Spring 2021 semester in-person decision still on hold

L.A. County has not approved any changes to the current on-campus restrictions, but USC intends to work with county officials to open at limited capacity in the Spring.

USC President Carol Folt announced that in-person or hybrid classes for the Spring 2021 semester are contingent on L.A. County COVID-19 regulations.

“At this point, we still do not have clearance from the county to resume on-campus activities beyond those already approved,” said Folt in a video message sent to the student body on Oct. 14. “However, things are changing and we are very hopeful that if we take a few more weeks and work closely with the county, we will get permission to return to a more active campus life for the Spring semester.”

Folt also announced that some courses may be offered either in-person or in a hybrid learning fashion, however, not all schools will offer hybrid courses. Students in the Thornton School of Music were notified by email on Oct. 12th that their classes would remain virtual for the Spring 2021 semester, regardless of county COVID-19 regulations.

While plans to bring students back to campus have not been approved, Folt said that the university is ready to implement different preventative measures for classrooms, COVID-19 testing stations, libraries, labs and other facilities, socially distanced gatherings and study spaces. If plans are approved, Folt also hopes to allow 5,000 students to live in USC housing in single-occupancy rooms.

The university has also given undergraduate students the option to change their grades to reflect a Pass/No Pass Credit system for the ongoing Fall 2020 semester in order to counteract any difficulties associated with online learning, according to an email from Provost Charles Zukoski. While this grading system was not originally put into effect for the Fall 2020 semester, a student petition gained the attention of the Undergraduate Student Government where the grading change was made official by university administration.

A similar Pass/No Pass policy was implemented during the Spring 2020 semester.

“I’m just so pleased because I feel like the Provost was quite receptive and that makes me feel good as a trojan,” said USG President Gabe Savage in an interview with Annenberg Media.

Between the stressors of transitioning to online learning and the COVID-19 pandemic, Savage felt the Pass/No Pass policy was important for students.

“The amount of political and social uncertainty moving into this election, in addition to the shortened semester and the students feeling really disconnected from each other, all compound and they lead to stress,” he said. “My hope is that many of those things won’t have the same prevalence in the Spring.”

Undergraduate students will have the ability to change their grade option until Nov. 13, the last day of classes and can drop a class up until Nov. 13. The period to withdraw from a course with the mark of “W” has also been extended to Nov. 13. Graduate students will receive information from their school’s dean about any classes that are available to take for Pass/No Pass in the Fall 2020 semester.

Courses taken for Pass/No Pass credit for the Fall 2020 semester will count towards all major, minor and university graduation requirements, according to an email sent out by a David and Dana Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences' academic advisor.

Classes for the Spring 2021 academic semester will begin on Jan. 15 and end on April 30, with finals and exams concluding on May 12th. Spring course registration will begin for students on Oct. 26.

Additionally, USC has removed Spring break from the Spring semester, citing the risk of spreading the virus through travel. Instead, the university plans to install a personal wellness day program to prioritize the health and wellness of students.

The university previously announced the Academic Progress Summer Scholarship, which is intended to support students whose academic progress was slowed due to COVID-19 by providing financial aid for up to 8 academic units over the Summer. To receive the scholarship, students must have enrolled as full-time students for the 2020-2021 academic school year.

The announcement comes as USC students are attending virtual courses for the Fall 2020 academic semester due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

Since March, instruction has been exclusively online. The university offers approximately 8,000 courses in a typical semester that are currently being taught remotely through the virtual conferencing app “Zoom.”

USC administrators initially hoped to restart some in-person instruction in the Fall semester. In March, the university developed a plan, “Project Restart”, to bring students back to campus with “10-20% of classes taught in-person or in a hybrid modality.” However, these plans have yet to come to fruition.