During the holidays, most UT employees get the pleasure of spending time at home or traveling out of town to be with family and friends.
But for more than a hundred campus employees, staying away from the office isn’t an option. These men and women are still on campus to maintain UT’s 217 buildings, keep them safe and secure, and provide many other key services that must continue regardless of the time of year.
"We rely upon these employees to keep the campus running, no matter what," said Denise Barlow, vice chancellor for finance and administration. "The campus is a city within the city, and as such, we have to keep a certain level of services operating every day of the year." With a campus of 556 acres, many miles of streets, and its own electrical and heating systems, managing this city within a city is no small task.
Staff from the UT Police Department, Facilities Services, Dining and Housing Services and several other services stay on the job.
"We try to keep the libraries open almost all the time as a service to students trying to study," Barlow said, adding that they also try to open the University Center, the Bursar’s Office and the Student Health Services Clinic and have housing employees available to fix any problems that occur in university housing.
"The need for safety and security on campus never stops," said UT Police Chief August Washington. He says patrols are adjusted during scheduled closings and bad weather due to the reduced amount of traffic on campus, "always with an eye toward maximizing safety and security."
Jeff Maples, senior associate vice chancellor for finance and administration, said Facilities Services employees on call during holiday closings include grounds crews and a maintenance team. "If a tree limb falls across a sidewalk or breaks a window in one of our buildings, we need people on hand to take care of the problem before it escalates," he said.
Dining and housing are other essential services, Maples said. Many students living on campus, especially students from other countries, don’t have other housing options during holiday closings.
Not every employee in these divisions is expected to report for duty during holiday closings.
"Each area has its own protocol for getting a core group of their people to campus during these special times," Maples said, adding that employees are good at working with their supervisors to make sure the critical needs of the university are served, while also giving each other a chance to spend quality time with their own families.
"Our employees understand that by coming to work during holidays, they’re making a sacrifice," Barlow said, "but it’s one that helps ensure the safety of our campus community year-round."