Faculty and Staff - December 14, 2020


Dear Colleagues:

Back in October I announced that we expected spring semester to follow the academic schedule set earlier in the year with in-person instruction beginning January 11, spring break March 15-19, and final exams April 28-May 4. At the time, I noted that we would continue to track decision “triggers” that may change our plans. Current COVID-19 risk levels in the community and state, capacity of local hospitals to care for COVID-19 patients, and the very real potential for exposure that could impact the campus after the holiday break are sobering developments that make clear we need to adjust our plans in order to continue to protect our university community from the spread of the virus.

We are making the following adjustments to the spring semester.

Remote Start January 11

The first adjustment we will make is to have another remote start which will allow us to begin the semester as planned on January 11, yet also help us mitigate virus spread as the holiday season winds down. This also will provide more time to implement our spring COVID-19 testing requirement wherein residential students and those taking in-person classes must present a timely negative test result to move back into the halls and/or attend class. Both students and faculty members responded well to the fall remote start, and I expect this spring adjustment will be similarly accommodated. There will be a small reduction in housing and dining revenue due to the remote start, but my belief is that the health and well-being of our community is worth this cost. The in-person component of our instruction will begin the day after the MLK holiday on Tuesday, January 19. 

Different Approach to Spring Break

While we had sincerely hoped to preserve a weeklong spring break in March, it is not in the community’s best interest to have a week off from classes in the middle of the semester. Our second adjustment then will be to forego the traditional spring break, and in doing so, reduce increased virus transmission that we have seen goes hand in hand with travel and tourism activities. In discussion with several groups about the possibility of foregoing the week off from classes, we heard the importance of building in some days off through the semester to relieve stress and give our students needed breaks. I agree with this, and in order to provide some breaks without impact to class scheduling, we have identified five days that have been spread throughout the semester to provide respite. To be clear, these are days when there will be no classes; offices will be open.

Updated Calendar

With the above adjustments, the timeline for our spring semester now is: 

Monday, January 11               First day of class -- remote until Tuesday, Jan. 19

Monday, January 18               Martin Luther King, Jr. Day – no classes 

Tuesday, January 19               In-person classes begin

Tuesday, February 16             Spring break day 1 – no classes

Wednesday, March 3              Spring break day 2 – no classes 

Thursday, March 18                Spring break day 3– no classes

Friday, April 9                         Spring break day 4 – no classes

Monday, April 19                    Spring break day 5 – no classes

Monday, April 26                    Last day of class

Tuesday, April 27                    Study day

Wednesday-Tuesday,              Final exams

April 28-May 4

Thursday and Saturday,          Commencement ceremonies

May 6 & 8

With this schedule, fully online and shorter-term classes will not need any adjustment. We understand that some of you may have planned to use the weeklong break for furlough. If your furlough plans are impacted by this schedule, please talk to your supervisor/dean/vice president or see the Furlough FAQ “How are furlough days scheduled” on HR’s website.

Return to Work Planning

I also want to share with you that the current rise in cases, impact on local hospitals, and other factors also continue to inform our planning relative to Phase 3 of our Return to Work. As a result, when we come back from the holiday break, we will continue to work as we have been with roughly 50 percent of the workforce on campus at any given time. At this point, my thought is that we will likely continue this until the end of March to give us the chance to learn more about vaccine availability and how the virus may have changed over the winter months. However, we will continue to monitor the situation and keep you informed if we determine that we can move to Phase 3 earlier.

Thanks and Continue to Prioritize Masking, Social Distancing, and Hand-washing

Finally, I want to thank a large number of you for your feedback shared through last month’s survey on our Return to Work planning. The 430 respondents provided valuable insight that has helped spark discussion and shaped decision-making among our senior leadership team. The results of the survey may be viewed on the HR website.

Because of your goodwill and good work, we have pulled off the fall semester and have plans in place for a safe spring semester.  But this is definitely not the time to become complacent, and in some areas we do need to improve. Masking, social distancing and hand-washing are really all we have to protect ourselves and each other from this virus until vaccines are readily available. I implore you, when you are in campus buildings, you must have on a mask and wear it correctly (under the nose is a pet peeve of mine and an affront to many). You mustn’t congregate for conversation or have close interactions with others. While we don’t have many who disregard these requirements, those who do put folks at risk, and believe me, we heard about it on the survey mentioned above. This is one of the key complaints noted in regard to your colleagues’ comfort level with working on campus.

Thank you for taking time to read this message. Please know that the university’s leadership remains committed to offering the Winthrop education that students and their families have come to expect, in as safe an environment as possible. I appreciate all you have done and will do during this extraordinary academic year.



George W. Hynd

Interim President