A Potential Normal Fall Semester

CHATTANOOGA (mocsnews.com) – The UT System is set to return to normal operations this fall, and officials have been met with varying levels of support on their method to achieve this goal.

In a February 10 announcement, the UT System President Randy Boyd revealed their plan to resume “a traditional college experience in the fall.”

“We are determined to have in-person classes next fall,” Boyd said. “By next fall, anybody that would want a vaccination would have a vaccination. There’s really no reason in my view why we wouldn’t be back in person.”

UTC Chancellor Steven Angle supported Boyd’s decision to strive for a pre-COVID time in his announcement. Angle stressed the importance of the vaccine for returning to normal in the fall. 

“Campus leadership will continue monitoring developments around the pandemic including the availability of the COVID-19 vaccine,” the announcement read. “The availability of multiple vaccines against COVID-19 in the coming months also inspires confidence that we are ready to take steps toward returning to normal university operations in the fall.”

The reports garnered support, disapproval, and weariness from experts, faculty, students, and parents of students.

Dr. Chris Smith, the Director of the school of nursing and Chief Health Affairs Officer, remains hopeful for a normal start to the semester. 

“This all depends on what is happening in the community in regard to COVID over the summer,” Smith said. “If the CDC recommends continuing these things, UTC will continue as well. If the CDC says no masks and no social distancing, we would glady consider changing as well.”

Many members of the university community worry about the possibility of the school requiring all students to receive the vaccine in order to return to campus in the fall.

In response to the question of if the University will require such a mandate, Smith said, “That would be a decision made by the UT System and President Boyd in consultation with the Chancellors of each campus.”

Student organizations such as the Student Government Association look forward to a time of normalcy following a year of low turnout for student events.

“So far everything is supposed to be back to full capacity, so I definitely think there will be in-person events,” the SGA President-Elect Taylor Bradshaw said.

“It will definitely be a good change for students and faculty” when the more people are vaccinated and are able to attend more in-person events, according to Vice President-Elect Wendy Jiang.

UTC announced on Tuesday, March 16 that the University Health Services was approved as a Pandemic Provider for Tennessee to administer the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine for eligible students, faculty and staff. Friday, March 19, 2021. (Photo by Stephanie Swart)

Students and parents alike are ready for life to return to pre-COVID times, but they are weary of receiving the vaccines. A reservation that is understandable following recent health scares from the Johnson and Johnson vaccine.

“I am unsure because we just started seeing the vaccines roll out,” senior mechanical engineering student Lio Lado said. “If the cases are declining, then I am cool with it.”

Kary Choate, a member of the UTC Parent Facebook Group, is divided on her stance of a potential vaccine mandate and a return to normalcy.

“It concerns me that this new vaccine will be required for students to return to school. No one knows the long-term effects this virus may have on young people,” Choate said. “However, if it means mask mandates can be dropped in, in-person classes again, social activities for everyone can resume, and then maybe it’s worth it.”

Regardless of where people stand on their opinion of the vaccine, there is one thing all members of the community agree on: they are ready for normal life to return. 

About Kaleigh Cortez

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