From the Senior Vice President
and Senior Vice Chancellor
March 17, 2020 Update
I want to begin by expressing appreciation to each of you for your patience, understanding and commitment during this COVID-19 outbreak. These are stressful times, full of uncertainty with a healthy dose of ambiguity. Our leadership team has been meeting daily to assess the latest news and data, determine responses needed within the Institute, and provide guidance to all of our employees, students, and offices. As situations change, our guidance also must change, and we know this makes it challenging to keep up and follow suggested procedures and approaches.
Our approach has been to prioritize decisions such that we:
1. Protect the health and safety of students, employees, and those we serve;
2. Enable students to complete their coursework or degree completion on time;
3. Continue to conduct research and Extension programs on campus and statewide; and
4. Serve veterinary needs for urgent and emergency and critical care.
Some of our guidance has caused members of the Institute to question the need or basis for our decisions. Remember that we're doing our best to ensure that the Institute contributes to the national goal of slowing the progression of the COVID-19 pandemic. Remember also that not all situations are alike, and the environments and work requirements in one unit of the Institute often differ dramatically from other Institute units. Providing guidance that establishes a foundation for our approach has been a goal without undermining the need to establish more site-specific rules or approaches where broad-based rules don't make sense or don't enable us to achieve the four priorities identified above.
My most common response when asked "What is the UTIA policy on . . . ?" is to say "Do what's right." I know our employees and students will go to great lengths to do the right thing, but in a challenging new situation like we're experiencing it is sometimes difficult to know. The UTIA guidelines were developed to help us all know the right approaches to take regarding travel, meetings, operations, research, etc. If we all follow these guidelines, even if we don't agree with every word in them, we'll advance the Institute while also promoting a safe work environment.
The UTIA guidelines have been updated today to reflect the latest developments in Tennessee and across the country. These include:
- All face-to-face education, including Extension and outreach programs, must be converted to online delivery through April 30, 2020, or postponed; and
- Clarifying travel restrictions and noting that individual units may establish more stringent restrictions in order to protect health and safety given the work environment and conditions.
Thanks for reading through this message, and thanks especially for your continued work to serve the University. You've heard it a thousand times already, but I'd like to repeat for emphasis that we want you to stay safe by following CDC guidance related to hand-washing, social distancing, and other mitigating actions. Take care of yourself and your family, and that will enable you in turn to continue doing valuable work for the Institute. We will do our best to keep you updated and informed as new developments occur.