By Katelynn White
NASHVILLE, TN — Five of the six historically Black colleges and universities in Tennessee are preparing to resume face-to-face courses on campus this Fall, but the transition for faculty, staff and students may be different for each group.
The five HBCUs are Tennessee State University, Fisk University, Lemoyne Owen College, Lane College, and Meharry Medical College. Information was not available from American Baptist College.
Each HBCU has decided not to force students to take the vaccination before returning to campus but each school is taking extreme safety measures to keep all faculty, staff, and students safe.
Dr. Peter Edmund Millet, Executive Vice President for the Meharry Medical College Leadership Council said, “Our current plan is that we are preparing like many other schools to fully reopen in the Fall. We’re gearing up to do that right now.”
He added that most people are working remotely. “During the course of these couple of months, we’re going to increase the number of people on campus. We are still going to require a mask; we have seen the guidelines, but we would rather be safe than sorry,” he said.
For the Fall semester, Millet said the safety protocols include putting limits on the number of people in rooms. “We have no social gatherings, but they can have academic meetings for the time being. We have the increased cleaning protocols still. We still have limits on elevators on campus. We have contact hand sanitizer dispensers. We have an on-campus vaccine passport program. Right now, it is not required for people to get vaccines. We are installing those air filter pressure devices in high traffic areas on campus.”
In March 2020, the fast-spreading coronavirus forced the nation to shut down. The pandemic caused many businesses, metro schools, and higher education institutions to adjust their daily routines and sometimes close their doors.
Andre McBride, a staff member from Lane College said, “We have had many precautions taking place in the past since the pandemic started. We have social distancing taking place. We are requiring masks here on campus, we are limiting activity and continuing virtual courses. Students will not be required to receive the vaccine, but we have had four vaccination events here on campus to help students get vaccinated.”
Fisk University President Dr. Vann Newkirk, Sr., released a statement, “We are now planning for what will be a more normal Fall semester in which all members of the community (students, faculty, and staff) who wished to be vaccinated will be vaccinated. Consequently, most classes offered by the University will be held in a traditional face-to-face format. Students residing on campus will once more stay in double-occupancy rooms.
“ We are also assuming that the diminished presence of COVID worldwide will allow for the resumption of international travel and the more routine issuance of student visas so that international students may return safely. However, the administration of the University realizes that COVID remains a threat; hence in the foreseeable future the wearing of masks and social distancing protocols will remain.”
In her statement, Tennessee State University President Dr. Glover said, “TSU will be open and fully operational for the fall 2021-22 academic year. This includes in-person classes and campus operations. Additionally, all residence halls will be open this fall and in-person student activities will resume.”
In its statement, Lemoyne Owen College said, “Fall 2021 LOC will offer two enrollment options: In-person/Hybrid and Virtual.”
All six HBCUs held in-person graduations for Spring semester.
Tennessee State University, Lemoyne-Owen College, Fisk University, Meharry Medical College, Lane College and American Baptist College held in-person and live-streamed commencement ceremonies.