To the students of UT Dallas,
I am writing to share a few thoughts about what it is like to be a Comet in this moment. Unlike my messages of the past days, this letter will not contain new details about how the campus is adjusting to the coronavirus threat. You can find all of that information on our website. Instead, I want to speak about our sense of community.
In many ways, I feel like a graduating senior myself. I arrived on campus four years ago in July 2016. These years have been wonderful and have reminded me of my own college experiences: the joy of being in the company of so many smart people, excitement over what I was learning, dear friendships made, the camaraderie of extracurricular sports, exposure to music and art, and the myriad ways that students express their creativity.
The value of UT Dallas, like any great university, is not solely defined by what is presented in class, whether experienced in a large gathering or accessed via a computer. Rather, it is the whole of the experience, including learning from fellow students in casual settings, saying “hi” to a passing “Tobor” food delivery robot, or finding a peaceful moment amidst the magnolias and pools of the Margaret McDermott Mall.
It is no small loss when these joys are taken from us. I am particularly sorry for the Comets who are due to graduate this semester. We all wished for a different finish to your UT Dallas experience.
We — as do you — know why this period of social isolation is so vital. Lives are at stake. We want all in the UT Dallas community to stay healthy, and we want your relatives and friends to stay healthy. I know what sacrifices you have made, and I am extremely grateful to all Comets for helping us work through this threat. The University will do all that it can to help minimize the disruption in your lives while ensuring that we provide you with the greatest possible safety — our top priority.
In time, the acuteness of this threat will pass, and life at UT Dallas will begin to return to normal. Soon, you will walk with your friends on the Mall; music will be heard under the Trellis; you can enjoy a cup of coffee in the Student Union; your teachers will welcome you into their classrooms; and the chess team will earn another trip to the Final Four. We can hardly wait, and we promise to work hard to make sure that you have a smooth transition back to campus.
This promise, by the way, extends to all of our graduating students. UT Dallas will forever be your academic home, and we will always have a warm, welcoming campus for you, just as we do for all of our 115,000 alumni.
Thank you, Comets, for your courage. UT Dallas is a very special university because of all of you. Your fortitude in the face of adversity will forever be a singular point of pride in this University’s 50th year.
Richard C. Benson
Eugene McDermott Distinguished University Chair of Leadership