COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) - Some University of South Carolina students have already started making their way back to campus, and move-in weekend kicks off Sunday.
Ahead of their return, the school’s student body president, Issy Rushton, says she helped to kickstart the I Pledge Columbia campaign encouraging students to wear a mask and help protect the campus and the community from COVID-19.
Rushton is now working in collaboration with university President Bob Caslen and the City of Columbia. By taking the pledge, you acknowledge the role you play in the fight against the coronavirus, promising to demonstrate personal integrity and to respect others.
UofSC is already requiring that students and staff wear masks while inside any campus building. The pledge is going the extra mile, accepting personal responsibility in supporting the health of the campus and the surrounding community by wearing a mask, social distancing and avoiding large gatherings.
This also means staying home when you’re feeling sick and getting tested for COVID.
Rushton, says she was fortunate to be able to take part in the future planning groups for the university at the start of the pandemic. She says this experience helped to frame the way she hopes to communicate with her fellow classmates about the campaign.
“Something that I kind of thought was lacking right from the start was that human aspect. That our students are going to come back and they’re going to want to engage in all the behavior that they did before, and so I wanted to make sure that we could promote good behavior and being a good citizen of our university and of our city,” Ruston continues, “We can’t just tell students what they have to do whether that’s wearing a face covering or physically distancing. We have to explain the ‘why’ behind it because people do what’s right when they know why they’re doing it.”
Ultimately, Rushton says she truly believes the UofSC student body is made of “boundless resilience,” and that they will “do the right thing,” when they return to campus. Still, Rushton says she’s also prepared for students who may challenge the pledge.
“There’s two sides to every story and right from the start we’ve been mostly positive but I have had some people who were hesitant about the pledge but as I mentioned, I think that when you bring that community aspect in and really encourage people to do what’s right for not only themselves but their friends and the people that they love, there’s a deeper level of understanding that comes with that,” said Rushton.
Though masks are required while inside any UofSC building, there are exceptions for students inside their dorm rooms, staff members inside their private offices or while eating.
UofSC students were also required to be tested and cleared for COVID-19 within 10 days of arriving on campus.
Move-in weekend is Sunday through Tuesday.
Classes begin August 20 and will include a mixture of online and in-person instruction.