April 2, 2020
Community message from Dr. Fred Carter, FMU President – April 2, 2020
Message from Dr. Fred Carter, president Francis Marion University, to the FMU Community.
These are truly challenging times for our state and nation. While many difficulties and uncertainties still lie ahead, I wanted to let all of FMU’s many friends and family members know that the university is faring well.
This is due, in large part, to the remarkable adaptability and flexibility of our faculty, staff and students. Much of the effort here recently has been devoted to teaching our students within the parameters of the Governor’s orders pertaining to social distancing and limits on public gatherings. Similar to other institutions, we’ve moved to online instruction and remote learning. This effort was not entirely new for us—about 12 percent of our courses were online already—but bringing in the rest of the university was a tad complex.
No one has really enjoyed being in the middle of all of this, but everyone contributed to the seamless transition. Watching this process evolve over the past few weeks has reinvigorated many of us and lifted our spirits time and again.
Our faculty, which always performs well in difficult situations, was masterful once again. The most technically proficient professors volunteered their time to lead their colleagues into the online world. Ideas and techniques were shared, the best methods for each particular class were considered, and when March 25th arrived, there we were — online in every department and discipline. Every single faculty member will tell that this couldn’t have happened without tremendous support from a large number of staff, all of whom provided advice, counsel, and service.
Our students have been incredibly resilient, as well. Seniors are focusing on graduation, underclassmen have remained on schedule academically, and in about five weeks, the semester will be complete. Sadly, there won’t be a traditional graduation ceremony this spring. This class will miss the grand celebration that accompanies this milestone at FMU. They are disappointed, but they understand. Hopefully, we can plan a memorable event for late summer, but time and circumstance will determine this.
We’ve also gone to some lengths to support those residential students who chose to remain on campus. That’s about 10 percent of our residential total. For many of those — international, out-of-state, and displaced students— there really was no alternative. Here again, the student life and residential staffs have adapted resources and processes to address unique needs and situations.
We also decided about a week ago to activate our Employee Assistance Fund, so that employees with compelling financial needs could access additional resources. We’ve opened it from time to time in the past, usually in response to natural disasters and community crises. This fund is operated by the FMU Educational Foundation and is supported with private dollars. So far, we’ve assisted about 40 faculty, staff, and dining employees.
Of course, we are continuing to focus on the future. There are new buildings to complete and innovative programs to design. Although the current situation changes daily, we’re making plans for the fall, and next year, and even the year after.
The sun continues to shine here every day during what has been one of the most beautiful springs in recent memory. The apprehension will continue for a while, but the sense of friendship has never been warmer nor the spirit of community more vibrant. Our faculty, staff, and students continue to sustain us and remind us who we are — the most congenial and caring college in the state.
All of us here thank you for your support, good wishes, and the occasional prayer.