By: Caitlin Burt
HOUSTON(AP) The University of Tennessee at Chattanooga’s campus embraces a “new normal” for the upcoming semester since the rise of the coronavirus pandemic.
When the rise of COVID first began in March of 2020, UTC decided to make the rest of the spring semester online-only classes. Along with that transition, the university first postponed the Spring 2020 graduation ceremony to August, but it eventually was cancelled and made as a virtual ceremony. As the pandemic continues and a new semester coming up, UTC has changed the campus with several prevention methods.
On the university’s Instagram and Twitter, a photo of the new classroom setup was posted. In the picture, every other row was taped off, and there were two seats taped off between each open seat. With the new socially distanced classrooms, all students are permitted to wear a mask at all times on campus—including students who live in on-campus housing.
On the UTC Instagram page, a short video was also posted. It said that “It will be up to the entire campus community to keep each other safe and healthy.”
The UTC Blog site posted an official FAQ page with 164 questions. One of the questions mentioned consequences for students being held accountable for wearing a mask. The page said that “The consequences for repeat violation of mask requirements will be addressed through the Office of Student Conduct. Enforcement will be supported by reminders to the campus community of the importance of mask wearing to prevent the spread of the virus by way of signage across campus, social media campaigns and other communication.”
Plus, other adjustments include some class schedules have been altered to have hybrid style classes, and students visiting class on alternating days. All of these changes leave some students in anticipation for the upcoming school year.
During this past summer, UTC senior Haley Bartlett has taken online courses, and she will have one in-person class while the rest of her courses are online in the fall. After seeing the adjustments UTC made to accommodate students, Bartlett raises some concerns.
“I think UTC, personally, has failed a lot during the pandemic as a whole,” said Bartlett. “While I understand this is something everyone is struggling with and trying to figure out, I think they failed their students—who they claim to care so much about—on a multitude of levels. “Money wise, I personally was denied my parking appeals and had to pay those fines when this first started. I also have been taking two summer classes, and if it wasn’t for the Student Emergency Fund I got approved for, I would’ve had to pay $1,200 out of pocket because they are still charging fees for transportation, the ARC and other facilities that have been shut down since March.”
With tuition costs being a source of income for the university, Bartlett awaits for the new semester to start, and expects complications.
“I think it’s rather selfish of UTC to expect students to not only deal with all of [the adjustments] and try to learn in an [online] environment where most can’t,” said Bartlett. “Also, as soon as there’s a positive case—which there will be—they’re just going to shut down again, and Chancellor Angle is going to send out some release about how they are trying their best. As a student who has spent almost four years here, they don’t care about the effects this has on their students mentally and financially.”
Another aspect of UTC’s adjustments for COVID-19 is through the new lifestyle for on-campus students. Part of the new visitation policy includes no visitors who live off-campus. UTC Housing will also be providing students with residential housing for students who test positive for COVID-19 and for those who need to self-quarantine.
UTC junior Brenda Zaragoza awaits starting in the fall, and she will be living on campus at Stophel apartments. Zaragoza will be taking two hybrid classes and three online classes.
“Opening the campus again probably wasn’t the best idea, but I understand there are different types of learners,” said Zaragoza. “I feel like it’s going to hard to balance all the students’ needs while keeping everyone safe.
“This year housing provided us an opportunity to opt-out of our contract, and during move-in day we are restricted to two visitors to help us during our move-in appointment time. I know the amount of roommates will remain the same, but the common areas will be rearranged to accommodate distancing.”