Faculty and Staff - May 14, 2020

Dear Colleagues,

First, let me take this opportunity to thank all of you for your extraordinary patience and understanding as to the many uncertainties that have emerged during these unprecedented times.  You have clearly demonstrated the essence of Winthrop Spirit!

One of the most frequent questions we receive is when will the staff and faculty be able to return to work again on campus. To that end, many of you may have heard Governor's McMaster's announcement this week about state employees returning to work. I want to reassure you that the senior leadership is carefully reviewing the guidance received from the State Human Resources division and is incorporating that guidance into our planning that, as previously mentioned, is already underway.

What is positive about the state's three-phase plan is that we are being given significant discretion to manage our workforce. In addition, because of the success of employees adapting to working from home, we expect to continue liberal work-from-home practices to promote social distancing and mitigate disease transmission. 

We know that the First Phase of the state's plan impacts employees in FTE (full-time equivalent) positions whose work has not or cannot readily continue to be done remotely. Those employees will be back to work first. The state SC Department of Administration will provide guidance regarding when these employees will be returned to work, but it will be no later than June 1, 2020.  FTE employees who are not currently able to work from home may expect to hear from their supervisor prior to June 1 regarding the date they should report to their campus workplace.  In most cases, employees who are currently working from home will continue to work from home during the first phase of the return to the workplace plan.

The Second Phase of the return to the workplace plan will bring more employees back to their regular work location on campus.  The date the second phase begins will also be determined based on guidance from the SC Department of Administration.  We do know it will be no sooner than two weeks after the begin date of the first phase. 

We will take all appropriate measures to make employees feel as safe as possible in the workplace upon their return.  In addition, employees who are within the higher risk or special populations or who care for someone in the population vulnerable to COVID-19 should discuss their situation with their supervisor. Our Office of Human Resources, Employee Diversity, and Wellness also stands ready to assist employees who are simply not comfortable physically returning to the workplace at this time.

The Third Phase has yet to be determined but in essence it will be launched, “on the advice and guidance of DHEC, but at a minimum of two weeks following the start of Phase 2.” At this point, the Third Phase launch is highly dependent on, “the advice of health professionals, the reopening of schools and the widespread availability of child-care options.”

As we continue our divisional back-to-work planning, we will maintain our emphasis on the health and safety of our faculty and staff. I will share more information on our institutional plans once additional details are finalized. Thank you again for your patience and flexibility during these unusual times.


George W. Hynd
Interim President