In an email to students on Feb. 19, USC President Carol Folt announced plans for a full return to campus in the Fall 2021 semester and raised the possibility of an in-person commencement ceremony for the classes of 2020 and 2021. While the university is limited by county restrictions and does not anticipate a return to in-person classes this semester, Folt said some campus facilities, including libraries and swimming pools, will be opening “as soon as possible.”
Campus activities have been limited since March 2020, when California statewide lockdown orders first went into effect. As COVID-19 cases and deaths in Los Angeles continue to decline, Folt wrote that L.A. County will be updating guidelines soon to allow some in-person activities to both the University Park and Health Sciences Campuses at reduced capacity. This includes libraries, swimming pools, outdoor recreation areas and study canopies. The USC Bookstore is also now open for appointment shopping.
As a part of a full return to campus, USC anticipates offering both in-person classes and residential housing to students. The university plans to reconfigure classroom and outdoor facilities to promote social distancing.
In order to return to campus, Folt described a number of preventative measures including a twice-weekly testing program for undergraduates and “all others accessing campus.” An explicit testing plan for graduate students is unclear. The statement also mentioned that the university’s current vaccination operation will be able to vaccinate up to 1,200 people a day once COVID-19 supplies are more readily available.
Folt described “multiple scenarios” for this year’s commencement, including an immersive virtual ceremony and the possibility of a limited-capacity in-person event at L.A. Memorial Coliseum which would involve the classes of 2020 and 2021. It’s unclear whether commencement for the two classes will be combined into one ceremony or split into two. Folt wrote that additional information regarding commencement will be released around mid-March.
“We are cautiously optimistic and are doing everything to make sure our plans for a return are fully realized,” Folt wrote in the email. “In the meantime, we urge you to continue taking every possible measure to ensure you remain safe and healthy in the coming months.”
The university declined Annenberg Media’s request for additional information at this time. Students can follow updates on the university’s reopening plans at the we-are-sc.edu website.