Editorial by Dr. Dwaun J. Warmack, President, Claflin University
These are troubled times unlike our nation has ever experienced. To be honest, I never imagined waking up each morning to hear the number of deaths domestically and abroad. It is disheartening. It is horrible. It is frightening. The cause is the deadly novel coronavirus (COVID-19).
No public sector has been spared. I arrived at Claflin University last August to begin my tenure as the ninth president in the University’s illustrious history, following in the footsteps of an exceptional and transformative leader, Dr. Henry N. Tisdale. I knew full well that the gauntlet had been tossed to me and I accepted it without trepidation because there is a uniqueness about the Claflin Family. I inherited a flourishing institution due in part to a unified effort to pursue and achieve academic excellence.
In midst of COVID-19, our resolve is being tested here at Claflin as well as across the spectrum of higher education. Students are expecting us to win the battle against the coronavirus, and we cannot let them down. That’s why at Claflin we have been in the trenches to plan our future course of action,
I have appointed a Task Force to consider options for reopening Claflin in the fall. The Task Force will leave no stone unturned in its deliberations to recommend the best course forward for Claflin. This will include class size, course offerings and, most important, the financial impact to the University on whatever the decision will be. We aim to announce the decision later this month.
I am empathetic to the loss of loved ones due to the pandemic. Family life as we know it has been shattered and disrupted. The devastation of job losses is expected to have a cumulative impact on the University’s enrollment going forward. Nevertheless, our Enrollment Management Team has been working extremely hard to get us where we need to in the fall. The numbers are promising but nothing can be taken for granted as health officials predict a second wave of COVID-19 cases in the fall.
We are also working to strengthen and enhance the University’s technology infrastructure in the event we must go fully online in a continuation of our response after the governor declared a statewide emergency. It was a challenging development but Claflin was prepared, having entered the online environment six years ago. That proved invaluable at a critical juncture in the academic year.
We have listened to our students and their strong desire to have the campus reopened in the fall. They should know that the University will do everything within its power to return to face-to-face instruction and campus living. The University, however, will follow guidelines from the CDC, DHEC and other health officials to ensure the campus is a safe environment for everyone.
I am cautiously optimistic about the future, but it is clear that our decision will be based on what is best for Claflin University and the students we serve.