Students and Families - July 23, 2020
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Students and Families - July 23, 2020

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Dear Winthrop Students and Families,

On my webpage there is a video that talks about the family atmosphere at Winthrop. It’s one of the characteristics that attracted me to Winthrop; you might have been drawn to the university for the same reason. It’s against this backdrop of family that I write to you today to thank you for your patience and share more information as we continue to navigate these uncharted waters of COVID-19.

First, I know many of you feel the frustration that folks on campus are experiencing as well. With its spread in our state and elsewhere, and new challenges emerging daily it seems, we have been forced to re-evaluate some of our earlier decisions. Our plans for this fall are undergoing constant review to ensure a safe return to classes this fall. 

Today, I want to share how we have adjusted our approach to living on campus as well as how we are approaching the delivery of our classes.

Housing  

The “live on campus” first- and second-year housing requirement plays a large role in community building on campus and helps create the family atmosphere that is part and parcel of the Winthrop experience. While we are not ending the requirement this fall, we want all students and families to know that we will not be enforcing the residency requirement as in the past. We want our students and families to feel safe and comfortable with attending Winthrop, so we will be generous in approving housing waivers. No student who chooses an online schedule or to live away from campus due to the pandemic will be refused the option to do so.

We believe this is the right thing to do and that it demonstrates to the Winthrop community our compassion and understanding of the fear and uncertainty that students and families are experiencing right now. If you are a first- or second-year student and you do not feel comfortable living on campus this fall, please complete the housing waiver application that is available through the Eaglesnest Housing link under Student Tools on Wingspan. Likewise, if you are an upperclassman and want to cancel your housing application, you may use the same link.

If you plan to live on campus (we know that for some of our students this is not only a desire but a necessity), know that we are implementing myriad health and safety measures to contain virus spread within our community. You will hear more about those measures during our July 30 town hall (link info to come to you via email next week), but they include self-health monitoring, a masking requirement, social distancing, reduced capacities in campus buildings, increased cleaning/sanitization protocols, etc.

Classes

Secondly, in order to support the decisions of our students and families regarding instructional modality, we have transitioned courses to 35 percent in person, 30 percent online, and 35 percent hybrid (a mix of in-person and online). Students should check their schedules in Wingspan to see if the instructional modality for a class for which they have registered has changed, and if they are interested in building schedules that are entirely online for the fall semester, academic advisors are available to help them do so. We are asking students to reach out to their department chairs, deans and student services offices within the respective college for assistance if needed. More information is to come from Provost and Executive Vice President Adrienne McCormick in the coming days.

All of these efforts reflect our desire to meet students and families where they are given the pandemic. But one thing on which we cannot compromise is our commitment to the high-quality academic experience for which Winthrop is known. Believe me when I say we are investing a huge portion of our budget to continue to operate at our high standards as a university. Therefore, we are not planning to discount tuition this fall. Our students will continue to receive excellent academic instruction and support from their professors, advisors, and staff, as well as tutoring, research opportunities, career services, etc. Regardless of whether every student takes advantage of these offerings, we still must provide them as very often the cost to deliver such services virtually or in other alternative formats is every bit as cost intensive, if not more costly, as normal delivery. If we must pivot to fully remote instruction at some point, we may decide to look at fee reimbursements as we did in the spring, but that is farther down the road when the impact of the pandemic on fall operations is more evident.

New Student Orientation

Finally, for new students and their family members, I want to let you know that, in the interest of health and safety, we have decided that the Eagles Landing phase of Orientation (previously scheduled to be on-campus sessions beginning in early August) will be held virtually. Students will receive more information from the New Student and Family Programs office regarding this change.

Again, I hope you understand these recent decisions that we have made with you in mind. We are committed to maintaining the quality of the educational experience we provide, while also protecting the health and safety of our Winthrop family members.  I look forward to sharing more information with you at the town hall on July 30. While we can only accommodate 500 for the virtual town hall, a recording will be made available soon after the virtual event for anyone who could not attend. We will also launch our Return to Learn website in the coming days.

I very much appreciate your flexibility and patience as we continue to navigate these uncharted waters as a family and community committed to our students. 

Sincerely,

George

George W. Hynd
Interim President

Last Updated: 7/23/20