Message from the Chancellor: ACC Board Decisions — Seeking Legal Clarity | Faculty, Staff, and Students

Dear Riverbats, 

I have an important update to share with you. ACC’s Board of Trustees met in a special called meeting today to review and discuss the college’s ongoing health and safety protocols. Trustees unanimously authorized the college’s administration and legal counsel to seek clarification in the courts of the board’s authority to adopt safety measures in response to the surging COVID-19 pandemic.

As a community college board, our trustees have independent legal authority under state law to adopt policies, rules, and regulations to protect the health and safety of our students, faculty, and staff. The college will follow the rules and policies set forth by our elected officials — our Board of Trustees. It’s unclear in the law whether the governor’s recent executive orders affect the board’s authority. The issue is not being litigated in any of the current legal proceedings. Therefore, our board is seeking clarity.

The vote today paves the way for ACC’s legal counsel and administration to intervene in the ongoing legal proceedings in Travis County and obtain a ruling about the lines of authority for a Texas community college. 

We will be taking steps now with our legal counsel to pursue this ruling from the courts. I will keep you updated. 

On Friday, August 13, 2021, ACC’s Board of Trustees unanimously approved new, temporary health and safety measures for the start of the fall 2021 semester. Those measures include the following:

  • Scaling back the number of students and employees on campus when the fall semester begins. 
  • Moving many courses to online formats for the first three weeks of the semester — from August 23 through September 12.
  • Requiring all who come to campus to complete the college’s self-screening health app (this began August 16, 2021).
  • Beginning August 20, 2021, requiring anyone who is 2 years of age or older to wear a face mask inside all ACC buildings.

You will receive additional details on how the board’s new safety policies will be enforced. My expectation is that our faculty, staff, and students will continue to work together to keep our community safe. We’ll share more information in the coming days. As always, updates are posted to ACC’s COVID-19 informational website

I recognize that these are difficult situations, and I appreciate your continued support and understanding as we move forward.

Richard M. Rhodes, Ph.D.
Austin Community College District

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