Furman University announced its fall 2020 schedule today, with a planned full semester of in-person instruction beginning Aug. 18, one week sooner than previously scheduled. Students will leave for Thanksgiving break and finish final exams remotely.
The university also announced that it plans to hold Commencement and related events for spring and summer 2020 graduates on Saturday, Oct. 31. Details on the Commencement celebration will be announced in the coming weeks.
“We are excited about having our students, faculty and staff back on campus, and we especially look forward to celebrating our graduates whose ceremony was postponed in May,” Furman President Elizabeth Davis said.
“Since the COVID-19 pandemic began, we have been focused on the health and safety of our campus community and on fulfilling our mission of providing a transformative education and advancing our students’ academic goals,” Davis said. “Returning to campus, while taking precautions to keep us safe, is a significant step toward some normalcy in our daily lives – one we take optimistically but with a healthy dose of caution.”
The university will forego fall break, previously scheduled for Oct. 19-20. The last day of classes will be Nov. 20, and students will stay home after Thanksgiving. Final exams will be given remotely Dec. 2-9. Some events may be postponed or reorganized to allow for social distancing and other public health measures. More information on various fall events will be shared as it becomes available.
“I am extremely grateful to our faculty and staff who are planning for a safe return this fall, and for the conscientious and thoughtful way they went about the incredibly hard work of designing the semester,” Davis said.
A team of representatives from across campus has worked since March to create a comprehensive plan for returning in the fall. Among the measures the campus is planning to take to reduce the risk of COVID-19:
- Requiring everyone on campus to wear masks in designated areas and where social distancing is not possible. The university will supply masks for each student and each faculty and staff member.
- Bringing employees back to campus in a gradual, four-phase plan over the next three months, as directed by their supervisors.
- Reconfiguring classrooms and taking other steps to promote a healthy and safe learning environment.
- Modifying dining and housing operations to meet health and safety protocols and to prioritize the student experience.
- Asking students, faculty and staff to monitor their health daily and to report any symptoms of COVID-19 and self-quarantine if they are ill.
- Creating plans for quarantine and isolation, should that become necessary.
- Continuing to limit public access to campus.
- Finding new ways to work with and serve the community that preserve the student experience while meeting health and safety protocols.
Before returning to work, the university will train faculty and staff on health and safety precautions. Students will be required to sign The Paladin Promise, a pledge acknowledging “a shared responsibility for the health of our whole community, including students, faculty, staff and the Greenville community.”
Two details the university is continuing to develop involve testing and contact tracing. The fall planning team is working with Prisma Health, which operates the Earle Student Health Center on campus and an off-campus clinic for employees, and is regularly reviewing guidance from the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the American College Health Association and others.
The university also is developing contingency plans should federal or state guidelines related to the pandemic change.
“It’s important to realize that we are still in a pandemic,” Davis said. “While there are many things we know we can do to help protect our campus community, the medical and scientific communities are still trying to understand the full implications of COVID-19. Likewise, there are details we are continuing to work through, and our plans will remain dynamic, with safety and wellbeing being a priority.”