Happy New Year and welcome back! I hope you had a chance to rest and recoup during the winter break. Sadly, we return to campus in the midst of yet another COVID surge. I have met with the department heads to provide direction based on the current state-limited, CDC-guided university plan to manage the beginning of spring term during the surge. The goal is to provide as much flexibility as possible, given what the students are expecting and campus guidance, for the first two to three weeks of class – until this current surge passes.
If you do not feel well, please stay home. It is probably safe to assume that if you have a runny nose or headache, you probably have omicron or the flu. We have an opportunity to change the way we behave, which includes not working in public spaces when we are sick. If you feel too unwell to teach or work, please tell your department head so they can find a replacement instructor. If you feel well enough to show up online, that will be appreciated by your students. But please, please, please do not be out in public if you do not feel well. Let’s keep our community safe!
We are still encouraging everyone to wear masks in public, indoor spaces while allowing for remote learning/teaching for those who do not want or who cannot wear a mask, at your discretion for the first few weeks. Individuals in at-risk categories of any kind should contact the Office of Equity and Diversity (OED) to request an exemption to teaching in-person. The college has and will continue to respect all exemptions. The university has masks available, so please take advantage and order one. Stay calm, stay up-to-date on the latest CDC guidelines and stay informed about coronavirus and safety measures on campus. Wear a mask and let’s focus on our students this spring. The surge is already waning across the country, and it will here as well. I expect we should be able to back to normal class modalities and classroom interactions by mid- to late February.
Monday, we celebrated MLK Day. While several events were either cancelled or cut short due to weather, I encourage you to commemorate King’s legacy by reading a book or an article about civil rights or engaging in a discussion with a friend or colleague. It is up to us to continue to be educated and move forward in the fight for civil rights and social justice.
Finally, we will celebrate the outstanding achievements of our faculty during the 2021 (now 2022) faculty convocation awards ceremony later in February (delayed because of COVID surge). We will announce the winners on our website and share the news in Dialogue. Read more about our 2020 award winners.
The Volunteer Creed reminds us that we bear the torch to give light to others. As Volunteers, we commit to caring for one another and for the members of the communities in which we live, work, and learn. Thank you for your work and your commitment to our Volunteer family.
Stay safe and Go Vols!
Theresa M. Lee
Dean, College of Arts and Sciences