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Return to Campus: Guidance for Faculty

Updated: September 7, 2021

The University of Tennessee, Knoxville and the UT Institute of Agriculture will resume full operations in Fall 2021. Please see these guidelines from Human Resources for additional information about UTK’s return to work plans, including information about expectations regarding staffing.

Below, the Office of the Provost has outlined fall semester expectations for our faculty and guidance for returning to the face-to-face classroom. Please check this page regularly, as this will be our main source for fall semester operation updates. 

Classrooms and Teaching Considerations


  • 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.
  • All in-person classes will be delivered in full-capacity classrooms.
  • 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.
  • 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.

If a student tests positive and notifies the instructor, the instructor should direct the student to complete the COVID support form if they have not done so already. No other action needs to be taken by the instructor. If an instructor receives a notice from Student Success – the same notices that were sent last year — that a student needs to miss class, that notification does not confirm a COVID positive case and is strictly for the instructor’s awareness that a student has a legitimate need to be absent. Students do not need to provide additional documentation.

The COVID support team will handle any notifications to other students, as they did last year. A notice of a positive test from a student or the routine notices from Student Success do not mean a class should be moved to Zoom.

It is reasonable for the instructor to generally remind students to monitor their health closely and not come to class if they have symptoms of COVID.

Student Attendance

  • 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.
  • Faculty are expected to be clear about their attendance policies and are encouraged to work with students to help them make up any work they might have missed. UTK Teaching and Learning Innovation has provided example syllabus language regarding absences.
  • Faculty teaching in-person classes are not required to live-stream their courses, but are encouraged to record their lectures if appropriate and make them available to students. It is important to the overall health of the campus community that students are able to stay home without penalty if they have symptoms of any illness. The availability of disinfecting wipes and antimicrobial treatments in the classrooms and at other locations around campus will be maintained until further notice.

College and Departmental Considerations

Colleges and departments are encouraged to establish their own guidelines with respect to faculty and student campus presence outside of classroom instruction and expectations regarding participation mode in the context of meetings and other departmental and college events and activities.


  • 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.



All members of the UT community are able to travel internationally; however, they must follow the exception process currently in place. If you are traveling to a country that is listed by the State Department or the CDC as a level 3 or 4 country, please complete the form found at this link:

  1. Travelers must check the country guidelines for entry and they must follow testing guidelines for their return to the U.S.
  2. The Center for Global Engagement encourages all travelers to be fully vaccinated before traveling. Please be sure to register all international travel prior to departure. That can be done at this link: Faculty and Staff International Travel Registration. Please contact CGE for new information regarding travel insurance and 24/7 travel assistance. This is new coverage that will be provided to all business travelers. We want to be sure you have the relevant insurance cards and access phone numbers. For more information please contact Peggy Myers at .

Mask guidelines

Due to the increasing spread of the COVID-19 delta variant, masks are now required in all indoor public spaces, except in private offices and residence hall rooms and while individuals are actively eating, drinking, or engaging in fitness activities.

Mask requirements were expanded on August 23, 2021, for two weeks and were extended on September 7. System and campus leadership will continue to monitor cases and will re-evaluate the mask policy in the next few weeks.

Safety and Wellness

  • Contract tracing will remain in effect to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
  • The Daily Health Self Screening app may be used as a tool but will no longer be required as of June 1, unless an employee is symptomatic and needs to complete a Self-Isolation Form. Similarly, visitors will no longer be required to complete a self-assessment form, but should not enter university locations if they are symptomatic.
  • Remember resources and supports such as the Employee Assistance Program (EAP) at 855-437-3486,, and the 865-946-CARE (2273) hotline for distressed faculty and staff are available. Supervisors or departmental leadership should be consulted with health/safety concerns.