Dear Clemson Family:
I am pleased to be able to report that our plans for the Spring semester continue on track, with more traditional in-person classes than in the fall and much greater student access to on-campus amenities, such as fitness facilities, dining locations and gathering places.
This is all being done as we continue to adhere to safety protocols and stringent COVID-19 testing, which has lowered the prevalence of the virus among our students and employees to well below 1 percent. In fact, for the week of Feb. 7-13, we recorded just 68 positive tests out of more than 18,000 people tested, one of our lowest numbers this semester.
Our protocols, testing and the responsible behavior of our students have made it possible for us to make facilities such as the Swann Fitness Center available to all those who need it on an appointment basis. Likewise, we have resumed our U-Nites evening recreational student programming at the Barnes Center, and we are seeing more students participating in intramural and club sports this semester.
The total number of students participating in some sort of on-campus activity this spring already has exceeded the total from last fall and more than 12,000 students belong to at least one campus organization. I also want to give thanks to our student health services and the staff at the Office of Advocacy and Success for their tireless work on behalf of students through wellness programming and other resources.
We expect this return to a more normal cadence of activity on our campus to continue to increase as the semester progresses and as we plan for more in-person classes in the fall, assuming the vaccinations become widespread as expected. In fact, we sent a note to all students this week telling them to expect most of our classes to be held in the traditional format this fall.
May commencements to be held in Greenville
Despite our great progress, health and safety considerations dictate that we move our May commencement ceremonies to Bon Secours Wellness Arena in Greenville. We truly had hoped to hold the ceremonies on campus, both for the benefit of our students and their families and because we know that our already hard-hit local business community depends on the economic activity generated by the event.
To provide the necessary social distancing and still allow our graduates to invite guests as they wish, however, would have required us to hold at least 25 individual ceremonies at Littlejohn Coliseum, which is simply not logistically possible. As it is, we are planning 12 ceremonies at Bon Secours from May 5 through May 8. Further details will be provided to May graduates in the near future and can be found here.
Spring Break details
I also wanted to provide an update on our plans around spring break. Unlike some universities, we have elected not to cancel our break, which is scheduled for the week of March 15. We recognize that students and faculty, who have been working under challenging circumstances for nearly a year now, need a chance to refresh as they prepare for the second half of the semester.
In order for us to be able to do this, we will require that all students receive a negative test result before they can access campus facilities following spring break. Campus resident students will be allowed to return to their rooms without a negative test, but must test immediately upon their return to campus and again within three to five days of the first test. I also encourage all our students to be responsible as they travel for spring break to give us the greatest chance of avoiding a spike in the virus upon their return.
The Walker Course scores an ace!
Golfers and non-golfers alike have, I’m sure, seen our beautiful Walker Course with its signature closing holes running alongside Lake Hartwell and the Madren Center. Perennially recognized as one the top collegiate courses in the country, the course this year grabbed top honors in the GolfPass.com “Golfers’ Choice” awards as the best collegiate course.
The honor, based on reviews from golfers who rated the course a 4.9 on a scale of 5.0, is wonderful recognition for Walker Course head professional Brent Jessup, course superintendent Don Garrett and the entire team of professionals who work at the course. You can read all about the course and its latest accolade here.
As always, our work at Clemson is a team effort and we couldn’t do it without everyone’s support. I am exceedingly grateful to our faculty, staff and students for the sacrifices they continue to make during this pandemic.