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University of Tennessee suspending in-person classes for remainder of spring semester due to coronavirus concerns

UT Knoxville will suspend all in-person classes for the remainder of the semester and alternative commencement ceremonies are being planned.

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — The University of Tennessee will be temporarily suspending all in-person classes for the remainder of the semester and will not hold traditional commencement ceremonies in May as a proactive measure in response to the COVID-19 outbreak.

University of Tennessee Interim President Randy Boyd announced the updated measures Monday saying this will affect UT Knoxville, UT Chattanooga, UT Martin and the UT Health Science Center.

Alternative commencement ceremonies are being planned for graduating students. UT said it is working on plans for a commencement ceremony at a later date. 

"The Class of 2020 will be celebrated and their achievements will be recognized. We will keep you posted on these plans,' UT said.

“In an effort to avoid further disruption for our students, faculty and staff, we will move instruction entirely online for the remainder of the spring semester,” Boyd said.  “In addition, commencement ceremonies will not be held in May. Each campus is looking at alternative commencement options at this time.”

Physical locations for UT Libraries will close starting Saturday, March 14, until further notice. Library services and resources can still be accessed online.

All campus tours and undergraduate admissions events between March 16 - April 5 have also been canceled. 

UT Chancellor Donde Plowman sent a letter to students, faculty and staff, saying, all classes will be moved online following spring break.

Students are expected to stay at home after spring break and participate in the online classes and not return to campus. Those living in residence halls or fraternity/sorority houses are told to stay home after spring break, and those who are unable to stay at home should register for an exemption to continue to live on campus. 

Beginning March 16 through April 5, all non-athletic university events which involve gatherings of 50 or more people are canceled. 

All study abroad before May 20 is also suspended. 

Any student that goes on a cruise, no matter the location, is told to self-isolate for two weeks upon their return home and to not attend work, classes, athletic events, or other social gatherings until that 14 days is over.

"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," Plowman said. "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."

While there are no reports of active confirmed cases involving COVID-19 on any University of Tennessee campus, there are confirmed cases in Tennessee.

“Our top priority is the health and safety of our students,” Boyd said. “We are taking this preventative measure with all of our campuses that provide face-to-face instruction out of an abundance of caution.”

UT said each campus will be sending out specific communications to their faculty, students and staff regarding the details of the suspension and any online accommodations that will be made.

“While we do not want to create undue anxiety on our campuses, we firmly believe that suspending our in-person classes is a prudent and important measure to take given the current COVID-19 situation,” Boyd said.

The UT System recently announced a comprehensive resource guide that provides information and resources surrounding COVID-19: tennessee.edu/coronavirus/.

The news come as a wave of major event cancellations and closures in light of COVID-19's spread across the United States. COVID-19 was declared a global pandemic by the World Health Organization on Wednesday.

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