KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) – The University of Tennessee Board of Trustees unanimously approved guidelines for system schools to combat and contain the COVID-19 pandemic during the fall semester.

The board met virtually on Thursday before reconvening Friday to vote on what the fall semester will look like across the UT System. Trustees unanimously authorized university administration to take actions necessary to to resume in-person instruction for the fall 2020 semester based on the Best Practices and Recommendations Report by the University of Tennessee President’s Re-Opening Task Force.

The vote confirmed the proposed changes to the Fall 2020 academic calendar. Class will be held on Labor Day and during fall break with exams being held online after Thanksgiving break.

The approval also authorizes Board of Trustees President Randy Boyd to suspend in-person instruction at one or more campuses should changing public health conditions warrant.

Universities will continue to make ‘reasonable accommodations’ to students, faculty and staff who are considered to be at a higher risk for COVID-19.

The UT System COVID-19 Task Force reopening report includes recommendations on testing, what happens when a student tests positive for COVID-19, recommendations to decrease in-person class size, managing events and considerations for faculty and staff training.

The University of Tennessee-Knoxville will not offer education abroad programs for the upcoming fall 2020 semester.

Board approves student immunization Requirement

As a way to mitigate the the impact of COVID-19, the board unanimously voted to approve a requirements that all employees and students must have a flu immunization. As part of this, if a medically-approved COVID-19 immunization is developed during the 2020-21 academic year, all employees and students must have that vaccination.

Exceptions to this requirement may be granted if an employee or student has a reasonable objections for religious or medical reasons, or if a student will only be taking online classes and does not live in campus housing.

The decision falls under the Uniform Administrative Procedures Act (Tenn. Code Ann. § 4-5-101,
et seq.). Under that Act, the University may adopt an emergency rule if the agency finds
that “[a]n immediate danger to the public health, safety or welfare exists, and the nature
of this danger is such that the use of any other form of rulemaking authorized by this
chapter would not adequately protect the public.”

This rule applies to UT because without it, the University would not be able to require students to have flu immunization and/or any other immunizations that may be recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The emergency rule would give the University the flexibility to require any
immunizations recommended by the CDC and/or the Tennessee Department of Healt
including the seasonal flu vaccine and other currently undeveloped vaccines in the
future. Exceptions may be granted for students that have medical contraindications,
religious objections, or are only enrolled in online classes at the University

Board of Trustees agenda item summary

Kara Lawson on diversity: “It’s not just striking, there isn’t any”

Trustee Kara Lawson spoke about changes she hopes to see within athletic departments across the UT System.

Lawson is a trustee and member of the Special Committee on University of Tennessee Athletics Programs.

“One of the most diverse bodies that we have at our instituations is our athletic department, as it relates to athletse,” said Lawson.

She encouraged the board, President Boyd, and Chancellors to look “at the diversity or lack thereof” within athletic departments.

“It’s not just striking, there isn’t any. When I look at my Alma Mater, Knoxville, there is not a single African American [head] coach at that institution. That is not the same for the majority of the SEC. And so, I think as we go through, Randy talked about a commitment and Randy talked about a chance, I think it’s important we identify parts of our university that we identify parts of our system that really can benefit that are behind the times, quite frankly.

I mean, to go through the staffs and the senior staffs that are making decisions over a body of student-athletes that are arguably our most diverse on our campuses. AS I said, I think that needs to be looked at. “

Trustee Kara Lawson

Lawson said she believes the special committee should make diversifying athletics senior staff a priority moving forward.