Preparing for a safe re-entry

Published 3:35 pm Friday, May 15, 2020

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The past several months have been hard, different, uneasy and challenging for us all. Since we suspended in-person classes on our campuses on March 11, life as we know it has drastically changed. No one ever heard of “social distancing” on our campuses prior to March. No one imagined that protective face masks would be part of our daily attire, and everyone had plenty of toilet paper! Simply stated, COVID-19 has caused us to re-think how we do life.
COVID-19 has also taught us resilience. In spite of all the obstacles being thrown our way, our team has shown great resolve. Adversity is making us better, stronger, more effective and more efficient. We are discovering innovative methods to educate students and are doing our work in profound and transformative ways.
As president of the University of Tennessee I know our state has entrusted us with the education, care and development of more than 50,000 students and 15,000 employees. It is a responsibility that I — and all of our chancellors — take very seriously.
I wanted to let you know how we are preparing to safely welcome our students, faculty and staff back to our campuses in the fall.
From a UT System perspective, we have created a task force in April, led by Dr. Jon McCullers, professor and chair of infectious disease at the UT Health Science Center, to advise on policies and procedures that would prioritize the safety and wellbeing of students, faculty and staff at every campus at UT.
From a campus perspective, our chancellors have assembled specialized task forces to address COVID-19 and how to safely allow their respective students, faculty and staff to return to their campuses. The campus task forces are working hard to analyze various scenarios, specify campus needs and recommend guidelines and actions. Portions of the re-entry plan may look the same at all campuses, while others may be different based on the specific campus environment and needs. Regardless, every campus is committed to doing everything possible to protect the health of our students, faculty and staff as they prepare to safely return to campus in the fall, and we are all committed to adjusting plans when our health professionals deem it necessary.
As we approach our fall semester, I am optimistic about our re-entry to campus. Our faculty and staff have been heroic in their efforts to successfully pivot to an online learning environment in the spring. In fact, on March 11 we offered less than 60,000 semester credit hours online. Since COVID-19, that number quickly increased to more than 567,000 credit hours. This simply cannot happen without a faculty and staff focused on putting students first despite adversity. I am so inspired by their dedication to helping ensure students succeed!
Should you need additional information on our plans moving forward, please visit our comprehensive resource guide located at or reach out to your campus directly.
Thank you, in advance, for your support as we continue to keep health and safety at the forefront of our decisions.

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