An Update from Dean Cutietta to Thornton Faculty and Staff

April 9, 2020

Dear USC Thornton Faculty and Staff,

I hope you are all doing well and staying healthy during this challenging time. We are entering our second month of remote education, and updates continue as both the university and the Thornton School adjust to ever-changing circumstances. One thing has remained constant. I continue to hear really touching comments about everyone’s dedication to our students and their education. It is so encouraging.

This week I would like to bring you up to speed on a few things:

University Communication

I know that new information is being sent almost daily, and yet I am hearing that what is needed is more information. I am in near-constant meetings related to our response, and I am asking you to please help me with communication within the school by following these guidelines.

First, please continue to read communications from the President, the Provost and other senior USC administrators. For up-to-date information, check the USC coronavirus website regularly.

Communication within the Thornton School

Each week please read (at a minimum) my weekly communications (this update), the “This Week @ Thornton” e-newsletter, and all emails that come from “Music Dean.” I use that email address sparingly and reserve it for information that I think is important for the entire school.

Beyond these basics, additional emails from anyone in the Dean’s Cabinet will provide important and focused information that you will find helpful.

If you are a representative of any committee (for example, the Executive Committee) please remember that you are sitting in a “two-way” position. Work to pass the information you receive to colleagues you are representing. Importantly, create opportunities to hear from those you represent, and bring those discussions and comments back to the Dean’s Cabinet or directly to me at the email.

Conversely, when you are asked to submit your opinion in a poll or survey, please do so, or reach out to your department chair with concerns that you would like to be disseminated to the Dean’s Cabinet.

We continue to update Thornton’s coronavirus website with school-specific information, and will soon share an archive of all email communication for you to reference.

Business as Usual

Despite the almost incalculable upheaval, our deadlines continue for the current school year and the start of the Fall 2020 semester. We seek to run the Thornton School in a mindset of business-as-usual no matter how unusual our current circumstances have become. Therefore, please help us by communicating with your department chairs about your needs for the Fall 2020 semester, plans you have, etc. We continue to plan as if we will be back to normal in the fall, and it is important that we hear your thoughts and needs when we eventually return to campus.

Coverage for Faculty

We have suggested that all faculty think of a roster of one or two people who might have the expertise to take over for them for a week or two should you become unable to teach. Therefore, I am asking all faculty, especially those who have a unique expertise that is not duplicated elsewhere, to compile a roster of individuals who might be able to step in should this be needed.

Faculty Innovations

We published our first feature last week on the innovations of USC Thornton faculty. This is part of what will be an ongoing series and it is a wonderful and comprehensive look at the creative solutions being rolled out across the school.

Support for Faculty and Staff

There are several items that have been instituted by USC to help all faculty and staff who have been negatively impacted from our current situation. Please read the April 8 memo from Felicia Washington, the Senior Vice President of Human Resources, regarding paid administrative leave, use of face coverings, child care, dependent care, parking and transportation, flexible spending accounts, health care flexible spending accounts, employee assistance programs, and more.

Provost’s Message from last Friday, April 3

Many of you have asked me about the Provost’s letter of last week. The letter lays out the severity of the impact on all of us, and, in particular, the financial cost of the epidemic to the university. There will be no merit raises this year, and senior administration (myself included) have voluntarily agreed to a 10% pay cut. President Folt offered to take a 20% reduction. In addition, there is a pause on all hiring and construction projects, as positions and projects are evaluated.

This is a challenging time. I think of the emotional cost of so much uncertainty, and the financial cost to us all personally as well as the entire university. You have shown great resilience, creativity, and compassion in your response to this pandemic.

Final Thought

I want to offer a final thought that I hope we all hold dear. This will pass. We will emerge from this current situation, but it will take time. Our primary concern is to the health and safety of the entire Thornton community, and every decision made is with that in mind.

We are actively planning for a return-to-normal strategy in the fall so that students, both new and returning, will be able to join us on the University Park campus. Our halls and studios and practice rooms will be filled with music again soon.

Thank you,

Robert Cutietta
Dean, USC Thornton School of Music