Dear Clemson Family:
As we close out October and head into the final weeks of in-person and online instruction for the fall semester, I remain heartened and humbled by the great work of our faculty, staff and students who have come together to make this most unusual semester a success.
Through the end of the day yesterday, the University has conducted nearly 100,000 COVID-19 tests, a figure we believe to be second only to the University of Illinois and far more than most other universities across the country. Our aggressive testing approach, which has been bolstered in the past two weeks by the start-up of our own high-capacity saliva-testing lab, has allowed us to quickly identify and isolate infected and exposed individuals.
The results, which can be seen at our COVID-19 dashboard, show that our rate of positive tests has fallen steadily since our return to on-campus activities in mid-September and is less than 1 percent for the past week, far below the state average. Currently, less than 10 percent of our quarantine and isolation space is in use.
My deepest gratitude goes out to our faculty, staff and testing partners for their great work. I also want to commend our students for their responsible “team first” attitude when it comes to following safety protocols.
As a reminder, our final day of in-person classes for the semester will be Nov. 24. The final two weeks of the semester after Thanksgiving break, including final exams, will be conducted virtually.
We strongly encourage students to not return to the campus or surrounding community following Thanksgiving. Staying away will minimize the risk of our students reintroducing the virus into the community after the Thanksgiving holiday and will reduce the likelihood of students needing to be quarantined into the year-end holiday period.
For much of the past week, a group of students dedicated to combatting sexual and interpersonal violence has been working to raise awareness of these important issues through peaceful demonstrations on our campus. We share their commitment and desire to eradicate sexual violence on our campus and in our society.
Several members of the University’s leadership team have met with these students many times over the past week, and in recent months, to listen and learn about their concerns and ideas for change. We will continue those conversations and use them to inform our work as we move forward.
Much of what we have heard is consistent with the ongoing work we have been doing for more than a year to strengthen our investigatory and adjudication processes related to reports of sexual misconduct, to provide greater support to survivors of sexual violence and to raise awareness that such violence has no place on our campus.
Clemson has a well-deserved reputation as one of the safest college campuses in the country, and we will continue to do make this a priority. Sexual violence has no place on our campus and in our society, and we are committed to making continuous improvement in this, and all, areas related to the safety and wellbeing of our students.
I had the great pleasure last Sunday to celebrate at our Ring Ceremony with approximately 1,650 students who have completed at least 90 hours of study. In order to comply with social distancing requirements, the event was moved to Bon Secours Wellness Arena in Greenville and split into three sessions, including one for students who received their rings in the spring but were unable to celebrate at that time due to the pandemic.
It was great to be with our students and their families to mark this important milestone in their Clemson careers. And, speaking of milestones, we are hard at work preparing to mark the achievements of our May and August graduates November 13 – 15 at Bon Secours.
Our graduates and their families will participate in one of seven scheduled ceremonies, and I can’t wait to see everyone. Similarly, our December graduation ceremonies also will be held at Bon Secours December 16-17. Details can be found here.
Finally, a word about next week’s election. Regardless of your own personal politics, we all share the same awesome responsibility and opportunity to make our voices heard at the ballot box. I encourage all our students to participate in the political process, and no matter the result, it is my hope that, as we move forward, we don’t lose sight of the fact that what unites us is greater than what divides us and that we always strive to treat each other with respect, which is at the heart of the values statement developed by our Board of Trustees.
As always, thanks to everyone in the Clemson Family for your support.