March 16, 2020
Dear Trojan Community,
We know you are following the fast-changing reports about the COVID-19 pandemic. Just yesterday, California implemented a number of new measures and the CDC recommended halting all gatherings larger than 50 for the next eight weeks. We are writing today to share some important new actions we are taking in response. Social distancing and increased hygiene continue to be the best ways to reduce exposure and spread. To enforce social distancing, cities throughout California and beyond have closed schools, public events and places where people gather. Hospitals are increasing their capacity to help those in need.
We are fortunate that with your help we already moved to teach our courses remotely and online, limit campus activities, implement working from home, cancel or postpone events, intensify cleaning and hygiene, take extensive precautions to protect health care workers, and ensure that our clinics and hospitals are ready to care for those most in need.
Even so, much remains to be done and we will continue to update you frequently. Our goal is to find a path through this unexpected crisis that protects our outstanding academic, research and clinical programs, supports our 80,000 students, faculty and staff, and places us in a strong position to move forward when this crisis has passed.
NEW ACTIONS: We are taking several significant new actions based on the evolving situation and informed by questions and concerns you’ve been sharing. To fully implement each of these will take some time, but we will make information available as quickly as we can.
- We made the decision last night to finish the academic semester online or remotely. We will be using this week, which is Spring Recess, to work out the many details with the deans and faculty, and to develop a website for questions and information. The opportunity to test our online capacities last week was very helpful.
- Graduation: Students will be able to complete the semester and graduate. International students with specific concerns about travel, visas, and online capability should contact the Office of International Services at (213) 740-2666 or email@example.com; other students concerned about online capability should contact (213) 740-6291 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Commencement: We have not made a decision about how and when to celebrate Commencement 2020. The new CDC guidance and the spread of the pandemic will certainly affect our planning. We will get back to you on this after we have taken care of the pressing issues associated with completing the current semester.
- University housing:
- The majority of students living in university housing left for Spring Recess, but many did not or were unable to for a range of reasons. For those who stayed in university housing, please be assured, we will continue to provide housing, food and support as we work with each of you to find a solution that fits your circumstances. We appreciate your understanding – we are here to help: email@example.com.
- We will be determining a process for pro-rating refunds for university room and board, and are working through how best to do this. We will not have a specific plan or answers for a couple of weeks.
- If you left university housing, do not return to retrieve your belongings until we establish a safe and orderly process to do this. We have limited access to many places on campus in order to meet social distancing requirements and to protect the health and safety of those who are still living and working on campus. We’re keeping your rooms locked and your belongings safe. We know this is important to you and we’ll have more information in the coming days.
- Clinics: We will be temporarily closing non-essential clinics and postponing some other clinical services. Please see individual school information for details as they are continually updated. We are reevaluating these services on a daily basis to ensure we continue to provide the highest quality inpatient and outpatient care. We are committed to continuing to support our clinical students through this time of uncertainty and change.
- Other buildings on campus: Most buildings, including the libraries, the bookstore and recreational facilities will not be publicly accessible until further notice. Library resources and services will be available online to assist with your studies and research here; items can still be purchased from the USC Bookstore online by visiting here. While key-card access will still be available for those who are required to be in the office for work or research, we emphasize the need to exercise social distancing and hygiene as recommended in every location.
- USC Hospitality will remain open to provide food options, but in a reduced capacity. Please check
- for the latest information.
- Working at home or on campus: Human Resources Partners and units are continuing to meet and give guidance to managers and supervisors as we move to implement the business continuity plans already in place. In addition to information included in the Employee FAQ, Human Resources Partners and the HR Service Center (firstname.lastname@example.org) are available to answer questions to ensure your health, safety, and peace of mind.
- Working at home officially begins today, March 16. We appreciate that this is new for most of us, and that the transition will take patience and flexibility. Even at home, we urge you to practice social distancing and good hygiene to keep yourself and your loved ones safe.
- Many of you will still be working on campus to provide services that are essential during this challenging period. We are grateful to you and want to reassure everyone that we will be following social distancing guidelines, and have already taken measures to enhance cleaning and limit public access.
- Those at higher risk of contracting COVID-19 include those over the age of 65, those with severe chronic health conditions – heart, lung, or kidney disease, or immune suppression, and those who are pregnant. If you are an employee in this higher risk category and have concerns, please contact your personal health care provider and follow-up with your supervisor and Human Resources Partner to discuss your specific situation.
- With the severe restriction in university operations necessitated by the pandemic, some of our employees will not be able to perform their jobs. We know how difficult this is for people, and we don’t know how long it will last. Starting March 16, these employees will be eligible to access two weeks (10 work days) paid administrative leave before needing to access accrued vacation for additional pay during this period of restricted operations.
- Detailed information about health care and sick leave for all employees is available here. Additionally, the Employee Gateway pages for each of the four health plans offered to USC employees have been updated with information related to COVID-19 coverage.
- We will continue to evaluate all of these plans as we understand more fully the extent of the pandemic.
- Events: All university-sponsored on and off campus events have already been canceled or postponed through April 12. With the most recent national and local guidance from health and government agencies, it would be prudent to assume that it is likely this will extend until at least May 1.
QUESTIONS AND INFORMATION: We have a dedicated team of people working to answer thousands of emails and calls. We understand how worrisome and difficult this is for everyone, and that our decisions affect each of you differently.
We also understand that financial uncertainties are increasing the burden of this situation on so many of you. We are taking actions to lessen the financial impact on people whose work hours are directly affected by closures, cancellations and immediate work stoppages, and we are working on plans to provide some sort of pro-rata refund for university housing room and board. We do not have all of the answers yet because the situation itself is still changing, but we will continue to do our best to answer your questions as soon as we are able.
You can help us too by staying current with our updates. We will use these updates to announce new actions, answer common questions, and guide you to the best places to receive assistance on specific topics.
IN CLOSING: We understand that all of you are grappling with the impact of this pandemic on your families, studies, work, health and financial situations. Thank you for your patience in such difficult circumstances, and please know you are in our hearts and minds as we navigate our way.
We want to close this letter once again with our gratitude – gratitude for the care people are taking to address so many critical issues, for those working under trying circumstance to keep the University moving forward, for the myriad questions and concerns you are raising that help us better understand your needs, and for the Trojan spirit that drives us to always Fight On.
Carol L. Folt Charles Zukoski
President’s Senior Leadership Team
Provost’s Leadership Team