Compassion, Flexibility and Creativity During a Pandemic

Category: Features

KNOXVILLE, TN – AUGUST 29, 2020 – Chancellor Donde Plowman and members of the Tennessee Lady Volunteer Softball team during the March on UT in Knoxville, TN. Photo By Andrew Ferguson/Tennessee Athletics


by Tyra Haag


KNOXVILLE – Compassion. Flexibility. Creativity. Those are the three principles UT Knoxville Chancellor Donde Plowman has used to lead the university during the COVID-19 pandemic. At a time when everyone is under additional stress and uncertainly, providing resources to help faculty and staff cope during the pandemic is especially important. 

Employees have access to a 24/7 emergency help line; self-paced online courses on coping with coronavirus anxiety; online therapy assistance; counseling hotline; classes on cooking, mindfulness, fitness and other topics; and numerous health education and wellness programs. In addition, supervisors have been encouraged to stay connected to those working from home and on campus to continue our strong community spirit.

To mitigate the spread of the virus, facilities services has enhanced cleaning across campus. The university is requiring face coverings, and is providing them to all students and employees. Wipes are available in classroom buildings. Hand sanitizer stations have been placed throughout campus. Signage and physical barriers have been added to help ensure social distancing. The university also installed touchless faucets. It is encouraging touchless transactions and adding mobile ordering for food. Classrooms and common areas have been reconfigured to increase physical distance.  

All employees are required to perform daily temperature checks and fill out a health-screen app. University researchers also are conducting wastewater surveillance testing to try and catch cases before they become outbreaks.


As outlined in Plowman’s July 7 message to campus, the university has committed to real and sustained action to combat systemic racism. Members of Plowman’s leadership team met with the Commission for Blacks, the co-directors of the Critical Race Collective, coaches, current and former faculty members, staff members and others who shared their personal stories and professional expertise to better understand the nature of systems that perpetuate racism and inequity. 

Under Plowman’s leadership, and in coordination with experts on and off campus, the university is working to: identify and dismantle inequitable systems and structures on campus; recruit and retain diverse faculty, staff and students; advance a culture of equity and inclusion; and strengthen and develop ongoing relationships with Tennessee’s diverse communities and organizations.

These commitments build on important work already being done on campus and represent the beginning of a sustained push to advance diversity, equity and inclusion. Everyone within the Volunteer community is invited to help make meaningful and sustained change. 

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