File Photo: Zahida Ashroff / The Daily Gamecock

President Caslen addresses student concerns, gives coronavirus updates at online town hall

USC President Bob Caslen hosted an online forum to update students and their families about the university's response to the coronavirus. 

Thirty-three students have tested positive or presumed positive for the coronavirus, of which 13 have recovered. Five of these students are in residence halls on campus. Three faculty members and one staff member have also tested positive for the virus.

Caslen discussed the health of the faculty, staff and students at USC and addressed changes in the university’s grading system, spring 2020 commencement, housing and meal plan reimbursements, maymester programs and summer classes.   

The decision about many maymester experiences and summer courses has yet to be made. Caslen said the university would "ideally" have a combination of online and face-to-face instruction for the summer session. 

“The likelihood for maymester, for coming back — it's at great risk right now,” Caslen said. 

The USC faculty senate will vote Wednesday on a pass/fail proposal that would allow students to choose to convert their courses to a pass/fail grading system.

“We also expect that we will be able to adapt the timeline for declaring a pass/fail option rather than a standard grading option and let students choose which option they want after their grades are posted for the term,” Caslen said.

Spring commencement is expected to be held on Aug. 7 and 8, with online access available for graduates and their families unable to attend the ceremony. 

“We want to celebrate with you; you deserve it,” Caslen said. "We're going to make that happen."

Caslen discussed the decision of the university to carry out the remainder of the spring semester online. 

“Our responsibility as an institution is to limit and to mitigate the spread of the virus, and we also recognize that it was important for us to maintain our academic excellence and integrity as we deliver our mission, and that's to deliver education to you,” Caslen said.

USC is "committed" to reimbursing student fees based on the services they did not use throughout the remainder of the spring semester, including housing and meal plans, according to Caslen. South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster has directed that all 33 public colleges and universities issue refunds to college students. 

“Our systems aren’t structured to process tens of thousands of refunds at one time, so it will take a little bit of time, but once we have the clearance from the Commission on Higher Education, and we're able to do so, we will,” said Stacy Bradley, the senior associate vice president for student affairs and academic support. 

The university will continue to post updates in response to the coronavirus at https://sc.edu/safety/coronavirus/.


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