USC announces pass/no pass option for fall semester

Undergraduate students will be able to choose a pass/no pass grading option for the current fall semester, President Carol Folt announced in a video shared on her personal Instagram page and in a Universitywide email Wednesday. This decision follows a student-led petition that amassed over 5,500 signatures and push from Undergraduate Student Government leadership. 

Students can opt in to pass/no pass grading between Nov. 2 and Nov. 13, the final day of classes, according to the USC COVID-19 Resource Center website. Provost Charles Zukoski said in an email that students will also be able to drop any course up until the same deadline. 

According to the USC COVID-19 Resource Center website, courses taken pass/no pass can count toward all major, minor and graduation requirements for undergraduate students this semester. However, pass/no pass courses will still be capped at 24 units to be counted toward graduation.

Normally, students must take major and minor courses as well as the University writing requirement for a letter grade. Students also usually can’t opt to take more than one general education course as pass/no pass for it to count toward graduation requirements. 

When classes abruptly transitioned online in Spring 2020, the University gave students the option to change any courses to pass/no pass up until the end of the grading period. This semester, students must decide whether to take a course pass/no pass or for a letter grade by the last day of classes and before the final exam period. 

Folt also announced that the upcoming spring semester will begin Jan. 15 and run a full 15 weeks unlike the shortened 12 week fall semester. The University is awaiting clearance from Los Angeles Department of Public Health to resume in-person activities, Folt said in the video. 

“Even though USC is a private institution, we, like all universities in Los Angeles, are bound by the decisions and the restriction of the L.A. County health officials,” Folt said. “At this point, we still do not have clearance from the county to resume on-campus activities beyond those already approved.”

Even if more in-person activities become available in the spring semester, Folt said students could complete their courses entirely online. 

According to Zukoski, some courses for the spring semester will be offered in hybrid and in-person settings, with the majority remaining online. The email also stated that there will be no spring recess to “minimize the risk of the virus spreading due to travel.” The break will be replaced by a “personal wellness day program.” 

Undergraduate students who have enrolled as full-time students at USC for the Fall 2020 and Spring 2021 semesters can also apply for the Academic Progress Scholarship to cover a maximum of eight units of coursework in Summer 2021, Zukowski’s email read. This scholarship is geared toward students whose academic progress has been slowed due to the coronavirus, but students will be expected to pay various University fees. 

Although current county guidelines restrict in-person activity, Folt said that she is hopeful the University can work with county leaders to “get permission to return to a more active campus life for the Spring semester.”

“When we do get the green light from the county, I want you to know though, we are prepared and ready,” Folt said. “Our classrooms are completely reconfigured, our facilities are on an extensive, regular cleaning schedule, our COVID testing stations are set up on both campuses. We are so ready.”