The University of South Carolina will resume in-person classes for the fall 2020 semester.
"We have listened to the increasing number of students who have expressed their desire to be back on campus to experience the fullness of academic and student life," President Bob Calsen said in a letter to students, faculty and staff. "Many of these students, if faced with no option other than prolonged remote learning, will elect to postpone or discontinue their education."
According to Caslen, the decision was informed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the SC Department of Health and Environmental Control and the Future Planning Group — "an interdisciplinary gathering of public health, clinical medicine, academic and staff experts from across the university" — as well as a "genuine concern" for the community.
The university will begin phasing in selected populations of students and faculty over the summer in order to test its mitigation measures. Among the university's mitigation measures are an increase of on-campus single-occupancy rooms, modified dining practices that favor to-go options and "a robust testing program."
According to Caslen, the university has the capacity to administer COVID-19 tests to every returning student, factually and staff member and can sustain its testing program throughout the semester.
Large classes will also be split into smaller sections or shift to online in accordance with social distancing guidelines.
“We know the COVID-19 virus will be with us for some time, but we are incredibly fortunate that our campus has a world-class accredited student health infrastructure that will allow us to respond and adapt to new cases,” executive director of USC's Student Health Services Debbie Beck said in a press release. “We also will continue to work closely with university, local and state health officials to ensure our mitigation strategies are informed by best practices and designed to minimize risk to our community.”
Caslen said faculty, staff and students' in-person return to campus will not be mandatory as some may still be uncomfortable due to the ongoing health concerns associated with COVID-19. The university will offer more online courses in order to accommodate students who do not return to campus.
University officials, including Caslen, will hold a virtual town hall at 6 p.m. Wednesday.