USC classes will continue to be taught online after Spring Break for a week amid the threat of COVID-19, the university said in a statement Tuesday night.
“We encourage students not to return to campus during this time but to take their classes remotely," the email reads. "Accordingly, when departing for Spring Recess, students should take all necessary items essential to continuing their education, such as laptops, textbooks, and study materials.”
This decision comes after the school’s plan to conduct an online teaching test run from March 11 to 13. The test run is followed by the Spring Recess, which is from March 15 to 22. While the school previously said classes are scheduled to resume in person after the break, the new statement means that online teaching is extended to March 29, one week after the break.
As of Tuesday, March 10, there are no cases of COVID-19 at USC, according to the email. The university may need to make changes to the schedule, as the administration learns more.
“The virus is spreading and our objective is to limit the spread. We want to keep everyone healthy and we want to cut down the spread. As a result, we’re trying to, if nothing else, spread people out and encourage them to follow good hygiene, which means social distancing and frequent washing of hands,” Provost Charles Zukoski told Annenberg Media in an interview.
While the three-day online teaching drill only applies to lectures and seminars, Zukoski said the university is “tightening it up” in this announcement. He said the university is asking each school to have an assessment over the spring break on how to move more lab, performance, studio or production courses online.
“Certainly, it includes all lectures and seminars, and we’re asking that the schools work very hard to reduce the number of classes where students have to have contact,” he said. “We want to reduce close contact as much as possible between individuals.”
Zukoski said for courses that involve performance aspects, it would be essentially on a “discipline by discipline basis.” Students who have questions about course status should reach out to their dean for clarification or explanation.
Students are expected to use Zoom and Blackboard remotely. In a campus-wide email sent, Chief Information Officer Doug Shook said USC Information Technology Services has established a website called Keep Teaching to answer questions about the technology.
The school also announced that “all domestic and international university-related, non-essential travel for students, faculty, and staff is suspended until March 29.” All university-sponsored events, on and off campus, between March 11 and March 29 will also be canceled or postponed.
Exceptions will be made to academic performances, recitals and intercollegiate athletic events, but the attendance will be limited to participants’ family members. Zukoski said academic performances and recitals are kept because students need them for getting class credits.
“At the moment, we have no cases of COVID-19 at SC. We think the risk remains low for our students, and that could change instantaneously. We also don’t want to be sort of mixing place where it can be spread,” Zukoski explained the reason for canceling events.
USC Concerts Committee announced Tuesday night that Springfest 2020 scheduled for March 28 is canceled and people who purchased guest tickets and pre-ordered merch will be refunded.
The provost office told Annenberg Media that student-workers, faculty and staff are expected to be at work from March 22 to 29. “The university is open and functional – some are operating on Spring Recess hours – like recreational facilities and dining, etc. But that’s typical for a Spring Recess,” the provost office wrote in an email to Annenberg Media.
The university has also addressed residential housing concerns for students staying over spring break. “USC Housing will allow current residents to remain in their housing until the end of their contracts,” USC told Annenberg Media in a university statement early today. The university housing and dining will also be operational over spring break, according to the statement.
USC Housing can accommodate students over the summer who currently reside in university housing but are unable to leave in May due to international travel restrictions and general public health concerns related to COVID-19, according to the USC coronavirus information website. USC Housing is asking international students who may need summer housing to apply as soon as possible. USC Housing told Annenberg Media that they will waive contract cancellation fees for international students who sign onto summer housing contracts.
USC strongly advises against personal international travel for students and employees over the Spring Recess.
On March 4, the Los Angeles County made a decision to declare a public health emergency to combat the spread of COVID-19. As of March 10, there have been 20 confirmed cases in Los Angeles County, including cases in Long Beach and Pasadena. Statewide, there have been 157 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and three death related to the virus.
Moving classes online is a trend many universities across the nation have followed since the global outbreak of coronavirus. Other UC System campuses that are taking precautions include Berkeley, Santa Cruz, San Diego, and LA.
Currently, USC’s testing availability is limited and reserved for "symptomatic persons returning from high-risk travel locations (CDC Level 3) and severely ill hospitalized patients who have had recent travel to CDC Level 3 an[d] 2 countries, ”according to the university’s website.
Chief Health Officer Sarah Van Orman told Annenberg Media that the school is working closely with the experts to develop a testing strategy for both campuses as well as the entire patient population Keck Medicine serves.