Allison Fiedler spends her day going back and forth between her bed and desk, trying to juggle family life and schoolwork. Instead of coming to campus, Fiedler decided to remain with her family and take classes from her home in Los Angeles as a cheaper alternative to renting an off-campus apartment.
“As a freshman this is definitely not how I thought my first year would be going. It’s been as good as it can be,” said Fiedler, a freshman majoring in American studies and ethnicity. “I couldn’t really justify paying a bunch of money for an off-campus apartment when I have my house that’s 20 minutes away. I was concerned about getting coronavirus, and I wanted to be able to see my family and to be able to see people in my bubble and I would have not felt comfortable doing that if I had been in an off-campus apartment.”
In a message to the USC community, President Carol Folt announced that a mix of in-person and hybrid classes for the Spring 2021 semester would be contingent on L.A. County Department of Public Health approval. In addition, spring break would be canceled to limit the spread of the coronavirus and be replaced with a personal wellness day program to prioritize the health and wellness of students.
While plans to bring students back to campus have not yet been approved by L.A. County, Folt said the University was ready to begin implementing different preventative measures and social distancing guidelines for classrooms, libraries, labs and student spaces. If plans are approved, USC hopes to bring 5,000 students back to campus housing to live in single-occupancy rooms. Classes for the Spring 2021 academic semester will begin Jan. 15 and end April 30, with finals and exams concluding May 12.
“At this point, we still do not have clearance from the county to resume on-campus activities beyond those already approved,” Folt said in a video message sent to the student body Oct. 14. “However, things are changing and we are very hopeful that if we take a few more weeks and work closely with the county, we will get permission to return to a more active campus life for the spring semester.”
Jack Johnson, a senior majoring in theatre, has been staying in an off-campus apartment this fall and expressed disappointment at the news. With Folt’s announcement, he hopes to be able to return to take some in-person classes in the spring, given that SDA classes are some of the smallest at the University.
“Obviously, I am kind of bummed that we’re not in person, especially for my last semester, but that’s OK because we’re gonna get through it,” Johnson said. “I understand that we gotta keep on track for our degrees, and the school is trying to do their best to get it done in a safe manner and respect authority.”
As a graduating senior about to enter the entertainment industry, Johnson said the online semester has impacted his academic and career plans.
“In a major that requires interaction with a lot of people in collaboration, and a lot of our curriculum is based around shows,” Johnson said. “It’s really hard for me to do work online and it’s hard for me to get motivated to do work since I’m in my apartment, which most of the time when I do work, it’s not in my apartment, it’s on campus, and especially without access to any of the lab spaces that we have.”
As of now, with limited information from USC and L.A. County, most students are having a hard time making plans for the upcoming semester.
Meanwhile, Johnson is relying on the advice and recommendations of people close to him.
“The biggest factors were what God wants me to do, … seeking wise counsel and specifically for last semester I remember I was praying about it a whole lot,” Johnson said. “I talked to a bunch of people and they said that I should probably go back to L.A. The last person that I asked was my dad, because I was most worried about his answer since both my parents have sacrificed a whole lot for me to go to school and I didn’t want to waste their money.”
On the other hand, Alyssa Delarosa, a junior majoring in psychology who is staying at home for the semester, relies on the news and government announcements when it comes to making decisions for the upcoming semester and whether or not she would move back to campus.
“It got to a point where what Dr. [Anthony] Fauci and other experts were saying was clashing with what USC was saying,” Delarosa said “Once it got to that point I was like ‘OK I’m gonna have to stop reading these emails sent by USC and look at the L.A. County guidelines and what they have’ and it was very much a stay at home order … that’s why most of us [students] don’t even read the emails anymore. We just like to stick to reading what L.A. County says and what Dr. Fauci says.”
While most people are still deciding their plans for the upcoming semester amid the uncertainty, some are already settling in on a final decision.
Audrey Keeling, a junior majoring in biomedical engineering, took a leave of absence during the fall semester to start an enterprise at home that pairs students with tutors for classes. While she is not optimistic about the feasibility of a hybrid semester, she is planning to return to L.A.
“For me, finishing spring semester of last year online, I just had a lot of trouble with the online format … so that factored a lot into my wanting to take a leave of absence, and the semesters that I have at USC are so precious so I want those semesters to be on campus in person,” Keeling said. “For the sake of being with my community in college, I think it was good to take a leave of absence for one semester but I don’t know about doing it for a whole year.”