NASHVILLE, TN (TSU News Service) — As Tennessee State University approaches the start of the 2021-2022 academic year, students currently enrolled have a succinct message for their peers pondering whether to return: Join us!
“Don’t allow COVID, or anything, to jeopardize your HBCU experience,” said Maya McClary, a junior mass communications major from Orlando, Florida. “We’ve allowed COVID to rob us of so many things. But college, being young, is something that we can’t take back.”
TSU officials announced a few months ago that the university will be open and fully operational for the fall 2021-22 academic year, with continued enforcement of federal and state health and safety regulations. For instance, all students, faculty, staff and other campus community members are asked to wear face coverings while indoors, and social distancing is also stressed.
“We remain resolute in our commitment to provide a top-quality education and productive work environment in a safe and healthy atmosphere,” TSU President Glenda Glover said in a recent message to the campus family. “However, the University is prepared to adjust its course delivery model, including the implementation of a hybrid academic model, as well as other operational changes, at some point during the fall semester, if new or evolving COVID-19 related health and safety concerns warrant such adjustments.  We will continue to monitor Centers for Disease and Control (CDC), as well as state and local guidance, on developments involving COVID-19 and related variants. Federal, state, and local health and safety guidance will continue to drive the University’s actions regarding course delivery and in-person operations affecting the TSU community.”
All residence halls will be open and in-person student activities will resume, according to TSU officials. Most administrators and staff returned to full in-person operations in July, and faculty will resume in-person classes and academic operations on Aug. 9. However, there will still be some online options.
Since TSU began remote operations in March 2020 due to the pandemic, the university has maintained stringent safety measures on campus, including the wearing of face coverings and social distancing at all times, as well as regular cleaning and sanitizing of buildings.
The attention to safety will not change in the new academic year, said Dr. Curtis Johnson, TSU’s associate vice president and chief of staff.
“In preparation for this return to normalcy the university continues to comply with guidelines provided by the CDC and Metro Nashville Health Department recommendations,” said Johnson.
That includes mandatory wearing of face masks inside of facilities. Individuals are not required to wear a mask outside unless they are in a crowded environment. The university will also continue to provide COVID-19 testing, and students who test positive will still be isolated and quarantined. TSU is also working with various agencies to assist in providing the coronavirus vaccination.
“We understand that some students and employees have not received a COVID-19 vaccine because of logistical issues in getting vaccinated,” said Dr. Glover. “We plan to create convenient opportunities for TSU students and employees to receive the COVID-19 vaccine on campus commencing in August.”
Frank Stevenson, associate vice president of student affairs and dean of students, said he’s “excited to move towards (some type of) normalcy.” 
“However, we will still have several important things in place to protect our students and campus community,” said Stevenson.
“One tool that we used this year was the telehealth services, and we expect to continue that service for our students in the fall.”
Additionally, Stevenson said Student Affairs this fall will unveil new student engagement opportunities designed to better meet the goals of the university and divisional strategic plan. They include grassroots programming from student organizations, an increase in weekend and evening programming, and the return of Leadership TSU, a “program design to expose a cohort of TSU students to next level leadership in our city and state,” said Stevenson.
If safety is a concern, students returning to TSU said the university’s detailed attention to sanitizing the campus and other actions, like providing personal protective equipment (PPEs) to students, faculty and staff, should hopefully alleviate concerns of students on the fence about returning.
“TSU has worked hard to make sure everyone is safe,” said newly elected student government association president Derrick Sanders, a junior English major from Cincinnati, Ohio. “This year is the return of the Tiger,” TSU’s 2021 homecoming theme.
Student Akyra McDougal said being able to attend the first homecoming in-person in a year should be a major incentive for students to return to Big Blue.
“That’s something that’s major,” said McDougal, a mass communications major from Atlanta. “You only get to experience so many homecomings as a student in your life. You’re going to regret not coming back. You don’t want to be somewhere, and say, ‘I wish I would have.’”
To learn more about the university’s fall return plan, visit https://www.tnstate.edu/return/