Dear Clemson Family:
Today, we marked the formal end to the fall semester by celebrating nearly 2,000 December graduates at socially distant, but in-person ceremonies at Bon Secours Wellness Arena in Greenville. Our newest Tiger alumni, along with our May and August graduates, exemplify the very best of the Clemson spirit by finishing strong in the face of unprecedented circumstances.
Nothing about this past year has been easy, but I am extremely proud of the way our employees and students have pulled together to allow us to complete a successful fall semester. As we look ahead to the spring, I am excited about our plans to offer even more in-person classes. Indeed, we are planning for nearly 60 percent of our courses in the spring to have some face-to-face component, with about one-third being taught fully in-person.
Our testing strategy, developed with the guidance of both faculty and outside health experts, was instrumental in driving COVID positivity rates to well below 2 percent for the last several weeks of the fall semester. With the recent addition of our on-campus testing lab, we plan to test even more frequently in the spring, with all students and those employees working on campus being tested weekly.
We also are encouraged by the recent approval of a vaccine to combat the COVID-19 virus and, like everyone, I am hopeful that the pandemic will be brought under control in the coming months. Still, now is not the time to let down our guard, and I encourage all our students – and all members of the Clemson Family – to take common-sense precautions to remain safe during the holidays.
No employee furloughs planned for the spring
As many of you know, all Clemson employees who earn more than $50,000 a year – approximately half of our total workforce – were required to take furlough days, or in some cases asked to take an equivalent temporary pay cut, this fall in order to help offset the financial impact of the pandemic on the university. This difficult action saved Clemson more than $7 million, and I am deeply appreciative of everyone’s sacrifice.
As we look to the spring semester, I am pleased to report that similar actions are not deemed to be necessary at this time. The pandemic has undoubtedly taken a financial toll on Clemson but the underlying financial strength of the university, along with other steps we have taken to control spending, make further furloughs unnecessary unless things change.
Twenty-nine of the most highly compensated employees in our self-sustaining Athletics department, which has been hit particularly hard by the pandemic, will continue their voluntary pay reductions through the end of the fiscal year as originally planned. These efforts, along with other steps such as a sharp curtailment in hiring, freezing salaries, the elimination of most non-essential travel and the decision to operate at fiscal year 2020 budget levels well into the current fiscal year, helped make it possible for us to freeze undergraduate tuition for the current year despite incurring significant costs related to the pandemic.
We will continue to operate in a way that prioritizes efficiency while not sacrificing academic quality or our student experience.
Best wishes for a safe and happy holiday
As we prepare to turn the page on a very challenging year and look forward to what I believe are better days ahead, I want to take a moment to thank our dedicated faculty and staff who work so hard to make this a special place and whose efforts contribute greatly to the success of our state.
I also offer my sincerest gratitude to our alumni, donors and friends across the country. Your generosity and support make our work possible.
I hope you will take a moment to view the short holiday greeting below from Beth and me. From our family to yours: Merry Christmas! Happy Hanukkah! Happy Kwanzaa! And, I wish you the very best for the New Year!