they provided a list of local food pantries on their social media such as The Storehouse of Collin County in Plano and Richardson East Church of Christ in Richardson.

This story will be updated as we receive more information.


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