It usually takes Charlotte Overton about four hours to drive from Greenville, N.C., to the University of South Carolina.
Overton planned to drive back to campus after USC told its students that classes would resume Tuesday. But when USC changed those plans Saturday night, saying classes now will resume Monday, Overton’s plans got a lot more complicated.
With many roads in eastern North Carolina closed and no obvious, direct driving route, Overton bought a $300 plane ticket from Raleigh to Charlotte for Sunday.
“When you email students saying classes will be canceled, we all plan around that,” said Overton, a graduate student in USC’s public administration program. “A lot of I-95 is closed. There’s no easy way for me to get to Columbia.”
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Overton is one of many USC students scrambling to get back to campus in time for classes to resume Monday. Though the university said students will not be penalized for missing class on Monday, many students said on social media or in interviews with The State that they’re concerned about the safety of driving back and, also, missing class right before exams.
“If they miss material, it honestly could be the make or break on whether they do horrible on an exam,” said Andrew Prescott, a freshman studying pharmaceutical science. “It’s not fair to the students. And they’re the ones who are paying.”
Like many graduate students, Overton has a Monday class that’s three hours long and meets once a week, essentially combining the material of three, one-hour lectures.
“I have a nice professor, so I’m not worried. .. But I have to make up three hours of class material on my own,” Overton said. “Missing one class is basically like missing three.”
A public, state-run university, USC has little say in when it closes campus. When Richland County closes or the governor orders a campus closed, the school has no choice, USC spokesman Jeff Stensland said in a previous interview.
And that’s what happened last Tuesday, when McMaster said state agencies would be closed starting Tuesday.
“Campus will remain closed and classes are canceled through Monday, Sept. 17,” USC said in an email sent Thursday. “At this time, university officials anticipate campus will resume normal operations, including all classes, on Tuesday, Sept. 18.”
Some students aren’t sure how they will make it back for classes.
Sophomore Savannah Paull, who said she is from North Augusta, isn’t personally affected. But she said she has several friends from North Carolina who plan to fly into Charlotte and have no clear way to get back to Columbia on time.
“Most would be flying into the Charlotte airport and take the MegaBus back to Columbia, but the MegaBus is not running when they would need it ... to get back in time,” Paull said in a Twitter direct message. “The school is showing gross disregard for its out-of-state students by making this decision so late.”
Overton and Prescott said they understood USC didn’t want to cancel any more classes than it already has, particularly since the school hasn’t held classes since Monday. When asked what USC should do, Overton said: “Stick with what you say. It’s the right thing to do.”