President Davis reflects on a successful fall semester and looks forward to safely welcoming back students in the spring.
The fall semester's success is in large due to "a bright student body" according to President Davis.
With classes finally over, students have headed home for an extended winter break that is set to last until Jan. 17. Before we look ahead to what the spring semester holds, however, there is plenty to reflect on from this fall. Members of The Paladin’s Board sat down with President Davis on Nov. 19 to discuss what went right this semester, and where the administration hopes to improve moving into 2021. Here is what we learned:
The fall semester was a success. Entering the fall semester, President Davis had “no idea” what to expect. What would happen on campus would depend on student behavior, and according to Davis, “behavior is one thing Furman cannot control.” That being said, Davis indicated that having a campus total of 109 student cases throughout the semester is “not bad, especially given that Furman never had to enter a lockdown like several schools across the nation had to.” As a result, Davis calls this semester a “success,” and attributes this to a bright student body who generally respects science and “understands what it takes to stay on campus.” Davis also noted that this fall saw a strong community spirit that put the needs of the whole student body over those of individuals, which reflects the Furman community’s ability to care about each other.
Furman’s COVID-19 response follows the science. The health and safety group played an important role in the fall semester’s success according to President Davis. As the term progressed, Davis explained that certain places began “ramping up their tests,” and this allowed asymptomatic testing to become more useful and practical in the event of monitoring potential outbreaks. As a result, random asymptomatic testing was established, a policy which reflected the health and safety group’s “ability to adapt and pivot quickly.”. Furman’s partnership with Prisma Health is also greatly valued by the administration since “we are going to stick with the science,” according to Davis.
We won’t see many changes in the spring. Looking ahead to the spring, Davis noted that more students will be returning to campus for in-person learning. While this seems like it may increase chances of an outbreak, “we never even pushed the limits of our quarantine space” in the fall,. noted Davis. She added that most students opted to return home to complete their quarantine period. Still, Davis cannot predict any significant changes to Furman’s COVID-19 rules during the spring. “Even the administration does not like the restrictive rules,” said Davis. Still, she suggested that loosening the current protocols could lead to trouble. Without a vaccine, not much can change, so the administration plans to play it by ear and will continue to monitor CDC guidelines and adhere to Prisma Health recommendations.
Social life at Furman may look better come spring. Although rules will not change, the student body may see some improvements in social life on campus. According to Davis, “the administration wants to see students get creative,” and urges students to propose ideas for social gatherings or activities that can promote student interaction. Davis also urges students to get outside and spend less time in their rooms in between classes and meals. Recognizing that “we need to be cognizant of the situation,” Davis added Furman can take steps to make some changes on campus, but they need to be cautious and aware of what is happening in the greater Greenville area. Students should also look forward to Furman athletics making a comeback in the spring. According to Davis, “Athletics is working really hard to make sure students can safely have fun at games.”
Communication should improve. Overall, Davis does not have any major regrets about the fall semester. One thing she would have done differently, however, is communication. This fall, the administration sent out 73 emails to the Furman community. Davis recognizes that, “Sometimes we jump into the ‘what’ really quickly, and maybe forget to say the ‘why.’” Moving forward, Davis noted that the administration will place more effort on “communicating the philosophy of the decisions better.”
Why Furman never released an official statement about Dr. Sharp. COVID-19 was not the only major event on campus this fall. The community was also shocked by the sudden resignation of Dr. Kelly Kean Sharp following allegations that she had been falsely claiming Chicana identity. The administration never released an official community-wide statement following Sharp’s resignation “because it is a personnel issue,” according to Davis. The administration is not at liberty to release emails regarding actions taken involving employees, hence the reason why the campus was seemingly left uninformed of the events surrounding Dr. Sharp’s resignation.
Diversity efforts do not go unnoticed. A student leadership petition with the goal of fostering a more inclusive environment where all students feel welcome and accepted also caught the administration’s eye. According to Davis, “The administration is all in favor of students having greater levels of awareness through their curriculum,” as inclusion begins in the classroom. Right now, the fastest thing faculty can do to support the petition is alter their own classes. Modifying GER requirements is also a possible approach to this petition, but the adjustments cannot happen overnight. Ultimately, Davis thinks the change will happen, “but in higher ed time,” meaning execution will be slower than expected.
We’re ending on a high note. At the end of the day, the fall semester saw many successes, but it also saw several obstacles. As we make the transition into the spring semester, President Davis looks forward to welcoming back students who learned remotely this fall, as well as the rest of the in-person student body. The student body worked diligently this fall to follow the rules in place to protect campus health and safety. Ultimately, the spring semester will not look too different from the fall, but students are encouraged to practice the same choices that kept us on campus this entire fall.