8/5 – Fall semester update from President Folt

Dear Trojan Community,

The University Park Campus looks amazing and is ready to welcome back more than 44,000 students and nearly 12,000 faculty and staff over the next few weeks. We are on track for a return to the full breadth of in-person academic, research, clinical, and service activities after nearly 18 months of video classes and Zoom meetings. I can’t wait. I know how much we all love and miss the experience of being on campus, enmeshed in our vibrant community and learning environment. This resumption, however, is not exactly the one we’d hoped for, with the Delta variant creating an understandable level of uncertainty. By keeping our masks handy and our guards up, we can start the 2021-22 academic year on a high note – with excitement and momentum – if we are patient, flexible, and willing to take a few extra steps to protect ourselves and the community.

I have watched with admiration as teams from across the institution worked tirelessly throughout the spring and summer to prepare the campus for the safe return of students, faculty, and staff. We have analyzed the airflow in our buildings and set up the ventilation systems and workspaces to lower the risk of indoor exposure. Huge canopies are popping up across campus so that there are covered outdoor venues that can be used to reduce densities within our buildings and classrooms. The Trojan Care Crew is coming back, and the campus perimeter will be re-established before the semester starts to ensure that everyone on campus has completed their daily wellness self-assessment and been cleared by TrojanCheck.

The infrastructure is already in place to test for and track the spread of COVID-19 throughout our community. At least until the Delta variant begins to ebb, all students will be tested regularly, regardless of vaccination status. Our mandatory vaccination policy is working – over 90 percent of staff, 85 percent of faculty, and more than 75 percent of on-campus undergraduate students have already been vaccinated. These numbers will continue to improve as we get closer to the start of classes on August 23. Many of our students who did not have access to an approved vaccine have already made their appointments for when they arrive in Los Angeles.

Get the shot! Being vaccinated is the single most important step you can take to protect yourself, your loved ones, and your community. It’s free and readily available through the following options:

Some of the things we ask of you at the start of the semester might feel like a nuisance, but some inconvenience is worth it to protect the broader USC community. That means following the order from our local health authority to wear a face covering while indoors, doing TrojanCheck every day, washing your hands frequently, and staying home if you are sick.

None of these safety measures are perfect, and we inevitably will see cases of COVID-19 on our campuses. When you view it comprehensively, though, these layers improve our likelihood of success and create a strong COVID defense model. Ultimately, if we work together, we can make attending classes, working at, or visiting USC safer than many of the other things we do in our day-to-day lives, such as going to the grocery store, visiting the gym, or dining out. We can and will reduce the risk of exposure within the USC community.

Through all of this, we will be guided by public health experts. If the local or state public health authorities issue new guidance or order new public safety measures, then we will pivot as required. Fortunately, we have been modeling various scenarios and have contingency plans in place to ensure students are able to maintain their academic progress. No matter what happens, we will do everything we can to ensure your health and safety. We will work hard to keep everyone informed, so please keep an eye on your email. As always, you can follow updates on our COVID-19 Resource Center and the We Are SC site and direct general questions to our COVID-19 hotline: (213) 740-6291 or covid19@usc.edu.

This is a defining moment for all of us and for the entire Trojan community. We are looking to the future; it is ours to build and to shape. I cannot wait to see you all in person. Thank you and Fight On!


Carol L. Folt