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Classroom Health and Safety

Dear colleagues,

Thank you for all you are doing to prepare for fall semester. As I mentioned last week, your efforts to learn new technology and teaching strategies are greatly appreciated.

Because of those efforts, I am confident that our courses—online, face-to-face, and hybrid—will be of the highest quality and rigor, and that our commitment to innovation and flexibility will ensure healthy and safe learning environments.

I appreciate your thoughtfulness in deciding what course option is right for you. The format you use to teach this fall will be respected, valued, and of great benefit to our students.

I also greatly appreciate the hard work and dedication of the teams who are working every day to prepare campus instructional spaces. They have been planning since May, and we are starting to see those plans go into action. I want to take this opportunity to update you on their work to prepare the campus for the return of our students this August.

The Office of Information Technology is installing equipment to support real-time hybrid instruction. The technology will also enable us to record lectures so that if a student must miss class, the course content will be available to view on demand.

Following the classroom plan designs, Facilities Services teams, with help from Thompson-Boling Arena staff and UT Police Department community service officers, are in the process of moving furniture and marking spaces to ensure physical distancing. Stations for hand sanitizer and disinfecting wipes are being placed, and instructor areas are being marked.

Remember, all instructors should complete the training course on classroom safety measures by August 1.

Face coverings will be required in classrooms, instructional labs, and many other campus areas. The university will supply cloth masks and gaiters.

Face shields are being produced for distribution this semester as well, using a design by Assistant Professor of Architecture Maged Guerguis. Uday Vaidya, UT–Oak Ridge National Laboratory Governor’s Chair for Advanced Composites Manufacturing and a professor in the Department of Mechanical, Aerospace, and Biomedical Engineering, is leading the injection molding, tooling, and mass production of 50,000 face shields for students, faculty, and staff. The effort involves multiple campus and community partners.

Please note that shields are not required for general use and should be used with a cloth face covering and in combination with social distancing, handwashing, and other hygiene practices.

We also have dedicated colleagues who continue to develop resources and guidance:

  • Associate Dean and Professor Bill Dunne of the Tickle College of Engineering is leading a working group drawn from academic lab instructors across campus that will provide guidance about health safety matters for all laboratory instructors by mid-July. The guidance will be available on the Office of the Provost website when complete.
  • Teaching and Learning Innovation has compiled strategies for teaching during COVID-19 and safety precautions for student fieldwork.

There is no doubt that the fall semester will be different, but I am so proud of the commitment of our Volunteer family to make it as outstanding as ever.

We will follow health and safety guidelines, teach in new ways, discover innovative practices that may well stay with us after the pandemic, and most importantly, provide the instruction and scholarship that make us one of the top public universities in the country.

John Zomchick
Provost and Senior Vice Chancellor