File photo: Hannah Wade / The Daily Gamecock

Faculty, staff ask about research, pay at online town hall

Faculty and staff asked about refunds, research and pay at a virtual town hall Tuesday. 

The meeting began with President Bob Caslen giving updates on the current status of the university during the pandemic.

"So far in our community, not necessarily on the campus, but within our family, we've had 46 positives, and we've increased seven since yesterday," Caslen said.

Of those 46, 40 are students, four are faculty and two are staff members. Five of the students were on campus when they tested positive. Of the 40 students, 14 have recovered.

At the meeting, officials said student employees would continue to be paid if their supervisors had remote work the students could do and that the university is not currently under a hiring freeze.

Caslen said if the campus is still closed by the time summer orientation starts, then there are plans in the works to make it virtual.

The town hall then progressed to a period of open questioning from faculty and staff.

"[Are] custodial staff and dining, kitchen staff still being paid? If not, are there things we can do as a university community to support those members of our Gamecock family?"

"Every one of our employed custodians has maintained employment, as well as still receiving their payment right now," said Jeff Perkins, the associate vice president for business and finance and medical business affairs. "Regarding the dining staff, most of these are through services through a contractor — they're not USC directly employed ... My understanding [is] that they are receiving full benefits for the next two months, as they're trying to work through their furlough process."

"Are [full-time equivalent] employees that are unable to work remotely but are not considered essential in jeopardy of not getting paid?"

"The new Families First Coronavirus Response Act will afford them the opportunity to get up to 80 hours of sick leave," Caroline Agardy, the vice president for human resources, said. "Beyond that time, if they don't have hours working, then they would not get a check from the University of South Carolina, but they can apply for unemployment even though they still are employed by the University of South Carolina."

"Disruption of research will cause increasing problems over time for faculty, students and postdocs. Would it be possible for research to resume with the use of social distancing to the extent possible and the use of personal protective equipment?"

"I think it's going to come down to each individual dean and what is necessary; what's required," Caslen said.

"Do you anticipate that any federally grant-funded positions might be affected by budget cuts, or are these positions safe if the federal grant stays in place?" 

"The federal grants will continue to support the personnel listed in the grant as long as the university policy allows faculty and staff to work from home and be paid," interim provost Tayloe Harding said.

"Will we get refunds on parking, and will deductions from our paychecks for parking stop?"

"We won't be able to make this pay cycle, but we're going to go back and pick a date and then retro-adjust any refunds to make sure everybody's made whole," Perkins said.


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