A message from Vice-Chancellor Brigety
Dear Sewanee Families,
My colleagues and I continue to plan and prepare to welcome you back to the Domain as safely as possible. While we all wish it were not so, the current health crisis requires that the rhythms and rituals of campus life will be substantially modified this fall. Our fall planning is based on the best available public health practices and guidelines published by national and state authorities. The objective is to keep our community healthy while still delivering the exceptional education and robust campus life that are the hallmarks of the Sewanee experience.
In this pandemic, individuals’ behavior can affect the most vulnerable in our community much more than it does themselves. Our best chance to stay healthy, reduce the potential for community spread, and, therefore, to keep you on campus this semester is to ask you to make a personal commitment to follow the University’s guidelines and protocols. My own mnemonic for this concept–and it is echoed in our Community Health Commitments–are The Three W’s: Wear a mask, Wash your hands, and Watch your distance.
My duty as vice-chancellor of the University and as mayor of Sewanee is clear. If there is exponential community spread of the novel coronavirus on the Mountain, we will likely be forced to lock down and/or evacuate campus to protect the health of the community. However, I am confident that we can come together to do what is necessary to help keep Sewanee healthy.
Updates like this one will continue throughout the summer as additional decisions are made and as new guidance is received. If you have questions or need additional information on some topics, please let us know.
Fall Planning Update
COMMUNITY HEALTH COMMITMENTS
The health and safety of our campus and community must involve all of us—students, faculty, staff, and residents. In order to return safely to campus and then continue with an on-campus experience, we must all commit to doing our part to help prevent a potential outbreak and the subsequent spread of the novel coronavirus. This is most clearly stated in a set of Community Health Commitments that every member of the Sewanee community is expected to make:
- I will seek support as needed for my mental health and well-being and be mindful of the mental health needs of others.
- I will participate in daily wellness checks and keep track of my close contacts.
- I will wear a mask except when I’m alone, asleep, eating or drinking, or maintaining proper distance. Furthermore, I will comply with any additional masking rules for specific events or facilities.
- I will practice safe hygiene (washing my hands frequently, covering my mouth when I cough or sneeze).
- I will get tested for COVID-19 when requested to do so.
- I will limit use of my vehicle except for essential needs and then only in the local area.
- I will maintain six feet of distancing whenever possible from others.
- I will kindly encourage compliance in my community.
LEARNING AT SEWANEE
As previously communicated, the University will begin classes earlier in August than in previous years and will complete classes before Thanksgiving. Students will return home, and then, after Thanksgiving break, final exams will take place remotely. Below are some key dates.
- Aug. 3: First Day of Finding Your Place (FYP)
- Aug. 10–12: PRE Orientation
- Aug. 13–16: Orientation for New Students
- Aug. 17: First Day of Classes
- Nov. 20: Last Day of Classes
- Nov. 25–30: Thanksgiving Break
- Dec. 2–8: Final Examinations (Remote)
* These dates are subject to change. Students will be notified if changes are made to the academic calendar.
Classes and Classrooms
The goal for the fall semester is to deliver an on-campus experience as similar as possible to a typical semester, but there will have to be adjustments. Students will be able to choose whether to be on campus or remote. Classes will be a mixture of experiences for on-campus students. Some courses will primarily be held in person, others will be a mixture of in-person and remote instruction, and still others will be fully remote. The mode of instruction will be determined by individual faculty members for individual courses. Such decisions will be based on pedagogical considerations but will also be made to help ensure that the health of the faculty is protected. Of course, we are still preparing for a possible shift to fully remote learning if health conditions or local, state, and federal guidelines require it.
Existing classrooms will be reconfigured to allow for social distancing and for remote students to participate. In addition, we are investing in comprehensive information technology upgrades that will allow for more flexible teaching and learning next semester. In order to spread students out, classes also will be held in nontraditional spaces around campus like Guerry Auditorium, Convocation Hall, Cravens Hall, and others. To take advantage of the Domain, some classes may be held outdoors. All learning spaces will be cleaned regularly. Hand sanitizer and wipes will be available throughout academic buildings.
The hallmarks of your Sewanee education will remain intact, regardless of mode of instruction: support from your faculty, meaningful connections with your peers, and engaging learning opportunities. Sewanee faculty have been working and training all summer to prepare for fall and will be ready with creative solutions. All of the regularly offered academic support services will be fully operational with options for both in-person and virtual access: the Writing Center, the Center for Speaking and Listening, departmental tutors, and the library, among others.
ARRIVING IN SEWANEE
For a typical fall semester, students arrive on campus over the period of a few weeks—for PRE, FYP, athletic preseason training, new student orientation, etc. That staggered move-in schedule will continue this year and will be even more intentional. Some of those dates already have been communicated, and the balance will follow shortly. In order to preserve our capacity to quarantine and isolate students who cannot leave the Mountain, we will test all students upon arrival to campus and recommend an at-home quarantine period prior to traveling to campus.
Before Traveling to Campus
Beginning two weeks prior to their assigned arrival day, we recommend that students complete a 14-day quarantine at home. Once the 14-day quarantine period is complete, and if students have no COVID-19 symptoms and no known exposure to COVID-19, they may travel to campus. While in transit, students are expected to maintain physical distancing, wear face coverings, practice frequent hand-washing, and follow all applicable CDC and Tennessee Department of Health guidelines. Students must successfully complete an online COVID-19 training module prior to returning to campus. Details on the course will be sent in the coming weeks. All University employees will be required to take this course as well.
Testing Upon Arrival
All students will be tested when they arrive. Testing will occur in the morning between 8 and 10 a.m. Please plan accordingly. Sewanee has developed a custom testing program in partnership with the Chattanooga-based Baylor Esoteric and Molecule Lab (BEM Lab). Students will be tested when they arrive on campus. We are also planning for surveillance testing throughout the semester. In each case, the test will be a self-administered nucleic acid saliva test. Nucleic acid testing is the most accurate form of testing, and saliva collection is much less invasive, and thus easier to perform, than other collection methods.
After a test is administered and before the results are known, students must limit their movement and interactions with others, physically distancing themselves, wearing a face covering, and practicing effective hygiene. The turnaround time for results is expected to be about five hours. This quarantine period could be extended in the unlikely event of a delay in receipt of the test results.
Upon receipt of a negative test result, students will be permitted to move into their residence halls.
Students who receive a positive test result for COVID-19 and who live within driving distance should have contingency plans in place to have someone pick them up and drive them straight home (or they may drive themselves home) for at least 14 days of isolation and recovery, during which a student can continue classes by remote means from home. Students who would require a flight to get home (e.g., international students or those from more than a day's drive away) will isolate and recover on campus while taking their classes remotely; the University has housing options and a plan for their care.
Isolation & Quarantine Spaces
The University has identified several local housing options for students who become sick or who test positive for COVID-19 to be safely isolated from other students or community members. Students identified through contact tracing who need to quarantine (possibly exposed but not sick) will be managed on a case-by-case basis. In many cases, students will be able to quarantine in their rooms. The University also maintains a close partnership with the on-campus hospital to manage any severe health challenges.
We usually love move-in day! Unfortunately, health and safety protocols make it impossible to welcome families back to campus as we normally do. Our goal is to treat move-ins as drop-offs. Every student will have an assigned move-in date, and students should bring only what is essential for the semester. All students will arrive at a single location on campus for a half day of activities that will start with health screening, COVID-19 testing, and a collection of pandemic readiness and wellness programs.
We are discouraging students from bringing a vehicle to campus. We recommend that only one family member accompany their student to campus to drop them off. That family member will need to stay in the area until their student’s test results are reported. If a student tests positive, we ask that the student return home if reasonable to do so. Therefore, we’d ask family members to stay nearby, just in case.
If a student is bringing a vehicle to campus, we prefer that they come to campus by themselves. Information for students who require move-in assistance will be shared in an upcoming communication. To maintain adequate physical distancing, students will need to move themselves into their rooms. Students may need to arrive a day early and stay overnight at a nearby hotel in order to arrive on campus between 8 a.m. and 10 a.m. on their assigned arrival dates. More details on this process will be provided soon.
New Student & Family Orientation
We look forward to welcoming new students to the University community with an Orientation program in August. A significant portion of the Orientation program will occur electronically via videos, interactive live broadcasts, and other media. We will share more details in late July; we anticipate sharing some Orientation materials prior to student arrival and making the rest available during the Orientation period from Aug. 13 to Aug. 16. Where possible, we hope to preserve some in-person Orientation activities for smaller groups of students.
Also, please note that all Family Orientation activities will occur remotely. In-person Family Orientation activities have been canceled. Please adjust your travel plans accordingly. We will share more details in late July.
We know that students' living communities are a significant part of the Sewanee experience, and that there are many questions about what living in a residence hall will feel like this fall. Returning students should plan to live in the rooms they chose during room selection in April. Those who wish to request a new housing assignment can do so via the Applications & Forms section of their Student Housing Self-Service portal. New students and any returning students who did not select a room in April will receive room and roommate (if applicable) assignments in late July. The residence hall communities will look and feel different this fall. Students will have access only to the hall where they reside, and should expect to adhere to social distancing protocols (i.e., maintaining a separation of six feet from other individuals and wearing a face covering) in the common areas of the hall. Residence hall amenities such as kitchens and study lounges may be available for use on a more limited basis.
One notable change from prior years is that the residence halls will close completely for the winter vacation period beginning at Thanksgiving. All students will need to fully move out of their rooms and take all personal belongings with them. Please keep this in mind when packing for the semester; we strongly encourage students to bring only the essentials with them for the fall. Supplemental personal furniture (such as futons, sofas, or unapproved personal beds) and other large items will not be permitted in residence halls. In the event that the on-campus semester must conclude earlier than anticipated, students would be required to fully move out of their rooms with relatively short notice. It is therefore highly advisable that students limit their on-campus belongings to only what can easily and quickly be transported away from campus.
OUTSIDE THE CLASSROOM
We recognize that being together is an important part of the Sewanee experience. However, to reduce the risk of an outbreak that might cause campus to close, and to help protect the most vulnerable in our community, social life must look different this fall. Events will be smaller than usual and they will usually take place outside. Proper physical distancing and masking will be required. While this will be different from what we have known, smaller get-togethers still allow for meaningful and lasting relationships to develop and flourish. The Interfraternity Council and Intersorority Council, the Tigers Entertainment Board, and the Student Government Association are working this summer to create spaces, activities, and guidelines for social events. Look for more information in future communications and from those organizations.
McClurg Dining Hall will continue to offer the same delicious food but with fewer options, limited and socially distant seating, and convenient to-go options. Students will be able to use their meal plans in multiple locations to reduce wait times and decrease density in McClurg during peak meal times—like lunch. Buffet-style self-serve food or beverage stations will be replaced with staff-served meal stations. Meals will be delivered to students in isolation or quarantine.
Varsity Athletics, Club Sports, and Intramurals
Organized sports of all types including varsity athletics, club sports, and intramurals are under consideration.
Fowler Center and Sewanee Fitwell
Physical fitness is an important element of overall community wellness. Planning is underway to reconfigure campus fitness facilities to allow for social distancing, to adjust hours to allow for cleaning, and to determine ideal capacity to stay healthy. More information on both the Fowler Center and Sewanee FitWell, the fitness facility in the new University Wellness Commons, will be provided as it is available.
The Arts at Sewanee
The Sewanee experience also includes participation in and enjoyment of the arts including lectures, exhibits, concerts, plays, and recitals. This will not be a traditional fall on campus in any respect, including for many of these activities. Students and faculty continue to make art and we will share the results with the community through new modes of presentation. As we develop these modes of presentation, we will share those with you over the summer and upon your arrival.
Unless instruction is fully remote in the fall, students who have work-study jobs will be able to work their allotment of hours. Students and their supervisors will determine if work study will be in-person or remote. Those students whose regular jobs are not available because certain services are not in operation may need to apply for other open positions, or for new positions that are made available, in order to earn their allotment of work-study funds.
LIMITING COMMUNITY EXPOSURE
Visits to campus will be extremely limited this fall. University-wide events like Family Weekend, Foundation Day Convocation, and Homecoming have been cancelled, and others may be held virtually. We regret that, with the exception of drop-off, students will not be allowed to have guests on campus this fall. The Office of Admission will conduct campus tours by appointment only. All group events for prospective students will take place online.
University travel policies for the fall will be based on local and regional health conditions as well as state and federal guidance. Any University-sponsored travel for students, faculty, and staff will require an approval process. Returning to campus for class or work after a trip may require testing or additional health screening.
The University discourages students from bringing a vehicle to campus to reduce the likelihood of the virus being brought to campus by those traveling outside of our testing strategy and health practices. Students bringing a vehicle to campus will be asked to limit use for only essential purposes, like grocery shopping, local to-go food runs, and for medical purposes like doctor visits and pharmacy trips.
COMMUNICATING YOUR PLANS
Some students may want to continue their education but do not want to return to campus. Others, including some international students, are unable to return to campus. We understand that and will work to optimize the remote experience. We hope the information in this update and the planning summary provides you with the information to make that decision. So that we can continue with our fall planning, each student must communicate their current plans for the semester. The University Registrar will be sending students an email survey shortly. The survey must be completed by July 8.