UTC students embrace return to normalcy

University says masks are still "welcomed in all indoor locations"

CHATTANOOGA (WDEF) — UTC students were back on campus today for their first day of classes this fall semester.

After recent years of online lectures and campus restrictions, some say it feels as if school is back to normal once again.

While UTC says masks are still “welcomed” indoors, some students say campus already feels more relaxed this year than in 20-21.

For several reasons, whether social or academic, several students say that the calmer environment towards COVID guidelines is helping them better focus on the year ahead.

UTC junior Jasmyne White was still a freshman in 2020 and was on spring break when she received the news.

“They sent out a school-wide email and [were], like, ‘we’re going to take another week off,'” White said. “So we [were] like, ‘second spring break!’ Then it was, like, ‘stay home.’ So I was, like, ‘oh’ — had to move all our stuff out immediately.”

One UTC official says the university’s guidelines are still the same as they were in 2021, and that masks are “suggested” while indoors on campus.

But several students say that on just their first day of school, the atmosphere on campus feels more relaxed and a sense of pre-pandemic normalcy has returned.

“My professor was, like, ‘you don’t have to wear a mask, but I’m going to wear mine anyway,'” said UTC senior Josh Booker. “People are still thinking about it, teachers are at least, but no one else has had a mask on. So it’s nice getting to see everybody’s faces. I think everyone forgot about everything — it’s nice out here.”

UTC Freshman Joe Sims says when his high school classes went online, his and his friends’ efforts in class disappeared.

His appreciation for his academics has only grown since.

Sims says he’s grateful for being back in class again in person — especially for his college career.

“I’m rooming with two friends from high school and that’s how we did it,” Sims said. “When we got to online school, we just took our foot off the gas and let go. But now we’re back in person and you get to actually get hands-on stuff in class. It’s just better for you without COVID and you get to go and meet everyone.”

One student I spoke with earlier told me she hasn’t been in school since 2019 and felt as if, quote, “nothing has changed except a higher level of education.”

While some Mocs are enjoying the relaxed atmosphere, the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga had previously released an official statement saying, “all University events are subject to change based on prevailing public health conditions.”

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