President Andrew Hsu sent the following message to the College of Charleston community on July 28, 2020:
Dear Campus Community,
I am writing to you today with an important update regarding our plans to have students return to campus this fall.
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic and its impact on South Carolina and the Lowcountry, the College of Charleston will delay the start of in-person classes for three weeks until Monday, September 14. Classes will begin as scheduled on Tuesday, August 25, in an online environment.
As a parent of a rising college freshman, I understand full well how hard this news is to share, but this temporary adjustment is the right and safest path forward for our campus. As you know, our faculty and staff have been hard at work planning for a campus return in late August. Unfortunately, even with the many precautions that we are taking in the classroom and around campus to lessen the chance of the spread of COVID-19, we feel we must take this step to delay in-person instruction in order to best protect and ensure the health and safety of our students, faculty and staff members as well as the greater Charleston community.
We have had to make this pivot due to several factors: the number of daily positive cases in South Carolina, the high percentage of tests that are positive, the declining number of available hospital beds, medical staffing shortages in the region and testing backlogs. These issues combined do not make it optimal for us to return 10,000 students into the area, which could add stress to an already heavily stressed healthcare system.
We did not come to this decision lightly, and we tried to hold off as long as possible as we monitored conditions – especially how the face covering ordinance in Charleston and throughout Charleston County, which began in early July, might lower the daily number of positive cases.
We know this puts an emotional, physical and financial strain on all of our students and their families. In order to alleviate some of this pressure, the College will refund a portion of our housing, dining and parking costs while we go into this three-week, fully online environment until September 14.
The College will also delay move-in for residential students, which was previously scheduled to take place August 20-23. New move-in dates and procedures are being finalized and will be announced soon by Campus Housing.
For those who still need to live in campus housing during these first few weeks of online instruction, we are working to develop a process similar to one we followed last spring that allows students to apply for an exemption. Students who receive this exemption will follow strict face covering and social distancing protocols as outlined in our Back on the Bricks plan and would not be eligible for discounted housing, dining and parking costs. In most cases, it is safer for students to remain where they currently are in order to limit the spread of COVID-19. More details on this exemption process will be provided to residential students by Campus Housing in the coming days.
While I’m certainly disappointed that we have had to delay our return to campus, I am confident that our faculty and staff have developed an extremely robust online and remote learning environment for our students that will provide them with a high-quality academic experience until our campus community can safely return to in-person instruction. This summer, many of our faculty have undertaken specialized distance-education training, proving that learning never stops on our campus! While the mode of instruction may be slightly different, the content and expert teaching behind it will be the same.
I know these past several months have been hard, perhaps even unbearable at times. So much seems to have been taken away from our students – both for our first-time, incoming students as well as our returning students. My sincere hope is that, in retrospect, this short delay in meeting in-person proves to be a small sacrifice that leads to a big reduction in the transmission of this disease.
Our faculty and staff will work hard and do whatever is possible to ensure that students continue to make academic progress during these disruptive times. Yes, we will move forward together. That is the College of Charleston way – and has been for 250 years since our founding and will be for the next 250 years.
Please check your email and College accounts regularly over the next few weeks, as we will be providing more details regarding these adjustments in the days and weeks ahead.
Stay healthy and Go Cougars!
Andrew T. Hsu, Ph.D.
College of Charleston