The Daily Gamecock

Town hall: 800 students referred to Student Conduct, no official decision on spring break

Provost William F. Tate speaks during the virtual town hall Tuesday.
Provost William F. Tate speaks during the virtual town hall Tuesday.

As of Oct. 6, 800 students were referred to the Office of Student Conduct and Academic Integrity for violations of COVID-19 prevention measures and over 50 are being considered for suspensions, President Bob Caslen said in a town hall.

"There are always that small group out there that really need to be held accountable, and I would say that we knew the seriousness of that, and our student assistance was very aggressive in that," Caslen said.   

No official announcement was made regarding spring break or spring semester during Tuesday's town hall meeting. 

On Oct. 4, the Daily Gamecock received an email saying the university would not be having a "traditional spring break," which caused "traditional spring break programs" of the Study Abroad Office to be canceled. Tate said to expect a decision on spring break to be made by November, in response to a question from a parent. 

"We’re collaborating with other institutions in the state of South Carolina to try to figure out what we are to do on that. A lot of this depends on the science and where we are. We want to keep everyone safe," Tate said. "I'm pretty sure the president is meeting and talking with our higher education commission folks next week."  

For spring semester, Tate said the percentage of in-person, hybrid and online classes students will have access to is "to be determined". When signing up for classes for spring, students will be able to see the modality of each class. 

"We will have a balanced portfolio. We're talking with faculty about more hybrid environments, and that's a point of emphasis for us because that gives the engagement piece that I talked about earlier today a real shot at happening in ways that might deal with the variations that exist in the classroom and what people really want," Tate said.

On-campus testing has gained 19 additional hours of testing, according to Director of Strategic Health Initiatives Rebecca Caldwell, as well as expanding to a six-day schedule, with Saturday having no test times. 

"Even tonight we're testing here at the student health center right behind us between the Center for Health and Well-Being and the Bull Street garage. Right between the Russell House and the library, two places students often go in the evenings. And so, we'll be here till nine tonight," Caldwell said.  

Those who do get tested for COVID-19 will receive a t-shirt and be entered into a raffle for prizes, including a football ticket and tour of the president's house. Caslen said these incentives, a part of his testing strategy, aim to increase testing demand, as testing capacity has overcome the demand. 

President Bob Caslen speaks during the virtual town hall Tuesday.
President Bob Caslen speaks during the virtual town hall Tuesday.

Another part of Caslen's testing strategy is finding a random sample of 3,750 students to test every week. According to Lee Pearson, an associate dean at the Arnold School of Public Health, this testing aims to "maintain high levels of participation" as well as to expand the demographics of who is being tested. 

Tests will also be offered at flu shot clinics. These clinics will be running Monday through Friday at Student Health Services and at no cost. Students can sign up ahead of time or walk-in.

"This is going to be more important than ever this year because of the COVID pandemic. We not only want to make sure that we have students being protected against COVID through risk mitigation strategies, but we want them protected against the flu. We don't want outbreaks of both things happening simultaneously," Caldwell said. 

Caslen said that the university is "not out of the woods" in regards to COVID-19 on campus in his closing remarks.

"We must be vigilant. We cannot be complacent, and we're starting to see what works and what doesn't work. And quite frankly, it's separation and masks that protects you, and the great thing about protecting yourself is that you protect others at the same time," Caslen said.