Students told to vacate University housing, international students told to evaluate options

Students will have to leave USC housing beginning Saturday following a memo sent by Provost Charles Zukoski Friday to the USC community, which included answers to multiple concerns from those on campus as the University continues its attempt to mitigate the potential spread of coronavirus. The email provided further clarification on the status of all undergraduate and graduate classes, more information on campus housing for students and an update on work status for University staff and student workers

In-person classes are still scheduled to resume April 14, but USC has acknowledged that this is subject to change depending on developments with the virus.

“Throughout this disruptive period, we remain committed to our academic mission and research enterprise,” the memo read. “Conducting classes remotely is a different experience for many of us and there will be ongoing adjustments that we need to make. I am grateful to see how well our faculty, students and staff have responded to this challenge and transitioned to online instruction.”

Students are expected to leave on-campus housing beginning Saturday and not return until April 13 to reduce the likelihood of transmitting the virus. USC plans to institute partial refunds or credit for students who vacate University housing, the memo read. Plans for reimbursement have not yet been solidified. 

Students who are unable to leave are allowed to remain on campus as long as they notify USC Housing through email; however, they will not be permitted to check in guests until April 14, and residential buildings will only be accessible to students who live in the facility. Students will have access to housing, dining, student health and safety services should they choose to remain on campus. Recreational centers will be closed for the duration of remote instruction.

Students are encouraged to take all essentials, including items for studying, but are not required to move out completely at this time. 

USC said it will continue to support international students’ academic progress should they choose to return to their home countries and be unable to come back to campus due to travel restrictions. The memo outlined that students’ academic programs will assess their options on a case-by-case basis.

“The decision whether to return to your home country is a personal one and should be considered carefully, in consultation with family when possible,” the memo read. “We want you to be where you will feel most comfortable in the coming weeks.”

The University has implemented work-from-home options for staff and student workers from March 16 to April 13, according to the provost. In addition, the University will offer 10 business days of administrative leave for individuals whose work cannot be completed from home, including for student workers.

“This is a public health crisis that is evolving rapidly and we may need to alter these dates in the coming days or weeks based on guidance from health and government officials,” the memo read.

All undergraduate instruction and graduate lectures and seminars will continue online through April 13. USC also clarified that students will not lose academic progress as courses can be completed as normal, allowing undergraduate, master’s, doctorate and professional students who plan to graduate this semester to do so.

Graduate students working in labs may proceed with research and should follow hygiene and social distancing recommendations, according to the memo. Students in health sciences programs will continue clinical rotations and practical course elements, and School of Social Work students may continue with community engagement responsibilities pending approval from each partner organization.

Many campus buildings will be closed to the public, but facilities will continue to be serviced and will remain accessible to faculty, meaning faculty will be able to work from their offices, labs and studios if they choose. Faculty members are expected to continue to mentor doctorate students, although mentorship may occur remotely.

At this time, the University still plans on celebrating commencement as normal. However, this is subject to change. USC will continue to monitor the situation in the coming weeks.

“This is not the spring semester we ever wanted, especially for our seniors and those about to graduate,” said President Carol Folt in a letter to the community that was sent alongside Zukoski’s update. “Spring semester is usually filled with events, programs, thesis presentations, recitals, competitions, and celebrations …  While we remain hopeful that we will be able to resume on-campus activities and host a full set of commencement events, we know this may not be possible.”

Zukoski reiterated that there are no cases of coronavirus at USC but stated that it is the University’s responsibility to encourage social distancing as a means of preventing the virus’ spread.

“We are a vibrant, global community with connections all over the world, and your health and safety are paramount,” the memo read. “All of the decisions we are making, and will continue to make in the coming days, are focused on your well-being.”