With the state and county still unwilling to clear the way for colleges and universities to resume in-person classes due to the coronavirus pandemic, USC confirmed Wednesday its fall semester will begin solely with online instruction, with some limited exceptions for clinical education.
University officials said last month that classes would be primarily online, but some courses were going to be offered in a “hybrid” format of in-person and online sessions, with 10% to 20% of classes conducted in person.
That changed Wednesday, hours after the county’s public health director confirmed that the state had not yet issued formal protocols for colleges and universities to open, and thus, such institutions still cannot offer in-person instruction.
In a letter to the campus community Wednesday, USC Provost Charles F. Zukoski and Senior Vice President of Administration David Wright said that when the hybrid plans were announced last month, “we expected that we would receive permission from state and county health officials to open in that manner.”
“Unfortunately, with the start of classes less than two weeks away on Aug. 17, we do not yet have clearance from the state or county to move forward with classroom instruction,” they wrote. “Given the delay in receiving the required permission, we have made the difficult decision to begin the fall semester with fully remote instruction with limited exceptions for clinical education.”
They said safety measures have already been installed on campus over the past few months, and if conditions change and the state and county approve in-person courses, the university “will be ready to pivot quickly” to on-campus activities.
Zukoski and Wright noted that the university also has not been cleared to reopen student housing, and they asked students “who are at risk should they be unable to reside on campus” to contact university officials. Others were advised to delay returning to campus until residential housing has been approved.
“We will continue to refund any and all fees for those who wish to cancel their fall housing contracts or applications and will provide more information when it is available,” Zukoski and Wright wrote.
In early June, USC President Carol Folt announced that the university planned to resume in-person classes in the semester, with classes beginning Aug. 17 and ending before Thanksgiving, with no fall break. In the ensuing weeks, however, coronavirus cases spiked dramatically in Los Angeles County, prompting the university to scale back its plans last month.
“We know the lack of certainty has been frustrating for many of you, as well as our own teams, who keep planning and then re-planning for the 2020 fall semester,” Zukoski and Wright said in their letter. “But from the start, we made the decision to stay flexible so we could offer an exciting, fulfilling experience this fall, regardless of uncertain and changing health guidance. The truth is the pandemic is not going away any time soon, and we must adapt to the changing conditions and continue to hold the health and safety of our USC community paramount.”
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