We write today to update you on plans just adopted for the fall semester in light of COVID-19 and its potential impact on colleges and universities. We apologize in advance for the necessary length of this email. Please read it in its entirety.
As I indicated to you in my most recent email, we are making plans for a strong opening this fall. We are excited about that!
After much consideration, we now plan to open one week early (see the enclosure and below for the details).
That being said, nothing is more important to the two of us, and other members of our Senior Leadership team, than your health, safety, and well-being. That is always our first priority. We will continue to respond to prudent federal and state guidance that may come in the next few months. We remain hopeful, and in prayer, that the COVID-19 pandemic continues to abate.
The plan put forward by the Anderson University COVID-19 Task Force and the Senior Leadership team is part of what has been described as a “return to normal with new realities.” Within this email, we want to notify you of some of these new realities and explain the rationale behind them.
Obviously, no one knows the future, but researchers, physicians, and public health officials are learning new things about the virus each day. One of the possible scenarios is that COVID-19 may track along with the seasonal flu, suggesting that we may see a spike of infections in December, with the possibility that it could begin a little earlier. Thankfully, traditional college-aged students typically develop only mild symptoms. The more serious threat is to spread the virus to those who are at greater risk.
Thus, in order to complete the semester prior to December, we plan to move the start date of the fall semester up one week, with the last day of in-person classes to meet on Tuesday, November 24, two days prior to Thanksgiving. We realize this may be a personal conflict with your existing calendar. If so, we regret that, but we are persuaded that the change is highly advisable. We share these details with you almost three months in advance so you can begin to make adjustments to your calendar now. We also thank you for your understanding and support of this adjustment, just as you have supported us in our response since the onset of COVID-19.
Our “new normal” plan has several components that are much different than what you’re accustomed to experiencing:
- again, classes will start one week early, on Wednesday, August 19
- classes will be in session on Labor Day (Monday, September 7)
- unfortunately, the traditional fall break must be eliminated
- the last day of in-person classroom instruction is Tuesday, November 24 (two days before Thanksgiving)
- finals, which will be conducted entirely online, will take place beginning Monday, November 30 until Friday, December 4
- in-person winter commencement is scheduled for Saturday, December 5, with diplomas being distributed later, as final grades will not be recorded in time
A preliminary revised academic calendar is enclosed.
These adjustments are consistent with a recommendation that universities limit travel of students away from campus in an effort to keep exposure to and subsequent transmission of COVID-19 to a minimum. We also believe they are consistent with the general guidance we have received from the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
A recent observation of special note is the May 23 comment of Marty Makary, M.D., a surgeon and a professor of health policy at Johns Hopkins University - that 99 percent of those infected with COVID-19 recover without doing anything. If that is correct or even close to it, that’s good news for us all. Even so, it is clearly not just about keeping our campus family safe. It’s also about not infecting senior adults and those with underlying health risks, no matter how mild our own symptoms may be. We think/hope you would agree that priority is both compassionate and wise.
Stating the obvious, we realize that many people don’t like change. Some people never like change. We regret, but fully expect this change to be inconvenient to some. Yet, we all intuitively know that sometimes change and adaptation are necessary and/or in our best interest. In this case, the change is both. We want to do every reasonable, thoughtful thing we conceive to minimize infections.
When you go home for Thanksgiving, you can stay home. By not returning to campus after Thanksgiving, you help in two ways. First, you help by eliminating the possibility that, through no fault of your own, you bring infection back to campus from your holiday travels. And second, you help by reducing the chance of later infection in your hometowns and on campus after Thanksgiving instead of coming back to campus only for a few days at the beginning of flu season. We feel these few days are not worth the potential risk.
There are many benefits to this new way of operating, and there are some things that may not be ideal. These changes are only temporary as we do not expect to continue them at a reasonable time after a vaccine is developed and is abundantly available to the public.
Further, as you know, things can change quickly as we learn more about the nature of the virus and we receive new and updated recommendations. That is going to be very frustrating to those of us who are planners, structurally oriented and love clear plans with no need for variability. Let’s all be committed to prayer, flexibility, pragmatism, creativity, kindness, and patience. No doubt, things will be a little ambiguous for a while, but will get clearer as we approach July and August.
The COVID-19 Team continues to tirelessly work on behalf of the entire campus. They will work further to identify specific guidelines, protocols and, if necessary, safety rules. They will seek the input of academic deans, associate deans, vice presidents, directors, etc. as they formulate their operational recommendations. Our goal is to adapt to this new reality and experience another wonderful academic year - ON CAMPUS!
Throughout the summer we will develop and communicate additional protocols to keep our campus community healthy and safe, such as re-structuring large group gatherings and contact activities; classroom spacing adjustments; disinfection procedures; and use of protective masks, among others. You’ll hear more about these protocols in the weeks ahead. These changes to our calendar will be different, yet they are worth the effort and discipline to make it possible to be back on the campus we all love, and sharing the friendship and community we all know is so special and encouraging.
All the faculty, staff, and administrators are firmly committed to keeping your education moving forward and on time. We have already seen that over the last few weeks. We have confidence we will continue to demonstrate that we and you are up to the task!
One more thing: Our plan is to conduct the spring semester on campus just like always, with the continuation of safety protocols until they are no longer recommended. We hope and pray that will be as early as January or February.
Finally, please know that the changes for our fall semester have the full support of the Board of Trust. On behalf of us all, I pray and trust you are safe and well, and are as eager to see one another this fall as we are to see you. As plans develop or change, we will keep you updated.
May God continue to bless you and our university in the days ahead.
Long Live Anderson!
Evans P. Whitaker, Ph.D.
President and Professor of Management
Food for Thought . . .
Life is 10% of what happens, and 90% of how you react to it. - Chuck Swindoll
If you can’t fly, then run. If you can run, then walk. If you can’t walk, then crawl. Whatever you do, you have to keep moving forward. - Martin Luther King, Jr.
Peace over panic; faith over fear; wisdom over worry. - Unknown
For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind. - 2 Timothy 1:7 (The Bible, NKJV)
Anxiety is the greatest evil that can befall a soul, except sin. God commands you to pray, but He forbids you to worry. - St. Francis de Sales
Any time you can find some humor in a difficult situation, you win. - Unknown
During times of uncertainty, when fear presses in and the unknowns seem overwhelming, I pause and check my anchor. - Mike Lewis
Never be afraid to trust an unknown future to a known God. - Corrie Ten Boom
Trust in the Lord forever, for in the Lord God you have an everlasting rock. - 1 Chronicles 16:11 (The Bible, NRSV)