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University of Tennessee, Knoxville, Chancellor Donde Plowman announced today the decision to bring students back for an on-campus experience this fall. The decision was made in coordination with UT System President Randy Boyd and the other system chancellors, who also announced that students will return to their respective campuses.

Plowman said social distancing and enhanced safety procedures will be part of the new normal for students.

“The health and safety of our students and employees are our first priority. We will continue to rely on health professionals and data to guide our decisions,” she said.

Last month, Plowman announced a Re-Imagining Fall task force and charged the group with making recommendations on the process for reopening the campus to students and preparing for their arrival.

“The task force is doing critical work planning for how we can safely operate and deliver an on-campus experience in a few months with COVID-19 still a reality of our world,” said Plowman. “The residential campus experience also will have to look different this fall than it did before COVID-19.”

The task force will continue planning around two other scenarios as well—beginning the term on campus with a need to go back online due to a resurgence of the virus, and remaining completely online in the fall—in order to be prepared and ensure safety and continuity under any circumstance.

“I am proud of the resilience of our students and the work of our faculty and staff through one of the most significant disruptions American higher education has ever experienced,” said Plowman. “I am also proud of the creative ideas and careful preparation going into safely bringing our Volunteer community back together on campus this fall.”

Plowman said the university is drawing upon the significant expertise of the campus community to guide the comprehensive planning process.

“COVID-19 has taught us many things, and one is that nimble, flexible organizations have the greatest chance of long-term success,” she said. “How we come out of this experience will define our future as an institution for years, if not decades, to come.”


Tyra Haag (865-974-5460,