(Rock Hill, S.C.) — Winthrop University employees returned to work in-person on campus March 15, after S.C. Gov. Henry McMaster issued an executive order requiring all state employees to return to regular operations.
The move rescinded an executive order from spring 2020, allowing state employees to work from home, due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The change impacted Winthrop faculty and staff, who were either working from home or only coming to campus one or two days a week.
The decision to bring the state’s more than 24,000 employees back to work was met with skepticism by many and drew a lawsuit from the American Civil Liberties Union of South Carolina, which has since been dismissed.
“I was not in favor of being back on campus full-time, being that I still prefer to stay safe and social distance myself at home. I also have family members at high risk, so when I go home I try to not bring any germs back to them,” said Shayna Foxworth, the student and young alumni program coordinator for Winthrop’s office of Alumni Relations.
Scott Huffmon, a professor of political science at Winthrop, told WBTV he felt employees were being forced to return too quickly.
”To force people back, it doesn’t make a lot of sense, in so far as if we come back and that causes some type of spike then that could put a monkey wrench in our plans,” Huffmon told the Charlotte TV station.
Others said they were also surprised by the timing of the move.
“I was really surprised we got the information that we needed to be back in person,” said Aimee Meader, an associate professor of mass communication. “I didn’t know that enough vaccines had gone out to the public to make it safe. I’m half really happy about it and half a little bit upset.”
Some employees said, while they were apprehensive about returning to work in-person, they were willing to accept the decision.
Vanessa Valdez, graduate student services director for the College of Business Administration, said she is adjusting to the change, because she has a young child.
“I have a one-year-old who is in daycare and the daycare is never closed. So being that I had a place for my child to go to while I work was extremely beneficial,” said Valdez. “However, if my child were any older and could no longer go to daycare, then the situation would be more complex.”
Valdez said she has been working to come up with a few back up plans for her family, just in case her schedule were to change again.
Jill Lauber, assistant to the dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, said the change has not greatly affected her.
“I do not have young children or any health issues, so I did not have a problem coming back to campus full-time,” said Lauber. “I could see if I had small children, then I would have to adjust some things, but being that I do not, it’s not a huge issue for me.”
Other Winthrop staff also said returning to work on campus was not really a problem for them.
“It has little or no effect really, it’s all about work. You know outside of the interaction with students and faculty, you know I still try to keep (my work) moving,” said Bert Daniels, program assistant for the Department of Mass Communication.
“I was not affected as much, I just had to adjust my schedule a little bit, but aside from that I was not greatly affected by this sudden change. I still have my office and I am still working just like I was before,” said Jasmine Pinckney, a graduate student studying counseling and development, who works in the Kinard Building as a graduate associate.
Additionally, some employees said they were happy to return to campus in-person.
“As far as having everybody come back on (March) 15, I didn’t have a problem with it at. I thought it was about time,” said Mark Nortz, a senior instructor of mass communication.
Starr Albert, an administrative specialist in the admissions office, said she is grateful to be back on campus, because she loves her job at Winthrop.
“I was actually happy to be back on campus full-time, because prior to us being back, in late February, I lost my father. So, it helped me out a lot to be back on campus to see people and be around my colleagues,” said Albert.
“Being home was much harder, because I thought about it a lot, so I enjoy this little break throughout the day by being able to be on campus working.”