It’s that time again. A new year, a new semester and a new group of Vols. 2020 saw an unprecedented number of new challenges and they didn’t disappear when the clock struck twelve on New Years’. Instead, the new year seems to be an extended trial of 2020 as new problems arise.
Classes for the upcoming semester begin Jan. 20 and are similar in style to fall 2020 classes. There are online, in-person and hybrid formats to reduce the spread of COVID-19 and to provide options for those at high-risk.
Campus and on-campus housing remain open, however, a few changes were made to protect the Volunteer family. Due to a rise in Covid-19 cases over the break, the semester will begin with added temporary restrictions in place.
Prepare to Return to Campus
There are a few things that students need to do before returning to campus. The first is to receive a flu vaccine and update their immunization records. This is a preventative measure to limit flu cases on campus. Students and staff are also encouraged to get the COVID-19 vaccine if it is available to them. Some students, like those living off-campus and not planning on spending any time on campus, are available for an exemption. Students can contact the Student Health Center with questions or concerns regarding vaccines.
Students are also encouraged to take a COVID-19 test before returning to campus. Vols traveled all across the nation over the holidays, and travel is a big factor in the spread of the virus. Therefore, a COVID-19 test can help limit the number of cases being brought onto campus by returning staff and students. Students should also try to limit their contact with others in the week before their return. Try and do everything you can to ensure you won’t be carrying COVID-19 back to campus.
Also, any student that needs to self-isolate upon arrival should fill out the self-isolation form.
When returning to campus be sure that you have everything you need for the semester. Traveling back and forth can add to the spread of COVID-19. Be sure to have your mask available at all times. The mask mandate is still in place and must be properly worn whenever a student is not in their dorm room or vehicle.
Another thing students can do to prepare is to become familiar with their Canvas page and Zoom. This will make the transition into classes smoother. Read the syllabus for each class before your first meeting to familiarize yourself.
When back on-campus, students will have to follow guidelines put in place to keep the community safe. The first of these is the mask mandate. Students and staff are to wear a mask in all classrooms, campus buildings and dining halls. Students and staff are not required to wear a mask in the privacy of their own dorm room, their own vehicle or outside when they can remain at least six feet away from others.
Social distancing will also remain a large factor in keeping the community safe. Everyone should remain at least six feet apart from others at all times. Therefore students and staff should avoid large gatherings that would ignore social distancing. This means that clubs and organization gatherings will be a bit different this year but students are still encouraged to attend virtual events.
Students are also to monitor their health. This includes keeping track of temperature and visiting a health care provider whenever feeling sick. A daily self-screening must be completed by students before going onto campus. This can be found online or on the Tennessee app.
Residence Hall Restrictions
Residence halls will reopen on Jan. 16. Students do not need an appointment to move into dorms but should try to follow a similar plan of action as the fall semester. Students should focus on moving in as quickly as possible, getting everything into the dorm before beginning to unpack and trying to limit the number of people assisting during the move-in.
Students living in residence halls must participate in weekly saliva testing. Much like the fall semester, students will submit a sample of their saliva to evaluate where the campus stands with restrictions. Each hall is assigned a designated day for testing. Students will receive more information from their residence hall staff at the beginning of the year.
Residence halls will also begin the semester with temporary restrictions due to the rise in cases over the break. These include zero visitation in residence halls. Students who do not reside in the halls are not allowed to enter. This also included those not affiliated with the university such as parents. Common areas such as recreation areas and fitness areas are closed as well.
Saliva testing will aid in determining when restrictions such as these can be lifted. Masks are required in all areas of the residence halls including computer and laundry rooms. Students should also discuss cleaning and sanitation plans with roommates. Prevention is critical in helping slow the spread of the virus.
Dining halls will begin as carry-out only for the spring 2021 semester. Students will need to download the GET food app. This app will allow students to make reservations to visit dining halls to receive food. In addition, the app can be used to order ahead at other dining locations, such as the Starbucks or Chick-Fil-A locations on campus. Some dining locations on campus will remain closed throughout the semester. Check the dining schedule to stay updated with closures.
Once the restrictions are lifted students will be able to return to dining in. Forty-five-minute reservations can be made on the GET food app at PCB Cafeteria, Stokley Fresh Food Company and Southern Kitchen.
The calendar for spring 2021 does not include spring break. To keep travel to a minimum to protect the campus, the Board of Directors has canceled the break. Classes will continue every day until the conclusion of the semester.
Students who participate in activities that violate COVID-19 restrictions can face penalization. This includes on-campus and off-campus parties as well as large, unapproved gatherings. Those who ignore self-isolation and quarantine procedures also face penalization. UT Chancellor Donde Plowman spoke last semester about how students who disregarded safety measures would endanger the community.
“We will hold you responsible, and it’s possible that you could be expelled from school and I will not hesitate to do that if our students are irresponsible,” Plowman said.
Big Orange Country is welcoming back students with open arms, from six feet away, of course. While spring 2021 comes with its own set of challenges, it’s nothing Vols can’t handle.
Edited by Maddie Torres and Ashley Depew
Featured photo courtesy of Student Life website and Erik Campos