Message from President Smith to the Eastern Michigan University community:
Today we made several important decisions regarding University operations in light of the ongoing spread of COVID-19 (new coronavirus) and Governor Whitmer’s declaration of a state of emergency in the State of Michigan. There remain no known cases at this time of COVID-19 on our campus or among the Eastern Michigan University community.
Out of an abundance of caution, we are announcing the following actions:
Classes and instruction
- Effective tomorrow, March 12, we are suspending face-to-face instruction in lectures, seminars and other similar classroom settings. The suspension of on campus/in person classes will last through Tuesday, March 31 -- with on campus/in person classes tentatively set to resume on April 1. This decision and timing will be reevaluated on an ongoing basis and may be modified as more information becomes available.
- Current classes that are presented in an online format will continue as scheduled.
- The University is working to move on-campus classes to a virtual/online instruction format. On Monday, March 16, the University will transition classes to a virtual/online format. Instructors will contact their students with the online class plan.
- We are working with faculty and staff who conduct performance and laboratory classes to determine the best approach for those classes, and will provide further guidance next week. This is an evolving process and I ask for your patience as we work through these items.
- Halle Library will remain open with reduced hours beginning on Monday.
- While completing classes virtually, students are encouraged to return to their permanent place of residence due to public health recommendations for social distancing.
- For students who choose to continue living on campus or are not able to return home, the University’s residence halls and dining facilities will remain open. Students who stay on campus must register online by Saturday, March 14, so the University can appropriately prepare and staff residence halls and dining facilities.
- We urge all students to make the choice that is best for their own personal situations.
- Everyone is encouraged to practice appropriate social distancing and enhanced preventative public health and hygiene measures, as we have previously shared in our campus communications.
- Certain designated personnel, as notified by their supervisors, may be required to work in the period between Thursday, March 12 and Sunday, March 15. All other employees should plan not to work and remain at home Thursday through Sunday to allow for greater attention to campus-wide cleaning initiatives and transition to online instruction.
- As of Monday, March 16, all employees, other than certain designated personnel notified by their supervisors, will be expected to work remotely through Sunday, March 29 and return to work on Monday, March 30, 2020. Employees can return to campus to retrieve computers and necessary materials on Monday, March 16.
- Governor Whitmer today announced recommendations to cancel large events or gatherings of people.
- Following that recommendation, all University events are canceled through the end of March. This includes tomorrow's (March 12) ribbon cutting for the new Campus Wellness Center and weekend events.
- We have suspended scheduling any new events for the immediate future. Of course, we will continue to reassess this decision as the situation unfolds.
- All University-related travel to international destinations is now suspended. This is a change to our previous announcement suspending only travel to countries with Level Three and Level Four travel advisories.
- All non-essential University travel to domestic locations is also suspended. Any domestic travel requests will be reviewed on a case-by-case basis by the Office of the Provost and the CFO.
As a reminder, the Centers for Disease Control recommends practicing these good prevention strategies:
- Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth.
- Stay home when you are sick.
- Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash or cough into your elbow if you don’t have a tissue.
- Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces using a regular household cleaning spray or wipe.
- Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after going to the bathroom; before eating; and after blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing.
- If soap and water are not readily available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol. Always wash hands with soap and water if hands are visibly dirty.
I understand many of you will have questions about these actions and decisions. We are not going to have an answer right away for all questions, but you can be assured we are working through these issues as quickly as we can.
Every step we take and decision we make is focused on this overarching priority: protecting the health and safety of our campus community and guests to our campus.
The decision to move to online instruction was made with great consideration. The objective is to minimize gatherings of large groups and avoid extended time in close proximity with one another in classrooms, dining halls, and residential buildings. Our actions are consistent with the recommendations of local, state and federal health officials on how to limit the spread of COVID-19.
There is no question that moving to online delivery of a broad array of classes and programs is a challenging undertaking. Our teams have been preparing for this possibility and we have confidence we will be ready to expand our online offerings on Monday, March 16, as noted above. That doesn’t mean all will be smooth sailing. This is a complex process -- changes and modifications to these plans as likely as we proceed. Your understanding and cooperation as we work through these matters is greatly appreciated.
We continue to be in very close and regular contact with public health officials at the County and State, and are closely monitoring the Centers for Disease Control guidance on the evolving situation. We will reevaluate our actions on an ongoing basis and share updates or modifications as more information becomes available.
Finally, I want to thank our deans and faculty leadership for their guidance and involvement, as well as all of our faculty, staff and students. These campus leaders are often at the forefront, hearing the concerns of our colleagues and fellow students, and we appreciate that they continue to bring these concerns forward so that any issues can be appropriately addressed.
The COVID-19 situation is evolving daily. This is a difficult time for us all and for many around the world, but we will work together and get through it. Please keep those affected by the virus in your thoughts, as well as those students, faculty and staff who may have loved ones in states or nations where the outbreak is more severe.
University email is the official form of communication with students, faculty and staff – and you are expected to monitor it for updates. Please continue to check the Eastern Michigan University Coronavirus website for further information.
James Smith, Ph.D.