File Photo: Zahida Ashroff / The Daily Gamecock

Caslen discusses new plans of action at board of trustees meeting

University President Bob Caslen discussed the Future Planning Group's evaluation of the fall semester during today’s board of trustees meeting and gave an update on the status of COVID-19 cases on campus.

No new cases have been reported on the Columbia campus since April 10.

Previously reported coronavirus numbers of faculty, staff and student cases have remained the same. In Aiken, one of two students diagnosed with coronavirus died.

Ninety-six students remained on campus and, according to a report, as many as 10,000 students still reside in their off-campus housing in the Columbia area.

All refunds for the spring semester are expected to be processed by the end of this week. 

Caslen said the Future Planning Group is focusing on the impacts the coronavirus can have on the fall semester.

“We want it to be a holistic plan that addresses the health and safety perspective, and that is the health and safety foremost of our campus of students, faculty and staff," Caslen said. "Since 80% of our students live off campus, we are very concerned with the health and safety, not only of our campus, but even off campus, in the Columbia and Midlands community.”

Caslen said he didn't want to put too many resources toward the coronavirus pandemic and be unable to recover after six months, when the pandemic could be deemed over. 

“There'll be opportunities that will present themselves, and we ought to — through a strategic planning effort — we ought to be able to have the agility to take advantage of them,” Caslen said. 

Caslen described his definitions of acceptable risk and unacceptable risk in allowing people to return to campus.

An unacceptable risk is defined by the "inability to 'contain' an outbreak" if one occurred on campus, which would put the campus and the community at risk, according to a PowerPoint used at the meeting.

An acceptable risk is the ability to put risk-lowering techniques, such as social distancing, in place and being able to test for and control an outbreak. 

Caslen provided two possibilities of returning to campus. The first is a “full return of everyone" by Aug. 20. The second is gradually allowing different groups of people return at different times, for which the Future Planning Group is looking at different scenarios.

One new financial action Caslen discussed was possible furloughs, and with it a 10% reduction in senior level salaries.   

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