Facing the facts
Many individuals and groups are continuing their efforts to prepare our campuses for the fall semester, and I want to share some of the newest developments, including our new University policy on face coverings. The work taking place across the University of Michigan community to address these highly complex and novel challenges is extraordinary.
We’re also monitoring the spread of the coronavirus in Michigan and beyond and will be ready to adapt our plans as needed. Conditions change daily, and I’m thankful that we have continued access to experts in public health and safety who are deeply devoted to our community and will serve as a key resource as we make decisions moving forward.
Academic units on the Ann Arbor campus are working to build course offerings that include a mixture of remote and in-person classes, based on health and safety considerations, teaching and learning goals, and instructor availability. Interim Provost Collins described the instructional planning effort recently, including the approach we are taking to support the health and safety of faculty and GSIs in our classrooms.
The Ann Arbor Registrar’s Office is working to post online information that indicates whether individual courses are in person, remote, or hybrid. Beginning Aug. 7, students will be able to adjust their course selections as needed. I share the conviction that U-M’s legacy of outstanding and creative teaching will continue when our hybrid semester gets underway.
Our Environment, Health, and Safety (EHS) Department has shared a broad array of resources to help campus units prepare work plans, implement safety measures, and provide critical services to our community. We’re also continuing to require that everyone who can work from home do so.
Student Life is working with students to emphasize the important responsibilities we all share for making our campus as safe as possible, while also developing plans to support student health and co-curricular growth during this pandemic. Additionally, our students are using their talents to help create solutions to protect and advance our community through initiatives such as the COVID-19 Campus Challenge.
We all can be proud of our contributions to increased understanding of and eventual solutions to the pandemic. U-M researchers have already authored more than 400 research publications relevant to COVID-19, and faculty, staff, and students are leading 320 research projects related to the global pandemic. Our Michigan Minds podcasts on COVID-19 – featuring 30 faculty from 12 schools and colleges and five other campus units or initiatives – have been downloaded more than 10,000 times.
The updates below reflect additional actions we are taking in preparation for the academic year. I invite everyone to check our Campus Maize and Blueprint site, which features information and guidelines on living, learning, and working together safely.
U-M face-covering policy
We have been working to finalize a face-covering policy for everyone at U-M. The research is clear that wearing a face covering is one of the most effective tools we have for preventing the spread of COVID-19 and saving lives.
Beginning immediately, the University of Michigan will require all students, staff, faculty, and visitors to wear a face covering that covers the mouth and nose while anywhere on campus grounds. This includes when inside buildings, outdoors, and on U-M transportation on all of our campuses. It is difficult on a busy university campus to maintain distance from groups even while outdoors, so requiring face coverings outdoors will help slow the spread of the virus.
The full policy is available on the EHS website, and includes a description of the limited exceptions to this rule. Michigan Medicine’s existing guidelines for health care providers and patients will remain in place, as well. This policy along with other public health-informed practices for our students, faculty, and staff will be reinforced through a campuswide communication effort leading up to and continuing throughout the academic year.
I want to thank the many individuals and units who helped us create this policy, including Chief Health Officer Preeti Malani, EHS, and University Human Resources. The University’s size and complexity made this a challenging endeavor, but proper face coverings are essential to both our success this fall – and our commitment to caring for one another.
COVID-19 Campus Health Response Committee
We know that COVID-19 is going to be with us for at least the next full academic year and quite possibly even longer. To support the health of the University community during this pandemic, I am establishing a COVID-19 Campus Health Response Committee.
This committee will be responsible for the timely triage of information, coordinating key U-M offices, and providing expert advice and recommendations to University leaders. Its members will design and implement public health and safety measures and policies, analyze data, and serve as a resource to our schools, colleges, and units. Our size and scope often make one-size-fits-all solutions impractical, and this committee will help resolve questions from different campus areas.
Leading the committee will be Rob Ernst, whom I am appointing to take on an expanded role as director of our COVID-19 campus health response. As the associate vice president for student life and executive director of the University Health Service on our Ann Arbor campus, Dr. Ernst is at the forefront of our response to COVID-19 and will be an effective overall coordinator for this effort. The full committee membership is available on my website.
Preparing for the months ahead
I again express my appreciation to all of you. I know we continue to face a great deal of uncertainty, but your continued commitment to our mission is ensuring that the University of Michigan will continue to lead in education, research, and service during the COVID-19 pandemic and beyond.
The work we are doing every day to prepare for the fall and thereafter is spectacular. Despite many difficulties, we’re rising to this unprecedented challenge and continuing to be a source of hope for our students and the society we serve.
Thank you all so very much.