The University of Tennessee at Martin students left campus in March because of COVID-19, only to return to a hybrid campus in August.
Most classes are online and in-person campus participation is limited. Campus administrators are ready to take on the next level of student activities.
UT Martin Vice Chancellor of Student Affairs, Dr. Andy Lewter, announced Sept. 28 25 students may attend in-person activities.
Student COVID-19 cases have trended upward since the beginning of the semester, but Lewter said many of those cases can be tracked to specific groups, not spread among the campus as a whole.
Last fall, Lewter said there were 55 CARE Team mental health alerts, but this year there are 61. Administrators believe isolation is the cause.
That’s the reason, Lewter said, they’ve decided to allow more students at events.
“Our concern is just that students have an opportunity to connect with one another,” Lewter said.
In order for this to work, though, he says students have to be smart. Student groups need to get approval for larger events through Runway.
“We’re going to check and make sure that they’ve got a plan for how they would keep participants safe.”
Participants still need to wear masks and socially distance on campus.
“This by no means allows fraternities or sororities to have parties or larger gatherings,” Lewter clarified. “A philanthropy event where they’re going to have just members gathering to do something… that might be possible.”
Lewter said the university won’t approve organizations’ future events if they’re found breaking their plans. Other violations may be referred to Student Conduct.
Shortly after Lewter’s announcement, he sent an email to enrolled students, reminding them to report a positive COVID-19 case to the university. That allows student health to track possible exposures.