Update on Spring Semester 2021

With the release of the spring 2021 course schedule next week, we know that you are eager for information about the university’s operating status for the spring semester. This message will outline our plans and processes.

Dear USF Community,

With the release of the spring 2021 course schedule next week, we know that you are eager for information about the university’s operating status for the spring semester. This message will outline our plans and processes.

Given that health and safety are our first priorities, we are fortunate that the city and county of San Francisco, as well as the cities and counties surrounding our other campus locations, have made great strides in mitigating the spread of COVID-19. We are also grateful to the USF community for all you have done and will continue to do to keep our community safe. 

The state, county, and city guidance we receive is the foundation for our operational and business decisions. That guidance is supplemented by recommendations from our COVID-19 working groups and then finalized by the president’s cabinet, taking into account all factors that affect our community, our academic enterprise, and our operations. The latest guidance from the San Francisco Department of Public Health (SFDPH) for institutions of higher education tells us we must continue to minimize in-person interactions as much as possible, and — wherever possible — continue remote or virtual operations. We believe this guidance will continue through the fall and winter months. 

Since the safety and health of our community are the primary guiding principles for the USF pandemic response, university leadership has decided that spring 2021 semester will be primarily remote. 

When the spring course schedule is published next week, all courses will be listed as remote or online delivery, with only a few exceptions. The large majority of students will not be required to return to campus to complete their coursework. Many faculty and staff will also continue to work remotely after the new year. 

The spring semester will also serve as a bridge to reopening in fall 2021 when we anticipate the release of a safe and widely available vaccine. We will continue to align our decision-making with the current scientific evidence regarding safety and to follow the guidelines provided by the SFDPH. At the same time, we must strengthen our resilience in campus operations and continue to focus on bringing our community back together. 

In looking toward spring 2021 and the next academic year, in this current fall semester we will implement some changes and explore others, with a focus on innovative ways to advance the best interests of students both academically and holistically. The provost’s office will work with the deans to submit proposals for courses requiring specialized spaces and equipment. We have been able to safely open our School of Nursing and Health Professions skills and simulations laboratories at the Hilltop, Sacramento, and Orange County campuses and some of our graduate science laboratories at the Hilltop Campus. The provost will continue to work with the deans to look for opportunities to safely open other laboratories and specialized spaces. As we look to summer and fall, the deans will also explore the possibility of delivering courses through a “hyflex” method, which allows the highest flexibility in teaching mode because students are able to join classes in person or via Zoom. Since students may Zoom into hyflex classes, returning to the area near their campuses would not be necessary.  

We know that students miss campus and would like places to connect and to study. We will continue to engage with the SFDPH on the ability to increase socially distant study spaces that meet health and safety criteria. At this time, communal study spaces are not allowed on campus.

We will continue with essential housing support for winter intersession and the spring semester. Additional information on the application processes for both periods will be shared with students. 

We know that you may have many questions as we move forward. We will be sending regular community updates about what is happening on campus and in our classrooms. We want you to have all the information about changes this fall, how spring semester is evolving, and how we continue to plan for next summer and fall. 

To echo what you heard when we came together for the Community Convocation in August, despite the challenges we face, we have a lot to be excited about and grateful for today, tomorrow, and in the months ahead. Thanks to every one of you for your flexibility, for your collaboration, for your resilience, and for all the work you’ve done to meet these many  challenges.  


Paul J. Fitzgerald, S.J.

Tyrone H. Cannon
Interim Provost and Vice President of Academic Affairs

Thursday, Oct 08