Dear USC Community,
In all the commotion that comes with beginning a new year, I want to pause to welcome you back and say thank you. I am so grateful for you – our students, faculty, and staff – who showed up and looked out for one another through these grueling 20 months, even as you faced your own private pain and struggles. Because of you, we have kept our university community safe and thriving.
While we are beginning spring semester with remote learning, in light of the unprecedented spread of the Omicron variant, we will transition to in-person classes later this month. I know this is not the start to the year that any of us wanted, and understand that some things may be taking longer than usual. Please know there are thousands of staff and faculty working to bring students back safely while, at the same time, dealing with COVID in their own families. We appreciate everyone’s patience.
I am confident that with stepped up testing, vaccinations, boosters, and other precautions, we soon will return to the full slate of extracurricular activities and events that make USC such a vibrant and dynamic place to study, live, teach, and work.
Spring terms are exciting, bringing with them opportunities to celebrate the achievements of our soon-to-be graduated students, and to watch with awe the developing futures of our other classes. I am more optimistic today than at any point since the pandemic began. We all have high aspirations for what we want to accomplish and know what we’re capable of as a community. I also am looking forward to continuing the important efforts we started last semester in tackling some of the difficult issues facing universities when it comes to dealing with hate speech on social media, sexual assault, and building a campus environment welcoming to all.
We’ve worked hard over the past 18 months to define our six unifying values: Integrity; Excellence; Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion; Well-Being; Open Communication; and Accountability. These values are the backbone of a new Code of Integrity and Accountability we’ve adopted for our faculty and staff. This semester, I will work with our Academic Senate, Staff Assembly, student groups, and others to establish a clearly articulated, student-focused campus pledge to act in accordance with these principles. We are envisioning a statement, similar to those adopted by many campuses but tailored for our community, that will help guide us in confronting complex challenges. Every member of our student body will be asked to embrace it.
In closing, while we now can see the light at the end of the tunnel with respect to the pandemic, the exhaustion we’ve endured over the past two years and the toll it has taken on our mental health are real. Please take time for yourself and remember that mental health resources are available to students and faculty and staff, and questions about COVID-19 are answered by the COVID-19 response team at email@example.com and (213) 740-6291.
I am delighted we’ll soon be together on campus and cannot wait to get back to work with all of you on fulfilling our important mission.
Carol L. Folt