On the afternoon of March 17, a few days into spring break at The University of Texas at Austin, Faith Miller received an email while working at her job as San Jacinto Residence Hall’s complex coordinator.
The email included campus correspondence from then UT President Gregory L. Fenves and detailed significant developments in the university’s response to COVID-19: Classes would move online for the rest of the semester, and students were required to move out of residence halls. Students would be allowed to return only to move items out between March 30 and May 20.
Miller, who oversees everything going on in San Jac, says leadership from within Housing and Dining and across the university had been working on potential scenarios, but the email, which she says she received at the same time as students living in her residence hall did, made things official. That’s when “things kicked into high gear,” she says.
“As soon as that email went out, our desk got flooded with calls about, you know, ‘When can I come? Can I come now?’” Miller says. “If students weren’t calling our front desk, they were contacting their RAs about, ‘What’s going on? What’s happening?’”
Miller was among the UT staff and faculty members who continued to work in March during spring break as the university responded to COVID-19. Even after campus had settled into its post-break state — in which students had switched to remote learning for the rest of the semester and many university employees had started working from home — some staff and faculty members continued to work on campus.
After the email came in, Miller had to quickly instruct her desk staff and resident assistants about how to respond to students who needed to move out or retrieve their things. She says their aim was to be a hub of support and information.
“I worked really closely with my assistant complex coordinator, Haile (Duplantier), to formulate messaging for our student staff to be able to communicate to their residents,” Miller says.
While helping students move out, Miller also oversaw students moving into San Jac, which was the only hall on campus open to provide emergency housing. She worked alongside Duplantier and her administrative assistant Alice Clayton to manage the moves and to maintain health and safety in ways such as making sure the desk staff and residents had cleaning supplies.