As Chancellor Plowman has communicated, with vaccines readily available it is now up to individuals to make decisions about their own health. I want to follow up on her communication with classroom-specific information for our faculty.
Vaccination is strongly recommended for all faculty, staff, and students. The Student Health Center provides Johnson & Johnson’s Janssen vaccine and the Moderna vaccine to anyone 18 or older. More information is available at tiny.utk.edu/vaccine.
You should feel free to encourage your students to get vaccinated and advise them to speak to their health care provider, including Student Health Center medical professionals, if they have questions about vaccines. In the coming weeks, we will provide additional information that faculty members can use as a discussion guide during the first class meeting to encourage students to get vaccinated.
In response to the increasing spread of the Delta variant, we will begin the semester with limited mask requirements. Students, faculty, and staff will be required to wear masks in classrooms and labs, and for indoor academic events required for students such as orientation. We will continually re-evaluate this requirement based on local conditions.
As the chancellor noted, students and employees are encouraged to consider CDC guidance for mask wearing in other indoor public spaces, particularly in crowded situations.
Under no circumstance should a student who has tested positive for COVID-19, or who is in isolation or quarantine because of COVID-19 symptoms or COVID-19 exposure, come to class or participate in campus activities. Fully vaccinated students do not need to quarantine if they are exposed to COVID-19 and develop no symptoms.
While the university cannot tell you a student’s medical status, the Division of Student Success will contact instructors if a student needs to be out of class for an extended period. It is the student’s responsibility to contact their instructors should they need to miss class for any reason. The information from the Division of Student Success does not relieve students of this responsibility.
Instructors are encouraged to announce at the start of classes and include on the syllabus information about how students should contact them if they are sick. In the interest of promoting student success, I encourage you to video capture your class sessions and make them available to your students. A COVID-19 statement for syllabi is available on the TLI website with space to provide this information.
To provide students with the rich learning environments, research opportunities, and sense of community and connection that are foundational to their academic success and well-being, we hold fast to our plans for a fully in-person fall semester. All changes to modality for any reason must be approved by your dean.
Instructors who are uncomfortable having students in their office may choose to hold all their office hours by Zoom, but I encourage you to offer your students opportunities for in-person and Zoom meetings.
Any faculty or staff members who are medically unable to be vaccinated or wear a mask, or who have an extenuating circumstance, can contact the Office of Equity and Diversity to determine appropriate accommodations.
If an instructor is approached by a student in class because the student is medically unable to be vaccinated or wear a mask or has an extenuating circumstance, the instructor should refer them to Student Disability Services to determine appropriate accommodations.
The website utk.edu/coronavirus will continue to be updated with new information, and live updates will begin again when students are back on campus.
Over the past 18 months, I have been impressed and grateful to see how you have worked to support our students and one another. Thank you for all you do to support our students and our entire Volunteer community. We will continue to keep you updated as situations and guidance change.