Claflin not sitting still during pandemic, Warmack says

Nov 17, 2020

President Dwaun J. Warmack speaks with Panther reporters via Zoom on Oct. 29.


Claflin has done a good job of surviving and thriving during the pandemic, President Dr. Dwaun J. Warmack said.

The ninth president of Claflin University and Delta State University alumnus spoke with Panther reporters on Oct. 29 about the coronavirus pandemic, what’s happening present day on campus and how things are going to flow into next semester.

“The perseverance our scholars have shown is outstanding,” Warmack said in addressing the way students have managed to stay on top of their game amid different circumstances on and off campus.

Warmack said Claflin is not sitting still. “We’re grinding.”

He cited a new dual-degree program for mass communication students with the University of South Carolina as an example of working progress.

Warmack let students know this is not his first rodeo as far as widespread crisis. He has had experience with crisis management in Florida and St. Louis.

Warmack said he thought he was done with that role until the pandemic swooped in.

“I’ve been in the midst of crisis management for a long time.”

Warmack said Claflin has handled the crisis with no furloughs, no layoffs and no position cuts. “Most institutions in the country cannot say that."

Claflin has been a model for other institutions in operating during the coronavirus emergency, he said.

Despite the pandemic, “it has been genuinely rewarding,” Warmack said of the fall semester.

The president urged students to stay focused and committed.

“It’s challenging. It’s OK to have emotions about it,” Warmack said. But “this too shall pass.”

In working his way through the crisis, the president said he is on the job about 13 hours a day.

“When COVID hit, I didn’t take off.”

Instead, he works out a lot. “I was grinding.”

Warmack confessed that he has been leaning on his weakness during this time -- potato chips. A box of family-size potato chips was gifted to him and he found himself eating way too many during work as a coping mechanism -- seven bags in three days.

“I’ve got to get back focused,” he told himself, and “get away from chips.”

Warmack said virtual instruction during the pandemic is offering quality education. It is worth the cost to students in paying full tuition.

“The business model doesn’t change,” said in in terms of teachers being responsible for instruction and getting paid to teach, whether in person or online.

“We’re not compromising quality,” Warmack said. “It’s a blend.”

Although he finds online classes to be intuitive, he and most faculty prefer in-person instruction.

Warmack said next semester's instruction and on-campus living “all depends on what happens with COVID-19.”

He would like to have more students on campus but said, “We have to do it safely.” Claflin is to begin the spring semester with all instruction being virtual.

There are currently a quarter of students on campus, which means 400 are in the residence halls. The maximum would be 450.

Warmack said typically there are 1,200 students on campus. A maximum for spring would be 650 to 700.

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