These are extraordinary times for all of us in higher education, for our country and, indeed, the world. I never imagined that we would be heading into what normally is among my favorite weeks of the year—May commencement—with virtually no one on our campus and no graduation ceremonies planned.
I have been struck over the past several weeks by just how much I miss our students and the energy they bring to campus. They are the reason all of us at Clemson University come to work every day, and their absence has made me appreciate them even more.
This isn’t the end to the academic year that any of us at Clemson wanted for our students, especially our Class of 2020 graduates, but I can’t help but be proud of the way the university and our students have responded to this unprecedented crisis.
I’m blessed to have great teammates across the university who continue to work every day—and many nights—to deliver on our promise of providing a world-class education to our students. Over the past six weeks, our faculty has moved mountains to provide online instruction to our students, while our staff has navigated more complex, real-time logistical challenges than I can count.
They’ve done it all with two goals in mind: The health and safety of our university community and the education of our students. And while we have, in my view, been extremely successful on both counts, our work is far from finished.
Clemson, like other universities across the state and nation, already has turned its sights on the upcoming academic year, which brings with it far more unknowns that we usually face. Just as communities and states are grappling with how best to “reopen,” universities are working through similar challenges.
We don’t have it figured out just yet, but if the past two months have confirmed anything it’s that the Clemson Family is up for a challenge. We are moving ahead with a goal of returning to campus in the fall, but with the knowledge that our new normal will almost certainly look different than the recent past.
As with all the decisions we have made thus far, our work to reopen the university to traditional instruction and on-campus activities will be guided by the best science and data around the pandemic. Nothing is more important than the safety of the Clemson community, and by extension, the Upstate communities our students and employees call home.
The last few months have been the most challenging in my 31 years of higher education, and the coming months are likely to provide more of the same. Even as I say that, however, I’m optimistic about the future for Clemson and our ability to weather this extended storm. We have the people and plans in place that we need to come out of this strong and in a position to resume the upward trajectory of this great university.
I am beyond grateful to our staff and faculty for their efforts to safeguard the well-being of our community, ensure the academic progress of our students and prepare the University to emerge from the crisis strong.
I’m also in awe of our students, especially those who will graduate this spring. Their spirit and determination are an inspiration, and they are the reason we all get up every day and do what we do.
Jim Clements, President