The UT Board of Trustees held a special virtual meeting on April 20 in which they reviewed and approved revised additions to the Student Code of Conduct for the UT Knoxville campus and the student immunization rules which will apply to all UT campuses.
Ryan Stinnett, the general council of the Board of Trustees, explained the proposed changes to the code of conduct, which are intended to better address hate speech and actions on campus.
“The proposed changes include incorporating UTK’s principles of civility and community, streamlining the academic misconduct process and addressing the educational and developmental process for students,” Stinnett said.
“The revised rule and the revisions there to, also clarify certain terms in the rules so that they now more accurately comply with Tennessee law and with other student codes that are at other campuses across the UT system.”
After Stinnett explained the rule and the revision details, the Board decided to adopt the revised rules with all members in favor of the revision.
The revised rule will now be sent to the state attorney general for final legal approval. If the attorney general signs off on the rule, it will be followed up with the Secretary of State. It will then go into effect 90 days from the date it is filed.
The next order of business was to review a change to student immunization rules. The Board dealt with this rule back in August 2020 when they passed an emergency rule under the Administrative Procedures Act that required students to have both the flu and COVID-19 immunizations.
Then, in November 2020, they passed a permanent student immunization rule that included COVID-19 and influenza vaccines along with a number of other vaccines.
The revised rule being proposed now covers measles, mumps, rubella chickenpox, meningitis and hepatitis B, but has taken out the COVID-19 and flu immunizations requirement.
The rule would not require the COVID-19 vaccine at the University of Tennessee, but it would be heavily encouraged.
“The proposed rule continues to recognize exceptions for students exclusively online and [those who] are not on campus, students who have a medical contradiction as documented by their physician, students who have or [whose] parents have a religious objection to any particular vaccines and, finally, students who have any legal or statutory exemption,” Stinnett said.
The Board of Trustees voted to adopt the revised student immunization requirements rule.
Member Jamie Woodson commented on the decision made after the motion was passed and commended the leadership of Randy Boyd.
“This feels like the exact right place to be. … It feels like the right posture for us to be in to encourage, but to not have a rule requiring it (immunization for COVID-19). I appreciate the way this has evolved in board discussions,” Woodson said.
To conclude the meeting, Chairman John Compton stated his desire that people be vaccinated if possible.
“These are personal choices people will be making and I would strongly encourage everyone who is a stakeholder in the University of Tennessee’s system to consider getting vaccinated,” Compton said.
The Board of Trustees hopes to have both of these rules in effect by the fall 2021 semester. The next board meeting in June is expected to be in person and held in Memphis, Tennessee.