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Faculty & Staff, Sept. 4, 2020
Student Engagement, Aug. 25, 2020
Students & Families, July 30, 2020
Faculty & Staff, July 16, 2020


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General Communications

 

    Dear Campus Community,

    Before we wrap up in-person instruction and our attention turns to the Thanksgiving holiday in a couple of weeks, I wanted to reach out and share some details of our COVID-19 management plans for the return to learning in January.

    Students attending in-person classes and/or living on campus will be required to get tested for COVID-19 prior to returning to campus

    Trustees were briefed today on Student Affairs’ and senior leadership’s recommendation for pre-entry COVID-19 testing for students who are taking in-person classes and/or living in the residence halls. Students will be required to present a negative test result for a test taken 72 hours in advance of their return date/first in-person class. (Online-only students will not be required to submit test results.) Students will need to quarantine two days prior to their test and continue to quarantine until their scheduled return to campus date. The benefit of return testing is prevention of positive students from returning to campus and exposing others to the virus.

    Expanded testing makes this requirement possible
    I am sure you are aware of the rise in cases in our state and elsewhere in the country. Cold weather will undoubtedly drive individuals indoors, and the upcoming holidays will increase transmission risk. You likely know, too, that SC DHEC has expanded mobile testing sites (like the one at our Coliseum) throughout the state, making it easier for students to find free testing options in their community. You will recall such testing was not as readily available during summer leading up to the fall semester. As a result of all of these circumstances, senior leadership has agreed that the implementation of return testing is a good idea.

    Students being informed now
    Students are being informed of this requirement now so they have ample time to identify permanent and mobile testing options for their test date in January. Residential students also are being informed that the requirement for return testing means that we must change how Residence Life handles closing the residence halls for the fall semester. A detailed message from Residence Life is being sent to residential students today on what they can expect.

    Continued diligence is a must
    We know that such testing is an effort of risk mitigation but not a guarantee of campus safety. Testing is still a snapshot in time, and a person can become symptomatic after testing. However, we hope that students (as well as faculty and staff) will take the advice of the CDC in limiting their exposure to others over the holidays, avoiding large gatherings, and continuing masking, hand-washing and social distancing. SC DHEC recommends testing at least monthly for anyone out and about in the community for any reason.

    Student Affairs will take the lead
    Residence Life and Health Services will lead the coordination of the testing results management as well as the necessary move-in health screenings in January like those we required in the fall prior to move-in. Detailed information will be provided by email from Health Services so all students will know how to upload their COVID-19 testing results to the Medicat portal. (Students, it is very important for you to monitor your email for instructions in this regard.) Student Affairs will monitor enrollment to notify the students who meet the requirements for testing (in-person classes and/or residential living). Residential students who do not test/provide results will be prohibited from moving in, and any student who does not adhere to testing will face disciplinary action.

    Is expanding testing an option?
    We are strongly encouraging everyone to take advantage of the free testing available at the Coliseum or other locations in the community, but at this time, we are not requiring a negative test result for faculty and staff to return to work after the winter break. As we move into December and have more information about the prevalence of the virus in our community, we may consider additional testing, including of faculty and staff, but our emphasis now is on students who, once they return, will be more likely to be in close contact with others in classrooms and/or the residence halls. We also are considering surveillance testing (random sampling of the campus community) in the spring and exploring the details of how that might work. More on these options in time.

    I hope you find this update of our planning helpful. Please direct any questions you may have to Shelia Burkhalter, Jackie Concodora, or Howard Seidler, depending on the nature of the inquiry.
    Sincerely,

    George

    George W. Hynd
    Interim President

     

     

    Dear Campus Community:

    I know you are eager to learn what Winthrop’s plans are for December Commencement. As the university continues to navigate the current pandemic and monitor CDC and SCDHEC guidelines regarding large indoor events, it has become clear that, as with May Commencement, we will not be able to hold our traditional ceremony.  We do, however, want to celebrate the accomplishments of our degree candidates as much as possible. 

    Using their responses to a recent survey regarding commencement options, Winthrop will hold a virtual commencement ceremony on December 19 for our December graduates, as well as our August and May graduates.  In addition, our December graduates will be invited to campus on December 19 to pick up their degree. (August and May graduates received their degrees by mail.)  While neither of these events can truly replace the joyous celebration of a traditional ceremony where graduates are surrounded by family and friends, we will make these events as special as possible as we work to keep graduates, their families and the Winthrop community protected from COVID-19. 

    I speak for the entire Winthrop community in sharing our disappointment that we cannot hold a regular ceremony, but we know this is the right thing to do. We are exceedingly proud of the accomplishments of each and every one of our graduates, especially as they have completed their Winthrop degree despite a pandemic. They are resilient scholars who prioritized their goals and dreams, and then achieved them!

     I thank the Commencement Committee in advance for their work to bring these events to life and welcome our latest Winthrop graduates to the alumni ranks.

    Sincerely,

    George 

    George W. Hynd
    Interim President

    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.

    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.

    It is with great disappointment that I write to you to share another COVID-19-related decision that will impact our fall semester. As the release below explains, the Big South Conference has made the decision to delay fall sports with the hope of those teams entering competition in the spring. We feel for our student-athletes who have worked extremely hard to reach the NCAA Division I level of competition. Their disappointment with this decision will be great. The good news for these students is that all scholarships will be honored. We look forward to a time in the future when our teams can safely compete without the risks of COVID-19 potentially impacting their health.

    Winthrop Reacts to BSC Decision to Delay Fall Sports

    ROCK HILL, SOUTH CAROLINA .– With the health and safety of student-athletes, coaches and athletics staff its highest priority, the Big South Conference announced today the decision of the Council of Chief Executive Officers to delay the fall sports seasons and to postpone them until the spring, if possible.

    For Winthrop the decision impacts men’s and women’s cross country, men’s and women’s soccer, volleyball, and fall competitions in men’s and women’s golf, in addition to out-of-season competition in spring sports.

    “Marking another difficult decision in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, this delay reflects our commitment to student-athletes and the entire athletics family,” said Winthrop Interim President George Hynd. “While we know the decision is extremely disappointing for our players, coaches, staff and supporters, their health and safety is most important as we move into the fall season. We look forward to the day our outstanding teams can return to competition without the uncertainties of the pandemic holding sway.”

    The Big South Conference joins the Big 10 Conference and Pac 12 Conference in decisions to postpone fall sports this week, along with several other leagues that have done the same in recent weeks.

    Vice President for Intercollegiate Athletics Ken Halpin noted that all scholarships will be honored and coaches and staff stand ready to assist student-athletes just as they did in spring 2020 when competition was curtailed. “We are prepared to support them and help them adjust to team and individual expectations moving forward,” he said.

    For more information on the Big South Conference’s decision, see the release.

     

    Thank you to everyone who participated in yesterday’s Students/Families 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 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.

    I hope you and your loved ones are planning to join me and other members of Winthrop’s senior leadership for tomorrow’s virtual Students/Families town hall at 6:30 p.m.

    We know that there are many details and issues of concern as we continue to prepare for the fall 2020 semester. Please note on Monday I announced that the fall semester will begin remotely. We look forward to answering your questions tomorrow tonight.

    The town hall meeting will be accessible via Blackboard Collaborate Ultra tomorrow at 6:30 p.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 tomorrow.

    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 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. 

    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. 

    Dear Students,

    I hope this email finds you healthy and well, and ready for a safe return to campus next month. As Winthrop continues its phased re-opening, please know that our focus remains on preparing and providing a safe and healthy learning space and workplace for you and our employees. As we continue to settle into our new normal, please take a few moments to read about some important updates:

    Students/Families Virtual Town Hall on July 30  

    I invite you to participate in a virtual town hall meeting specifically for students and families on Thursday, July 30, at 6:30 p.m. Members of senior leadership and I will be answering your questions concerning the fall 2020 semester. Questions will be accepted in advance through noon on Friday, July 24, by emailing townhalls@winthrop.edu. More information will be shared closer to the event on how to join the town hall meeting. I look forward to participating in these important discussions with you and your loved ones.

    Facial Covering Requirements

    Please know that Winthrop is requiring all students, faculty and staff 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 on-campus residence hall rooms and when not in close contact with another person, such as walking alone outside. Upon return to campus, each student will receive a health kit that contains a reusable cloth facial covering, along with other items to help you meet Winthrop’s expectations for doing your part in maintaining a healthy campus community. 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 “mask up” to keep our campus and surrounding community safe and healthy.

    Campus Life Outlook

    Top of mind for many students are Winthrop’s plans for residential living, dining and student activities this fall. Staff members continue to work on final details, and more information will be available soon. As you may know, the Division of Student Affairs sent a July 9 student email entitled Fall Housing Information. The email provided an overview of next month’s move-in process and dates, fall housing assignments timeline and more. Additional details on many of these related plans will be sent in the next few weeks, so please monitor your Winthrop email account frequently and be on the lookout for these important updates.

    Winthrop Bookstore Now Open

    The Winthrop Bookstore, located in the DiGiorgio Campus Center, is now open and is implementing a number of measures to keep its customers safe, such as social distancing measures, contactless payment and more. The bookstore is continuing to process online orders as well.

    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 difficult decision is again made to ensure the health and safety of the entire campus community. 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.

    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 pleased 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.

    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 there are a lot of people working very hard to prepare for your safe return next month. We can’t wait to welcome you back! Until then, I look forward to our time together during the July 30 town hall. 

    Warm regards,

    George

    George W. Hynd
    Interim President

    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. 

 

Students and Families Communications

 

    Dear Students:

    With Thanksgiving and the winter break right around the corner, all students are encouraged to seek testing prior to their return home date. The Coliseum site is open Thursday through Monday from 9am-5m or at another community site located through the DHEC website https://scdhec.gov/covid19/covid-19-testing-locations. They should proactively discuss with family their quarantine plan if they return before receiving their results or isolation plan should their test results come back positive.

    Please see below more specific guidance from South Carolina DHEC to reduce the spread of COVID-19 this holiday season.

    Shelia 

    Shelia Higgs Burkhalter, MBA, MSEd

    Vice President for Student Affairs

    State Health Leaders Encourage South Carolinians to Stay Vigilant to Reduce Spread of COVID-19 this Holiday Season

    As we approach the holiday season and COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations spike across South Carolina and the nation, the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC), South Carolina Hospital Association (SCHA) and Medical University of South Carolina (MUSC) urge all South Carolinians to rededicate themselves to individual actions to protect public health amid this pandemic. These actions include:

    • properly wearing face masks,
    • staying physically distanced from others, and
    • routinely getting tested.

    To help protect themselves and their loved ones, we encourage all college and university students to get tested and know their results before going home for holiday breaks and also before returning back to campus. Additionally, we recommend getting tested before attending any family gatherings. Asymptomatic individuals can unknowingly carry the virus and pass it along to friends and family who could experience severe illness, hospitalization, or worse.

    We recognize that the holiday season is a sacred time, and we encourage South Carolinians to avoid indoor gatherings and maintain their commitment to activities that reduce the spread of COVID-19.

    We applaud the sacrifices our residents have made over the past many months, and at the same time we appeal to all South Carolinians to remain committed to our fight against this deadly disease. Your daily commitment to wearing a mask, socially distancing, and getting tested can help save lives.

    If we remain resilient and #StaySCStrong, we can defeat this global pandemic together.

    Dear Undergraduate Students,

    Faculty have approved a further modification to the grading policy for the Fall 2020 semester. Students may elect the S/U option on as many courses as they wish, unless prohibited by their major. Consultation with the advisor or college Student Services Office is strongly encouraged.  The deadline to elect the S/U is the last day of classes. For full-semester courses, this is December 3.

    Please visit the FAQ site at https://www.winthrop.edu/recandreg/su-fall-2020.aspx. The link to the S/U form is on that page.

    Note: the form will have to be submitted for each S/U elected, so if you elect three courses, the form will have to be submitted three times.

    If you have further questions, please contact the Office of Records and Registration at recandreg@winthrop.edu or 803-323-2194.

    Sincerely,

    Gina G. Jones, M.Ed.
    Registrar

    Dear Students:

    I hope this email finds you ready to finish out the semester on a strong note. As we prepare for Thanksgiving break and the shift to remote learning for the remainder of the fall semester, I wanted to share with you some important information regarding how to return textbooks as well as upcoming operating hours for various on-campus service providers.

    Winthrop Bookstore

    There are two ways for you to return rental textbooks to the bookstore.  

    1) Return in-store at the Campus Center: You may return books in person before the Dec. 15 due date. Appropriate safety and social distancing measures will be implemented.

    2) Return by mail: You may ship rental textbooks back to the bookstore via UPS before the Dec. 15 due date. Find step-by-step instructions to purchase and print your shipping label on the bookstore’s website

    *Please note that you will need your order number to print the shipping label. This can be found in the rental return reminder emails, which start 21 days before the due date. If you do not see an email, please email sm8167@bncollege.com and your order can be looked up in the system.  

    If you would like to keep your rented textbooks, rental reminder emails will contain a “buy book” option for available titles. This can also be done via My Account online or by emailing the bookstore with your request. Check the FAQs page if you have additional questions about your book rentals.  

    As for operating hours, the bookstore will be closed Nov. 25-29 for Thanksgiving. Following Thanksgiving break, the bookstore will be open Monday-Friday, 10 a.m.-5 p.m.. through Dec. 18. The bookstore will hopefully be able to open on Saturday, Dec. 12 from 12-5 p.m. for in-person rental check in and last minute holiday shopping.

    West Center

    The center will be closed Saturday, Nov. 21-Sunday, Nov. 29, and during that week will be deep cleaned. After Thanksgiving, the center will open Monday, Nov. 30, with the following modified hours of operation:

    Monday– Friday, 11 a.m.–7 p.m.

    Saturday, 10 a.m.–6 p.m.

    Sunday, Closed

    The facility will close for the winter break on Friday, Dec. 18.

    DiGiorgio Campus Center

    The center will be open on the following schedule:

    Friday, Nov. 20 - 8 a.m.-9 p.m.

    Saturday, Nov. 21-Sunday, Nov. 22 - 11 a.m.-9 p.m.

    Monday, Nov. 23-Tuesday, Nov. 24 - 8 a.m.-5 p.m.

    Wednesday, Nov. 25-Sunday, Nov. 29: Closed for Thanksgiving

    After Thanksgiving, the center will open Monday, Nov. 30, with the following modified hours of operation:

    Monday – Friday, 8 a.m.-5 p.m.

    Saturday – As needed for bookstore support

    Sunday – Closed

    The center will close for the winter break on Friday, Dec. 18.

    Dining Services/Sodexo

    Due to so few people being on campus, all retail operations (Starbucks, Subway and Markley’s) will be closed Monday, Nov. 23 – Friday, Dec. 18. Thomson Café will be open during that period to serve residential students and guests as needed. Hours will soon be announced.

    Finally, as you are likely aware, there has been a recent surge in COVID-19 cases within the state and the country. While the Winthrop community has generally behaved well with respect to the university’s COVID-19 Guidelines, we are noticing higher instances of people in buildings without masks. You are encouraged to continue to be vigilant in following all of the guidelines, in particular consistently wearing your masks, practicing social distancing and frequently washing your hands. Remember we all share the responsibility of ensuring the health and safety of the Winthrop community.

    Please safely enjoy your Thanksgiving break, and I wish you the best of luck on wrapping up the semester and final exams.

    Sincerely,

    Shelia Burkhalter
    Vice President for Student Affairs

    Dear Campus Community,

    Before we wrap up in-person instruction and our attention turns to the Thanksgiving holiday in a couple of weeks, I wanted to reach out and share some details of our COVID-19 management plans for the return to learning in January.

    Students attending in-person classes and/or living on campus will be required to get tested for COVID-19 prior to returning to campus

    Trustees were briefed today on Student Affairs’ and senior leadership’s recommendation for pre-entry COVID-19 testing for students who are taking in-person classes and/or living in the residence halls. Students will be required to present a negative test result for a test taken 72 hours in advance of their return date/first in-person class. (Online-only students will not be required to submit test results.) Students will need to quarantine two days prior to their test and continue to quarantine until their scheduled return to campus date. The benefit of return testing is prevention of positive students from returning to campus and exposing others to the virus.

    Expanded testing makes this requirement possible
    I am sure you are aware of the rise in cases in our state and elsewhere in the country. Cold weather will undoubtedly drive individuals indoors, and the upcoming holidays will increase transmission risk. You likely know, too, that SC DHEC has expanded mobile testing sites (like the one at our Coliseum) throughout the state, making it easier for students to find free testing options in their community. You will recall such testing was not as readily available during summer leading up to the fall semester. As a result of all of these circumstances, senior leadership has agreed that the implementation of return testing is a good idea.

    Students being informed now
    Students are being informed of this requirement now so they have ample time to identify permanent and mobile testing options for their test date in January. Residential students also are being informed that the requirement for return testing means that we must change how Residence Life handles closing the residence halls for the fall semester. A detailed message from Residence Life is being sent to residential students today on what they can expect.

    Continued diligence is a must
    We know that such testing is an effort of risk mitigation but not a guarantee of campus safety. Testing is still a snapshot in time, and a person can become symptomatic after testing. However, we hope that students (as well as faculty and staff) will take the advice of the CDC in limiting their exposure to others over the holidays, avoiding large gatherings, and continuing masking, hand-washing and social distancing. SC DHEC recommends testing at least monthly for anyone out and about in the community for any reason.

    Student Affairs will take the lead
    Residence Life and Health Services will lead the coordination of the testing results management as well as the necessary move-in health screenings in January like those we required in the fall prior to move-in. Detailed information will be provided by email from Health Services so all students will know how to upload their COVID-19 testing results to the Medicat portal. (Students, it is very important for you to monitor your email for instructions in this regard.) Student Affairs will monitor enrollment to notify the students who meet the requirements for testing (in-person classes and/or residential living). Residential students who do not test/provide results will be prohibited from moving in, and any student who does not adhere to testing will face disciplinary action.

    Is expanding testing an option?
    We are strongly encouraging everyone to take advantage of the free testing available at the Coliseum or other locations in the community, but at this time, we are not requiring a negative test result for faculty and staff to return to work after the winter break. As we move into December and have more information about the prevalence of the virus in our community, we may consider additional testing, including of faculty and staff, but our emphasis now is on students who, once they return, will be more likely to be in close contact with others in classrooms and/or the residence halls. We also are considering surveillance testing (random sampling of the campus community) in the spring and exploring the details of how that might work. More on these options in time.

    I hope you find this update of our planning helpful. Please direct any questions you may have to Shelia Burkhalter, Jackie Concodora, or Howard Seidler, depending on the nature of the inquiry.
    Sincerely,

    George

    George W. Hynd
    Interim President

     

     

    Dear Students,

    We are excited to welcome you back to campus and hope that your classes are off to a great start! Winthrop faculty and staff have worked extremely hard to offer an in-person campus experience and we trust that you will do your part in slowing the spread of COVID-19 and helping us remain on campus. Here are a few reminders about COVID-19 policies:  

    • Face coverings are required in all campus buildings.
    • Social distancing is required. Remain at least 6 feet away when interacting with other community members.  
    • Students living in Winthrop Residence halls are allowed to have ONE guest in their room at a time, and that guest must reside in their building.  Other than students accessing Thomson Hall to eat or students participating in an activity required by an academic program (class, required study hall, etc.), external guests are not allowed residential facilities, including family members and residents of other buildings. You should not enter a Residence Hall that you don’t live in for any reason other than the two mentioned above.
    • Social events and gatherings are strongly discouraged. The host(s) of any event that directly or indirectly leads to the disruption of campus operations or the exhaustion of University resources will be held accountable in accordance to the procedures listed in the Student Conduct Code.
    • If you are exposed to COVID-19 or are experiencing symptoms, you must notify the University and can do so by emailing covidreporting@winthrop.edu. Once notified, the University will provide you with instructions on how to isolate or quarantine.  It is vital that you follow these instructions.  Failure to do such are violations of the Student Conduct Code. 

    The health and safety of our campus community must be our number one priority. Please be considerate of yourself and others. Follow the COVID-19 Safety Guidelines.

    Please note that violations of COVID-19 Safety Guidelines will result in student conduct action, and sanctions may include a warning, monetary fines, removal from housing with no refund, and/or suspension or expulsion from Winthrop University.

    Staff are planning programs and events for you with safety in mind. We hope that you will engage with residence hall programs, student organizations, DSU programs, etc. Please reach out if you have any questions or concerns. 

    Sincerely,

    Anthony Davis
    Interim Dean of Students

    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.

    Dear Families,

    It is to be expected that with our Return to Learn, concerns and anxieties exist. I know you have many questions. By way of this email (admittedly long but appropriately so), I hope I 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
    In response to many questions on this, I want you to understand 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 will use this email if they suspect or have heard from a student that s/he may have or have been exposed to COVID.

    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 will 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. I have encouraged everyone on campus to 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!

    Sincerely,

    George

    George Hynd

    Interim President

    Dear Students:

    Center for Student Wellness recognizes how stressful it has been for students to adjust to remote instruction over spring and to anticipate what college will be like this fall. We would like to share proactive steps you can take to facilitate your transition to in-person instruction. All of this information is available on the Return to Learn and the Center for Student Wellness websites. Please attend Into the Unknown event on 9/8/2020 at 8pm in Tillman Auditorium or join virtually to learn more about how to access our services and other opportunities for support this fall.

    Plan ahead before you arrive next week:

    • Bring over the counter medications like Tylenol, Advil, Pepcid, etc.; anything you normally take when you are sick. It is essential to bring your own digital thermometer for daily monitoring of your temperature. Covid-19 symptoms can start quickly.

    • Residential students will be required to immediately return home to complete quarantine or isolation. Residential students must submit a Return To Campus Plan to Residence Life as a proactive measure in the event they are impacted by Covid-19 and must leave campus immediately. Access to this plan closes on 9/10/2020 so please get an early start on completing it. Responses will remain confidential and will only be accessible by Residence Life and Health Services staff on a need to know basis. Students who return home for quarantine or isolation are expected to follow up with their personal 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.

    • Residential students need to keep a ‘go bag’ packed so you are prepared to leave quickly should you have to go into quarantine or isolation. Remember to grab your computer, phone, all charging cords, materials for class, and any prescription medications.

    Important information once you arrive on campus:

    • All residential students and commuter students attending in-person classes are strongly encouraged to utilize the Covid Symptom Tracker in the Medicat Patient Portal Covid-19 tab every day before leaving their residence. A positive response on the daily tracker will display instructions and automatically prompts contact from Health Services. It is very important to answer your phone.

    • Students who want to initiate telephone triage with a nurse for a well or sick visit should use the Medicat Patient Portal Appointment tab. Health Services will operate by appointment only, no walk-ins.

    • Students who wish to schedule a counseling intake should use the Medicat Patient Portal Appointment tab. Counseling Services and Student Advocacy and Trauma Support will operate by appointment only, no walk-ins.

    • Students who obtain Covid-19 testing in the community must immediately notify Health Services of the test date by emailing covidreporting@winthrop.edu and report their results.

    • 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. Health Services will only share dates of absence regardless of the health related issue. No health details will be shared. The Dean of Students Office will issue an absence notification (dates only, not condition) to students’ faculty. Should a student’s condition related to Covid-19 change, the student must communicate that information to Health Services who will notify the Dean of Students Office of a change in dates for the quarantine or isolation period. Students should immediately communicate this information to Health Services by emailing covidreporting@winthrop.edu.

    • Office of Accessibility has a new case management system called AIM through which students can initiate virtual appointments, upload documentation, access letters of accommodation, and manage accommodations, including Test Center requests. Students can utilize the Student AIM Portal here.

    It takes commitment from every member of the campus community to mitigate the spread of Covid-19 to protect ourselves and one another to 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 like wearing a mask, avoiding close contact with others (especially group gatherings), staying home if feeling unwell, and frequently washing your hands.

    Have a wonderful semester and be well.

    Jackie Concodora
    Director of Center for Student Wellness

    From: Gina Jones, Registrar

    Dear Students,

    Welcome back, or if you're starting your first semester with us, welcome to Winthrop! The following message contains important information.

    Students may add a full-semester classes through Friday, August 28 and drop a full-semester class through Monday, August 31.

    Please note, if you have a registration hold for any reason (past due balance, immunization, etc), you may not add a class without contacting the office that placed the hold and having that office remove it. If you have a registration hold and need to drop a class, we must have a written request.  You can email us at recandreg@winthrop.edu from your Winthrop email account.

    Beginning Tuesday, September 1, students may withdraw from a full-semester class through Wingspan. Please note, if you have a registration hold for any reason, you must complete a course withdrawal form found at https://www.winthrop.edu/recandreg/forms-online.aspx and submit it to our office.  

    If you need to withdraw from ALL classes, you cannot do this via Wingspan after 5 PM Friday, August 28.  The Withdrawal from Winthrop Survey is found at https://www.winthrop.edu/recandreg/forms-online.aspx and must be submitted to our office before the official withdrawal can occur.  Don't risk your financial aid or academic progress by not completing this form if you are leaving Winthrop.

    For other registration dates, including half-semester and other special sessions as well as tuition adjustment dates, visit the registration calendar on the Records and Registration website at https://www.winthrop.edu/recandreg/registrars-calendar.aspx.   

    It is also important to be aware of academic policies regarding grading (interim and final), course loads, course repeats, S/Us, and class attendance. These can be found in the Academic Regulations portion of the current catalog, found at /uploadedFiles/recandreg/Catalogs/20-21/20-21-academic-regulations.pdf and /uploadedFiles/graduateschool/catalog/2020-21-grad-catalog.pdf  page 28 (graduate students).

    Graduate Students in 100% fully online programs should consult with their Student Services Coordinator.

    Please contact our office for any questions regarding these matters at recandreg@winthrop.edu or 803-323-2194.

    My best wishes to you for a successful semester.

    Dear Campus Community,

    Welcome to the new academic year.  Today we celebrate the start of the academic year with our Opening Convocation.  Normally we would gather on campus to welcome our new students in a formal setting.  Since we are starting virtually this semester, our Convocation is virtual as well.  Interim President George Hynd, Rock Hill Mayor John Gettys, Board of Trustees Chair Glenn McCall, Council of Student Leaders Chair Brandon Jackson, Staff Conference Chair Jayme Charles, and Faculty Conference Chair Adolphus Belk Jr. welcome our new students to Winthrop in video form. 

    The video is available on the Winthrop University YouTube site: https://youtu.be/rfLW8RGih60 

    I hope you will have an opportunity to watch.

    Sincerely,

    Tim Drueke

    We are so excited to welcome you back to Winthrop next week! I’m sure you are wondering, “What does the Winthrop student experience look like during a pandemic?”  In the Division of Student Affairs, we know that much of the college experience is shaped by what happens outside of the classroom, and that will certainly look different this year. 

     

    Please join the Student Affairs staff for a Student Engagement Town Hall at 7:00 p.m., Tuesday, August 25. During this one and a half hour Town Hall we will share the exciting engagement and involvement opportunities planned for this fall! 

     

    How to Ask a Question

    Your voices and questions are important. We will be taking questions in real time during the Town Hall utilizing the chat feature. However, if you want to share questions with us in advance, please send them by noon on Monday, August 24 to studentaffairs@winthrop.edu

     

    Accessing the Town Hall Meeting

    The town hall meeting will be accessible via GoTo Webinar on August 25, at 7:00 p.m. A video recording and transcript will be made available following the town hall if you are unable to participate live. More details on how to view the town hall recording will be provided by email next week.

     

    I hope you can join us on August 25th.

    Thank you for completing your pre-check in requirements. Please read below regarding the next steps for your check-in process. ALL RESIDENTS, both returning and new, need to sign up for a MOVE-IN APPOINTMENT time and date between September 2 -7, 2020 to move into their residence halls. Early or late arrivals are not permitted due to limited staffing so please arrive within the time block you selected. PLEASE READ THE ENTIRETY OF THIS EMAIL FOR COMPLETE MOVE-IN INSTRUCTIONS.

    1. Select your residence hall below to pick your campus arrival date and time. There are a limited number of appointments per move-in time to ensure social distancing is occurring in each residence hall. We ask for your flexibility in selecting times as we cannot permit students to show up unannounced.

    The Courtyard at Winthrop [https://wu-courtyard-sept2020.youcanbook.me]
    Lee Wicker Hall  [https://wu-leewick-sept2020.youcanbook.me/]  
    Margaret Nance Hall [https://wu-mn-sept2020.youcanbook.me}

    Phelps Hall [https://wu-phelpshall-sept2020.youcanbook.me]

    Richardson Hall [https://wu-richardson-sept2020.youcanbook.me/]
    Roddey Hall [https://wu-roddey-sept2020.youcanbook.me]
    Thomson Hall  [https://wu-thomson-sept2020.youcanbook.me/]

    2. Please print and complete the attached COVID-19 screening questionnaire no sooner than 24 hours prior to your arrival to campus. Be advised no more than two people should accompany you to campus. You and your move in helpers must also print and complete the screening questionnaire. (Note: If you do not have access to a printer, paper copies will be available but may add 15-20 minutes to your check-in process. Please bring your own pen.)
    3. Upon arriving to campus on your scheduled date and time, proceed to the Winthrop Coliseum North Parking Lot (near 1162 Eden Terrace, Rock Hill, SC) for your COVID-19 Health Screening during your selected time. Do not roll down your window or exit your vehicle unless instructed by Health Services. Please have your Pre-Check In Confirmation email printed or ready to display on your cell phone through your vehicle window. All occupants of your vehicle need to have their masks upon arrival to the Coliseum.

    Submit/complete the COVID-19 screening forms and complete the required Temperature Check with Health Services. Forms should be completed by students and their two move-in assistants no sooner than 24 hours before your arrival to campus. Before interacting with any staff, please have a mask or face covering on. (Note: If you (or your move-in assistants) are exhibiting symptoms prior to move-in such as fever, cough, shortness of breath, sore throat, headache, chills, muscle pain, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea or sudden onset loss of smell or taste, contact Health Services at 803/323-2206 to discuss symptoms with a nurse immediately.) If you are experiencing symptoms or have recently tested positive for COVID-19, please contact residencelife@winthrop.edu to delay your check-in until your symptoms are resolved.

    Students (or the move-in assistants) that arrive to check-in and are experiencing symptoms will not be permitted to move into their residence hall.
     
    4. Following your health screening, you will proceed forward and receive your residence hall key in the Winthrop Coliseum North Parking Lot. After receiving your room key, you may proceed to your residence hall. Masks are required throughout our residence halls and move-in unless you are in your immediate residence hall room.

    Thank you for your cooperation!

    We are thrilled to welcome you to campus for Fall 2020!

    You are receiving this email because you will be living on campus. There are some major changes to how students check in, so please follow the steps below to make sure that you are able to check-in when you arrive. All of the changes have the health and safety of students, staff, and faculty as our top priority.

    If you have applied to cancel your housing please DO NOT proceed with the steps below. Due to a high volume of emails, we are still actively processing cancellation and exemption applications and will notify you via Winthrop email of your status. 

    1. Log onto Wingspan > Eaglesnest Housing
    2. Click on the "Residence Hall Pre-Check In Process."
    3. Complete the steps that are shown IN ORDER starting with the “COVID-19 Health Screening Acknowledgement.”
    4. Complete the next 5 steps. Access to each step is provided upon completion of the previous step.
    5. Upon completing the last step you will receive a confirmation email that you have completed the Pre Check-In procedure process. KEEP THAT EMAIL, as you will need to present it when you are moving in as proof.
    6. In your confirmation email, you will have access to the sign-up link for your residence hall. Click the link, select your time and complete the required information. After you have completed your sign-up, you will receive a confirmation email with a calendar reminder of your move-in appointment for your records.
    7. REMEMBER to print out and bring the COVID-19 Screening Form on the day check-in for you and your move-in assistants.This form is also attached to your confirmation email. Students may NOT bring more than two move-in assistants to campus. Masks are required throughout move-in and whenever inside the residence halls.

    Your confirmation email will have more specific information about how to sign up for your move-in appointment and receive your required COVID-19 health screening. It is important that you complete this process as soon as possible.

    For more details, it is extremely important for you to review the Residence Life Move-In website regularly.  Any updates will be reflected there.  Also, please review the “Return to Learn” website regularly for updates.

    https://www.winthrop.edu/reslife/getting-ready.aspx

    https://www.winthrop.edu/returntolearn/

     

    Thank you for in advance for your patience and cooperation.

    Sincerely,
     
    Winthrop University
    Department of Residence Life
    237 DiGiorgio Campus Center
    Rock Hill, SC 29733
     
    803/323-2223
    803/323-2395 (FAX)
    residencelife@winthrop.edu
    www.winthrop.edu 

    This message is sent on behalf of the Barnes & Noble Winthrop Bookstore:

    Dear Students, 

    There has been some confusion regarding the best way to obtain the required materials for your classes. At this time, the Winthrop Bookstore has reopened, and the staff has returned. There are two ways to get your books: 

    1. Come to the store in-person, Monday through Friday, during our posted hours. Please wear a mask or face covering and go to the textbook department desk. An associate will get you the materials for your classes. The textbook department will be operating under clerk service only. 
      1. Please refer to our website for store hours (see the box bottom right), as they are subject to change depending on the hours of the DiGiorgio Campus Center.    
    1. Order your books online through the textbook section of our website. You can choose to have them shipped to your house, or, if you are a local student, you can choose Store Pickup. You will receive an email letting you know when your order is ready to be picked up.  
      1. When ordering online and choosing the Student Financial Aid option for payment, please use your Winthrop ID card number, beginning with 214, and not your student W number. (Please note: the last day to pay for books with financial aid is Friday, August 14th.)  
      2. There is also a link through Wingspan, under your Concise Student Schedule, that will show you the required materials for the courses you are enrolled in.  

     

    Please note we will  be open from 11 AM- 5 PM on Saturday, August 22nd, to accommodate returning students. For questions, email David Hensley, hensleyd@winthrop.edu, or call 803/323-3801.

    Thank you, 

    Winthrop Bookstore Staff 

     

    Thank you to everyone who participated in yesterday’s Students/Families 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 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.

    If you are requesting changes to your schedule in order to remain remote for the Fall 2020 semester, please use the contact list below. The student services staff, chairs, and deans listed below are ready to help. Please do not start by reaching out to your individual course instructors, as many in-person courses are designed that way for a reason. We will follow a protocol that begins with looking for alternate online courses and go from there to build a plan for you.

    Contacts by College: 

    College of Arts and Sciences Student Services: 

    College of Business Administration Student Services: studentservices@winthrop.edu

    College of Education: Jennie Rakestraw, Dean: rakestrawj@winthrop.edu  

    • Beth Costner, Associate Dean, or Ruth Gaylor, Student Academic Services: coesas@winthrop.edu  

    College of Visual and Performing Arts: Jeff Bellantoni, Dean: bellantonij@winthrop.edu 

    Dacus Library: Kaetrena Davis Kendrick, Dean: kendrickk@winthrop.edu 

    Graduate Schoolgradschool@winthrop.edu 

    University College: Jamie Cooper, Dean: cooperj@winthrop.edu 

    I hope you and your loved ones are planning to join me and other members of Winthrop’s senior leadership for tomorrow’s virtual Students/Families town hall at 6:30 p.m.

    We know that there are many details and issues of concern as we continue to prepare for the fall 2020 semester. Please note on Monday I announced that the fall semester will begin remotely. We look forward to answering your questions tomorrow tonight.

    The town hall meeting will be accessible via Blackboard Collaborate Ultra tomorrow at 6:30 p.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 tomorrow.

    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.

    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. 

    Dear Students,

    I hope this email finds you healthy and well, and ready for a safe return to campus next month. As Winthrop continues its phased re-opening, please know that our focus remains on preparing and providing a safe and healthy learning space and workplace for you and our employees. As we continue to settle into our new normal, please take a few moments to read about some important updates:

    Students/Families Virtual Town Hall on July 30  

    I invite you to participate in a virtual town hall meeting specifically for students and families on Thursday, July 30, at 6:30 p.m. Members of senior leadership and I will be answering your questions concerning the fall 2020 semester. Questions will be accepted in advance through noon on Friday, July 24, by emailing townhalls@winthrop.edu. More information will be shared closer to the event on how to join the town hall meeting. I look forward to participating in these important discussions with you and your loved ones.

    Facial Covering Requirements

    Please know that Winthrop is requiring all students, faculty and staff 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 on-campus residence hall rooms and when not in close contact with another person, such as walking alone outside. Upon return to campus, each student will receive a health kit that contains a reusable cloth facial covering, along with other items to help you meet Winthrop’s expectations for doing your part in maintaining a healthy campus community. 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 “mask up” to keep our campus and surrounding community safe and healthy.

    Campus Life Outlook

    Top of mind for many students are Winthrop’s plans for residential living, dining and student activities this fall. Staff members continue to work on final details, and more information will be available soon. As you may know, the Division of Student Affairs sent a July 9 student email entitled Fall Housing Information. The email provided an overview of next month’s move-in process and dates, fall housing assignments timeline and more. Additional details on many of these related plans will be sent in the next few weeks, so please monitor your Winthrop email account frequently and be on the lookout for these important updates.

    Winthrop Bookstore Now Open

    The Winthrop Bookstore, located in the DiGiorgio Campus Center, is now open and is implementing a number of measures to keep its customers safe, such as social distancing measures, contactless payment and more. The bookstore is continuing to process online orders as well.

    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 difficult decision is again made to ensure the health and safety of the entire campus community. 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.

    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 pleased 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.

    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 there are a lot of people working very hard to prepare for your safe return next month. We can’t wait to welcome you back! Until then, I look forward to our time together during the July 30 town hall. 

    New information has been added to the Health Services website to help clarify COVID-19 isolation and quarantine criteria. The information includes what steps students should take if they become sick or are exposed to someone who has tested positive for COVID-19.

    We hope your summer is going well and that you are staying safe and healthy. We are very busy on campus preparing for your arrival for the Fall 2020 semester, and we are excitedly counting the days until your arrival in August.

    Due to COVID-19, there are several changes taking place on campus which have the health and safety of students, staff, and faculty as our very top priority. We wanted to highlight changes taking place in the residence halls and during the move-in process. This communication will be followed by several others in the coming days and weeks. Personal and social responsibility is a key theme that you will see throughout our series of messages. In short, that means we will do everything that we can to help you to stay safe. In turn, we expect you to accept the responsibility for doing your part to maintain health and safety for yourself and for our community. One example you will see emphasized is to wear a face mask anywhere in your residence hall, except in your residence hall room.

    When you receive a communication from us, we expect you to completely and thoroughly read through the entire message and let us know if you have any questions. The following are topics you can expect to hear more about in the coming days/weeks:

    • A housing contract addendum- The addendum will cover important changes to the Residence Hall Contract/Lease that address health and safety considerations, adjustments in the residence hall experience and additional personal and social responsibilities for students. The message with the addendum will be sent within the next several days. Read it completely and thoroughly!
    • Your Fall 2020 housing assignment. Housing assignment notifications have been delayed this year due to the changes associated with COVID-19. We expect to be able to notify you of your housing assignment during the week of July 20. Our housing assignment staff is working diligently to honor as many housing/roommate requests as possible. The notification will include how to view roommate (and if applicable, suitemate) information. Other information will include:
      • How to request the limited private rooms.
      • Information about how bed space vacancies will be managed to maximize space on campus
    • Protocol for exposure to and/or testing positive for COVID-19. Communication about this will be sent toward the end of July.
    • Move-in process and timeline- We are making many changes to move-in for Fall 2020. We will have a very comprehensive message regarding:
      • Student responsibility for move-in.
      • Recommendations regarding essential items and personal belongings
      • Loft rental details
      • Request to restrict contact with others 14 days prior to arriving on campus.
      • Move-in assistance (only two helpers).
      • COVID-19 self-screening protocols.
      • The scheduling process for move-in. Move-in will occur Tuesday, August 18, through Sunday, August 23. The number of students per time slot will be limited to account for proper social distancing.
      • Procedures for contact-free curbside central check-in.

    All of the information topics included within our email communications will also be posted on the Residence Life Move-In Webpage. We realize this message contains a lot of information with much more to come. Please be patient and understand that with the daily changing landscape of this pandemic, our protocols are also subject to change. As always, if you have any questions please do not hesitate to email us at residencelife@winthrop.edu or call 803/323-2223.

    We look forward to meeting you during Eagle’s Landing and/or when you check into your residence hall in August!

    Warm regards,

    Shelia Higgs Burkhalter
    Vice President for Student Affairs

    Howard Seidler
    Interim Director of Residence Life

 

Employee Communications

 

    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.

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Last Updated: 7/13/22