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Preparations for the spring semester

Dear students and colleagues,

Happy new year! I hope you have had a restful and rejuvenating break. We are just two weeks away from the first day of classes on January 20, and I am excited to get started.

Over the break, we saw the first doses of the COVID-19 vaccine distributed and administered around the world, including to some of our employees in the Student Health Center and UT Police Department. These images have filled me with hope and optimism for the future.

As we return to our work and studies, our country and communities are experiencing a surge in cases, and we must continue to be vigilant in preventing the spread of the virus. We learned a lot this fall about how to help keep our campus safe, and we will be expanding some of these programs and strategies this spring.

Community Testing

If you live on campus in a residence hall or Greek housing, you will be required to participate in weekly saliva testing beginning January 20. The testing schedule is available online, and residents will receive information next week on how to provide a sample on their designated day each week. Those who participate will be eligible for incentives including housing makeovers, electronics bundles, and VolShop gift packs.

Students living off campus will have access to community saliva testing as well, and participation is strongly encouraged for commuters. Commuter students are also eligible for individual prizes for participation.

Community saliva testing is one of our best lines of defense against COVID-19. The simple of act of participation in saliva testing helps protect you and everyone around you.

Individual testing is available for anyone on campus. COVID-19 testing for students will continue at the Student Health Center, and EverlyWell home test kits are available for students and employees who do not have symptoms.

Temporary Campus Restrictions

Because of elevated case counts around the state and the country, we will begin the semester with temporary restrictions in place on campus. Restrictions include no visitation in residence halls and sorority and fraternity houses, carryout only in dining facilities, limited in-person events, and limited access to recreation and common spaces for socially distant studying and small-group activities.

Participation in the community saliva testing and the data on case counts will determine when and where temporary restrictions are eased or expanded.

Staffing

We will continue to maintain our operations and services to ensure that we are fully supporting the needs of students, both on campus and virtually. While case counts remain high in our broader community, we will continue requiring masks, practicing social distancing, and maintaining reduced capacity in offices and work spaces.

We will continue to provide more detailed information and instruction over the next two weeks by email and social media as we prepare to begin the spring semester. Weekly live updates will resume on Friday, January 15, at 11:30 a.m.

When we returned to Rocky Top in the fall, there was a lot of uncertainty about what living and learning on campus would look like during a pandemic. We faced challenges that many of us had never encountered before and we learned from them to help us prepare for the spring semester. The semester was a success thanks to your resilience, leadership, and commitment to one another.

This semester, remember that we have a responsibility to keep our community safe. If we follow our safety protocols while we look out for one another, take care of ourselves, and remain flexible, compassionate, and creative, I am confident that we will finish the academic year stronger than we are right now.

I look forward to seeing you all very soon.

Donde Plowman
Chancellor