August 25, 2020
The beginning of the school year is always filled with excitement and new possibilities. As you start reconnecting with old friends and making new ones, I urge you to be please do so safely. The threat of COVID-19 has necessarily changed daily life on our campus and around the world. The university's ability to mitigate the risk and remain open depends largely on you, and it's important that we all of do our part to help protect our community.
It was highly encouraging to see so many students engage in safe behavior during our first week back — thank you to everyone who led by example! At the same time, some students still aren't taking the threat to our community seriously and we are aware of numerous large, unsanctioned gatherings both on and off campus.
These types of activities have real-world consequences and we will see an increase in positive COVID-19 cases. On Monday, two houses in the Greek Village were placed into quarantine after several members in each house tested positive. Quarantine and isolation is a part of the university's risk mitigation plan and an important step to reduce community spread.
Please be aware of the following guidance on reducing the spread of COVID-19 and the potential sanctions students face for placing others at risk:
- Wear a face covering both on and off campus. Even when outside, try to maintain physical distancing of at least 6 feet and wear a face covering, except when eating outside or exercising. If you are living in a suite-style residence hall or a house or apartment with others, always wear your mask in common spaces and when interacting with others. Abiding by these simple guidelines is one of the best ways to protect yourself and others from infection.
- Get tested. All students are strongly encouraged take advantage of free COVID-19 testing offered through UofSC. Last week we began walk-up saliva-based testing Monday-Friday, with results shared within 24 hours. This testing is free and it's recommended you go once a week. Learn more by visiting the COVID-19 website.
- Comply with quarantine and isolation orders. If you test positive or come into close contact with someone who has, you may be required to isolate or quarantine. This may seem inconvenient for you, but it is essential to protect the public. If you violate quarantine/isolation you will be referred to the Office of Student Conduct and will be placed on immediate interim suspension where you will be barred from campus and classes until the resolution of your case. The recommended sanction for a violation of this nature will be suspension from the university. In addition, the SC Department of Health and Environmental Control will be notified for the issuance of a public health order. Violating a public order can result in a $1,000 fine and up to 30 days in jail.
- Socialize in smaller groups and avoid mass gatherings. COVID-19 can spread rapidly
among groups of people in close quarters and parties in residence halls and off-campus
houses and apartments pose a particular risk. Also be aware that a pending City of
Columbia ordinance will make house parties unlawful and landlords in violation will
face significant penalties.
- University Housing policy allows for a maximum of four people in a standard double room. In apartments with single resident bedrooms, the maximum occupancy is two in each bedroom and the maximum permitted in the apartment living room is four.
- Students who are identified as hosting/organizing social gatherings larger than permitted by university rule or city ordinance will be immediately placed on interim suspension — this includes all residents of the location where the social function occurred. While on interim suspension, the student will be barred from campus until the resolution of their disciplinary case. The recommended sanction for students who host social gatherings will be suspension from the university.
Please visit the university's COVID-19 page for additional safety tips and updated policies.
While it's not our preference to see students face disciplinary action, the university will not hesitate to take the necessary steps against those who place fellow students and the community in jeopardy. Remember, although the threat of COVID-19 won't be permanent, the individual decisions you make during this time will have a lasting impact. It's a big responsibility, but as Gamecocks, you are up to the challenge. So have fun, meet new people, and experience great adventures; just do so in a way that doesn't needlessly endanger you and others. And if you haven't done so already, visit #IPledgeColumbia today and take the pledge!
Thank you for doing the right thing,
Anna Edwards, Ph.D.
Associate Vice President for Student Life