College of Charleston President Andrew T. Hsu shared the following message regarding the College’s plans for in-person classes with the campus community on Friday, Aug. 28, 2020:
Dear Campus Community:
As we celebrate the completion of the first week of classes during one of the most uncommon periods in school history, I want to update you on our commitment to return and begin in-person/hybrid classes on September 14.
Let me be clear: Our plan is to return on September 14. But nothing during this pandemic is carved in stone. If conditions change before or after September 14, we will pivot. As you know, we are taking a thoughtful and deliberate approach to planning this return, and we also ask for your flexibility and patience as we bring students back onto campus and return to the traditional classroom setting.
Throughout the summer, the College’s COVID-19 response team has closely monitored several factors and data points in order to make our decision to reopen. This team made and will continue to make decisions based on facts, science and input from the campus community, as well as guidance and advice from local, state and federal public health agencies.
Some of the metrics we are using include the following: average growth in new cases (seven-day trends for Charleston County, Tri-County region and state); actual new cases (county, Tri-County and state); percent positive rate (seven-day trends for the county, Tri-County and state); healthcare capacity in the Tri-County region; supply and availability of on-campus quarantine and isolation rooms/beds; percent positive rate from random testing on campus; face covering compliance; turnaround times for testing and contact-tracing and the number of reported super-spreader events. We will monitor these numbers in a holistic way and will not focus on any single criterion.
Like many businesses and institutions across the country, the College has put into place numerous health and safety measures, including requirements for face coverings, social distancing, daily wellness checks and sanitization, to name a few. However, despite these many new health and safety measures, we fully expect to see positive cases on campus this fall. Our ability to remain on campus will be largely determined by how we contain and manage through these expected upticks.
No matter what, we are committed to transparency. We will keep the campus community informed about active and total case counts and other metrics via an online dashboard on the Back on the Bricks website, which will launch in the days to come. By delaying in-person instruction to start this semester, we bought ourselves precious time to continue preparing, and we have learned many lessons from other campuses. What we have seen, in so many instances, is that students hold the cards for helping universities return to campus and to stay on campus.
The College will not take chances with the health and safety of our broader community. All students, student organizations and clubs will be held accountable for violations of the Student Code of Conduct, especially those measures outlined in the Cougar Pledge. To our students, I ask you: Is violating these simple preventative measures, such as going to a large party, worth getting suspended over or worth getting the entire campus closed again?
The College will also be working closely with Charleston officials, including city police, county sheriff’s department, downtown neighborhood associations, the mayor’s office, city council and county council to help us enforce limitations on off-campus gatherings and parties.
Even though a “normal” semester during a pandemic is wishful thinking, I do believe this fall can still be a great semester – one full of intellectual development, growth and discovery.
I know we all have a lot of concerns. Things are going to be very different for our campus community until there is a vaccine or effective treatment. So, we must all adjust. We must all follow the rules outlined in the Back on the Bricks plan. Like many coaches say to their teams before the big game, we are only as strong as the weakest link in our chain.
That is true on the playing field, and that is also true in our preparations and plans for this fall.
I look forward to seeing everyone back on campus. Go Cougars!
Andrew T. Hsu, Ph.D.
College of Charleston