Clemson president discusses return to campus this fall

By Jason Evans

Staff Reporter

CLEMSON — Clemson University will give face coverings to students and employees when they return to campus — and require them to be worn in a number of circumstances.

University president Jim Clements gave an update on the university’s return plan in a message issued Friday.

“We have made critical decisions around face coverings, testing and our academic plan that will provide our students, employees and communities with important safeguards against the spread of COVID-19,” Clements said.

The university’s approach to getting back on campus is built on “four foundation pillars,” he said.

The pillars are a “steadfast commitment” to the health and safety of all the members of the Clemson University community, stacking preventative measures to create the greatest possible protection against COVID-19 exposure and to limit its spread across the community, creating a return plan that is both comprehensive and flexible “providing the ability to adjust course quickly as circumstances dictate” and being aware that the “entire Clemson Family has a critical role to play” in a successful return to on-campus and in-person activities, Clements said.

“I can’t stress enough how important it is for every member of our community to do their part to mitigate the spread of this disease, especially among those most vulnerable,” he said. “Much of our work over the next several months will be focused on enforcing this social compact, or agreement, among members of the Clemson Family.”

Cloth face coverings will be mandatory in many instances, as they have been shown to be effective in preventing the virus’ spread, both from person to person and through contamination of contact surfaces, Clements said.

“The university is going to require all students and employees to wear face coverings in a number of circumstances while on university property,” Clements said.

Cloth face coverings will be required while in university buildings including housing and dining facilities, during all university programs held in non-university buildings, in outdoor spaces on campus where appropriate physical distancing cannot be guaranteed and in all university vehicles and while using university transportation/mass transit.

Face coverings are not required when alone in private offices, when alone in on-campus housing rooms and when not in close contact with another person, such as walking alone outside.

“The university has purchased 70,000 reusable cloth face coverings, and each student, faculty and staff members will receive two coverings upon return to campus or other university locations,” Clements said.

The university will require all students and employees to be tested for COVID-19 and, where possible, receive serologic testing for disease antibodies, prior to their arrival on campus in the fall, he said.

Testing will provide initial data on positive cases in the campus population and help minimize exposure on campus by identifying and isolating individuals prior to their arrival on campus, Clements said.

“Anyone who works for, lives at or is enrolled in a Clemson University program or facility must secure a negative COVID-19 test result within five days of returning to campus or other university location for the fall semester,” Clements said.

Those testing positive will be required to self-isolate for 10 days before returning to a Clemson location, he said.

“Details on testing locations and how to report tests will be provided in the near future,” Clements said.

Once the academic year begins, the university will conduct voluntary random-sample testing of students and employees on a regular basis to track prevalence and spread of the disease in the university community, he said.

As of Friday, no changes had been made to the published fall academic calendar, “but all instructors have been asked to prepare to pivot to entirely online learning should the circumstances dictate,” Clements said.

“In particular, we will closely monitor the progression of COVID-19 to determine whether a move to online instruction and final exams is necessary following the Thanksgiving holiday,” he said. “We are preparing to offer mainly in-class learning this year, with accommodations being made for properly physical distancing.”

Online delivery options will be available for most every class, Clements said. The university’s goal is for at least 75 percent of all courses to have some class periods dedicated to in-person interactions among instructors and students. All classes with in-person components will also be blended with online components.

Cameras and microphones will be installed in more than 400 classrooms to allow for live video streaming and recorded delivery of instruction, Clements said.

Classroom layouts are being adjusted to allow a minimum of six feet of physical distancing between individuals, he said.

“Collective action will determine the success of the university’s plan for in-person instruction and a genuine Clemson experience for the fall semester,” Clements said.

To that end, an awareness campaign, “Healthy Clemson: United as Tigers” has launched, focusing on the importance of frequent handwashing, physical distancing, responsible management of living spaces, limiting group sizes, participating in self-assessments, early self-referral to Redfern and Sullivan Center and recommended participation in contact tracing.

“Family takes care of family,” Clements said. “We need all of our students, faculty and staff to embrace the principle of being ‘All In’ this together. That means recognizing that actions and behaviors taken by individuals will have an impact on the larger community.”