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Urgent Message Regarding COVID-19 Response

Dear students, faculty, and staff,

UT System Interim President Randy Boyd just announced that the University of Tennessee System, in consultation with the chancellors of all UT campuses, made the decision today to move classes online. The University of Tennessee, Knoxville, will transition to online classes following spring break through at least April 3.

As of the time of this message, there have still been no confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Knox County or on our campus. After careful deliberation, we have decided to act to protect the well-being of those on our campus and to do our part to protect the health of our broader community and those who may be especially vulnerable to this virus.

Accordingly, we have made the following decisions:

  • Online classes—All classes will be moved online following spring break, effective March 23 until at least April 3. We will continue to communicate throughout this period so students, faculty, and staff know what to expect going forward. Faculty should be prepared to continue online coursework beyond April 3 should the need arise.
  • Residence hall and sorority and fraternity housing—Students are expected to stay home after spring break and participate in online classes from their primary residence. We understand that this is not possible for every student. If you live in a residence hall or fraternity or sorority house and you are not able to stay at home after spring break, you can register for an exemption to continue to live on campus. University Housing will provide additional information to campus residents by email this evening.
  • University events—Beginning March 16 and running through April 5, we are canceling all non-athletic university events, including those hosted by registered student organizations, which involve anticipated gatherings of 50 or more people. Event organizers may explore ways of conducting the event through livestreaming or other technologies. Requests for exemptions can be submitted to Decisions concerning events organized by the athletics department will be evaluated by the director of athletics in coordination with the chancellor, the SEC, and the NCAA.
  • Study abroad—All UT Knoxville–sponsored study abroad programs with departure dates prior to May 20 will be suspended. We will reach out directly to students who may be impacted to determine next steps.
  • Research facilities—While we have moved classes online, campus will remain open. That includes research facilities and labs.
  • Cruise ship travel—Any student, faculty, or staff who goes on any cruise—no matter the location or itinerary—or travels to an area listed as Level 2 or 3 on the CDC’s COVID-19 travel advisories page must self-isolate for two weeks upon their return home. Do not go to work, classes, athletic events, or other social gatherings until 14 days after the date of your departure from the affected area.

I understand the hardship that this presents to all of you, and these are not decisions we made lightly. Our campus response to COVID-19 has been based on ongoing CDC updates and regular communication with public health officials and our own infectious disease specialists at the UT Health Science Center. This remains a fluid situation. The uncertainty of spring break travel adds to the changing dynamics of the situation specifically related to campus. Additional updates may be forthcoming.

Below is specific information on what you should do to prepare for the weeks ahead. Over the next few days, we will send out more detailed information to students, faculty, staff, researchers, and parents.


Again, we are asking students not to return to campus after spring break if possible. If you live on campus—in a residence hall or sorority or fraternity house—please take what you will need for the next three weeks, especially your course materials. If you are an international student, do not have internet access for online classes, or must return to campus following spring break for any other reason, please register through the University Housing portal.

Faculty and Staff

Faculty should begin immediately moving all coursework online. Please refer to the resources outlined in the Tuesday email from Provost David Manderscheid. Additional guidance will follow from the Office of the Provost in the coming days. Faculty should be prepared to continue with online instruction beyond April 3 in the event that becomes necessary.

Campus offices should continue normal business operations. Deans, directors, department heads, and others in supervisory roles should instruct staff to practice social distancing. In some cases, this may mean simply shifting in-person meetings to Zoom; for others, it may include making arrangements for telecommuting where appropriate.

This situation is being monitored daily, and additional guidance will be forthcoming from Human Resources.


Research laboratories will remain open and operational. Please contact your research collaborators, graduate assistants, and other staff to develop contingency plans based on the terms of your grant.

UT Institute of Agriculture Employees

We recognize that the UT Institute of Agriculture has staff in all 95 counties. Senior Vice President/Senior Vice Chancellor Tim Cross will be communicating directly with all UTIA employees, including UT Extension and AgResearch employees across the state.

As we navigate these challenging times as an inclusive campus community, please do not make assumptions about others based on perceived symptoms or identities. We want to foster a campus environment in which everyone matters and belongs. This means showing empathy and respect to ALL Vols, particularly those for whom this may be an especially stressful situation. Let’s do our best to be kind, caring, and considerate of one another, especially during difficult times such as these.

You can continue to find the latest updates at

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