JUNE 12: Update from President McPhee RE: COVID-19

To our University community:

As we prepare to enter Phase 1 of our return to work plan, next Tuesday, June 16, I wanted to remind each of you about the important steps that must be taken before you come back to campus and provide a brief update on some recent decisions, including changes to our August commencement and convocation ceremonies.

Each of you should have received communications, both from my office, as well as your supervisor, on the policies and procedures developed by our COVID-19 Task Force regarding our return to work.  Information about our plans and our expectations for each individual can be found here on our Coronavirus information page.  Regardless of which phase you are in, before any employee returns to campus, you must log into your Pipeline account and complete the Return to Work agreement, verifying your agreement to comply with our mitigation plan.

Also, as part of our efforts to safely reopen our campus in August, I wanted to share information on changes to key campus activities and operations.

August Commencement 

It is with the greatest regret that I share with you that we will not be able to host our August Commencement ceremonies in Murphy Center.  I know this is an enormous disappointment, especially to our August graduates and the many May graduates who intended to participate in our summer celebration, but also to their family members and friends.  However, our first and greatest priority continues to be the health and safety of our university community, and we simply don’t believe that it is prudent to gather together thousands of attendees at this time as we prepare for the reopening of our campus for the Fall 2020 semester.

  • August graduates will receive our signature MTSU TrueBlue Graduation Box, as did our May graduates. 
  • August graduates will be invited to pick up their TrueBlue Graduation Box at our Philips Bookstore, from Friday, July 31 through Friday, August 7. 
  • At the time of pick-up, August graduates will also receive their cap and gown.  The actual diploma will not be included in these TrueBlue Graduation Boxes, but will be mailed later in August, after all summer term grades are finalized and degrees conferred. 
  • Students not able to come to campus July 31 – August 7 will have the box mailed to their listed diploma address after diplomas are printed.  

And, as was true in the spring, we hope many of you will be able to walk the stage and participate in one of our future commencement ceremonies.   More information will be emailed to graduates and posted on our MTSU Graduation website in the coming weeks.

Any May 2020 graduate who ordered their academic regalia directly from the Josten’s website will be invited to pick up those items from the Bookstore during the same time period, Friday, July 31 through Friday, August 7.


The cornerstone of our fall opening activities is our annual Convocation ceremony, where new students are welcomed into the MTSU community, and we hear a message delivered by the author of our summer reading book.  However, the same public health issues will impact this year’s Convocation as are impacting our August Commencement—preventing us from gathering in Murphy Center to celebrate the beginning of the year in our traditional fashion.

However, we believe that we can still accomplish the goals of Convocation through an alternative format. 

  • For this year’s incoming class, we are planning to host a decentralized Convocation based on academic major. 
  • Students will experience their welcome with the faculty of their academic discipline, as each department hosts Convocation for their new students. 
  • We expect that Convocation will take place in one of 40 designated on campus locations, and will combine face-to-face interaction with students and faculty as well as video presentations from President McPhee and Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha, author of our common summer reading, “What the Eyes Don’t See:  A Story of Crisis, Resistance, and Hope in an American City.”  

I look forward to welcoming our newest members of the MTSU community to our Convocation in August.  Dates and times will be announced soon. 

Online Course Fee

Because our response to the pandemic will limit the number of fully on-ground courses we can teach in Fall 2020, some students who prefer on-ground classes will be taking online or hybrid courses instead. In recognition of this, we will waive the online course fee for Fall.  

 Event space for classrooms

We are planning to convert certain large spaces on campus, like our Student Union ballrooms, the KUC Theater and other large meeting spaces to academic classrooms. As such, we anticipate significant impact on our ability to host events in those venues through the fall semester.

The University is inventorying these spaces, determining occupancy levels using social distancing guidelines, and reviewing events already scheduled or usually schedule in these spaces.  Academic Affairs will then determine which spaces can be used for instruction. 

Events in spaces that probably will not be used for instruction (such as the Tennessee Miller Coliseum and the Tennessee Livestock Center) will start allowing events beginning Aug. 1. However, vendors will be required to agree to current State guidelines for social distancing and other measures.

Finally, let me again express how much I appreciate your patience and your commitment to our university as we work through these challenging times.  Please stay safe – stay healthy and have a great weekend.


Sidney A. McPhee

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