From: Charles F. Zukoski, Provost and Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs; Felicia A. Washington, Senior Vice President of Human Resources
We are writing today to describe Project Restart, our campus-wide effort to return to on-campus living, learning, and working. We are all anxious to reunite with our friends and colleagues and to welcome new Trojans to USC. But we cannot underestimate the continuing health threat posed by COVID-19. As a result, our decisions about how and when to re-engage on campus will be informed by a team of our leading public health professionals, based on the most current scientific evidence, and local and state regulations.
To that end, we have established Project Restart – comprised of working groups involving over 100 faculty, staff, and students – charged to envision how we can return each specific element of university life to on-campus operations. These teams are planning in great detail, considering contingencies, and preparing us to be both nimble and thorough in our approach.
Our academic working groups are focusing on research and clinical education; undergraduate and graduate programs; the student experience; and academic programs. Our Public Health Policy Advisory Group is leading the way by taking into account our capacity to test and conduct contact tracing and maintain proper social distancing. This committee is in constant contact with medical and health professionals across the region. For more detail on the composition and charges of these working groups, please visit: https://coronavirus.usc.edu/campus-information/project-restart/.
In addition, because COVID-19 remains in our community, we have established the Restart Opening Phase Policy Group that is working on the details of how faculty, staff, and students can return to campus when the stay-at-home order is fully lifted. We also are launching a committee dedicated to collaborating with our neighbors around USC, including our off-campus students, as we plan for a safe return to campus.
Please remember, only employees who have supervisor approval to work on our campuses should be doing so. No other employees should return to campus, even after the stay-at-home order is lifted, until receiving notice from the University, or their supervisor, department chair, or dean. Please be assured that any changes to access to campus will be communicated, along with our planned approach for how to return. If any students briefly visit campus to shoot graduation photos, they must practice social distancing and wear face coverings at all times.
We know that you are anxious for answers and we are asking our Project Restart groups to work quickly. We hope to announce much of what our Fall 2020 semester will look like in June.
Our goal is to make our restart as safe, efficient, and speedy as possible, and, as you can imagine, the logistics of bringing back tens of thousands of people with different needs are very complex. For example, we are taking into account the faculty, staff, and students who are at higher risk of severe illness from COVID-19; we are considering disability requirements and services; we are exploring options for international students who may face challenges traveling to USC due to visa or government-imposed travel delays; and we continue to be highly focused on being creative in how we teach and engage with students. We are committed to being flexible with employees, who, even as we return to campus, are affected by the need to care for dependents for whom services, such as summer camps, are unavailable.
We will be fully operational Fall 2020 and Spring 2021, offering our full roster of courses and degrees, as we have been and will be doing this summer. We also will be welcoming our incoming classes. We are exploring a range of scenarios, with significant public health provisions, that will allow us to offer our courses in person, while also ensuring most, if not all classes will be available, in parallel, online.
The first phase in re-opening campus activities over the summer includes establishing strict physical distancing protocols for a ramp-up of on-campus research and clinical education. Longer term, we are planning for a full return to campus operations when it is safe to do so, including all academic programs, athletics, and large-scale gatherings. Most importantly, our commitment to providing an exceptional education, in and out of the classroom, is unchanged.
As we have persevered this semester and stayed in close contact from across the globe, we continue to be moved and energized by the overwhelming support and the creative ideas we have received. Our entire leadership team thanks you sincerely for your input, your resilience, and your care for yourselves and for your communities. We very much look forward to seeing you back on campus – eager to work and prepared to be safe.