Faculty and Staff - May 6, 2020

Dear Colleagues,

I hope this message finds you and your family healthy and safe. As I was contemplating what updates to bring to you at this time, it occurred to me that when I accepted this interim presidency I could not have imagined what we have now experienced as a campus community, and I certainly would not have believed in this amount of time on the job that I would have met so few of you, as well as so few of our students, alumni, and other constituents. 

Like many of you, I value the original form of “face time,” handshakes upon meeting, and eye contact when discussing matters of importance. I had a chance to do all those things with some of you in late January and in my first two weeks on campus. Since then, our communication has been limited, but I do hope you have seen, through the various announcements and decisions that have been made, my dedication to this university and its people. I sincerely hope I have begun to earn your trust.

Much uncertainly clearly remains on such important questions as when will campus open and will instruction be “in person” rather than remote in the fall. While I cannot answer those questions, I do want to update you on some of what the senior leadership has determined as we await more information from Governor McMaster, DHEC, the CDC, etc.

Immediate Updates

·         Good news! We will be reopening the farm area for public use of walking and biking trails, with the expectation people will follow social distancing guidance.

·         We are continuing to clean and disinfect campus buildings to protect employees who have to work now as well as to help prepare for our eventual return to campus.

·         All on-campus events, external rentals, and sports, academic and arts camps are cancelled through June 30.  Those events planned for after July 1 may still happen, depending on state and local guidance at that time.

·         The ban on new non-essential Winthrop business travel has been extended through June 30. Given projected revenue shortfalls for 2020-21, it may be necessary to continue the ban into the new fiscal year, so please plan early to discuss any travel with your department chairs/heads. 

Summer Plans

The health and welfare of our campus community remains at the forefront of decisions we are making to prepare for the day when, by law, we have to open the campus. We already know that day will look nothing like March 13, the last day that faculty and staff were working on campus and students were leaving for Spring Break. So what will be different?

Right now we are planning for a phased opening, rather than everyone back in offices and performing their duties on campus immediately. Last week I asked each division to create a task force to address potential issues related to their division for the eventuality of returning to campus.  This multilevel exercise will allow divisions to think through how they can apply social distancing guidelines in their work space, what family obligations or health concerns faculty and staff have, and how work responsibilities will be met through, if necessary, a combination of remote and on-site assignments, based on employee needs. This process also requires that divisions adapt their work, if necessary, to support decisions already made (such as plans for Summer Session, virtual Orientation, etc.) and those yet to be determined about other typical summer activities, leading into the fall semester.

Based on the divisional feedback received in the next two weeks, and continuing guidance from the Governor’s office, DHEC, and the CDC, I expect we will have an overall plan shortly thereafter for how we will move into the summer months.

Fall Scenarios

I want you to know that we are doing all that we can to help returning students and new students enroll for the fall semester. In addition to the spring semester reimbursements, the CARES Act funds, and the Student Emergency and Assistance Fund, we also have extended the deadline for housing contracts and allowed students to enroll even if the balance on their accounts is higher than would be expected.   

Senior leadership will continue to work with areas across campus on scenario planning for the fall. As you may know if you read higher education news stories, institutions across the country are choosing very different paths, from plans to fully open face to face on schedule, to delayed openings, to hybrid semesters starting remotely and moving to campus based if feasible mid semester. We have every intention of welcoming students to the campus in the fall, but we will continue to explore all of our options with an eye toward what is best for Winthrop, our students, and our employees, keeping in mind national and state guidance aimed at keeping our community safe and healthy.

What we are certainly hoping for is a commitment from federal and state government to the widespread testing that is necessary to determine COVID-19 incidence in our state and community.  This is a major concern of all the presidents to whom I talk on a weekly basis through the CHE. I will continue to press this need with our legislators as well.

As you know, much uncertainty remains on the budget situation. We have been ramping up our recruitment efforts, but like other schools, we do not know what to expect for fall enrollment because many families are facing severe economic difficulties. Likewise, we have no idea yet what federal funds we may see from the state or what our appropriation will be. We do know that the Legislature will be reconvening in Columbia next week to take up their continuing resolution.   

Thank you for all of your efforts over the spring semester. Your Eagle spirit has been on full display, and I truly appreciate your commitment to Winthrop.


George W. Hynd

Interim President