Winthrop University: Employees

Return to Learn

Employees

Return to Work

Return to Work Plan and Office Etiquette expectations (pdf - 341 KB)

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Recent Communications

    Dear Campus Community,

    As most of you are aware, last week the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued new COVID-19 guidance. Because of this new guidance, Winthrop has updated its COVID-19 protocols for indoor and outdoor spaces on campus. The following requirements and guidelines will apply to all members of campus – students, faculty, staff, contractors and visitors – and will go into effect immediately:

    • For individuals who are not fully vaccinated, masks will continue to be required in all indoor spaces unless working alone in a private office. Individuals who are not fully vaccinated will not be required to wear a mask outdoors if they are physically distanced, traveling alone on campus and not part of a group. 
    • For individuals who are fully vaccinated,masks and physical distancing are optional but not required in indoor and outdoor spaces on campus. In addition, individuals who are fully vaccinated may participate in meetings in person without the need for masks or physical distancing, provided that a virtual option is offered for those who are not able to participate in person. 
    • Please note that fully vaccinated is defined as two weeks after receiving the second of a two-dose series or two weeks after receiving a single-dose vaccine.

    I strongly encourage all members of the campus community to get vaccinated. Vaccines are available at the City Operations Center or at a provider of your choice. Please make an appointment to get your vaccine. Students may visit the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control website to find a vaccine distribution site. 

    Please note that as in-person Maymester and summer courses get underway, the expectation is that masks will be worn and physical distancing will be observed inside these classrooms in order to fulfill any expectations the students/faculty members may have had when the course began.

    Finally, I want to make you aware that building signage will now state that face coverings are strongly encouraged (versus required) inside Winthrop buildings. Building coordinators may contact Printing Services to request this new signage.

    While the changes mentioned above are a positive sign that life is returning to a somewhat normal status, we all should continue to do our part in making sure it stays that way by following safety guidelines and staying home when not feeling well.

    Thank you for all that you do for Winthrop.

    Sincerely,

    George

    George W. Hynd
    Interim President

    Dear Campus Community,  

    The last week has seemed a bit more like our pre-COVID days with more people out and about, additional cars on campus, exciting athletics contests, and more. As we experience the annual sense of renewal that comes with spring, I’m reminded of just how far we’ve come. You have contributed in countless ways to helping keep our virus transmission low and our campus, for the most part, open. In the last week, you have pivoted to a full return to work on campus, and I marvel at your ability to manage personal and professional obligations to do so. Thank you!

    As I have mentioned previously, with the widespread availability of vaccinations and continued risk mitigation efforts, we will see a return to full operations in fall 2021. Here is what you can expect: 

    • Face-to-face classes will resume at pre-pandemic levels. 
    • Faculty and staff will maintain on-campus office hours.
    • We will offer full occupancy in our residence halls.
    • The first- and second-year residency requirement will be re-instituted.
    • All campus services, from dining to the student experience, will be offered in person. 
    • Buildings and facilities will return to regular capacity.
    • Campus events will be held at appropriate levels of capacity.
    • Athletics competition will resume, and fans will be welcomed, following NCAA guidelines.

    Regarding academic offerings, we are completing conversion of most hybrid and online synchronous courses back to in-person. This conversion required us to push fall registration back a week to April 12-16 and provides an extended window for advising that will benefit both faculty and students. I do want to reiterate that, as much as we would like it to be, common time is not an option for fall. We need the time to ensure we can use the full schedule to insert courses back into campus spaces for in-person learning. We are monitoring classroom physical distancing recommendations and will adjust our protocols as appropriate.

    The COVID-19 vaccine is critical to our planning as well, and I encourage you to receive your vaccination as soon as you are eligible. It appears that the vaccines may be available to our students even earlier than anticipated, with the federal government ramping up vaccine allocation. We will continue to monitor SCDHEC’s phased schedule in order to communicate vaccine eligibility and availability to students. As we did for faculty and staff, a short survey to determine interest in utilizing the Rock Hill Community Vaccination Center will be sent to our students at the appropriate time. And of course, until public health experts say otherwise, our current physical distancing, mask-wearing and frequent handwashing requirements will continue across our campus. As noted previously, we will very likely require a negative COVID-19 test or proof of vaccination for students’ fall return.

    Finally, it goes without saying that these ambitious plans will be contingent upon local and state data and we will continue to follow the advice of public health professionals, including those at the CDC and SCDHEC.

    I will keep you updated as we finalize our plans, so please continue to watch your email. In the meantime, enjoy these lovely spring days on our beautiful campus.

    Sincerely,

    George

    George W. Hynd
    Interim President

    Dear Colleagues:  

    With the concerns voiced during last week’s town hall and the reality of our accelerated return to work based on the Governor’s executive order, I asked Facilities Management and Environmental Health and Safety to provide information to help the campus understand more clearly the status of our important preventative health and safety measures and others that have been in effect for some time.

    Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidance and more

    We continue to follow CDC guidance on safe practices in the workplace. Last summer we consulted with the Medical University of South Carolina on our Return to Learn and Work plans which detailed our preparations to safely welcome our students, faculty and staff back to campus for the fall semester. This review included our social distancing plans for classrooms, residence halls and shared spaces, in addition to our plans for returning employees to the campus. We adjusted our plans as needed and have been successful in providing a safe workplace with very few cases of COVID-19.  It is important to note that CDC and SCDHEC procedures were followed every time a potential case was made known to us, and we provided a dashboard on our website. 

    Masking

    Following CDC and SCDHEC guidance, Winthrop has required all staff, faculty, visitors and students to wear masks or cloth facial coverings in social settings, such as in university buildings, including classrooms, residence halls and dining facilities, and in outdoor spaces on campus where appropriate social distancing cannot be guaranteed. Masks are not required when alone in private offices, when alone in on-campus residence hall rooms and when not in close contact with another person, such as walking alone outside. The same expectations that have served us well since last summer will remain in place. Researchers with the CDC said last month that two masks are better than one in slowing the spread of the virus, so that is certainly an option for those with heightened concerns about the return to work.

    Cleaning and disinfecting

    As we have said before, everyone has a role to play in maintaining a healthy work environment in the pandemic. Employees should follow handwashing guidelines and work together to keep their areas clean. Our custodial staff is continuing frequent cleaning processes throughout the day in all classroom, residential and administrative buildings. They begin their workday early in the morning before many of us are at our desks. They are focusing on disinfecting restrooms, common areas, and high-touch surfaces like faucets, light switches, knobs, handles, buttons, railings, etc.  Our enhanced safety measures include twice daily cleaning blitzes of high-traffic areas in common spaces, per CDC and MUSC guidance.

    Please do not expect cleaning like this in individual offices. The staff is disinfecting doorknobs and collecting trash from individual offices, unless specific appropriate cleaning, such as in an office that has been left vacant for some time, is requested through the Facilities Management work request system. (Please note that you must use a computer on the campus network to access this system. The How to Submit Work Requests webpage may be consulted for help.) Some offices have indicated that their employees prefer to do their own cleaning/disinfecting, and that is perfectly fine. Supervisors may contact Facilities Management regarding how to request trash bags and the process for collecting trash.

    In addition, EHS and Facilities Management staff are working with building coordinators to receive regular feedback on our custodial staff. Therefore, please report areas of satisfaction and concern to your building coordinator, so our teams can  provide staff with proper feedback to ensure the campus’ expectations are being met. If you do not know who your building coordinator is, please share feedback utilizing the facilitiesmanagement@winthrop.edu email address. (Note: please do not use this address for work order requests.)  

    Return to work kits and supplies

    When we entered Phase 2 last July, cleaning kits were provided to departments and offices from EHS. Kits included a 22 oz. bottle of hand sanitizer for office/department use, 32 oz. bottle of disinfectant cleaner for office/department use, disposable masks for office visitors, gloves and paper towels. These supplies were provided based on the number of employees in an office/department (not supplies for each person) and are available for replenishing. Supervisors may request these through the Facilities Management work request system.

    As was the case last summer, no wipes or personal-sized hand sanitizers are available for each employee, but such personal supplies are much more widely available now, and employees are encouraged to bring their personal supplies to work if those will help decrease personal anxiety levels about workplace cleanliness.  

    Ventilation

    CDC guidelines for building ventilation recommend practices that are financially feasible, so there is no one-size-fits-all approach. The CDC notes that while there may be some risk of spreading the COVID-19 virus through ventilation systems, there is no evidence of such transmission at this time. It is important to remember that not all of our buildings have operable windows, including Dalton, Owens, Carroll, West Center, Campus Center, Dacus, Dinkins, most of Rutledge, and the addition to Johnson. Thurmond, Kinard, Withers, Bancroft, McLaurin, and the residence halls have operable windows which can be opened for additional ventilation. If windows are opened, it is important to close windows upon leaving the space to reduce heating, cooling and dehumidification demands. 

    We have increased air filtration to as high as possible without significantly reducing design airflow of our HVAC systems. We have researched portable high efficiency particulate air (HEPA) fan/filtration systems, but CDC guidance notes this as a consideration for “higher risk areas such as a nurse’s office or areas frequently inhabited by persons with higher likelihood of COVID-19 and/or increased risk of getting COVID-19,” rather than more general use. Likewise, based on CDC guidance, ultraviolet germicidal irradiation (UVGI) is an option for spaces where increasing room ventilation is limited, yet it is also the most expensive consideration that the CDC lists in its layered approach to ventilation. We do not believe UVGI is necessary based on our low campus incidence of COVID-19 transmission. However, Facilities Management and EHS staff will continue to monitor CDC and SCDHEC recommendations and may invest a portion of the recent stimulus in building ventilation prior to the beginning of the fall semester. 

    Signage and shields

    Since last summer we have installed hundreds of signs and scores of Plexiglas shields in offices, work spaces, and other areas. From reminders of our physical distancing requirements and labels for ingress/egress routes, to disinfecting instructions and hygiene tips, more than 30 signs and decals are available from Printing Services at no charge to departments and offices. Supervisors may request additional COVID-19 signage by visiting the print shop website.

    Testing
    Also based on CDC guidance, Winthrop is not requiring COVID-19 testing for faculty and staff who return to campus. However, saliva assay free expedited (SAFE) testing is available twice monthly through our partnership with the USC College of Pharmacology. For those who are symptomatic, free COVID-19 testing is available through DHEC at the Winthrop Coliseum or you may access local health-care facilities, pharmacies, etc. A covidreporting@winthrop.edu dedicated email address is available to report suspected or confirmed positive cases, and this triggers protocols for both students and faculty/staff to receive further instructions. Contact tracing is provided by Center for Student Wellness for students and Human Resources for employees.

    Vaccinations

    On March 8, South Carolina entered phase 1b of its COVID-19 vaccine rollout.  Faculty and staff of institutions of higher education are now able to receive the vaccine.  While the vaccine is not mandatory for anyone, I cannot overstate the importance of being vaccinated.  Modern public health has proven the safe and effective use of vaccines for over 200 years.  Globally, over 313 million individuals have thus far received the COVID-19 vaccine.  I encourage you to receive the vaccine via the Rock Hill Vaccination Clinic located at the Galleria Mall or one of the many chain pharmacies providing the vaccine to individuals in phase 1b.      

    I hope this information helps ease some of your anxiety about returning to campus. I am confident that we are doing all that we can from an institutional standpoint to provide a safe and healthy work environment, but we certainly will continue to evaluate our processes and work to address your concerns. I am asking that each of us—by wearing a mask, self-monitoring, practicing good hygiene, physical distancing, and more—continue to do our part to help keep our colleagues and students healthy and safe. 

    Sincerely,

    George

    George Hynd
    Interim President

    Dear Colleagues:

    In my message on Saturday, I mentioned we would continue to seek clarification on how Governor McMaster’s latest executive order impacts Winthrop’s return to work and on the expectations from the State on spring semester operations moving forward. Our expeditious return to on-campus work plan has been approved by the State HR office, and, as instructed, the plan includes provisions for most all employees to return to on-campus work on Monday, March 15. Here is more information we have learned:

    ·         We have learned that our academic schedule in regards to teaching and classes will continue unaltered for the spring semester. What that means for our faculty is that you will continue with your already scheduled classes in their respective modalities for the remainder of this semester. Our summer and fall planning for a return to a more normal and in person Winthrop academic experience continues apace and appears not to be affected by this latest guidance.   

    ·         We have confirmed that agency heads have clear discretion to require employees to wear masks in workplaces and other common areas of state buildings.  The Department of Administration and the Division of State Human Resources have promised to provide additional guidance regarding Winthrop’s ability to continue to require students and visitors to wear masks.  Unless or until additional guidance is received, Winthrop will continue to require students and visitors to wear masks, mirroring previous policy. So unless we hear otherwise, masking will continue, along with the other requirements we have implemented (physical distancing, frequent handwashing, limiting face-to-face interactions, etc.) that have been instrumental in mitigating risk on our campus. Masking will not be required in private offices with doors closed.

    ·         Our plan includes a provision for employees with children attending face-to-face in K-12 schools to return to their on-campus work location on a full-time basis on March 22, 2021. Those employees who elected virtual instruction for their children will have until April 5, 2021, to report to their on-campus work location in order to sort out childcare arrangements. 

    ·         For anyone who has not worked on campus or did not complete the required, mandatory Online Acknowledgement indicating each employee has reviewed return to work training back in the summer, you need to do this as soon as possible. This information can be found at the “Faculty and Staff Return to Work Notification, Training, and Resources” section of the HR COVID-19 Information for Employees website

    The March 15 return to work directive is an aggressive timetable from the State, and we realize the expectations have prompted many questions from employees. Our HR office has created a list of FAQs you may find on the HR COVID-19 Information for Employees website that you may read for more information on our return to work. Please continue to watch your email for other important updates.

    Sincerely,  

    George

    George W. Hynd
    Interim President

    Dear Colleagues:

    Over the last year and even at the town hall just last week, I have reiterated that changing circumstances impact our decision-making. I am writing today to share guidance we have received on our back-to-work plans, as you may have seen referenced in Governor McMaster’s latest executive order.

    Late Friday the Department of Administration sent word that state agencies must immediately expedite the transition back to normal operations. While we heard your concerns during the town hall on returning to Phase 3 too quickly, this is a decision we no longer control. Our plan to return to normal operations must be submitted by Wednesday, and the expectation is that most all state workers, regardless of care-giving responsibilities for school-age children or for vulnerable adults, must be back in the workplace full time very soon.

    Our return-to-work plan will address the Department of Administration’s suggestion on how to handle a request for a short delay for some workers impacted by in-person learning plans of the schools. But our initial reading of the guidance makes clear that continued work from home, on a formal or informal basis, will not be an option for the vast majority of Winthrop employees moving forward.

    Now more than ever, as state employees, you must think through vaccination plans and options for your particular family situation. Hopefully, you have already scheduled your vaccine shot. If not, please take advantage of our two Winthrop Days at the Rock Hill Community Vaccination Clinic on March 16 and 18 by registering before the deadline of March 10. See more information in the emails from HRHelp on Friday.

    I anticipate more information will be forthcoming as our leadership prepares to meet the requirements associated with the Governor's order. I will keep you apprised of developments. I know this is not the news you wanted to hear but rest assured that we will keep your concerns top of mind as we move forward in our planning as required by the State.

    Sincerely,
    George

    George W. Hynd
    Interim President

    Dear Colleagues:

    Thank you to everyone who participated in Tuesday’s third faculty/staff virtual town hall meeting. I hope that the vice presidents and I were able to provide you with helpful information that addressed many of your questions. There were some questions and issues raised in the town hall that our leadership will discuss in order to provide more specific information on either the HR website or in future communications.

    If you were not able to attend the town hall, you may access the recorded session via this link.

    Thank you again for all you do on behalf of the Winthrop community and especially our students.

    Sincerely,
    George 

    George W. Hynd
    Interim President

    Dear Colleagues,

    I am excited to share that Winthrop’s executive officers decided this week to plan for an in-person Commencement for all interested Spring 2021 graduate and undergraduate degree candidates. We have been working toward this for some time now, and I hope this is the news that many of you wanted to hear in terms of our planning. I appreciate the work of the Commencement Committee who researched our options and made recommendations to Winthrop’s leadership on how we could safely undertake Commencement on campus.

    To accommodate our anticipated May graduates, we will hold a total of five ceremonies with appropriate physical distancing, limited numbers in attendance, and required mask-wearing. As in previous years, we will utilize floor seating of the Winthrop Coliseum, but with seating much more widely spaced for degree candidates. Dates and times follow.

    Thursday, May 6: 7 p.m. – All graduate degree candidates

    Friday, May 7:

    10 a.m. – College of Arts and Sciences (BS and BSW degree candidates) and

    College of Visual and Performing Arts undergraduates

    3 p.m. – College of Arts and Sciences – BA degree candidates

    Saturday, May 8:

    10 a.m. – College of Education undergraduates

    3 p.m. – College of Business Administration undergraduates

    All degree candidates will need to confirm attendance in advance, both for their assigned seating and for tickets for up to two guests. Records and Registration or Graduate School staff will be in touch with degree candidates in a few weeks with the customary communications about Commencement details. 

    Given that it will be extremely important to limit unnecessary close contact, degree candidates and their guests will be seated upon arrival at the venue. There will be no Commencement speaker to allow us to appropriately focus on our degree candidates and to provide the additional time that will be needed to move through the ceremony in a physically distanced way. Ceremonies will include presentation of the usual faculty and student awards. Graduates will receive diploma covers for official photographs with me, but your diplomas will be mailed following the ceremonies to accommodate the work Records and Registration and Graduate School staff would normally do on Friday that will be completed the next week.

    I hope you are as thrilled as I am with the prospect of the first, large in-person indoor events to be held on campus in more than a year. As long as we continue to do the right things as far as our campus safety protocols for the remainder of the spring semester, we will be able to once again host these long-awaited ceremonies.  

    All degree candidates should watch their email for more details from Records and Registration or the Graduate School about the ceremonies. Thank you for your patience as we have explored options and considered what is possible taking into account the health and safety of our new graduates and the campus community. 

    With warm regards,

    George

    George W. Hynd

    Interim President

    Dear Colleagues:

    I hope you are planning to join me and other members of Winthrop’s leadership for a third Faculty/Staff virtual town hall on Tuesday at 11 a.m.

    The town hall meeting will be accessible via Zoom on Tuesday at 11 a.m. by using this link. A video recording also will be made available following the town hall if you are unable to participate live.

    I hope you can join us. 

    Warm regards,

    George 

    George W. Hynd
    Interim President

    Dear Colleagues,

    I am writing today to share with you an update on our planning in regards to resumption of normal on-campus in-person instruction and employee return to work. Neither of these milestones would be possible without your cooperation over an extended period of time as we navigated the pandemic and adhered to campus protocols, including wearing face coverings, observing physical distancing, and practicing preventative hygiene like good hand-washing and sanitizing. Your cooperation has been much appreciated, and our collective efforts have paid off as we continue to post low numbers of active cases on campus.

    Next Phase of Testing

    As I shared last week, the SAFE (saliva-based) testing, thanks to our partnership with the USC College of Pharmacy, will help us assess asymptomatic spread, and based on what we learn from that testing, we will be in an even better position to judge the efficacy of our efforts.  I hope all of you will avail yourselves of this easy and convenient opportunity. The next date for testing is March 8.

    A More Normal Fall Semester

    Looking ahead, I am confident that we may well be able to start the fall semester with the traditional in-person learning and extracurricular offerings that our students and families have said, time and again, that they so desire. We have been purposeful in structuring the academic offerings to be more aligned with normal semesters, with our goal being upward of 80 percent of our courses to be taught in the in-person and hybrid modalities. On the residential side, we likely will shift back to our campus residency requirement for first- and second-year students and not provide waivers for all those who request one.

    Forecasts are that the vaccine will be widely available by July, which would create the environment that, along with our continued campus protocols, make a more normal fall semester within reach. That said, we cannot yet predict how many students or community members will be vaccinated by the start of the fall semester, nor what impact, if any, variant strains of the virus may have. We will continue to monitor the latter, in particular, as well as infection rates across the state, with the option of pivoting back to online learning in the fall if warranted.

    Return to Work

    In December we assessed holiday-related risk, vaccine progress, and other factors to determine that we should remain in Phase 2 of our Return to Work plan (50 percent of the work force on campus at any given time) through March. Given that the state remains in phase 1a of SC DHEC’s COVID-19 vaccination plan, and we are still some ways out on when faculty and staff might expect to be eligible to receive the vaccine, my best judgment is to continue in Phase 2 through the end of the spring semester, so long as the Governor does not change his approach to allowing state agencies to make this decision for themselves. We are, indeed, fortunate that so many of our employees have private offices or can safely share space in some areas. Yet, we do not want to increase any risk of spreading the virus so long as the vaccine is not in abundant supply and vaccination readily available.

    So as we approach the end of the academic year and start of Summer Session, we will assess our ability to safely go back to working full time on campus, guided as always by SCDHEC, the CDC, and health professionals. I am hopeful that summer may prove an excellent opportunity to enter Phase 3. We must continue to monitor the availability of vaccines, of course, but wouldn’t it be wonderful to have most all of our employees who typically work during the summer on campus and available to focus on our incoming and continuing students? Recent board action to extend our discounted summer tuition for 2021 is expected to lead to another strong Summer Session enrollment, and frankly we also will need many hands on deck to collaborate most effectively on initiatives like the Academic Master Plan, Campus Master Plan, Campus Beautification Initiative, and review of the Winthrop Plan. By its nature, the summer work schedule (tentatively set for May 10-August 6) will allow employees flexibility if needed to adjust to a full return to work on campus.

    To conclude, I am happy to share this good news relative to our planning, but as we have said for nearly a year now, the health and safety of our community is our top priority, and that cannot, and will not, change. We will continue to adjust our plans as needed, and I am confident if we all keep doing the right things, we will get through this semester and the summer safely, and then we can all pivot to a more normal, on-campus Winthrop experience in the fall.

    Thank you again for all that you have done and continue to do to minimize the risk of COVID-19 on our campus. I hope you will join us on Tuesday, March 2, at 11 a.m. for our next town hall where we will talk more about aspects of our planning. Remember to submit your questions in advance to townhalls@winthrop.edu.

    With gratitude,

    George

    George W. Hynd

    Interim President

    Dear Campus Community,

    Since even before we came back to campus last year, members of our community have desired an option for COVID-19 testing that can address what we know to be an issue on many college campuses – asymptomatic incidence of the virus. As you may know, a key factor in the rapid spread of COVID-19 infections across a community is that individuals can have the virus but not display symptoms. In order to monitor potential spread of this kind, public health experts have consistently noted that regular and ongoing COVID-19 testing is crucial for the successful and sustained operations of institutions like ours that have students living and learning on campus.

    I am pleased to share with you that we finally have that regular and ongoing testing option on our main campus, thanks to a new partnership with the USC College of Pharmacy.

    The Saliva Assay Free Expedited (SAFE) test is free, quick, and noninvasive, and results can typically be shared within 24-48 hours after the sample is collected. The PCR saliva-based test shows 97.5 percent accuracy in the early stage of infection. SAFE testing is only available to current Winthrop students, faculty, staff, and such campus affiliates as Sodexo and Barnes & Noble employees. A SAFE testing webpage with all the details is now available.

    Beginning February 23, 2021, we will offer SAFE testing on mostly Tuesdays in McBryde Hall, twice a month from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. (See the full schedule on the webpage.) This is a voluntary program, yet it will expand our testing capacity while also helping the university maintain face-to-face classes and organizational activities the remainder of 2021. Everyone is encouraged to test at least once per month.

    Things to remember about this easy, effective and convenient testing, which again, starts Tuesday on a voluntary basis:

    ·       Be sure to bring your Winthrop ID to get tested. It’s also good to bring your cell phone to record your test barcode.

    ·       SAFE testing samples will be collected and coded in a manner that ensures confidentiality and protects privacy.

    ·       Do not eat or drink anything (including gum, candy or nasal spray) or use any tobacco or vaping products for at least 30 minutes prior to your SAFE test. Do not drink water for 10 minutes prior to the administration of your test.

    ·       You should not participate in SAFE testing if you are experiencing COVID-19 symptoms. These include, but are not limited to, coughing, fever, sensory loss of taste or smell, shortness of breath, headaches and/or sore throat. Instead, follow the student protocol or employee protocol for symptoms or exposure.

    ·       All positive results will be reported to SC DHEC. Positive student test results will be shared with Health Services. Health Services will contact students who test positive to begin contact tracing and provide further instructions.

    SAFE testing participants will receive an email to your registered email account stating that results have been uploaded and  providing instructions on how to view the results. Even if your test is negative, you are encouraged to consistently maintain safe practices such as avoiding large groups, wearing a mask, maintaining physical distancing, and monitoring yourself for symptoms.

    Again, this is a fantastic development in our Covid-19 mitigation efforts, and I am thankful for the USC College of Pharmacy for offering this free testing service to us. In closing, I want to remind students to PLEASE immediately contact Health Services if you are a close contact, test positive, or experience any symptoms consistent with COVID-19. We continue to hear about sick students who are trying to manage on their own so they don’t get sent home or prevented from going to class, work, etc. This is a public health emergency, and it is vitally important for all of us to follow reporting protocol for the health and safety of our campus community.

    Sincerely,

    George

    George W. Hynd
    Interim President

    Dear Colleagues: 

    As we continue to work to determine the best way for our Winthrop community members to obtain the COVID-19 vaccine, it would be helpful to know how many of our faculty and staff would be interested in receiving the vaccine once the state enters phase 1b of vaccine distribution (currently listed as early spring on SCDHEC’s timetable). SCDHEC has included those who work in the educational sector, including college/university personnel, in phase 1b. This information will be very useful as decisions about the allocation of the limited supply of vaccine to providers in our area are made.

    Please take a moment and follow the link below to a short, one-question survey to acknowledge your interest in receiving the vaccine. We need this information quickly, so please complete the survey by 10 a.m. on Thursday, Jan. 28.

    COVID-19 Vaccine Survey

    To reiterate from an earlier e-mail, the vaccine will not be required of anyone in our state.  However, as more details are worked out and as the timeframe for phase 1b becomes clearer, we will share additional information on the vaccine for those interested in receiving it. In the meantime, if you currently fall into the state’s phase 1a category for vaccine distribution (ages 70 and older included), I encourage you to visit this site to find a location near you where you can currently receive the vaccine.  If you desire more information on the vaccine to help you determine interest in receiving the vaccine, please see this page before you complete the survey.

    Sincerely,

    George

    George W. Hynd
    Interim President

    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. 

    Sincerely,

    George

    George W. Hynd

    Interim President

    Dear Colleagues,

    As you plan for the upcoming holiday breaks we wanted to touch base and provide you with some helpful information with regard to safety precautions and mitigating the spread of the COVID-19 virus.  Because in many cases, at this time of year plans may normally include gathering with friends and family, we would like to make some simple requests of you.  

    ·       If you do make a decision to gather with others who are not part of your current “pod,” please remain vigilant to mitigate the risk of the spread of the virus. 

    ·       If during the holiday break you have any suspicion at all that you may have been in a situation where the risk of exposure to the virus may have been increased, we fervently ask you to not come to campus if at all possible immediately following the holiday break and for 14 calendar days from the date you found yourself in that higher risk of exposure situation.  If you feel your risk of exposure was elevated during the break and you work in a position that requires you to come to campus, please contact HRHelp@winthrop.edu and ask for consultation on next steps – someone from HR will contact you to discuss your individual situation.  We strongly suggest that, if at all possible, supervisors allow work from home when an employee indicates they were in a higher risk of exposure situation. 

    ·       If available options are exhausted and you must come to work on campus after having been in a higher risk exposure situation, we ask that you at all times wear your mask (DO NOT REMOVE IT WHILE ON CAMPUS) and stay at least 6 feet from co-workers or students, and preferably farther away, for 14 calendar days from the date you found yourself in that higher risk of exposure situation.   

    You all have done a wonderful job so far to keep the virus from spreading on our campus.  Thank you for doing your part – it IS making a difference – and we are grateful for your cooperation, understanding, and participation in the campus-wide responsibility to keep our campus safe.  Since the onset of the pandemic we have seen (and will continue to see) updated safety recommendations from the public health agencies regarding quarantine and isolation protocols.  If you have questions or need guidance regarding the protocols for reporting to work on campus please see the current information on the COVID-19 Information for Employees located on HR’s website or contact FSCOVIDreporting@winthrop.edu.

    We also want to provide you with the following additional information and guidance:

    ·       COVID-related safety guidance for holiday celebrations and small gatherings 

    ·       It is more important now than ever before that individuals receive a flu vaccination 

    ·       SC DHEC website for testing locations and times, including the Winthrop Coliseum

    ·       DHEC recommends testing no sooner than 7 days after exposure 

    2020 has been quite a year for all of us, and you all deserve this time away from work to take care of yourselves in whatever way is meaningful to you.  Regardless of your plans associated with the upcoming Thanksgiving and winter break, we hope you have an opportunity to relax and refresh as we prepare for a new year. 

    Stay safe and be happy!

    The Office of Human Resources, Employee Diversity, and Wellness

    As we reach the halfway point of in-person instruction this semester, I wanted to share some information that may be of interest to you as we look to complete the semester on campus.

    First, I hope you have seen our COVID dashboard and the low numbers of cases we have seen. Vice President for Human Resources Lisa Cowart noted that, while the number of faculty and staff who have been infected continues to be low, through our on-campus contact tracing, we have learned that none of those who have been infected appear to have contracted the virus at work.  This is encouraging and suggests that employees are following the health-related guidelines to wear masks and maintain a safe distance from coworkers and students. While we are not so naive as to think that will continue indefinitely, we do want you to be aware of this and to keep doing what you are doing to keep yourselves, your co-workers and our students safe.

    On another note, I wanted to let you know that there have been and will continue to be some limited in-person events on campus. You are likely aware that we are currently declining requests for external groups to visit and hold events unless we have a contractual obligation to do so. We have, however, been holding some in-person events within the University Events guidelines (pdf) that were developed this summer using guidance from the CDC, DHEC and MUSC, among others. One recent example was the socially distanced CSL induction ceremony I attended in September. I’m pleased that such events offered in a blended delivery format (synchronous in-person/virtual) have been well received. This format, in particular, allows a comfort level for participants who may not be ready to physically attend gatherings.

    We are hearing regularly from students and family members that in-person experiences outside the classroom setting are desired (safely, of course), and we are pleased that our efforts along this line help contribute to the engaged college experience that students and their families want and expect. Fortunately, we have not experienced any COVID-related issues as a result of holding these events.

    Finally, as campus events continue to be scheduled and successfully offered according to our guidelines, my wife, Alison, and I are beginning to host very small presidential events outside at our home. We are following all CDC, DHEC and MUSC guidelines as would be expected for any event on campus. In addition, earlier today we were able to show our heartfelt appreciation to the Facilities Management staff at a luncheon we hosted outdoors with all of our safety precautions in effect.  The Facilities area has worked tirelessly since March while others of us worked from home and under Phase 2 guidelines. Their efforts are among the key reasons we have been as successful as we have been in our campus response. Our event staff and the Sodexo team provided a safe, socially distanced lunch with no university funds used. Alison and I were happy to host the event for this deserving group. 

    We will be looking at ways to creatively host or deliver other events as well. We recognize that it is important we find ways to acknowledge the many people who have contributed to our successes in these difficult times.

    If you have ideas for how we might acknowledge groups and teams across campus, please send a message to the president@winthrop.edu email address. We will add your suggestions to those we are considering. Thank you again for all that you do for Winthrop.

    As the Winthrop campus settles into fall, we have much for which to be thankful. We’re about halfway through our in-person instruction, and COVID-19 cases have been low across our community. Our adjustment to the new normal for living and learning has gone well, and I applaud you for your efforts to keep your colleagues and friends safe and healthy. As cases continue to rise across our country, we must continue to be vigilant—observing social distancing, wearing our masks, and washing our hands. It is our understanding that Governor McMaster has given agency heads the discretion to determine when it is appropriate for their agency to move into Phase 3 of the Return to Work plan. Consequently, with the exception of Facilities Management and a few other offices that are currently working under Phase 3 guidelines, I think our best course of action is to continue in Phase 2 at least through the end of the fall semester. In December, we will consider all information available to us and revisit this decision.

    Spring 2021 Semester
    With advising for the spring semester beginning next week, it is a good time to share what we expect the spring semester will look like for our campus. Discussions have been ongoing among different leadership groups, and our consensus is that, barring unforeseen circumstances, the spring semester will proceed as planned with in-person instruction beginning Jan. 11, spring break March 15-19, and final exams April 28-May 4.

    Such unforeseen circumstances (as you may recall from the work of the reconsideration task force) could still include COVID risk levels in the community and state, capacity of local hospitals to care for COVID patients, availability of COVID supplies on campus, availability of student-serving quarantine/isolation facilities on campus and related staffing, appropriate infrastructure to support on-campus cases where students were not able to go home, etc. We will continue to track these “triggers” that could prompt a change in our plans. 

    Commencement 
    I would also like to share where we are with Commencement. December 2020 degree candidates have been informed that we will not be able to hold a traditional commencement ceremony on December 19 as we hoped. Those students also have been surveyed about their interest in participating in one or more of the following: a virtual ceremony, a drive in diploma pick up, and a possible special ceremony on May 15 (the week after May commencement), provided we can hold large events by then. More to come on the students’ preference and what we will offer.

    Important Dates
    As we move into the second half of the semester, the following are some key dates to keep top of mind:

    Oct. 21–Advising for Spring 2021 begins
    Nov. 3–Election Day, no classes but offices open 
    Nov. 10–Registration for Spring 2021 begins
    Nov. 20-Last day of in-person classes for Fall 2020
    Nov. 23-Remote instruction day (no in-person classes to be held; faculty will provide virtual assignments)
    Nov. 24-27-Thanksgiving holiday, no classes (offices closed Nov. 25 -27)
    Nov. 30-Dec. 3–Remote learning for Fall 2020
    Dec. 4-Fall 2020 study day
    Dec. 5-11–Fall 2020 final exams

    For additional details, please see the registration calendar.

    State Budget Request
    The Division of Finance and Business Affairs has prepared and submitted the 2021-22 Agency Budget Plan to the State Department of Administration’s Executive Budget Office.  Given that we still do not know if our 2020-21 allocations were approved, our submission is very similar to that request. We are asking for the following:

    Recurring

    Request to support student success and retention initiatives

    $280,000

     

    Operational support for STEAM disciplines

    $2,000,000

         

    Non-recurring

    Instructional scientific equipment replacement

    $2,233,472

         

    Capital

    Maintaining campus infrastructure

    $16,100,000

     

    Interdisciplinary arts technology facility

    $9,000,000

     

    Science complex renovation

    $9,000,000

     

    Dacus Library renovation

    $7,000,000

     
     

    TOTAL

    $45,613,472

    I will be presenting our request at the Governor’s budget hearing, a virtual meeting to be held October 22, as a first step in the budget process. More on that when there’s some clarity regarding moving forward with state appropriations.

    Thank you again for your compliance with our COVID-related requirements since the semester began. You are the reason we have been able to continue offering in-person classes and delivering on the exceptional Winthrop experience for which we are known. Let us keep up this proven good work to help ensure a healthy and safe learning community for all.

    Now that we are more than a month into the fall semester, I hope everyone has settled into this new normal in which we find ourselves. I’m pleased to report that our careful planning and implementation of COVID-19 protocols and procedures have gone well overall. We are seeing good compliance with our masking policy and other requirements, and I thank each of you for doing your part to help us create awareness and educate one another on why #MaskUpWinthrop is so important. I invite you to read more below about COVID-19 updates as well as other information I thought you would like to know:

    COVID-19 Testing and Dashboard  
    Winthrop has partnered with the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control to offer free COVID-19 testing at the Winthrop Coliseum. This free testing is available to anyone in the Winthrop, and surrounding, community. It did not cost Winthrop anything to provide this service, but we hope it will help provide many benefits, including being able to effectively track the virus’ prevalence in York County. Upcoming testing dates are Oct. 11-12, Oct. 15-19, Oct. 22-26 and Oct. 29-Nov. 2 from 11 a.m.-3 p.m. Read more about the testing partnership in this press release.  

    Winthrop also recently debuted its COVID-19 Dashboard which is updated every Tuesday morning to provide the latest information on known positive cases among students and employees. Employees are encouraged to email fscovidreporting@winthrop.edu to report symptoms or a positive COVID-19 diagnosis.

    Recent Board Action and New Trustee
    Trustees met on Friday, Sept. 25, and voted to extend the temporary suspension of the use of standardized test results as an admissions requirement for students entering the university in the 2021-22 academic year. The university started using alternative methods of evaluation in April for this fall’s freshmen and will continue using it for those who will make up the Class of 2025. This, of course, all stems from the COVID-19 pandemic and the inability for some prospective students to safely take the SAT or ACT. Please read more in this press release.

    Attending the Sept. 25 meeting was Winthrop’s newest trustee, John Brazell ’93, who ran unopposed for the Congressional District 2 seat that had been held for many years by Donna Glenn Holley. John, who earned a psychology degree from Winthrop, is a financial consultant with Charles Schwab. He will serve a six-year term. Please join me in welcoming John to the board if you see him on campus, and please join me as well in offering my sincerest thanks to Donna for her years of service to the board.

    United Way Campaign
    Winthrop will launch next month its 2020 United Way of York County campaign. The campaign, led by several of our colleagues, provides us with the opportunity to help our neighbors, co-workers and friends via the partner agencies that receive United Way financial support. At Winthrop, we've earned a reputation for caring about the community where we live and work. Every year, we get the chance to demonstrate that community spirit and leadership by taking part in the United Way campaign. 

    We recognize and understand that this year is different as we all have been affected by furloughs and other COVID-related realities. However, if you are able to give any amount, I know it would be appreciated as the United Way of York County works to achieve its goal of helping 3,000 York County families achieve financial stability by 2030. This year, in addition to the traditional form that you receive in your office, will be an opportunity to donate via an online pledge form to make giving more convenient and easily accessible. More information soon will be available on the campaign through the Daily Digest.

    Finally, I would like to thank each of you for everything that you are doing to ensure that we have a successful fall semester. I know it isn’t easy, and many of you are juggling the additional responsibilities of assisting your children with virtual and hybrid learning, among a myriad of other outside-of-work responsibilities. Please know that I appreciate you and the work that you do each day. Your work matters, and it’s what has helped us successfully get to this point of the semester.

    I am pleased to inform you that Winthrop has signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control to offer free COVID-19 testing at the North parking lot of the Winthrop Coliseum, beginning this Friday from 9 a.m.1-p.m. More information will be shared if and when testing on the main campus becomes widely available.

    DHEC’s free nasal swab testing will be available to anyone at Winthrop and in the surrounding communities at the Coliseum on Sept. 11, Sept. 18 and Sept. 23. Additional dates and times will be added, so please continue to check DHEC's testing site for updates.

    This is good news for Winthrop and for our communities as we help provide a much needed, and free, service in order to stay on top of virus activity in our area. 

    Employees who are experiencing symptoms or have tested positive should immediately communicate this information to fscovidreporting@winthrop.edu.

    Please read the press release below that provides more details, and thank you to all involved who helped make this a reality. 

     

    Winthrop Coliseum to Serve as Free COVID-19 Testing Site Through December

    ROCK HILL, SOUTH CAROLINA – Winthrop University is partnering with the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control to offer free COVID-19 testing to the Winthrop, and surrounding, community at the North parking lot of the Winthrop Coliseum, 1162 Eden Terrace. (No COVID-19 public testing is currently available on Winthrop's main campus located off of Oakland Avenue.)

    Free testing, which will be performed via nasal swab, will begin at the Winthrop Coliseum on Friday, Sept. 11, and will initially be offered on Friday, Sept. 11, Friday, Sept. 18 and Wednesday, Sept. 23 from 9 a.m.-1 p.m. Additional testing days and hours will be added once more equipment and staffing are secured. The permanent testing site will last through at least December and will then transition to a COVID-19 vaccine site once a vaccine is approved and available to administer.

    There is no cost to Winthrop to host the testing location, but it will provide many benefits.

    “Having a permanent mobile testing location provides much needed access for the community without the delay in appointment availability. Increasing testing frequency provides a more accurate perspective on the prevalence of the virus in our county. I am so proud of Winthrop’s ability to provide a centralized location to facilitate DHEC’s goal of expanding testing convenience in York County as one more layer of response during this pandemic,” said Jackie Concodora, director of health and counseling services at Winthrop.

    According to Concodora, patients will remain in their vehicles at all times during the process, and test results can be delivered via the mail or electronically.

    "We're very excited to partner with Winthrop University to improve access to testing for COVID-19 in York County," said Scott Thorpe, DHEC's Midlands region public health director. "As with everything in public health, we know that collaboration will always improve our collective impact. Whether its students or local residents, we know that improved access to free testing means we can catch more cases. The more cases we catch, the better we're able to get this disease under control so we can all return to our normal, pre-pandemic lives."

    For more information, please visit DHEC's website.

    I am writing to say thank you and to provide some updates. I truly appreciate your dedication and patience as we have begun the semester online and are poised to begin in-person instruction on Tuesday, Sept. 8, as part of our Return to Learn. It is to be expected that with the return to school, concerns and anxieties exist. I know you have many questions. By way of this email (admittedly long but appropriately so) and tomorrow morning’s town hall, I hope we can reassure you that we are doing everything possible to navigate the transition to in-person, resident instruction.

    Move-in news
    We had a successful start to residential student move-in yesterday. Residence Life, Health Services and Campus Police worked together to implement a touch-free move-in process that allowed for health assessment and screening before students and their helpers, who had reserved a time in advance, were allowed to move in. This minimized the number of people in the halls at once and allowed an orderly and safe process for everyone. This phased move-in lasts through Monday, Sept. 7. Thanks to all of the staff who have been working to ensure this vitally important first step to transitioning students back to campus goes well and according to plan. 

    Adjusting to the fall
    Prior to arrival, students received instruction on what to bring to campus (over-the-counter medications, digital thermometer, go bag, etc.) and how to utilize our new symptom tracker software (see below) on a daily basis to keep tabs on their health. Students also were invited to a Student Engagement town hall that was held last week to share how Student Affairs will ensure students feel connected this fall through in-person and virtual opportunities. An “Into the Unknown” event will be held virtually and in person on Sept. 8 at 8 p.m. in Tillman Auditorium so students can learn more about how the university is moving forward and what students can expect with respect to program and service delivery. 

    Expectations
    We already know that becoming accustomed to the new protocols and expectations is a learning curve students must adjust to quickly. They have been provided all the information needed for a successful semester, including our masking requirement and physical distancing expectations; Student Conduct Code additions and the consequences of not abiding by university expectations; and a health kit. We have to lead by example and utilize teachable moments to encourage compliance with our new expectations. Students will be receiving email and video snippets on social media in the coming days to reinforce these expectations.

    Positive COVID cases
    One point of information that it is important for all faculty and staff to understand is how we are handling potential student COVID cases on campus. We have a limited number of test kits available through Health Services that are reserved for students who exhibit symptoms of COVID. Students who obtain COVID testing in the community must immediately notify Health Services of the test date by emailing covidreporting@winthrop.edu and report their results. These procedures will help us track cases and pursue contact tracing.

    If instructed by Health Services staff, residential students will be required to immediately return home to complete quarantine or isolation. All residential students must submit a Return to Campus Plan to Residence Life as a proactive measure in the event they are impacted by COVID and must leave campus immediately.

    Students who return home for quarantine or isolation are expected to follow up with their personal health provider for any COVID-related care and notify Health Services at covidreporting@winthrop.edu of any changes in their condition impacting their return to in-person instruction.

    A great new tool for all residential students and commuter students attending in-person classes is the COVID Symptom Tracker in the Medicat Patient Portal COVID-19 tab. Residential and commuter students are strongly encouraged to use the tracker every day before leaving their residence. A positive response on the daily tracker will display instructions and automatically prompts contact from Health Services.

    All of our student protocols stem from use of the patient portal or covidreporting@winthrop.edu email. Faculty should use this email if they suspect or have heard from a student that s/he may have or have been exposed to COVID. Do not attempt to help manage a student’s situation on your own. Use the email to initiate assistance to the student through our approved protocols.

    For acute illness that results in absence from in-person classes, Health Services will notify the Dean of Students Office which provides official absence notifications to Academic Affairs. The Dean of Students Office will issue an absence notification (dates only, not condition) to students’ faculty members. At that point, faculty members are expected to do all they can to help ensure the student can continue successfully in their classes.

    Finally, we are working to develop a website dashboard with weekly positive cases reported to us among students and faculty/staff. We will send out more information as soon as it is available. 

    Testing on campus
    We will not be testing all students, staff or faculty as we begin in-person instruction as it is not recommended by the CDC or DHEC. However, I am pleased to share that we are in conversation with DHEC to use our facilities (one of the Coliseum parking lots) for a long-term, free, mobile testing site that will be open to the public, and of course, the Winthrop community. This is an exciting development, and more details will be forthcoming.

    MUSC visit and report
    Last month, consultants from MUSC visited campus, reviewed protocols for our Return to Learn plans, and provided risk assessment. We are working to address their recommendations and suggestions, including implementing specific checklists that would apply to divisions and areas of campus.

    Reconsideration Task Force report
    In all of this preparation and assessment, we are guided by a report provided in late July by a campus-wide Reconsideration Task Force which researched possible “triggers” or a combination of factors that might prompt a change in our campus operations based on COVID.  The committee’s charge was to identify possible factors that would encourage us to review a decision to bring students back to campus or, if they were back on campus, what possible factors would cause us to go remote again as we did in March. In addition to available COVID risk levels in the community and state, other factors included the capacity of local hospitals to care for COVID patients, availability of COVID supplies on campus, availability of student-serving quarantine/isolation facilities on campus and related staffing, appropriate infrastructure to support on-campus cases where students were not able to go home, etc. The consideration of these factors--and a recognition as to the commitment to provide the best education possible to our students--led to the decision to bring students back to campus. We will continue to monitor all of these factors as we move forward in the coming weeks. If it appears that we cannot serve the majority of our students safely and mitigate the possible risk to our staff and faculty, we will consider these factors and make the appropriate decision.

    I hope you find these updates helpful. We all know that it will take commitment from every member of the campus community to mitigate the spread of COVID to protect ourselves and one another, and keep our campus safe. Our individual actions can have a profound effect on others. Please practice social responsibility and consistently adhere to all COVID-related precautions such as wearing a mask, avoiding close contact with others (especially group gatherings), staying home if feeling unwell, and frequently washing your hands. Together, we can do this!

    I hope you are planning to join me and other members of Winthrop’s senior leadership for a second Faculty/Staff virtual town hall on Friday at 10 a.m. This town hall will focus on the unique challenges employees will face this academic year.

    The town hall meeting will be accessible via Zoom on Friday at 10 a.m. by using this link. A video recording also will be made available following the town hall if you are unable to participate live.

    I hope you can join us.

    I write to you today to bring you an update regarding our back-to-school plans. There is no doubt that the health and safety of our students is the highest priority as we consider the start to the fall semester on August 24.

    In reviewing the latest S.C. DHEC data available, I note that only six of the 46 counties in South Carolina have not shown a significant increase in the number of positive COVID-19 cases in the past two weeks. The national and international attention our state COVID-19 infection rates have generated has increased anxiety about returning to school be it in the K-12 or higher education environment.

    As the infection rate in South Carolina has risen, we have increasingly heard from concerned students and parents expressing uncertainty over coming back to campus and living in our residence halls. This is quite a change because only a month ago we heard how excited our students and parents were with the onset of classes. Having spoken to a number of my president colleagues in South Carolina, I know all state institutions are experiencing the same concerns over reopening with in-person classes. Some institutions are delaying their start date or others are considering beginning the academic year with remote instruction and then transitioning to in-person instruction later with the anticipation that infection mitigation efforts will begin to reduce the high infection rates we are currently experiencing.

    After a great deal of consideration of the available data regarding COVID-19 infection rates and for the health concerns and safety of our students, faculty and staff, we have made the difficult decision to begin our fall semester remotely. Specifically, the academic calendar will remain the same, but classes will begin on August 25 and be delivered remotely until September 8. This is a two-week delay of in-person classes, but it is necessary. We strongly feel beginning our academic year remotely is the right decision. Revised residence hall move-in dates and reduced housing and dining hall fees are being developed and will be shared with you in the next few days.

    Should the statewide COVID-19 infection rate remain high during the first week of September we may revisit this decision and determine whether it makes sense to continue to offer instruction remotely a bit longer.

    I hope you understand that our decisions are based on our judgment as to what is best for the health and safety of our students and on our ability to serve them academically in a healthy environment. Thank you for your flexibility and patience as we move forward together.

    Dear Colleagues,

    We had a great turnout for our Town Hall that took place on Thursday, July 16th, but if you weren’t able to attend we want to make sure you are aware that the President announced the postponement of Phase III of our Phased Return to Work Plan.  Until further notice, we will remain in Phase II of our plan with the goal of approximately 50% of our workforce on campus at any given time.  This means that we are not returning all employees to work on campus on July 27, 2020, as had been previously announced.  Obviously, as we prepare for students to return to campus, we may see the number of on-campus faculty and staff increase in the weeks leading up to the student return date.  If you have questions about your work circumstances, please speak with your supervisor.

    If you are working on campus or planning to return to work on campus soon, please remember to wear your mask, social distance, and wash your hands often.  If you have not reviewed the Faculty and Staff Return to Work Notification, Training and Resources information and completed the Online Acknowledgement Form, please do so.  The information and form are located on the Human Resources, Employee Diversity, and Wellness website under the COVID-19 Information for Employees tab.  If you have questions please email HRHelp@winthrop.edu.

    Thanks so much!

    Lisa

    Thank you to everyone who participated in yesterday’s faculty/staff virtual town hall meeting. I hope that the vice presidents and I were able to provide you with helpful information that addressed your questions and concerns regarding the campus re-opening and upcoming fall semester.

    If you were not able to attend the town hall, you may access the recorded session via this link

    There were some questions that we were not able to address but know that we are working on including these questions on the Return to Learn website as appropriate or sharing answers to them in upcoming communications.

    We will hold a Students/Families virtual town hall on Thursday, July 30, at 6:30 p.m. in order to address questions and concerns from them as well.

    Thank you again for your hard work and patience as we prepare for the fall semester.

    This summer has certainly been like no other. In summers past, campus would be bustling with Orientation sessions, campus tours and the day-to-day preparations to welcome our students in August. Much of that work continues this summer, just in a virtual manner. 

    With Phase 2 of our Return to Work plan underway and Phase 3 approaching, our focus remains on preparing and providing a safe and healthy workplace and learning space for employees and students. As we continue to settle into our new normal, please take a few moments to read about some important updates:

    Faculty/Staff Virtual Town Hall on Thursday

    As I shared via email on Monday, I invite you to participate in a virtual town hall meeting specifically for faculty and staff on Thursday, July 16, at 2 p.m. Members of senior leadership and I will be answering your questions concerning our campus reopening ahead of the fall 2020 semester. Questions will be accepted in advance through noon today by emailing townhalls@winthrop.edu. Please use this link to join the town hall on Thursday. I look forward to everyone participating in these important discussions.

    Facial Covering Requirements

    I would like to again convey that Winthrop is requiring all staff, faculty and students to wear masks or facial coverings in social settings, such as in university buildings, including classrooms, residence halls and dining facilities, and in outdoor spaces on campus where appropriate social distancing cannot be guaranteed. Facial coverings are not required when alone in private offices, when alone in on-campus residence hall rooms and when not in close contact with another person, such as walking alone outside. Each employee should receive two reusable cloth facial coverings. Please also note that a facial covering mandate recently went into effect in Rock Hill. The mandate requires people to wear facial coverings in public places within city limits. Those places include restaurants, grocery stores, retail establishments and pharmacies. Wearing a facial covering helps protect us all, so please do your part to keep our campus and surrounding community safe and healthy.

    Tillman Hall Renaming Update

    On June 19, members of the Board of Trustees unanimously voted on a resolution requesting state legislators to consider an amendment to the Heritage Act of 2000 to allow Winthrop to restore Tillman Hall to its original name of Main Building. As you'll recall, our trustees do not have the power themselves to change the name. That power belongs to the S.C. General Assembly. I'm happy to report that our formal request in this matter has been sent to the legislators for their consideration. As stated previously, we will patiently await further discussion and action, and I will keep you appraised of any steps forward.

    Fall Homecoming Activities to Be Paused

    Due to continued concerns surrounding COVID-19, we have decided to pause all Homecoming activities this November, including Homecoming on the Green and the Homecoming tailgate. The Division of Student Affairs is considering hosting a spirit week in the spring depending on guidance at that time from the CDC and DHEC. This follows our earlier decision to reschedule for the spring all class reunions that are typically held on Homecoming weekend. These difficult decisions are again made to ensure the health and safety of the entire campus community, including our alumni and visitors. You can read more in this press release.

    Commencement Ceremony Latest

    As COVID-19 cases continue to surge across the state and in our county, we realize that holding a traditional, in-person Commencement ceremony in August to celebrate our May graduates would be unsafe. A survey was recently emailed to May graduates to gather their feedback on alternative Commencement options that would recognize and celebrate their achievements. Over 33 percent responded that rescheduling the ceremony when it is safe to hold large, indoor gatherings would be their first choice; 24 percent chose an outdoor ceremony as their first choice; and, additionally, 18 percent chose no ceremony as their first choice. We appreciate the feedback, and the Commencement Committee hopes to make a recommendation to senior leadership soon.

    Rock Hill Unite Local Relief Program

    Rock Hill City Council has been working to help provide assistance for Rock Hill residents and businesses during these difficult economic times. Funding is still available for these efforts. The Rock Hill Unite local relief program is designed to assist individuals and businesses experiencing financial hardship due to COVID-19. The program includes residential utility assistance, small business utility assistance, service agency assistance and a small business loan program. More information on the Unite program may be found on the city’s website or by emailing unite@cityofrockhill.com or calling 803/817-5112.

    Thank you for making it this far if you're still reading! I know it's a lot of information to take in, but I feel that it's important to keep you in the loop on these topics. Please know that I appreciate your hard work as we work together to welcome our students, and I look forward to our time together during Thursday's town hall. 

    Now that we have launched Phase 2 of our Return to Work plan and are working toward Phase 3, I wanted to invite you to join me and other members of senior leadership for a Faculty/Staff virtual town hall meeting at 2 p.m. on Thursday, July 16.  

    As we plan to reopen campus for fall 2020, there are many details and issues to address, and we understand you may have questions. This hour-long town hall is designed especially for faculty and staff in order for us to provide you with answers as we prepare to welcome students back in a little over a month. We will continue to hold these town halls, including one planned for students and families during the first week of August, as needed.

    How to Ask a Question

    Your voices and questions are important. I invite your questions to be shared with us in advance by noon on Wednesday at townhalls@winthrop.edu or, if time during the meeting, asked/answered online toward the end of the town hall.

    Accessing the Town Hall Meeting

    The town hall meeting will be accessible via Blackboard Collaborate Ultra on July 16 at 2 p.m.  A video recording also will be made available following the town hall if you are unable to participate live. More details on how to view the town hall will be provided by email on Wednesday.

    Please know that you are a valued member of the Winthrop community, and we look forward to hearing from you as we prepare for the fall. I hope you can join us on Thursday. 

    As you know, Phase 2 of Winthrop’s Return to Work Plan begins on Monday, July 6. This means that some of you will return to your offices either full time, in some combination of working on campus and working from home, and some will continue to fully work from home. During Phase 2, the goal is to have no more than approximately 50 percent of our workforce on campus on any given day. Campus buildings will be open and we will return to providing our regular services, but in a modified format so that we can promote social distancing.

    I ask that you please familiarize yourself with our Return to Work Plan and Office Etiquette expectations (pdf - 341 KB) before Monday. A few important items that I would like to reiterate that you may find in the plan:

    • Following CDC and DHEC guidance, Winthrop is requiring all staff, faculty and students to wear masks or cloth facial coverings in social settings, such as in university buildings, including classrooms, residence halls and dining facilities, and in outdoor spaces on campus where appropriate social distancing cannot be guaranteed. Facial coverings are not required when alone in private offices, when alone in on-campus residence hall rooms and when not in close contact with another person, such as walking alone outside.
    • We must practice proper hygiene such as hand washing and social distancing as the CDC and DHEC recommend. 
    • When possible, meetings should not be face-to-face. The use of telephone, e-mail or one of the virtual meeting platforms would be preferred to limit interactions among individuals. 
    • Employees are encouraged to self-monitor frequently for any possible symptoms such as fever, cough, etc

    Regarding the importance of self-monitoring, in normal times, many of us would not think twice of coming to work with a runny nose or scratchy throat and go on about our work day, but at this time we are asking you to contact your supervisor and stay home if you have even the slightest feeling of being unwell. This is out of an abundance of caution for our campus community.

     

    We are also asking, if you have physically been in settings or attended events where social distancing was not possible and face coverings were not worn or have been traveling (including airplanes, cruise ships, etc.) to please contact and inform your supervisor to determine the appropriateness of your returning to work in person on campus.

     

    It is imperative to look at your personal decisions over this week and last, and ascertain as much as possible your risk of potentially having been exposed yet be asymptomatic. This is a necessary step we all must take before the July 6 Phase 2 opening. If you do think you may have been exposed, please contact HR for guidance.

    While we are doing all that we can from an institutional standpoint to provide a safe and healthy work environment, we simply cannot control every variable. I am asking each of us - by wearing a mask, self-monitoring, practicing good hygiene and social distancing, and more - to do our part to help keep our campus healthy and safe. 

    Finally, as of now, we continue to plan for our Phase 3 opening on July 27 during which we will welcome nearly 100 percent of our employees back to campus. We are keeping a close eye on the rise in COVID-19 cases in our area and will keep you informed if this changes.

    Thank you for all that you have done, and continue to do, for Winthrop during these uncertain times. I look forward to talking soon to as many of you as I can (while practicing social distancing of course!)

    It is less than one week until our scheduled return to work for Phase 2, and more concerning news has been recently shared that emphasizes why we must be vigilant between now and July 6 as we prepare to return to work. Please note that a detailed Return to Work Guide will be forthcoming this week. 

    While the administration is readying the physical campus for your return and implementing necessary precautions to decrease any spread of COVID-19, you must be equally committed in the coming days to protecting yourself and tangentially our community, as cases continue to rise throughout many areas in the Carolinas. 

    The Herald reported that York County added a total of 103 COVID-19 cases this past weekend, which ended a record-breaking week of new cases. In order to keep ourselves, our family members and our colleagues healthy and safe, we should all be wearing masks or cloth facial coverings anytime we are in public with the potential for contact with others. We must practice hand washing and social distancing as the CDC and DHEC recommend. Again, this is not only for our own health but the health of our campus colleagues and friends, which is an important component of the Winthrop spirit I’ve seen so consistently displayed during the pandemic. 

    I also wanted to make you aware of several other items happening concerning campus preparations: 

    • Following CDC and DHEC guidance, Winthrop is requiring all staff, faculty and students to wear masks or cloth facial coverings in social settings, such as in university buildings, including classrooms, residence halls and dining facilities, and in outdoor spaces on campus where appropriate social distancing cannot be guaranteed. Facial coverings are not required when alone in private offices, when alone in on-campus residence hall rooms and when not in close contact with another person, such as walking alone outside. Also in accordance with CDC and DHEC guidance, Winthrop is not requiring baseline COVID-19 testing for faculty, staff and students who return to campus. COVID-19 testing options for those who become symptomatic will be available through local health-care facilities.
    • Should it be required, contact tracing will be provided by DHEC in communication with Center for Student Wellness for students and Human Resources for employees.
    • Return to work kits will soon be available from Environmental Health and Safety for departments and offices. Supervisors will be notified of pick-up arrangements. Kits include reusable cloth facial coverings (two per employee), disposable masks for office visitors, a 22 oz. bottle of hand sanitizer for office/department use, a 32 oz. bottle of disinfectant cleaner for office/department use, gloves and paper towels. No wipes or personal-sized hand sanitizers will be available for each employee's desk.  
    • We are consulting with the Medical University of South Carolina on our Return to Learn plan, which details our preparations to safely welcome our students, faculty and staff back to campus for the fall semester. Being reviewed are our social distancing plans for classroom, residence halls and shared spaces such as Dacus Library, in addition to our plans for returning employees to the campus. MUSC will evaluate these plans and give suggestions and guidance as to how we might adjust them if needed.
    • Finally, I would like to encourage each employee to complete the required, mandatory Return to Work Authorization training as soon as possible. Employees will not be allowed to return to campus until this training is completed. This information can be found at the “Faculty and Staff Return to Work Notification, Training, and Resources” section of the HR website

    It is with anticipation that I look forward to seeing you back on campus. Working remotely has served the university as well as we might have imagined but like you, I suspect, I have missed the opportunity to see each other on a daily basis. As we enter Phase 2 of re-opening, I ask you to pay attention to these guidelines as it is with care and respect for each other that we need to work to create a healthy and safe campus.

Last Updated: 7/13/22