March 20, 2020
Dear Trojan Community,
We are thinking of you every day, as the COVID-19 pandemic progresses and new local, state and federal directives are put in place. Our first concern remains your safety and the health and safety of our communities around the world. It is inspiring to see the speed and extent to which people are adopting social distancing guidelines both voluntarily and in response to the changing orders. Just last night, local leaders as well as Governor Gavin Newsom joined a growing list of public officials instructing our communities to increase stay-at-home procedures to halt the spread of COVID-19.
NEW ACTIONS: We are writing to help clarify the impact of these new directives on our campuses, and to keep you abreast of several new actions we are taking. We have not made final plans about a number of policies yet (e.g. issuing pro-rated room and board refunds) and appreciate your continued patience. More updates will come.
- Campus access: The order issued by Los Angeles County and the City of Los Angeles requires people to remain at home and stay away from others as much as possible. However, it does allow for the continuation of activities related to performing essential functions for the University and supporting on-campus residents and online and remote learning.
USC always has been proud of being open and accessible to all, but during this pandemic period we must do everything we can to ensure social distancing, adjust to reduced staffing levels, and be consistent with the state orders now in place. This means reducing public access to campus.
Buildings on the University Park and Health Sciences campuses will remain locked, with access only to authorized faculty and staff with physical keys or key cards. Any special access requests must be made with the relevant building facilities manager.
For now, the Trader Joe’s and Target at USC Village remain open to the public, as do restaurants that are providing take-out service. Access to the University Park Campus, however, will be through a limited number of entrances open only between the hours of 8 a.m. and 6 p.m., and we will not permit any social gatherings.
- Residential housing and student health center access: Students who left university housing during Spring Recess cannot return to campus to retrieve their belongings until we contact you with details for a safe and orderly process.
If you attempt to return to campus without prior permission, you will be turned away. We are keeping the rooms locked and your belongings safe. If you have an immediate health or safety reason to access the residence hall, please contact USC Housing at firstname.lastname@example.org or call the USC COVID-19 24-hour hotline at (213) 740-6291. We know you want your belongings, and we will find a safe way to arrange this, but for now we need you to wait and be patient.
For those students who received permission to remain in university housing on a temporary basis, we will continue to provide housing, food, and support while you are on campus. However, please understand that we developed this policy when we were still planning to return to in-person classes in mid-April, and we were trying to reduce financial and other travel burdens for our students.
As you all know, the health crisis has worsened rapidly, and we have had to change our earlier decisions about returning to campus. At this point, we need to work with each of you to find a long-term solution to reduce significantly the numbers of students still living in university housing. We understand for some of you, particularly given new travel restrictions, remaining here may be the only solution for now. We will work with each of you to develop a plan, and will move quickly. For those who need to stay, please be aware that we may need to move you to a different room.
We expect you to be responsible and practice social distancing. We have been saying all along that residence halls may only be accessed by residents who have received permission to stay and have remained on campus. We will be enforcing this policy. For health and safety reasons, no guests, or any students seeking to return after having traveled during recess will be granted access to residence halls. We need every resident to take this seriously.
USC Student Health will continue to remain in operation to serve students, including in-person appointments that have been approved in advance. Hours for in-person visits can be found here, and are available to students living in the area as needed. At this time, medical and mental health services also are available to students who live in California via TeleHealth. Unfortunately, current federal and state laws limit TeleHealth availability to within state lines. We will let you know if this changes.
If you are in need of care, please contact USC Student Health’s 24/7 line at (213) 740-9355 (WELL).
- USC employees: We appreciate the difficulty of this situation on everyone who works at USC. None of us has ever seen such a dramatic and rapid change in circumstances, and the impacts are hitting hard for people across the nation.
- We moved as many of our employees as possible to working fully at home, including the faculty, students, and staff who are supporting continuation of our courses online; we will be issuing guidelines for technology assistance for people working from home. Details will follow soon.
- Other employees are continuing to work on site to provide essential services for our campuses and hospitals. We are grateful to these employees who are helping our university function at this difficult time.
All employees are expected to follow social distancing practices – to keep a distance of at least six feet from others, and to use conference calls or video conferencing rather than in-person meetings when possible – and managers are expected to establish flexible work schedules. Increased cleaning regimens are being implemented in areas where essential employees and residential students are working and living.
We understand that some employees who have work that is designated as essential on-site but not possible from home, may feel uncomfortable coming into work. Please contact your supervisor and Human Resources Partner to discuss your concerns and, if needed, continuation of pay options, including use of accrued vacation (see Employee FAQ for details).
- Our employees who do not fall into the categories of essential services and do not have work that can be undertaken at home are eligible for 10 days administrative leave at full pay (see Employee FAQ for details).
- In the coming days, we will provide guidance to all of our employees for accessing additional financial support that can begin at the end of the administrative leave period, including use of accrued vacation. Given the pandemic, no one is sure what date we will be able to welcome all of our employees back to campus. Our employees will not be returning mid-April, but we will let them know when they can return to work safely on campus.
- We know there are many more questions and will get to them as soon as we have answers.
- Child care: The child care centers will remain open. Bright Horizons has enacted crisis care which enables benefits-eligible employees to secure their own child care service and to be reimbursed for up to $100 per day. More information is available in the Employee FAQ.
- Undergraduate scholarships, work study and financial aid: We are getting many questions about student financial aid, including financial aid that comes in the form of work study. It is our intention to make everyone whole for this semester; additional details will follow. We also want to make clear that students receiving all forms of university merit aid (e.g., fellowships and scholarships) will continue to be funded.
- Graduate support and financial aid: We also are getting questions about graduate aid and stipends. Stipends and aid will be honored according to the terms of all offer letters.
- Commencement planning: We know how important an in-person commencement is to our seniors, other graduates, and their families and friends. You’ve been planning for years for the special moments of celebration and gratitude that commencement provides for friends, teachers and loved ones. We also know how special commencement is at USC, bringing upwards of 65,000 to 80,000 people of all ages from around the world — Trojans together — to celebrate in joyful ceremonies and events across the university.That is why we are writing today to tell you that we have decided to postpone but not eliminate all USC in-person commencement 2020 activities. Given that our commencement is scheduled for May 15 – just eight weeks from today – an in-person commencement at that time won’t be possible. We are urging people to cancel travel plans and other arrangements they have made in order to attend commencement on that date.Here is what we are thinking for commencement 2020: — to begin, we will hold a virtual conferring of degrees in May — comprised of a series of online events and speakers — and, we will make sure you receive your diplomas by mail.We plan to have an in-person, on-campus celebration that will take place once travel and large group events become safe and permitted. Firm plans for the on-campus event will not be possible until more is known about the advance of the pandemic. We will continue to be in communication about this in the coming weeks and are determined to make this happen.
- Course grading options: Many of you have written with suggestions and concerns about grading in the spring semester. While our plans are not yet formalized, we want you to know that we have talked with the Academic Senate and the deans, and all are in agreement that students will have the option to take courses either as pass/fail or for a letter grade, with the choice to be determined by the student. We will alter the dates for applying for this option and adjust some requirements to make this possible; we are in the process of doing this and you will be notified with more details shortly.
QUESTIONS AND INFORMATION: Our dedicated teams continue to answer thousands of emails and calls. We understand how worrisome and difficult this is for everyone, and that this pandemic is affecting each of us personally.
Thank you also for your patience. We do not have all of the answers yet because the situation still is changing, but we will continue to do our best to answer your questions as soon as we are able. We also will continue to use updates to announce new actions, answer common questions, and guide you to the best places to receive assistance on specific topics.
IN CLOSING: Realizing that this shared crisis has impacted us, our families, our colleagues and friends in ways that are beyond our control, we are determined to see this through with the generosity, optimism, and kindness that are the hallmarks of the Trojan Family. There will be a day, and we hope sooner than we expect, when our classrooms, open spaces and sporting events are teeming with students excited to be back on campus.
As we always do, we express our gratitude and our heartfelt wishes for your health and safety.
Carol L. Folt Charles Zukoski
President’s Senior Leadership Team
Provost’s Leadership Team