Important Updates for Fall and Spring Semesters

Dear USC Community,

As we reach the midpoint of the Fall semester, we want to take this opportunity to thank all of you for your continued dedication during these challenging times, and to update you on the work that is going into planning for the Spring semester.

But first, we want to let you know about a change we are making to our undergraduate grading policy for the Fall semester. Many students have reached out to let us know that they are experiencing unusual levels of stress due to the compressed semester, combined with uncertainty about the pandemic. As a result, we have decided to extend the Pass/No Pass grading option deadline through November 13, the last day of classes. We will also extend the deadline for dropping a class to November 13. Graduate and professional students should check with their individual programs for their respective grading policy decisions.

Current state and local health restrictions preclude us from resuming any on-campus activities. But we are speaking regularly with our local health officials to advocate for a low-density plan for bringing students back for the Spring semester.

We have teams across the university working diligently – preparing classrooms for social distancing, developing enhanced cleaning procedures, and finalizing a testing and contact tracing strategy that can safely support additional campus density. We will be ready once guidelines permit a return to a more active campus life.

The Spring semester will begin on January 15, with classes ending on April 30, and exams concluding on May 12 for undergraduate students. To minimize the risk of the virus spreading due to travel, there will be no Spring recess. In its place, the university has created a personal wellness day program that puts mental health and wellness front and center. More details about this initiative will be released soon. Please stay tuned.

Graduate programs may elect to follow the revised calendar as detailed above or adhere to their original calendars. Please consult with your individual programs if you are unsure.

Registration for the Spring semester begins on October 26. Reflecting the preparations we are now making, some courses, at both the undergraduate and graduate levels, will be offered in hybrid and in-person modalities, while the majority will remain online.

Hybrid (which combine remote and in-person activities) and in-person courses will primarily be those that require studio or laboratory space and/or equipment. Importantly, we have designed the Spring schedule to be as flexible as possible. Whatever the conditions are as we go into the next semester, we will have the ability to pivot back to fully remote or open more courses for our in-person and hybrid modalities.

Students who are unable to attend in-person classes for any reason will be able to meet their full academic requirements online.

The Academic Progress Scholarship that we previously announced will be available to undergraduate students whose academic progress was slowed as a result of COVID-19. This allows students to apply for a scholarship to cover up to eight units of tuition for enrollment in degree-applicable coursework in Summer 2021. Students will still be responsible for fees (e.g., student health center fee) associated with Summer enrollment. In order to receive the USC COVID-19 Academic Progress Scholarship, students must have enrolled as full-time degree-seeking undergraduates at USC in the Fall 2020 and Spring 2021 semesters (12-18 units; audited courses do not count towards this requirement).

The courses that we hope to offer in hybrid and in-person modalities have been designed by our schools and academic units, together with faculty who have agreed to return to the classroom, should we receive permission to do so. Cleaning, physical distancing, and PPE guidelines will be strictly enforced to ensure everyone’s safety inside the classroom.

As the university increases density, some staff may be asked to return on-site to support the on-campus community. Like in the classroom, all guidelines will be strictly enforced to ensure a safe work environment.

All other staff who can work from home should continue to do so.

Our objective is to bring approximately 5,000 students back into campus housing at single occupancy. At this point, it is still too early to predict whether conditions will sufficiently improve for us to gain permission from LA County to carry through on this objective. We will have more detailed information to share next month.

Our Welcome Experience programs and activities begin the second week of January and will be conducted online for all new incoming and returning students. If conditions allow, we will add some smaller, in-person events. Our signature event each January is Spring Into SC, which welcomes all new Spring Admit first-year and transfer students. This event, along with Spring Convocation, marks the start of our six-week welcome programming. Full details will be published by December 1, 2020.

In the coming weeks, we will be communicating in much more detail about on-campus COVID-19 testing for the spring, mandatory flu vaccines, and mandatory training modules which will cover the university’s requirements, and the shared accountability we will all undertake to wear face coverings, abide by physical distancing requirements, and avoid gatherings.

We will be guided by a safety-first approach and will do everything to ensure we can continue to deliver outstanding education, engagement, and academic rigor no matter what modality we ultimately employ for the start of the Spring semester.

We recognize that many of you are feeling elevated levels of stress given these uncertain times. Please know that we are here to provide support to our community through our Student Health Center and the Center for Work and Family Life.

Finally, we want to once again thank our students, faculty, staff, and neighbors for coming together as only our Trojan community can. One thing is for certain: the 2020-2021 academic year will continue to be like no other in our university’s 140-year history. By working together and taking the necessary precautions, we can make it a safe, successful, and memorable year for everyone.

Thank you,

Charles F. Zukoski
Provost and Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs

Kedra Ishop
Vice President for Enrollment Management

cc: Office of the President
Academic Deans
President’s Senior Leadership Team
Provost’s Leadership Team
Academic Senate
Staff Assembly
GSG President
USG President