Coronavirus Update Archive

This archive documents some of the important messages that Southern has sent out to campus as the coronavirus situation evolves. While this page is not comprehensive, Southern continues to send announcements to students and employees as more information becomes available. 

January 12, 2021 - Join a Q&A with President Smith

January 12, 2021

Dear Student,

The new semester is right around the corner, and we look forward to seeing you on campus soon! Knowing that there have been some changes since Fall, we want to make sure you have the opportunity to get your questions answered. 

You are invited to a Q&A session on Zoom with President David Smith, PhD, on Thursday, January 14, at 6 p.m. EST. Please submit your questions at by noon on Thursday. 

(Check your Southern email account for the Zoom link.)

January 12, 2021 - Important Winter 2021 Information

January 12, 2021

As we gear up for the Winter 2021 semester at Southern Adventist University, your health and safety continue to be our highest priority. Several policies and procedures have been updated, so we want to make you aware of important information to consider as you return to campus:

COVID-19 Testing

  • GIFT CARD: Southern is offering a $50 gift card as an incentive to get tested before arriving on campus. In case you missed the email with details, you can read it in the Coronavirus Update Archive. 
  • TESTING CAPACITY: The University Health Center has increased their testing capacity, and throughout the semester, any student or employee who wishes to be tested can make an appointment for a free test. Priority for appointments will be given to students who are sick or who have been exposed to someone who has COVID-19.

Do Not Come to Campus Sick
If you do not feel well and have not yet arrived on campus this semester, please stay in place until having consulted with the University Health Center. If you test positive for COVID-19, you should not return to campus until the University Health Center has cleared you to return. You should follow the quarantine and isolation protocols and work with your professors to receive accommodations. If this delays your flight plans, you should pursue a free ticket change with your air carrier. If fees are still incurred, the university will reimburse your ticket change fees up to $200. You can send flight change fee receipts to

Currently COVID-19 vaccinations in the State of Tennessee are limited and being administered in a voluntary, phased program; students participating in clinical activities are eligible and can obtain a letter from their clinical department coordinator as proof. The Hamilton County Health Department is giving the vaccines on certain days of the week for qualifying individuals. For more information, please visit their COVID-19 Vaccine website. Currently the University Health Center is not administering COVID-19 vaccines, as it is not an approved site for emergency distribution.

Quarantine and Isolation Procedures
Based on the latest Health Department recommendations and data collected last semester, the University Health Center has updated the quarantine and isolation policy to minimize quarantine’s impact on the student body while still being safe and effective. View Southern’s updated COVID-19 Policy and Procedures document for full details.

Class Attendance 
During the Fall 2020 semester, there was some confusion about Southern’s attendance policy. On December 17, Academic Administration sent out an email providing clarity for the Winter 2021 semester. You can read the email in the Coronavirus Update Archive or review the policy.

Enrichment Credits 
Your participation in spiritual, cultural, and educational programming outside the classroom is an important part of your well-rounded experience at Southern. Because of this, a modified Enrichment Credit program will resume this semester. Due to COVID-19, the following adjustments have been put in place:

  • Required credits have been reduced.
  • In-person attendance will not be necessary to meet the enrichment credit requirements. Credit will be given for online participation in qualifying events, such as vespers and Critical Conversations.
  • No “Cultural Credits” will be required.

For more details, visit the Student Development website.

In This Together
We were thrilled to be able to stay on campus together as scheduled for the Fall 2020 semester! That was only possible because so many of you took the safety precautions seriously and worked together to keep campus healthy and safe. Thank you! As the pandemic wears on, it’s tempting to let our guard down, but hang in there. Continue to:

  • Wear your mask
  • Stay 6 feet from others
  • Wash your hands often
  • Clean and disinfect regularly
  • Cover your coughs and sneezes
  • Maintain your overall health: eat well (avoiding excess sugar and junk food), drink lots of water, spend time outside in the fresh air and sunshine, get plenty of exercise, and work to reduce stress
  • Consider getting the COVID-19 vaccine as soon as you are eligible
  • Monitor how you feel and DO NOT GO TO CLASS OR WORK if you have potential cold, flu, or COVID-19 symptoms; call the University Health Center (423.236.2713). 

For the full, updated COVID-19 Policies and Procedures, visit Please remember that it is your responsibility under the Covenant of Care to be familiar with these safety measures and abide by them.

We anticipate a fun and meaningful semester and can’t wait for your soon return to campus. Thank you again for making Southern Adventist University your university of choice!

January 7, 2021 - COVID-19 Testing

January 7, 2021

Dear Students,

Happy New Year! We eagerly anticipate your return to the Southern community for Winter 2021. Looking ahead, I’m reminded of the Bible’s emphasis on the interconnectivity of the “body of Christ.” Each of us have been called to work together in unity and to look out for each other, “loving others as God loves them.”

Last semester, God blessed our collaborative efforts to stay safe and healthy, allowing us to remain together on campus, despite the pandemic. As we enter this new semester, we recognize the need for renewed vigilance so that we can start and end the school year strong!

Incentives for COVID-19 Testing Before Arrival 
University administration and student leaders have wrestled with how to best provide an even safer campus experience as we come back together. Two ways that we believe we can do that are by expanding the amount of COVID-19 testing available on our campus throughout the semester and strongly encouraging every student and employee to test before returning to campus. We will give you a $50 Village Market gift card* to THANK YOU for taking that important test. Details follow.

Who is eligible for the gift card?
Every student can receive the $50 Village Market gift card by completing a COVID-19 test no more than five days before arriving on campus. Additionally, those who have tested positive for COVID-19 within the last 90 days or have received the first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine are also eligible for the gift card without a recent test.

How do I receive the gift card?
Upload documentation of your test or vaccine by visiting You can submit your documentation between Wednesday, January 13, and Thursday, January 21. After your documentation has been uploaded, you may pick up the gift card in the Student Center between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m., Tuesday through Friday, beginning Thursday, January 14, until Friday, January 22. Please allow at least two hours after submitting your documentation before picking up your gift card.

When do I need to have the test?
You should complete the test no more than five days prior to your arrival back to campus. Plan so that your test results are in hand before your arrival. If you are already on campus, you must complete your test before classes begin. Tests are available at the University Health Center by appointment (priority given to those without transportation) or the Hamilton County testing facility. When testing at the Hamilton County Health Department, please take your Southern ID card and use it to inform them that you are a Southern student. Provide them with your address at Southern as well.

What if I haven’t received my test results before I return to campus?
We strongly encourage planning so that your test results arrive before coming to campus. However, if they have not arrived by your departure time, come to campus as planned. If the test results arrive before the January 21 submission deadline, you are still eligible for the gift card.

Will I need to quarantine while waiting for my test results?
During the period before January 21, if you do not have symptoms or COVID-19 exposure, Southern will not require you to quarantine while waiting for your test results.

What if I test positive for COVID-19?
If you test positive, you should stay at your current location and not return to campus until the University Health Center has cleared you to return. You should follow the quarantine and isolation protocols and work with your professors to receive accommodations. If this delays your flight plans, you should pursue a free ticket change with your air carrier. If fees are still incurred, the university will reimburse your ticket change fees up to $200. You can send flight change fee receipts to

What type of test do I need?
We will accept a PCR or a rapid antigen test. We will not accept an antibody test. 

What does it cost to get a COVID-19 test? 
It varies by where you get tested. However, your county health department should provide free testing. Keep in mind that for some counties you will need to make an appointment.

What if I have additional questions about testing?
The email address has been created specifically to cover any questions you may have.

We realize testing right before arriving on campus may be challenging given the timeframe, but the national and global surge of COVID-19 cases during the holidays makes it more urgent than ever to take as many precautions as possible to start the year with a healthy campus. We urge you to be tested for the safety of those traveling alongside you and for your Southern family. 

Please consider taking us up on this incentive and getting tested before arriving so that, together, we get the semester off to a good start. I’m looking forward to seeing you back on campus and witnessing how God works in and through you over the next few months. 

May God bless you,

David Smith

*Please be aware that if you are employed by Southern, this gift card is a taxable item. You will see the tax deducted via payroll on the pay day following receipt of the gift card. If you have any questions about this, please direct them to Human Resources: or 423.236.2823.

December 17, 2020 - Clarification: Attendance Policy W2021

December 17, 2020

Dear Southern Students,

We look forward to welcoming each of you safely back to campus in 2021, and we hope you experience a healthy and joy-filled holiday. Following is helpful information about the past and upcoming semesters’ attendance policies. 

As you know, the standing attendance policy was modified for the Fall 2020 semester. In order to ensure the safety of students, staff, and faculty due to the pandemic, the university adopted a policy of not connecting grades to student attendance during the fall semester. We did not remove the expectation of class attendance. With traditional attendance policies, some students feel compelled to attend class even when they are feeling unwell. When we adjusted course attendance policies for the Fall 2020 semester, our intention was to promote the health and safety of students and faculty by removing incentives for ill students to attend class. Under these guidelines, students were not to be penalized if they missed class due to illness. The amended policy was not intended to: 

  • Suggest that students did not need to attend class when they were well enough to do so, or
  • Discourage students from attending class or engaging in face-to-face learning while healthy.

To the contrary, Southern’s faculty, staff, and administration wanted to give students the leeway to remain at home when they were ill, without the additional stress of pending grade penalty for absence. Additionally, we have put extensive effort into making in-person, face-to-face classroom learning safe and feasible. 

Unfortunately, it appears that many students misunderstood the amended policy and were absent for reasons other than illness, which detrimentally affected learning environments and, in many cases, their grades. For this reason, Academic Administration and the University Senate collaborated to develop a revised policy for the Winter 2021 semester that resolved this issue while still addressing the need for safety. This policy incorporates the long-standing attendance policy (currently published in the 2020-2021 Undergraduate Catalog) with new directives that specifically indicate how attendance will be addressed during the COVID 19 pandemic for the Winter semester.

Following are the key items to note for the Winter 2021 attendance policy:

Virtual Class Option: For those students who cannot attend face-to-face classes for health reasons or are concerned about COVID-related safety, certain classes combining virtual and face-to-face delivery method will be offered.

  • These classes will be determined by each university school or department before the semester of classes begins. If you have questions about this option, please contact Ms. Karon Powell ( or Dr. Dionne Felix (
  • Students must submit a formal request to academic administration, by January 28, 2021, to enroll in these classes.
    • Email your request to Dr. Dionne Felix (, and
    • State specifically why you need to take classes online.

Important Note: Please be mindful that not every class will have a virtual option. If you are sick, in quarantine or isolation, accommodations will be made for you. Again, you will need to communicate with your professors about your situation, and to make the necessary arrangements to complete all assignments. Permanently switching to virtual class options in the middle of the term will not be allowed, except in atypical circumstances, and with the appropriate approval from the university school or department and academic administration. 

Your Academic Success: Class attendance is an important part of your academic success. Absences interrupt your academic progress, minimize student-to-student and student-to-professor interaction, and significantly diminish the value of your learning experience. While some absences are unavoidable, communicating with your professors is critical. 

Absences do not excuse you from meeting the outlined class requirements. You are responsible for completing and submitting all assignments required for the class. If you must be absent, it is your responsibility to complete any work you have missed. To do so:

  • Notify your professor(s) before absences from class or within 24 hours of the missed class period.
  • Work with your professors on a plan to complete and submit outstanding work by an agreed-upon deadline.
  • Complete outstanding work, and get caught up on instructional course content that you missed during your absence. 

If you choose not to communicate with your professors, they cannot help you if they do not hear from you. Remember that regular absences from classes will result in negative grade outcomes. 

To view the newly modified policy, click here

Your health is still our priority. The effectiveness of this semester’s attendance policy will be assessed, including the impact on the mental and physical well-being of students, and the policy will be adjusted if the need to do so becomes apparent. We will continue to do all that we can to help you complete a healthy, academically successful semester.

Kind regards,

Dr. Robert Young
Senior VP for Academic Administration

Dr. Dionne Felix
Associate VP for Academic Administration
Dean of Student Success and Retention

Dr. Tyson Hall
Associate VP for Academic Administration
Dean of Graduate and Professional Studies

December 15, 2020 - Merry Christmas!

December 15, 2020

Merry Christmas! This time of year reminds us of the joy of giving as we reflect on God's love to us through the gift of His Son. We pray that you will experience the power of God's salvation during this season. God has big plans for you, and I invite you to connect with Him in a deeper way as we begin the new year. Join our 21 Day Challenge for the New Year, beginning January 1. Click here for more details.

We wish you and your loved ones a safe and happy holiday season. We miss you on campus and look forward to seeing you in 2021!

Joseph Khabbaz, M.Div.
VP for Spiritual Life and Chaplain

Campus Ministries Office: 423.236.2787
Direct Office Number: 423.236.2786
Appointments: Schedule Here

October 6, 2020 - Changes to Winter 2021 Academic Calendar

October 6, 2020

Dear Students,

I admire your perseverance through the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic, and I applaud your cooperation with the safety precautions we’re taking here at Southern. Together with God’s blessings, we will make it through these difficult times!

We are eager to have you here as part of our campus family next semester and want you to know about some changes regarding the academic calendar. Of specific note, classes will begin on Tuesday, January 19, and midterm break will be March 18-19. The full revised calendar can be found below. These adjustments were voted by Southern’s University Senate and Board of Trustees.

Why were these changes made? The Christmas and New Year’s holiday is historically a time of togetherness. While we expect that you will take precautions, we felt it was important to allow a full 14-day window of time for you to find out if you had been exposed to COVID-19 over the holidays, before returning to campus. This will help us start the semester as healthy and safely as possible so that we can continue face-to-face instruction for you.

Why not extend the semester by a week and keep spring break as scheduled? We need to keep the original end date for the winter semester in order for our summer terms to progress on schedule. Our goal is to return to a normal schedule for students as soon as possible.

When will the residence halls open? The residence halls will close on November 22 when students leave for Thanksgiving Break and will reopen on January 13. If you need an exception, such as international students or December-graduating seniors, please talk to Lisa Hall, dean of students. We will do our best to work alongside you to meet your needs.

What if I already have plans made and/or flights booked? We are truly sorry for the inconvenience the calendar adjustments may cause! As you may know, our academic calendar is usually decided 10 years ahead, so making a change of this magnitude is highly unusual. But such are the times we are living in; we join you in hoping to return to normal as soon as possible! In the meantime, we ask for your understanding as you adjust your plans to fit with the new calendar.

How does this effect MLK Service Day? Unfortunately, due to the pandemic, we are unable to safely hold a service day on the scale that we usually do, so this year we have had to cancel the MLK Service Day on January 18.

More information about what the winter semester will look like is still to come. We will share details as soon as we are able to do so. Again, thank you for the part you are playing in keeping our campus family safe and healthy, allowing us all to continue in-person campus life! God has certainly blessed everyone’s efforts, and we praise Him for that. We also invite you to continue joining us in prayer for His ongoing protection.


Robert Young, PhD
Senior Vice President
Academic Administration
Southern Adventist University
Office: 423.236.2804

Revised W21 Calendar


Fall 2020 Updates

FAQ for Southern Students

Center for Disease Control and Prevention – Coronavirus Disease 2019 
 How it Spreads
 Prevention and Treatment
 Frequently Asked Questions 
TN Department of Health