Greetings Trojan Community,
The once-in-a-century COVID-19 pandemic has altered every aspect of our lives – the way we interact, work, and socialize – and with each new permutation of the pandemic, we must find ways to thrive. The fall semester will be a completely new and different experience. We will overcome the challenges by drawing on the creativity of our faculty, staff, and students, and create a semester that delivers on our commitment to supporting outstanding education, research, and service.
Four pillars underlining our work are to ensure:
- safety (e.g., testing, tracing, facilities upgrades, and medical care);
- excellence (e.g., impactful learning, new ways to engage, career services for a new era);
- flexibility (e.g., USC at your fingertips, available in every time zone, responsive to individual needs); and
- looking forward (e.g., building opportunities that prepare leaders for the future, having the University ready for whatever opportunities or challenges we face).
Today we write to update you on undergraduate classes for fall 2020, including scheduling, and on-campus housing.
Public health guidelines continue to change, and Los Angeles County has yet to approve our plans for returning to full campus operations. Los Angeles is experiencing an alarming spike in coronavirus cases, making it clear we need to dramatically reduce our on-campus density and all indoor activities for the fall semester.
Indeed, the Governor of California issued an order today (based on a 52 percent increase state-wide in COVID-19 hospitalizations in just 14 days), severely restricting indoor activities in a variety of businesses. While we are still processing this new information, we know some of you have July 1 deadlines for leases off campus – so we wanted to get this information to you to help with your decision-making.
Given the continuing safety restrictions and limited densities permissible on campus, our undergraduate students primarily or exclusively will be taking their courses online in the fall term, and on-campus housing and activities will be limited. While not what we hoped, we are now recommending all undergraduates take their courses online, and reconsider living on or close to campus this semester. We are continuing with limited in-person, on-campus activity because we believe we can keep students, researchers, staff, and faculty safe with our low-density plan.
We will be offering a rich array of courses and out-of-class experiences online. We are building vibrant platforms, including a new student portal that will serve as a virtual quad and promote social engagement. We also will be providing a host of experiences for our entering first-year and transfer students from across the world, so that they feel part of our community, and can seamlessly transition in person as soon as possible. Many additional details will follow.
Schedule of Classes
Our top priority is to provide an excellent educational experience, in and out of the classroom – and to foster engagement with the Trojan Family that lasts for a lifetime. These experiences will be different, but our goal is unchanged – to make our courses excellent, convenient, and interactive; to challenge our students intellectually, inspire their creativity, and take them to the frontier of knowledge, no matter how or where the learning experience occurs.
Faculty across the schools are always thinking of new ways to teach and engage. They are taking advantage of additional resources available in our Center for Excellence in Teaching (CET) as they create exciting new online environments for students. USC also has some of the leading online programs in a number of schools, and they have been sharing their experiences with faculty across the institution.
The revised class schedule will be available by July 8. This schedule will reflect that a majority of undergraduate classes will be available solely online. There will also be courses that will be offered in a hybrid format (combining in person and online course sessions). We anticipate that 10-20 percent of our classes will be conducted in person, on campus. These will be primarily face-to-face labs, studios, performance, and other courses involving hands-on work, and independent research studies that require facilities and equipment only available on campus. Even these courses, for the most part, will also be available online this semester.
Each school will be contacting students in the coming days with more detail about its classes, co-curricular activities, student organizations, and much more. Plans for graduate programs will also be addressed by the individual school and program. One important goal is to keep everyone advancing toward their degrees, and so advisors in each school will be available to help answer questions about how best to maintain academic progress this semester.
Extra assistance. We understand that for some students, the capacity to connect off campus is difficult. To help, we are expanding our program to provide financial and technical support for domestic and international students who have connectivity or hardware issues, and will provide application details soon.
We are offering a new scholarship opportunity for this year only. Students will be able to apply for a scholarship to provide for up to two free online classes in the 2021 summer session. This is designed to help ensure academic progress. More details on this offering will follow.
On-campus Housing and Dining
Earlier this week we announced we will limit housing to one student per bedroom in our residence halls, suites, and apartments. The city also expects USC to hold a number of rooms vacant to provide quarantine space should a surge occur during the semester. As a result, our availability is less than half of what it would normally be.
We will honor current contracts, but room assignments and building locations will change, in order to adhere to the one student per bedroom requirement. We encourage all students holding contracts – particularly those who do not have any in-person classes or who live in the greater Los Angeles area – to reconsider on-campus housing.
The deadline to cancel an existing contract or housing application in order to have a full refund of fees or deposit has been extended to July 15.
Depending on availability, priority for existing applicants will be given to students whose study requires in-person education, are in named scholarship and athletics programs, who may require special accommodations, or are international students. We will provide more information as soon as possible.
Our dining halls are being reconfigured to allow for scheduled dining in a manner that is distanced, appropriately sanitized, and safe for students and our staff members. Food will be pre-packaged and a number of pick-up options, including outside vendors will be available. Much more detail to follow.
Students living in the surrounding neighborhoods should be aware that access to campus will be limited. In most cases, students will be required to make an appointment to use campus services, such as library study spaces, the student health center, and dining facilities.
In closing, this semester will be a new and different experience for all of us. Whether students are here on campus or pursuing their studies and activities online, we want everyone to feel safe and supported. USC’s student life activities, support services, and programs will be offered virtually, and we will stay connected through activities and events. We are in this together and together we will make this fall a rich and rewarding experience.
Charles F. Zukoski, Provost and Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs
David Wright, Senior Vice President, Administration