July 22, 2020

Phased return to campus, remote option

UPDATE (July 25, 2020): The deadline to submit the Fall Student Return Plan has been extended to August 10.

Dear Furman Students and Families,

We are looking forward to welcoming students in just a few weeks as they begin the fall semester in person or, in some cases, virtually. This is an evolving situation with many factors out of our control, but we are confident in our ability to offer outstanding academic instruction, services and experiences that make for a strong Furman education, regardless of the delivery method. We have heard your questions and concerns about returning to campus and hope this email will provide the answers you need to prepare for a semester that best suits your circumstances. Your patience and understanding have been greatly appreciated.

All of our planning and protocols have been guided by and developed in consultation with Prisma Health and Furman epidemiologists, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control, and the American College Health Association.

Our priority remains educating our students and advancing them toward their academic goals while balancing health and safety with a desire to return to campus. With that in mind, the following is what you can expect this fall regarding returning to campus, academics and in-person and online learning, testing and quarantine protocols, and the campus experience. Please read this entire message for important information about the semester and required forms. We are asking all students to submit a Fall Student Return Plan by August 10 (extended deadline) to provide essential information for our planning efforts.

After careful consideration of several factors, including the current state of COVID-19 in South Carolina, we have decided to welcome some students back to campus in August and the rest in September, while others may choose to return online only, as explained in more detail below. We understand this phased approach may require changes to your plans and on relatively short notice, and we thank you again for your patience and understanding. Our team of public health and safety professionals has assured us that taking these steps will give us the best chance for a safe and successful in-person semester. All classes will still begin on August 18 for students on campus as well as those who are at home.

Phased Return to Campus

Bringing students back to campus in stages reduces campus density and opportunities for viral transmission while allowing us to test and assess operational systems – including adherence to prevention measures, testing protocols, contact tracing, and quarantine and isolation procedures – and make adjustments as needed. The phases and move-in dates for new and returning students are:

  • August 12: new students (freshmen) and transfer students
  • August 15-17: fourth- and fifth-year students (seniors)
  • September 11-13: second- and third-year students (sophomores and juniors)

Some students, in consultation with their families, may choose to attend classes remotely this year for various reasons. (Information about which classes will be offered remotely is set forth below under the heading “Academics and Course Offerings.”) If a student prefers to take all classes online from home and not return to live on campus, the student must notify the university by August 10 by submitting their Fall Student Return Plan, referenced above. Tuition for online courses will not be discounted, but students electing to live at home and take all classes online will not be charged for room and board.

In-person classes will be simultaneously streamed during the phased return. Second-and third-year students, including those who are commuters, must attend their courses remotely until September 11.

Furman will provide a room-and-board credit to families of second- and third-year students based on the phased move-in date. Any billing questions should be directed to enroll@furman.edu. Read more information on housing and dining.

The following students have been approved for early arrivals and are receiving check-in information from their supervisors and coaches: international students, teaching interns, ROTC, resident assistants (RAs), First Year Advisors (FRADs), Orientation Staff (O-staff), Pathways Peer Mentors, and fall and winter student-athletes. Housing and Residence Life will notify all students of their assigned move-in dates and times in a separate communication later this month. The university remains in close communication with our international students and is providing the necessary support as they make their individual fall semester plans.

All students will be required to view the Return-to-Campus Guide for Students video and commit to the Paladin Promise. All students living in campus housing also will be required to sign their housing agreement before picking up their keys and attending in-person classes. Students will receive a separate email with instructions to view the training and complete this agreement and other forms.

More information on athletic events and on- and off-campus student activities will be shared closer to the first move-in dates. Except for move in, the campus will remain closed to non-approved visitors as a precaution until area health metrics improve. We are also encouraging students to limit their off-campus travel as much as possible.

Academics and Course Offerings

We anticipate that a majority of the classes this fall will be offered in-person. In an effort to provide alternatives for students, and to allow for some faculty to teach remotely, Furman also will offer some online courses. Online courses will retain scheduled meeting days and times and will be offered as synchronously as possible. Faculty teaching in-person courses are preparing to switch to remote instruction should it become necessary. Likewise, faculty understand that students may need to attend remotely at any point throughout the semester, including during the phased return.

The university is updating course listings this week to help students identify which classes will be taught in-person or online. You will also notice that room locations and course start and end times are being adjusted to allow for reduced density in classroom buildings and hallways, to allow students time to sanitize their workspaces, and to allow faculty sufficient time to return to their offices with lower hallway density. Changes in course start and end times will preserve the integrity of existing student schedules.

The drop-add period will start earlier than usual to allow students to make adjustments to their schedules, taking into account their preferences for instructional delivery method. Review the drop-add schedule. As always, students are encouraged to proactively communicate with their academic advisors about course schedule changes and their progress towards degree completion.

The planning team has developed a strategy that decreases class sizes and spreads out class locations to reduce density and to allow for greater physical distancing. The university invested nearly $1 million in cameras and other technology, which have been installed in nearly every classroom to support remote teaching, as necessary. Regardless of delivery, the university will continue to offer academic and student support services, along with engaged learning, advising, mentoring and career services. And the Faculty Development Center continues to work closely with our excellent faculty to help ensure courses are robust in their delivery and content, regardless of the format.

Student engagement on campus will follow health and safety protocols, and we will continue to offer experiences outside the classroom that complement the academic plan and provide social and recreational outlets for students. Student Life departments and SGA will work closely with the student leaders of clubs and organizations to offer creative programs, activities and events. Again, more information about these activities will be shared closer to the first move-in dates.

Health and Safety

Furman takes very seriously the health safety of students and employees and has developed a well-considered set of protocols and procedures to mitigate COVID-19 transmission, including:

  • A rigorous education and training program, which includes a personal commitment to behaviors and responsibilities safeguarding both the individual and the community (Paladin Promise).
  • A required technology-based daily screening for symptoms and exposures through the LiveSafe app, which may be downloaded here: Apple | Android.
  • Rapid-response contact tracing processes to ensure that close contacts are identified and quarantined as quickly as an infection is confirmed.
  • Isolation and quarantine plans in place for every student residing on campus.

While these protocols and procedures have been thoughtfully implemented in light of current guidance and best practices, it is important for members of our community to recognize that individuals can never be completely shielded from all risk of illness caused by the virus, and everyone in our campus community shares the responsibility for the health of the community.

Testing and Quarantine/Isolation

Colleges and universities across the country have adopted various testing protocols. Furman is following the guidance provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control, and Prisma Health, our on-campus health provider.

In accordance with these federal, state and local recommendations, Furman will not require a “blanket” asymptomatic screen prior to arriving on campus. The results for screening tests reflect only a single point in time (24 hours), are not 100% accurate, and can provide a false sense of security. Under Furman’s plan for a phased return, requiring all students to present a single-point negative test result obtained over an extended time period before returning to campus is not practical and may not be an available option for many students. Once students are in residence on campus, based on observed trends and potential infection prevalence, the university has the capacity to implement both targeted and random asymptomatic screens in addition to symptomatic testing.

For students experiencing COVID-related symptoms, the Earle Student Health Center is accessible by phone (864.834.3192) 24 hours a day to provide guidance and, as appropriate, a medical order for a COVID test with a local Prisma provider. If a student is too ill to drive and/or does not have access to a personal vehicle, transportation for testing will be arranged by the Furman University Police Department. Symptomatic students will be asked to shelter in place in their individual residence (meals delivered and course access provided online) until laboratory results are returned, typically 24-48 hours. Furman’s Student Sickness Benefits Plan will cover any difference in cost for the required test that may not be covered by a student’s primary health insurance.

Any student identified as a close contact through the university’s contact tracing protocol, and who is asked to quarantine, must provide evidence of a test for COVID-19 to the Earle Student Health Center before returning to class and activities. Review our health resources for more information.

Students who test positive for COVID-19 or who meet the criteria for an exposure (close contact within 6 feet for more than 15 minutes with anyone testing positive for COVID-19, within 48 hours prior to the time of the initial onset of their symptoms) will be isolated or quarantined for up to 14 days. We realize many families may prefer to have their student at home for isolation or quarantine, and Furman needs students to return home if at all practical in order to utilize quarantine and isolation space for those who are unable to do so. If not practical (because students live too far away or are too ill to travel, for example), the university will provide isolation or quarantine space. This will include procedures for health checks, meal delivery, remote learning, and other support services.

We need all families to submit their student quarantine plan via the above referenced Fall Student Return Plan by August 10, so we may prepare adequate space for quarantine and isolation.

At least 14 days before coming to campus, you should refrain from gathering in large crowds, practice physical distancing (6 feet or more), and avoid contact with someone who has been diagnosed with the virus. This will help to protect your health and the health of those with whom you will come into contact after you arrive on campus. These requirements are included in the Paladin Promise, which is not only an obligation to health and safety, but also a personal commitment to help each other be successful personally, academically and professionally.

More Information

If you have questions not answered in this message or on the Furman Focused website, you may email them to furman.focused@furman.edu. We will host virtual town hall meetings in early August for students and families and will send information about this in the near future. Please keep an eye out for this and other communications related to the fall opening, and remember that as the circumstances continue to evolve we may need to consider making adjustments to our plans.

This is not the semester any of us expected or wanted. I appreciate how disappointed many of you, including myself, may be about the challenges this presents, which makes me even more grateful for your continued commitment to Furman and to our collective success. In an effort to support our campus community, the staff at the Counseling Center and the Office of Spiritual Life both continue to stand ready to offer assistance to our students no matter your physical location. It will take all of us working together to have a safe and successful fall semester. I have great confidence in our Furman Family that we will do just that.

Stay well.


Elizabeth Davis