May 28, 2020
Message from Dr. Fred Carter, FMU President – May 28, 2020
Dear Faculty and Staff:
Thank you for the hard work involved in finishing spring semester. I hope that all of you and your families are doing well.
The past three weeks our focus has shifted from the completion of spring semester to preparation for fall. The senior staff has participated in discussions with DHEC, infectious disease practitioners, hospital administrators, and our counterparts at other universities both inside and outside South Carolina. We’ve explored a myriad of approaches to virtually every aspect of re-opening and have started building a planning framework that we’ll continue to refine during the next two months.
The framework found here is structured around four sets of guidelines that are date specific:
1) The individual planning components (column one);
2) The sequence of office openings and dates of staff/faculty return (column two);
3) The special equipment and material necessary for implementation of the planning components (column three); and
4) The federal financing initiatives that will fund most of these costs (column 4).
While the first column, the individual plan components, is the most substantive for preparing the campus and protecting students, staff and faculty, the other three columns are equally important for sequencing, equipping, and financing the re-opening.
We briefed the deans and chairs on this framework last Friday and discussed it with the trustee leadership yesterday afternoon. Many of you may have received correspondence from your dean or chair about this process, but please allow me a moment to cover the basic tenets.
In addition to the personal protection protocol (masking, protective barriers, accessibility to testing, etc.), distance spacing, and sanitization support, the plan is predicated upon the university offering a diverse array of course offerings in the fall: on-campus, online, and a hybrid of the two. The Provost will be working with the deans, chairs, and faculty to establish the instructional blend. Our objective is to provide as much flexibility as possible in the plan’s implementation by offering an on-campus experience, but being prepared to move online quickly if a resurgence of the virus occurs.
The plan will also permit faculty and staff who have medical or other special conditions to request an alternative work assignment. Various accommodations are possible, including performing job responsibilities off-campus if necessary. Charlene Wages will coordinate these requests and work with the Provost and the appropriate vice president to facilitate them.
We are also expanding medical services for our faculty, staff, and students through an agreement with HopeHealth, and we’ll employ additional mental health counselors for fall semester. Student Life is developing a modified student activity plan, and the Athletic Department is working with the NCAA and our athletic conference to develop a sensible and safe protocol for athletic competition. Campus IT will also revise the university technology plan to address more extensive capabilities with regard to remote and hybrid instruction.
The development of these plans are well underway with the following senior staff having responsibility for the plan component indicated.
Sanitization Plan- Darryl Bridges
Medical and Counseling Agreements — Darryl Bridges, Chris Kennedy, Charlene Wages
Alternative Work Agreements — Charlene Wages, the Provost, Darryl Bridges (and other VPs)
Fall Calendar Modification — Team
Signage Plan — Darryl Bridges
Student Activities Plan — Chris Kennedy
Dining/Catering Plan — Eric Garris
Classroom Facilities Plan — Alley Steadman
Contact Tracing Agreement — Team
Personal Protection Protocol —Team
Technology Plan — John Dixon
Athletics Protocol — Murray Hartzler
Academic Instruction Plan — the Provost, Deans and Chairs
Please feel free to call any of us with suggestions, ideas, or questions.
Let me also provide you a brief update on enrollment, freshman applications, housing applications, and university finances.
As you can see, the point-to-point enrollment data for fall are promising:
Jennifer Kunka and the CASA team, augmented by members of the Student Life staff, are doing a masterful job contacting and enrolling returning students.
Similarly, Alissa Warters, Jamee Freeman, and the enrollment management staff continue to recruit aggressively. Fall freshman applications are up 7.66 percent and transfer applications are up 7.18 percent.
Our dormitory data are also encouraging, even when allowing for increased distancing in many of the residential units. At this date last year, dorm reservations were at 53 percent capacity. Today, they are at 51 percent capacity. This number will likely grow to 85 percent by the start of classes. Since Chris Kennedy and Cheryl Tuttle will be converting more double rooms into singles for the fall, fewer students next year will allow us to operate a safer and healthier residential facility.
As noted in previous emails, the university’s finances remain strong.
To date, we’ve spent about $2.5M on COVID-19 expenses. Fall start-up will cost another $2.1M. The CARES Stimulus money should arrive within the next two weeks and provide a $2M reimbursement. The remaining funding should come from the Coronavirus Relief Fund, which the General Assembly will appropriate in late June, presumably working from the Governor’s Accelerate SC recommendations.
The General Assembly has passed a continuing resolution to fund state government at FY2019-20 levels until they reconvene in September to pass a FY20-21 budget. The Board of Economic Advisors’ revenue estimates in August will give us the first indication as to the viability of that budget.
Our existing 2019-20 budget, the maintenance reserve, and the development foundation accounts are in superb shape. Of course, we will continue to monitor expenditures closely until the new budget is appropriated in September, but our faculty and staff jobs are secure.
We are closing out the employee assistance fund this Friday. Altogether, the committee has award 179 assistance grants — 104 staff, 2 faculty, and 73 dining facility personnel. Cheri Richardson, Kat Barnette, and Daphne Carter-McCants have managed this process tirelessly for two months. We are all appreciative of their work on behalf of our colleagues who needed support.
Finally, let me share some very positive information. Beginning next year, USC Press and FMU will jointly publish Carolina Currents: An Interdisciplinary Journal of South Carolina Studies with Chris Johnson serving as the editor. It’s a nice accolade for FMU, and a fitting tribute to the inspiration and diligence that Chris has devoted to this effort. Well done, my friend.Take care, and call or email if you need anything.