USC to postpone in-person commencement but to hold online events in May

USC has postponed in-person commencement but will host a series of virtual events with online speakers in May for those graduating, President Carol Folt and Provost Charles Zukoski announced Friday in a communitywide email. The email also detailed other University updates regarding grading, housing and financial aid and addressed the impact of Gov. Gavin Newsom’s stay-at-home order, which has limited nonessential movement to reduce the spread of coronavirus.  

“We are thinking of you every day, as the COVID-19 pandemic progresses and new local, state, and federal directives are put in place,” the email read. “Our first concern remains your safety and the health and safety of our communities around the world.”

USC will not be able to determine the details of the in-person commencement — an event that brings nearly 80,000 people to campus each year — until pandemic developments slow, however, has ensured that those graduating will still have the opportunity to celebrate together. 

“We know how important an in-person commencement is to our seniors, other graduates, and their families and friends,” the email read. “You’ve been planning for years for the special moments of celebration and gratitude that commencement provides for friends, teachers, and loved ones.”

Students will have the option to convert their spring semester courses from a letter grade system to pass/no pass, though it is unclear whether this will also apply to classes fulfilling major requirements. The change comes after student petitions that have garnered more than 3,800 signatures collectively called on the University to reconsider its grading policy in light of virtual instruction extending to the end of the semester. Several other universities, including UC Berkeley and Duke University, have also altered their pass/fail policies. 

The University will readjust deadlines to apply to this option, and more information will be released when plans for the policy change are finalized, according to the email.

Access to buildings on both the University Park and Health Sciences campuses will also be limited, hours at UPC will be reduced to 8 a.m. to 6 p.m, the email read, though it is unclear whether these hours are meant for students and employees or the public. Target and Trader Joe’s in USC Village will remain open, and several USC Village restaurants will continue to offer takeout options.

USC is also working to reduce the number of students living in campus housing but has acknowledged that travel restrictions may make it difficult for some students to leave. However, as USC navigates the developing circumstances, some students may be required to move rooms, the email read. 

“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,” the email read. “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.”

Those who have left campus are not permitted to return and will be turned away if they attempt to do so. Only authorized staff and students who have permission to remain in University housing are permitted to enter campus.

The email also stated that students who have earned University merit aid, including scholarships, fellowships and work-study, will continue to receive funding. The University has not yet finalized plans for distributing awards but will continue to provide additional details as decisions get finalized.