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Five Tusculum University students test positive for COVID-19, reschedules graduation for August

The university said the students had traveled together during spring break.

GREENE COUNTY, Tenn. — UPDATE: As of Tuesday, March 24, five Tusculum University students tested positive for COVID-19. None of the students were on campus for several days, according to the university.

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Tusculum University has rescheduled spring commencement to August due to the coronavirus, to ensure graduating students still have an opportunity to formally celebrate their academic accomplishments, according to a release from the university.

The university was originally set to hold graduation Saturday, May 9, but Tusculum has now scheduled the ceremony for Saturday, Aug. 8. Graduation will occur at 10:30 a.m. in Pioneer Arena and be held for spring and summer graduates.

“Our students have worked diligently to earn their degrees, and we want them to walk across the stage and relish that moment as long as it is safe,” said Dr. Scott Hummel, Tusculum’s president. “Tusculum reviewed this matter carefully and concluded that rescheduling the ceremony for August would be an optimal step to protect people’s health and celebrate our graduates.”

Graduates will not have to wait until August to have their degrees conferred and their diplomas awarded to enable them to reference their degrees on their resumes and applications for advanced degree programs, said Dr. Tricia Hunsader, Tusculum’s provost and vice president of academic affairs. 

The August commencement date provides a bonus for summer graduates. Tusculum has not previously held commencement in the summer, and this modification will enable graduates who complete their degree requirements during the summer to officially celebrate earlier, according to the university. 

In addition to graduation, Tusculum has postponed or canceled all events in which more than 10 people were scheduled to attend. The university is making every effort to reschedule events. Tusculum might convert some smaller events to a virtual or social media alternative.

This comes after three Tusculum University students who traveled together for spring break tested positive for COVID-19. 

The first two were diagnosed last week. The third patient was announced on Monday.

In a release, Tusculum said none of the students have been on the campus for several days and they are notifying the Northeast Tennessee Regional Health Office of the names of everyone who has had contact with them.

The university instructed all nonessential personnel to begin working remotely after the first student tested positive. It also told students on campus that it will be closing residence halls.

"Tusculum University is committed to the well-being of all students, faculty and staff and will continue to be a resource for anyone who needs assistance," they said in a statement.

The university said its classes will continue to function it remains on track to finish the remainder of the spring semester.

"Our prayers go to the student who tested positive, as well as anyone else who might have had contact with that person."

The university said it also informed the Tusculum family and are continuing to encourage them to practice appropriate measures to minimize their risk of contracting the coronavirus.

To see a list of schedule changes, please visit www.tusculum.edu/coronavirus.

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