October 19, 2020
I'm sure you saw The State paper headline on Sunday that read Over 2,000 at party during USC football game ignored social distancing, officials say. The corresponding article and photos, not to mention various social media videos of the party at The Orchard before and during the Auburn game on Saturday, reminded the campus and greater communities that while most of our students are doing the right thing by keeping themselves and others safe during the pandemic, plenty of other students are not.
To be clear, 2,000 students represent less than five percent of our student body. It's also clear that some of the young adults at the party on Saturday were not our students. That said, there can be little doubt that the majority of those gathered at The Orchard were South Carolina students.
I thought long and hard before sending this letter to the entire student body. After all, most of you continue to behave responsibly and to take seriously the #IPledgeColumbia promise and your commitment to the greater community. It is actually with you in mind and the example you set for others that I decided to write to all students. You are modeling what it means to be responsible college students in the time of COVID-19. You understand that public trust is critical and that our university is embedded within a busy city and county community. Thank you for practicing personal integrity, respecting the dignity of others and demonstrating concern for others.
To those students who participated in the party on Saturday (or any other large social gathering), I encourage you to think beyond yourselves and to loosen your grip on a perceived entitlement to doing as you please without considering how your actions could harm others. Our relationship with the campus and greater communities is significantly impacted by our actions. This is an issue of public trust. When you came to South Carolina, you joined a university community that lives, works and socializes within a much larger community that rightly deserves our commitment to responsibility. By no means am I suggesting that you should not gather together with friends, but you know very well that there are safer ways to do so that do not put yourselves and others at risk of spreading and contracting COVID-19. I would be extremely disappointed if your behavior on Saturday resulted in an increase in COVID infections, creating an unacceptable risk so close to the Thanksgiving break.
Students, as I said in the letter I sent you on Friday, you're halfway there. We have to keep our eyes on the prize of finishing this semester together – with integrity, compassion and a resolve to take care of ourselves and those around us.