The rapidly-evolving situation surrounding the coronavirus has completely transformed the USC college experience. Many students hurriedly packed away their belongings into storage rooms before jetting across the globe back home. Other students left without collecting their things and must wait an unforeseeable amount of time before USC allows them to pick up their items. Most students left campus without saying goodbye to all their friends, whom they will not see again for months.
Students certainly face an extremely wide range of different situations, but disruption, chaos and abrupt lack of closure bind these unique circumstances together. Assuming that students will be able to resume in-person classes for the Fall 2020 semester, USC should offer a Welcome Week that takes into account the unprecedented ways students had to leave campus the prior semester.
The week before classes begin, in what is known as Welcome Week, the University usually offers several different events for students to bond and get to know one another, which often include a Welcome Back concert, a comedy show, Explore L.A. and a Visions and Voices event.
Typically, this week is directed at incoming freshmen and transfer students. However, the upcoming Welcome Week should also include activities that acclimate all students back to USC, many of whom will not have seen their campus or each other in a long and chaotic five months.
This semester, freshmen and transfer Spring 2020 admits only spent nine weeks on USC’s campus before they were advised to leave. Welcome Week should focus on also supporting those admitted for Spring 2020 by allowing more people to participate in Explore L.A. events. Since Spring 2020 admits did not even have a full semester to find organizations and meet people, the University should support them similar to how freshmen and transfers are supported in the fall.
Welcome Week support should also be extended to all returning sophomores, juniors and seniors. “AskMe Booths” are usually set up around campus for freshmen to ask questions about where things are located on campus as well as any other Welcome Week questions. Similar to this, there can be “AskMe Booths” related to the coronavirus for returning students who need help understanding how the pandemic will impact housing, classes or other parts of the USC experience.
Friends and Neighbors Day, a program that pairs student volunteers with community partners for a day of service, is another event offered during Welcome Week. Friends and Neighbors Day for Fall 2020 provides the perfect opportunity for students to help those in the local community hurt by the coronavirus — whether it be because of unemployment, illness or any other factor. This event could put into perspective for students the effect the pandemic has had on people outside the college community.
Welcome Week can provide a way for older students to reconnect with friends after an abrupt departure from school last semester. Instead of just a pool party or concert, there should be additional laid-back events that allow students to talk and catch up after many months apart. Surely, when everyone returns, they will crave chances to bond and reconnect with friends and the college experience like never before.
By catering Welcome Week to everyone, the University can facilitate relationships across grade levels while allowing Spring 2020 and Fall 2020 admits to meet more people and feel more integrated into the USC community. The primary objective of the Fall 2020 Welcome Week should be to promote cohesion between students and renew feelings of spirit and community both inside and outside of campus.
Everything is extremely uncertain right now, and a large-scale Welcome Week may not even be possible in August given current health concerns. There is no doubt that Welcome Week should take a backseat to the safety of students and communities. However, when the conditions are safe again, USC should consider events that connect and support all students. A Welcome Week — or any week of events whenever possible — that caters to the entire community would remind people what it means to be part of the Trojan Family.