MARTIN (January 5) – The University of Tennessee at Martin began the Spring semester of 2021 online. The university released a press release regarding the beginning of the spring semester stating, “The University of Tennessee at Martin will open spring semester January 14 with all-virtual classes. This is the original spring semester start date for the main campus and five centers located in Jackson, Parsons, Ripley, Selmer and Somerville. The initial all-virtual format will allow monitoring for a potential post-holiday COVID-19 surge. Virtual classes will continue through January 21, and the university will continue to monitor conditions.
Recommendations from the Tennessee Department of Health and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will guide related class-format decisions.
Food services resumed January 14, and all university safety measures for spring semester will follow CDC guidelines, including required wearing of masks by all who are on the main campus or at the five centers, enhanced cleaning procedures and campus visitation restrictions.
Social activities are limited initially and must be approved by the Office of Student Affairs.
UT Martin Chancellor Keith Carver commented about the beginning of the spring semester and gave more details into the all-virtual beginning to the semester.
He noted that many of the same changes and guidelines enacted by the university last year for the fall 2020 semester will remain for the spring semester.
All classes are virtual for the first week. If there is no dramatic change in COVID-19 cases, the university will offer in-person classes beginning Thursday, January 21. Some classes will be in-person, online or a hybrid of the two.
This decision was made based on a combination of CDC guidelines, the Governor of Tennessee’s Executive Order and conversations with area health officials. This was also because of any surges in cases that might be linked to the Christmas and New Year’s holidays.
“These are decisions and conversation topics we look at on a weekly basis based on what is going on around us and we are optimist with the availability of a vaccine … and hopefully our students towards the middle or end of the semester will be able to get it and also our staff. That we can get back to what we knew as normal and we know it won’t be the same for a while, but there is hope,” Carver noted.
As the COVID-19 vaccine is becoming available to more groups, the university will not be requiring students to receive the vaccine. Chancellor Carver said the reason for this was that the vaccine was approved with emergency authorization and for this reason the university cannot require this vaccine. He did encourage students and staff to get the vaccine when they are able to, but it is not a requirement to attend classes.
Some changes that came to the university last year included the installation of Plexiglas in offices and desks around the campus. These were installed to help further protect students and workers on campus.
Last June, when Carver was interviewed about the beginning of the fall semester, he noted how cleaning on campus would have new guidelines and these will continue through the spring semester. New equipment was purchased by the university last year to ensure best cleaning practices.
“One good thing about this is showing us new ways to clean for the safety of our students and staff,” Dr. Carver noted at the time.
Along with the new cleaning guidelines, there was a more frequent cleaning schedule implemented during the fall semester that will continue into the spring.
Many of the same housing guidelines will be followed this semester, including isolation rooms for students who live on campus and test positive for COVID-19. Food, wifi and school materials will be supplied to those who utilize these isolation rooms.
Social-distancing practices will continue at Martin through the upcoming semester for students to stay at least six feet away from each other during in-person classes. The food court remains at limited capacity. Some tables will remain marked for seating and it will be encouraged for large groups to not gather while eating. The grab-and-go option will still be available for students who wish to eat outside of the building. The social-distancing guidelines also extend to library use, sporting events and all campus events that might be held in the spring semester.
All who work or attend in-person classes will continue to be required to wear a mask or face shields while on campus and while attending any school-related functions. Carver also noted that with the limiting of gatherings on campus, the university will continue to hold virtual events.
New to this semester is that all students and faculty are being asked to show proof of a flu vaccination.
Additional spring semester information is available by calling the UT Martin Office of Undergraduate Admissions at 731-881-7020 or the Office of Graduate Studies at 731-881-7012.
Follow the latest information about COVID-19 at www.utm.edu/coronavirus.