Caslen, university officials host town hall to discuss fall 2020 in-person instruction

Kailee Kokes / The Daily Gamecock

President Bob Caslen and university officials hosted a town hall Wednesday evening to discuss the university's decision to conduct in-person classes for the fall 2020 semester.

Making the announcement nine days earlier than originally planned, Caslen said it was important to take advantage of the time the university had. 

"[The Future Planning Group] had the facts that we thought we needed to make a decision," Caslen said. "We knew that there was going to be necessary time to prepare in some areas,  particularly on the education side."

The summer will be used as a transitional period, taking existing academic programs that need to occur over the summer and creating a "pilot program." An example of one of these programs is nursing clinicals.

"We want a phased transition with a pilot program that we can learn and that we can gain confidence from," Caslen said.

Housing

Both Caslen and Dennis Pruitt, vice provost and vice president for student affairs, said the university will accommodate students who want to live in university housing.

"We do think we will have an opportunity to provide single rooms for about 80% of the students that are coming in the fall," Pruitt, the vice president for student affairs and vice provost said.

Pruitt said that the university can provide a safe environment in the residence halls as long as students have "good social compact with each other to monitor their own behaviors and help monitor the behaviors of others."

"We're going to rely on our students to be good citizens," Pruitt said.

Classes

To maintain social distancing guidelines for in-person classes, the solutions will differ depending on the academic program, according to Mark Cooper, chair of the faculty senate. 

"That might look like live streaming of a lecture to remote locations. It might look like breaking the class up into different sections, some of which will meet in person, some of which might meet online," Cooper said.

Cooper said everything is being done to avoid a situation where faculty will have to prepare both an online and in-person version of their classes. 

"There are a number of different options that schedulers in academic units might consider," Cooper said. "For example, breaking up large in-person classes into an in-person and an online section with different instructors or maybe the same instructor but two different sections might weaken the course load. Also, lecture capture and live streaming options might be attractive for short-term accommodations."

Interim provost Tayloe Harding said published changes to the schedule of courses will become available and advising will reopen for students.

Testing

Caslen said the university intends to test 100% of students, faculty and staff upon returning to campus and to have robust testing throughout the semester.

"We currently are in the process of gaining that capacity, and we're confident that it will occur," Caslen said.

The Student Health Center is currently testing for both coronavirus and antibodies. Only tests that are FDA approved are being used, according to Deborah Beck, the executive director of Student Health Services.

"We are doing screening to make sure that we are screening the individuals into whether they need to be tested for the antibody or whether they need to be tested for the disease," Beck said.

The university also partnered with three other sites to increase the capacity of testing. The drive-thru clinic will also continue in the fall semester.

Although the university will not be able to test everyone because of legal limitations, Caslen said those situations will be treated on a "case-by-case basis."

Five Points

Though the university does not have oversight in Five Points, Caslen said he has been communicating with Mayor Steve Benjamin about creating a safe environment.

Student Body President Issy Rushton is also creating a campaign to "encourage students to take responsibility of their actions," according to Caslen.

"Other students will hold them accountable if they do not hold themselves accountable as well," he said.


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