Portrait of Dean Robert Cutietta

A Message from Dean Cutietta: Updated Restart Plans for Fall 2020 Semester

Dear Thornton Community,

Only twelve days ago, after weeks of planning and extensive discussions with medical professionals and public health experts, we were confident that we would be able to safely offer in-person experiences for Thornton students – allowing each of you the chance to decide for yourselves whether returning to campus would be the safe and right decision.

In recent days, the public health situation in Los Angeles has deteriorated significantly, including more COVID-19 cases that have been reported on and near the USC campus. Just yesterday, we met with a team of health experts and university leaders who strongly advised against all in-person musical activity at this time.

Therefore, we have made the painful decision to move all Thornton activity for the Fall 2020 semester to an online-only format. Thornton students will take all of their coursework online from their permanent address or other remote location – with possible limited exceptions as noted below.

The Fall 2020 semester will begin on August 17 and conclude on November 24. The faculty of the Thornton School are working with truly inspiring commitment and creativity to learn from our forced experiment with online instruction this past spring and create a rich and rigorous online learning experience for the fall that will be consistent with our high expectations for the school.

Potential Exceptions to Online-only Activity
Students, both international and domestic, who feel they will face unusual hardship with remote learning can be considered for an exception and potentially still be permitted on campus for select “on the ground” activity during the fall semester.

These exceptions will generally be considered only for students who have inadequate access to:

  • Practice facilities
  • Specialized equipment (e.g., a piano, percussion equipment) that you will need for practice or online Individual Instruction course(s)
  • A studio or other space for your online Individual Instruction course(s)

Students who feel they need to request such an exception should complete the Remote Learning Exception Request Form. The link is here. A response to all submitted requests will be subject to Los Angeles County health directives.

As part of the move to an online-only format, in-person collaborative music-making will not be possible. In some cases, we will consider appropriate course substitutions where meaningful online experiences do not seem possible. In all cases, it is our firm commitment to provide appropriate educational opportunities at the high level we expect at Thornton.

International Students
Just yesterday, in response to mounting pressure from universities across the country (including from USC), the U.S. Department of Homeland Security reversed its earlier guidance and will now permit international students who are currently in the U.S. to stay even if all of their coursework will be pursued online. Based on this latest guidance, we are advising our Thornton international students as follows:

  • If you are currently in the U.S., you can remain in the U.S. and pursue all of your fall semester courses online without jeopardizing your visa status.
  • If you are currently outside the U.S., you can remain outside the U.S. and pursue all of your fall semester courses online from your location abroad.

Please consult with the USC Office of International Services regarding travel restrictions, visa processing, and other guidance related to your status as international students. Please also feel free to contact your Thornton academic advisor or the Thornton Student Affairs office at thornton.studentaffairs@usc.edu for further guidance.

Some Final Thoughts
The faculty and staff at Thornton have worked tirelessly this summer to bring everyone back to campus, and I can speak for all when I say that we deeply regret that our earlier plan for the Fall 2020 semester has to be changed at this late date.

We remain committed to supporting you in every way we can to be safe and maintain progress toward completion of your degree at Thornton. I encourage you to stay in touch with your faculty mentors as well as the Thornton Student Affairs office with any questions you may have.

This pandemic has caused immense disruption in almost every aspect of our lives. In March, I wrote to you to say that there were challenges ahead, and challenges remain. I also said that I believed that this remarkable community can help lead the way for everyone. I still believe it.

I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again: Our students aren’t preparing for the real world. They are preparing to change the world. This is a moment to pursue your art and be part of creating a vision for this changing world. That’s what artists do.

Stay safe and be well.

Rob Cutietta
Dean, USC Thornton School of Music