President’s Update: Clemson Trustees make powerful statement on values; preparations for fall semester remain on schedule

June 19, 2020

Dear Clemson Family:

It has been both a challenging and extremely rewarding couple of weeks since my last update to you. Today, on Juneteenth, I am taking a moment to reflect upon the events of the past several weeks.

The appalling deaths of George Floyd and others only adds to the pain being felt by many across the country. Likewise, that pain is evident in our community as well, as I have heard first-hand in conversations with our students, faculty and staff.

Let me be as clear as possible once again: Racism and hatred are in complete contradiction to our values and have no place at Clemson University. We remain steadfastly committed to doing everything we can to make our University a place where everyone feels safe and welcome.

We still have much work to do in this regard, but progress has been made over the past several years. After a thoughtful and deliberative process that began in 2015 with the creation of a history task to tell the full and complete history of our University, our Board of Trustees unanimously approved a resolution requesting authority from the S.C. General Assembly to restore Tillman Hall to its original name of the Main Building, commonly called “Old Main”. The Trustees also unanimously approved renaming our honors college the Clemson University Honors College based on the recommendation of a task force created in 2018.

Last Friday’s Board decisions were followed very quickly by another powerful moment for the University, this one led by a number of our outstanding student-athletes. I was honored to attend, along with several members of my leadership team, a peaceful demonstration for racial unity organized by members of the Clemson football team last Saturday evening. This event brought an estimated 3,000 people to the main campus in a show of unity and support for our Black community. The demonstration showcased the very best of the Clemson spirit and I could not be more proud of our student-athletes for their leadership.


University remains on track for fall return to on-campus instruction 

As has been the case since mid-March, all summer instruction continues to be conducted online and most of our employees are working remotely due to the COVID-19 pandemic. We remain in the early stages of bringing employees back to their workspaces and some student-athletes have returned under rigorous guidelines.

We remain fully committed to resuming in-person instruction and campus activities starting in August, and the safety of our students, employees and all those who visit our campuses is paramount. Toward that end, we are finalizing health and safety protocols now, with the help of outside medical experts and public health professionals, and expect to be able to share a detailed re-opening plan in the next few weeks.

As we finish that work, I can say that flexibility and shared responsibility will be key components of our approach to returning safely. For example, while almost all classes will offer in-person instruction, we are upfitting more than 300 classroom spaces with video recording equipment so we can offer live-streaming and recorded video options.

We plan to implement a COVID-19 testing plan and methodologies to alert those exposed to the virus. We are also adjusting our on-campus food service and residence hall structure to help reduce the potential spread of the virus.

As we prepare for a fall semester, I can’t stress enough how important it is going to be for every member of our campus communities to do their part to help mitigate the spread of COVID-19. Social distancing and face coverings have been shown to reduce the chances of you infecting others, especially vulnerable members of our community, and we will stress both in our return this fall.

We have already started this effort, which we are calling “HealthyClemson: United as Tigers,” with the creation of signage that will be installed around all our locations reminding everyone to keep your distance when possible and do your part to sanitize spaces in which you work and learn.

Still, I encourage everyone to think of the health of those around you and follow the common-sense advice of medical professionals to help slow the spread COVID-19 so that we can successfully complete the academic year with in-person instruction.

We have a busy summer in front of us as we prepare for what I hope will be another great academic year across all our campuses and locations. I continue to be thankful for the outstanding work being done by our faculty and staff in service of our students.

The COVID-19 pandemic has presented unique challenges, but I know we’re up to the task. After all, there’s nothing more powerful than Tigers united for a common purpose.

Stay safe – and Go Tigers!

Clemson University's 15th president, James P. Clements