MTSU Cancels Spring Graduation; Second Student with COVID-19

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MTSU President Dr. Sidney McPhee has canceled spring graduation ceremonies amid the COVID-19 crisis. He also said a second student has tested positive for the coronavirus.

A second on-campus student, who Dr. McPhee said resided in the mostly unoccupied Kappa Delta house, tested positive for COVID-19 and is now in isolation off-campus.

Spring ceremonies were scheduled for May 8th and 9th, but again, have been canceled. Diplomas will be received by mail and students will have the opportunity to walk at a future ceremony.

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Other changes include CUSTOMS for new students has been canceled for the summer and will be done online. In his letter, McPhee said summer classes will go on as scheduled in May but they will be all online.

Read Dr. McPhee's full letter on WGNSRadio.com.

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Cancellation of May Commencement

  • Following most recent guidance from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Governor Lee regarding large group meetings, we must cancel our Spring Commencement Ceremonies, originally planned for May 8 and May 9.
  • To provide every graduate with an opportunity to walk across the stage, and for their families to share the experience, our Spring graduates will be invited to march in any future commencement exercises, including our Summer ceremony set for Aug. 8 and our Winter ceremony set for Dec. 12. We will be sending additional information regarding these upcoming exercises in an email to our Spring graduates.
  • We will celebrate the achievements of our Spring graduates by preparing a special care package, which we will mail in late May along with the diploma. The package will include a mortar board with a special tassel; a unique commencement program that lists our May graduates and chronicles the year; a DVD with commencement themes and messages of support; and other surprises. We know this package will not truly fill the hole created by this cancellation, but we want to make every effort for this special class of graduates to know how proud we are of their accomplishments.

CUSTOMS Orientation for New Students Going Online

  • In keeping with the current guidance, we have chosen to cancel our traditional schedule of CUSTOMS events for Fall 2020 incoming freshmen and transfers.
  • Our CUSTOMS team will move these sessions online. We will reach out to our future students and parents, as well as our faculty and staff, as soon as we finalize our new schedule and processes for these digital events.
  • We had the opportunity last week to test one of the tools we will use in a new digital online delivery of CUSTOMS. We replaced our Preview Day with a True Blue Spotlight digital event on March 26. This event attracted viewers from 49 of 50 states on Facebook Live and Livestream. You can see an archived replay of the event on YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c8df_eUKnjQ

Employees Working Remotely

  • Due to Governor Lee's recent "safer-at-home" order, I have decided to further reduce the number of on-campus employees and extend employees working remotely through May 10, 2020.

May Classes Moving to Remote Delivery

  • We are moving ahead with plans for Summer 2020 courses. Only online and remote courses will be offered during any session starting in May, although courses such as internships and practicums, thesis and dissertation research, and independent study courses, will continue as currently scheduled.
  • The summer schedule is currently being updated to reflect changes to the May sessions, and additions are possible as we prepare for the June and July sessions, so students need to periodically check online or with advisors for the latest information.
  • Registration starts on April 6 for the approximately 1,000 course sections available this summer.
  • As of now, the Fall 2020 semester will proceed as originally planned. We will continue to monitor conditions and alter the Fall schedule as necessary.

Finally, as an update to the presence of the virus on the campus, a second on-campus student, who resided in the mostly unoccupied Kappa Delta house, tested positive for COVID-19 and is now in isolation off-campus. The university continues to take all precautions, as outlined in our last communication, to combat the transmission of the virus on the campus. We have already traced those who have had contact with this student, notified them of any potential risk and asked them to take appropriate actions. If you have concerns or questions, contact our Fraternity and Sorority Life staff at 615-898-5397.

Please check our website, www.mtsu.edu/coronavirus, for news and information about our response to COVID-19. I continue to be amazed at how much we have been able to accomplish and how well we are all adapting to these disruptions. The positive attitude and adaptability demonstrated by our Blue Raider family continues to serve us well.

Stay on course and remain True Blue.

Sincerely,

Sidney A. McPhee

President

Sidney.McPhee@mtsu.edu


PREVIOUSLY REPORTED

MTSU has announced plans finish the spring semester of classes all online while there are still questions surrounding graduation.

President Sidney A. McPhee, in a letter to the university, stated classes will resume Monday, March 23 and will be all online for the rest of the semester. Students with questions are encouraged to reach out to their professors for information and are reminded to check their MTSU email frequently.

McPhee stated "given the previously mentioned federal guidance (no gathering of 10 or more for eight weeks), I have decided that we will complete the spring semester remotely."

No decision has been made at this time on our summer sessions.

On-campus housing and food service will continue to operate and be available to students who choose to continue to live on campus.

GRADUATION

McPhee said with the CDC's guidelines discouraging large events for eight weeks, MTSU's May 8th and 9th commencement ceremonies fall within that period. He added that would mean "it is very likely that we would not be able to hold our events as previously scheduled."

He went on to say his executive staff is working to "exhaust every possibility of finding a way" to allow graduations to continue without interruption.

McPhee added they will monitor the federal and state recommendations and if by April 1, the guidance still recommends against large gatherings, they will invite May graduates to participate in either the August or December ceremonies.

LETTER FROM PRESIDENT McPHEE (3-17-2020)

To the University community,

I'd like to begin today's update with the hope that as this unprecedented worldwide event continues to unfold, each of you is taking time to focus on what's most important: Taking care of yourself and those you love. These are chaotic and stressful times; please try to take moments when you can to breathe deeply and see the good being done, not only on our campus but throughout our nation and, indeed, the world. We are in this together and, together, we will take care of one another.

I continue to meet regularly with our Crisis Management Team and my Executive Leadership Team to address issues as they arise and develop contingency plans for the coming weeks. While I am pleased that our campus, to date, has not experienced a confirmed case of COVID-19, we must be prepared.

Due to actions at the state and federal levels, however, we have made several decisions that I need to let you know about, including:

SPRING COMMENCEMENT EXERCISES

The federal government is strongly discouraging large events or activities for a period extending out as long as eight weeks. Our MTSU Commencement Ceremonies scheduled for May 8 and 9 fall within that cautionary period, which means that it is very likely that we would not be able to hold our events as previously scheduled.

However, I know how important this milestone is to our students and their families. Commencement ceremonies are the most important events we hold on our campus. My executive staff and I have had multiple discussions and are exploring every possible option to preserve our May ceremonies. I want us to exhaust every possibility of finding a way to allow this most important MTSU tradition to continue without interruption. If there is any chance that federal guidance may change and open up the opportunity for us to proceed, we want to leave ourselves open to that chance.

Therefore, at this time I am not yet announcing a decision to cancel our May Commencement. Instead, we will continue to carefully monitor the evolving federal and state recommendations. If, by April 1, that guidance still recommends against large gatherings, we will at that time invite our May graduates to participate in either our regular August or December commencement ceremonies, whichever is most convenient for the students and their families. Any student who cannot wait until April 1 for a decision may elect to march in the August or December ceremonies regardless of our final decision regarding the May event.

If there is any chance that this most important MTSU tradition can continue, we want to give ourselves that leeway. We appreciate your patience.

Also important: If you complete the requirements for your degree at the conclusion of the Spring 2020 semester, your physical diploma will carry a May completion date.

REMOTE DELIVERY OF INSTRUCTION

As previously announced, when classes resume next week we will be delivering instruction remotely. Faculty have been working during our extended Spring Break to convert our traditional on-ground courses to remote delivery and will be ready to resume the semester Monday (March 23). Students with questions are encouraged to reach out to their professors for information and are reminded to check their MTSU email frequently.

Given the previously mentioned federal guidance, I have decided that we will complete the spring semester remotely. No decision has been made at this time on our summer sessions, but we will keep you informed as these decisions are made.

On-campus housing and food service will continue to operate and be available to students who choose to continue to live on campus. Students who choose to move home should contact their Area Coordinator for further instructions regarding vacating their room/apartment and turning in their key. Students who need small items shipped to them should contact the MTSU Housing Office at 615-898-2971 or through the forms at this webpage.

ROLLING FORWARD UNUSED FLEX BUCKS

MTSU and Aramark, which operates MT Dining, have agreed to partner together to provide for the rolling forward of unused Flex Bucks from this semester so that they may be used in the Fall 2020 semester. More details on this decision will be provided in the next few weeks.

CAMPUS EVENTS CANCELED UNTIL FURTHER NOTICE

Again, in keeping with federal guidance, I have decided that all on-campus events will be prohibited until further notice.

Please check our website, www.mtsu.edu/coronavirus for frequent updates and other resources.

These are unprecedented times and no doubt create challenges for our Blue Raider community. However, as has been demonstrated many times before, our MTSU family is resilient and highly capable of finding solutions to problems like this. As we go about our daily business, I would ask that we be mindful of the stress and uncertainty that are inherent in times like this. A little extra patience, compassion and kindness will go a long way in helping us navigate this extraordinary event.

Sincerely,

Sidney A. McPhee

President

Sidney.McPhee@mtsu.edu

PREVIOUSLY REPORTED

MTSU announced Wednesday evening it would extend spring break through March 22nd as a precaution in the battle against the spread of Coronavirus.

President Sidney A. McPhee, in a letter, said they will extend spring break until March 22nd to "allow faculty time to prepare remote instructional delivery of current on-ground classes beginning Monday, March 23. Remote delivery of these classes will continue until further notice."

He went on to say "we encourage off-campus students and students who have not returned to campus yet to remain home during this extended break and while classes are delivered remotely. However, since some on-campus students cannot easily travel home, residence halls will remain open and MT Dining facilities will operate on a modified schedule."

McPhee also said they're canceling all non-athletic events through Sunday, March 29 and they're in consultation with the NCAA and Conference USA regarding participation in athletic contests.

The university says the TSSAA tournaments going on this week and next at the Murphy Center will continue at the "discretion of its (TSSAA's) leadership.

McPhee says university offices will remain open as usual and they're urging employees to take appropriate preventative measures.

President McPhee's full statement is on our website, WGNSRadio.com.

LETTER FROM PRESIDENT McPHEE

To the University community,

We continue to closely monitor developments and updates from federal and state public health officials regarding the rapidly evolving novel coronavirus (COVID-19) situation. As of today, MTSU has no confirmed cases of COVID-19 on campus. However, given today's decision by the World Health Organization to declare the spread of COVID-19 as a global pandemic, we are implementing several contingency options that we feel are necessary to protect the health and safety of our University community.

SPRING BREAK EXTENDED, CLASSES TO RESUME REMOTELY

We will extend our Spring Break for our students by one week, through Sunday, March 22, which will allow faculty time to prepare remote instructional delivery of current on-ground classes beginning Monday, March 23. Remote delivery of these classes will continue until further notice. Information to faculty on these measures will be coming shortly from Provost Mark Byrnes.

We encourage off-campus students and students who have not returned to campus yet to remain home during this extended break and while classes are delivered remotely. However, since some on-campus students cannot easily travel home, our residence halls will remain open and our MT Dining facilities will operate on a modified schedule. Our Division of Student Affairs will reach out shortly to our students with more information on these services.

We will advise in coming days about operational hours of the James E. Walker Library and campus computer labs.

NON-ATHLETIC EVENTS CANCELED

Further, as we take these prudent measures to reduce the risk of exposure, we are canceling all events (including official university events, student events, non-University or external events, co-sponsored events and university-sponsored events) through Sunday, March 29. We are in consultation with the NCAA and Conference USA regarding our continued participation in athletic contests. We will not accept any campus event space reservations until further notice.

The Tennessee Secondary School Athletics Association tournaments - the ongoing girls championship and next week's scheduled boys championships - in Murphy Center will continue at the discretion of its leadership.

UPDATES REGARDING EDUCATION ABROAD, UNIVERSITY TRAVEL

I have also decided to cancel the university's participation in Education Abroad programs through May 31. I am further directing our staff to inform students currently abroad in University-sponsored programs of this cancellation and assist them with their expedient return to the U.S. Students who opt to remain abroad will do so at their own risk and will be apart from our oversight.

In addition, all non-essential official University-related travel, both outside of Tennessee and outside the country, is suspended indefinitely.

We encourage all in our community to curtail personal international travel and be mindful of domestic travel.

UNIVERSITY OFFICES REMAIN OPEN

University offices will remain open as usual and we urge employees to take the appropriate preventative measures as described on our website, www.mtsu.edu/coronavirus. On the advice of our medical staff, anyone who has not received a flu vaccine this season should consider doing so. Also anyone who is ill, or thinks they may be ill, should stay home from work and seek medical care, as necessary.

If there are further changes in the University's operating status based on COVID-19, our community would be notified through MTSU ALERT4U (also known as Rave Alerts) and other communication channels. Also, our coronavirus information website will be frequently updated and will be the best source for information on the University's precautions.

Our Crisis Management Team will confer daily and continues to work closely with local and state public health officials as we review all guidance from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Tennessee Department of Health.

We appreciate your cooperation in helping us protect our campus community.

Sincerely,

Sidney A. McPhee

President

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