Lee University Suspends Classes till end of March due to Coronavirus



Hello Lee students –

As you know, the nature and scope of the Coronavirus emergency is changing, almost hourly. As it does, we here at Lee are constantly re-evaluating our path forward, and I have a new announcement to share with you:

We feel it is best not to resume classes on campus until March 30. During the next two weeks, we will be delivering instruction via “Zoom”, using the internet and your smartphones. Dr. Debbie Murray and I are calling the faculty together for an all-day training session next Monday, and we will be ready to roll out these “virtual classes” by Thursday, March 19. Instruction will continue by this method until we are able to come back together, God willing, on March 30.

Our offices, dorms, and dining services will be open throughout this two-week period for those who depend on them. But there will be no group meetings, classes, chapels, or other gatherings.

You will be getting full details on all of this soon, so please check your email and our website frequently. If you have immediate questions, email us at pconn@leeuniversity.edu or Dr. Murray at debmurray@leeuniversity.edu, and we will direct you to someone who can answer you. But please be patient with us; we are obviously improvising as the situation unfolds, and our best people are working on it around the clock.

This plan, like all others, is subject to change as circumstances change. So stay in touch! And stay flexible! I will keep communicating with you, as we work our way through this situation. Remember: “The Lord knows those who are His.” That means all of us!

Paul Conn


I’m writing with an update about the COVID-19 situation and how we are responding on our campus. Please forgive me for being simple and just sticking with these few points of information:

    1. The Coronavirus level in our area is still very low.
      This is a fluid and rapidly evolving situation, but as of today, there are no reports of this virus in our community (Bradley County) or the larger region of Southeast Tennessee. That includes our campus, of course. Although our students are scattered for the spring break week, we know of no cases of the virus among our Lee students or employees.
    2. We will screen and/or test students and staff returning from international trips before they return to their dorms or classrooms.
      This applies to everyone who has spent the spring break on a school-sponsored trip, as well as all other students who self-identify as being in an at-risk category. That includes international travel, known contact with a person who has tested as positive for COVID-19, or the presence of symptoms such as fever, persistent cough. This screening will be done by our health services staff in our clinic on-campus, and in cooperation with local hospitals. Directions for this process are on our website coronavirus pages.
    3. To provide time for this process and other precautions, we are extending Spring Break for one extra day, so classes won’t begin until Tuesday, March 17.
      This gives students one extra day of Spring Break, and we hope you will spend the day at home with your families or elsewhere. Dorms, offices and food services will operate on Monday, as originally scheduled, but there will be no classes.
    4. We are engaging in numerous other measures to prevent COVID-19 from reaching our campus.
      These measures include a high level of deep cleaning and disinfecting common buildings and areas of the campus, various changes to our procedures in the dining hall and food services by Sodexo, a self-assessment early-warning instrument to be administered by our Health Clinic staff, and additional training for appropriate personnel in Student Development.
    5. Global Perspectives trips for the summer are being evaluated on a case-by-by basis.
      If you plan to take a Lee international trip this summer, please talk with your faculty director after you return to campus. We will be making the call on each trip as soon as it is possible to do so intelligently. Some of the trips are in jeopardy, and others seem not to be, but we are working very hard to make those decisions with all information available to us, and that process takes time.
    6. Should the situation change, we are developing further contingency plans.
      We all know how rapidly these circumstances can change, and our Provost and Vice President for Academics, Dr. Debbie Murray, and I are meeting with a Task Force to stay on top of the situation as it develops. So please go to our website (www.leeuniversity.edu) and refer to it often, in case there are further changes.

This is a serious problem, and it is sobering to consider how best to deal with it. All we can do is stay as well-informed as possible, respond intelligently to the facts we have without a spirit of fear or panic, and remember that we are all in God’s hands, and He is with us – with Lee University and with you individually.

I love you all very much, and I’m so eager to see you again!

Paul Conn


The following letter was sent by President Conn to all students on March 5, 2020. More information will be released on Wednesday, March 11.

As you prepare for the long-awaited Spring Break week, I want to write to talk about the Coronavirus threat, and how we are approaching it here on campus.

Our first priority is your safety and good health. We want to stay alert to the implications for Lee students and staff as this situation evolves. At this point, we have no reason to believe there is an immediate threat to our campus, but we are determined to be proactive in being ready to respond, should it be necessary. There have been no cases reported on our campus, and only one (so far) in the state of Tennessee. Nevertheless, we are preparing contingency plans to respond, should it become necessary. We are taking a “better safe than sorry” approach, hoping and praying that such contingency plans prove to be unnecessary. Here are a few things I would like you to know:

  1. I have assembled a Task Force including some of our top administrators and staff to monitor the COVID-19 crisis. This team is reporting to me daily with updates and direction on whatever steps we need to take as the situation unfolds.
  2. During the spring break, our physical plant personnel are evaluating any campus buildings for potential plans for “deep cleaning and disinfectant” before students return on March 16.
  3. We are particularly mindful of the students involved in our Global Perspectives trips. Three Spring Break trips begin this week, with approximately 50 students scheduled to travel to Italy, Ireland, and Honduras. We believe there is no reason to cancel the trips to Ireland or Honduras, and these trips are going forward as planned. The trip to Italy, however, would take students into a country which has had a significant Coronavirus outbreak, so we have cancelled plans to take students to Italy this week. Alternate travel plans have been developed, and the group will be touring the UK instead, and although they are disappointed not to be going to Italy, these students are cheerfully accepted a rerouted itinerary to London, Cambridge, Oxford, and other areas of England.

    We are continuing to plan our summer trips to various parts of the world, and will be monitoring all available information to make decisions on a case-by-case basis, depending on the destination of the trip, the time of departure, and available advice from the State Department, the World Health Organization, and the CDC (Centers for Disease Control). Fortunately, we have a few weeks to make final decisions about each of these trips, and we think the best approach is to defer decisions until we have more information. Generally, we will not take trips into countries where there is a CDC Level 3 warning (avoid nonessential travel), a State Department Level 4 travel advisory (do not travel), or where the host country itself is restricting or banning travel. If you are planning to travel on a Lee University summer trip, you will hear from our Global Perspectives Office during the next few weeks about the status of your trip.

  4. Our Lee University Health Clinic is monitoring all available information from the CDC, the Tennessee Department of Health, and other agencies to train and prepare to respond immediately to any eventual case of COVID-19 which might occur on our campus.

I want to assure you that we are vigorously engaged in this issue here at Lee. We don’t want our decisions to be driven by fear or social media, but we do want to be prudent and make decisions that, if necessary, err on the side of your health and safety. If you have any questions or comments, please direct them to our Provost, Dr. Debbie Murray, who is leading the Task Force and communicating with me about it at each step. You may email her at debmurray@leeuniversity.edu.

Right now, my prayer for you is that you will travel safely over this Spring Break, enjoy a restful time with the people you love, and return on March 16 ready to have a wonderful final six weeks of the semester.

May God hold you close. I love each one of you.

Paul Conn

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