This story is by Daa'iyah Fogle, Morgan Solomon and Dana'Ja Gore of The Panther, Claflin's student newspaper. www.claflin.edu/news-events/the-panther.
Amid a global pandemic, Claflin is making tough decisions with a focus on the health and well-being of students, faculty and others at the institution, the university president said.
President Dwaun J. Warmack spoke to Panther reporters on Sept. 30 about the COVID-19 pandemic and other issues. The session came ahead of a Student Government Association town hall meeting later in the day.
With COVID-19 disproportionately affecting Black and brown people and the Delta variant affecting more young people, “Claflin has to act to keep people safe,” Warmack said. “Beginning in January 2022, a COVID-19 vaccination will be required for all students to attend the university and as a condition of employment for all faculty and staff.”
The vaccination requirement will also apply to homecoming in November, Warmack said.
To attend any event, a person must be fully vaccinated. In addition, everyone will be required to provide a negative PCR test taken within 72 hours to attend homecoming events, he said.
“Vaccinations are the best way to ensure safety of people on campus,” Warmack said. “Vaccinations reduce hospitalization and death and are not new for other institutions and businesses.”
He cited the Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association, of which Claflin is a member.
“Eighty-five percent of CIAA schools have previously required vaccinations,” he said. “We’re coming kind of late in the game.”
Warmack said he could have done what other institutions did and cancel homecoming but really wanted to make the annual celebration a reality.
“SGA worked very hard to make homecoming happen,” Warmack said. Juniors really wanted the event to be in-person.
On other issues related to COVID-19, Warmack said:
- COVID positivity went up on the Claflin campus early in the semester but has come down since.
- Requiring face masks and hybrid classes for the spring will be reviewed but remains the norm for now. “We’ll cross that bridge when we’re there.”
- Going to all-virtual classes is not the Claflin mission. He has stressed before that the Claflin experience is about on-campus living and learning.
- Re-establishment of campus-wide visitation will be a decision for residential life officials.
- Religious or medical exemption to vaccines would have to be decided by Claflin human resources. Persons seeking exemption will need to submit documentation. Warmack said he does not know all the criteria as to how such cases would be decided.
Despite the affects of COVID-19, “a lot of great things are happening” as “we navigate our way through the global pandemic,” Warmack said.
He noted that Claflin continues to rate high among colleges and universities in the state, most recently landing in eighth among S.C. institutions in one ranking. That is ahead of Furman and College of Charleston.
And in addition to the opening of a new Center for Social Justice in downtown Orangeburg, plans for a new student center, scheduled to be completed in early 2023, are progressing.
“We’re still on track for our timeline,” Warmack said of plans for the three-story structure that is to include a movie theater. It is to be located at Magnolia and Goff.
It not only will be a place for Claflin students to gather, but the center will be for alumni and community use. “It’s community based,” Warmack said.