Dear Clemson Family:
What an exciting day to be a Clemson Tiger! Today, we began welcoming our on-campus students to Clemson in anticipation of our return to some in-person instruction on Sept. 21. Over the next several days, nearly 7,000 students will be moving into on-campus housing.
I am extremely excited to see students arriving and look forward to seeing them walking around our beautiful campus this fall. I am also very appreciative of everyone’s patience during this delay, and especially proud of the hard work from our faculty and staff.
As with many of the challenges we have faced during the pandemic, the decision to move ahead with a hybrid approach to in-person instruction was not easy. We have seen an increase in COVID-19 cases with the return of our off-campus students last month, and we should expect to see more cases over the next few weeks. I want to kindly ask each and every one of our students, faculty and staff to do all they can to minimize the spread of this virus.
Thankfully, our delayed return has provided valuable time for us to develop a more comprehensive testing plan as technology has advanced rapidly in the past month. We have also identified what we believe is ample quarantine and isolation space for those who become infected or exposed to COVID-19. And, we are expanding our testing of wastewater streams around campus to detect the prevalence of the virus in our residence halls.
Importantly, we will not hesitate to change direction if circumstances warrant. I believe, however, we have the strategies and safety protocols in place to give us a good chance for success this fall.
Testing is a critical component of our plans to return to campus operations this fall. We plan to test all students before we resume in-person classes on Sept. 21 and then to conduct surveillance testing of students and employees throughout the remainder of the semester.
Starting today, we will begin testing students at Littlejohn Coliseum. From today through Sunday, testing will be limited to on-campus students who are scheduled to move into their residences on those days. No other students should schedule a test during this period.
Student testing will continue all next week for both on-campus and off-campus students. On-campus students should get tested on the day they are scheduled to move-in. No student can return to in-person instruction or on-campus activities without a negative test result secured during this period. Registration details are being sent to all students separately.
Once this baseline testing has been completed, we will begin testing approximately 5 percent of our students and employees each day in order to monitor the spread of the disease. Results are expected to be available within 48 hours of an individual receiving a test, and the University has a comprehensive tracing and notification plan.
As you know, we postponed our May and August commencement ceremonies due to the pandemic and have planned to hold ceremonies during the fall semester. Unfortunately, our original plan to hold an event in Memorial Stadium in October had to be changed when the ACC scheduled a Clemson home football game for the same weekend.
We are now looking at possible dates and venues in November. We understand the uncertainty is frustrating to our graduates and their families, but know that we very much want to provide the experience they deserve and hope to have the details confirmed in the near future. We appreciate their patience while we work through this.
Our successful return to in-person classes and on-campus activities is very much a shared responsibility. Our faculty and staff are doing everything they can to create a safe environment at our locations, but we need our students to do their part as well.
The next few weeks are especially critical. If we can minimize the spread of COVID-19 as we resume on-campus activities, we stand a good chance of being able to complete the semester in-person as we all hope.
The single most important element in that equation is the behavior of our students. We need you to take the rules on face coverings, social distancing, and washing your hands seriously — not only for yourselves, but for the sake of your faculty members, staff and the community.
For now our best hope to return to something close to a normal college experience is for everyone — students, faculty and staff — to follow the rules that have been put in place for everyone’s protection.
As always, I am deeply appreciative of the commitment and support we continue to receive from all corners of the Clemson Family. These are certainly trying times, but I remain confident that our university will emerge from the pandemic strong.