To the Eastern Michigan University community:
Before we head into what promises to be a signature Fourth of July weekend in Michigan, there are some important updates to share with you.
The Safe Return Steering Committee met this morning as part of our weekly schedule and discussed several important items related to our fall operations. The Public Health Work Group presented its recommendations, which provide additional detail and follow the preliminary recommendations presented at the virtual town hall meetings on June 23. (The slides from the meetings can be viewed here. Links to the recordings of the meetings can be found on the University’s COVID-19 website.)
The recommendations will be reviewed by the Faculty Senate for input before they become final.
As a reminder, we continue to operate pursuant to a series of executive orders issued by Governor Whitmer. The Public Health Work Group’s recommended guidelines focus on fall semester preparation and planning.
A Safe Return to Campus guidebook is being finalized. The guidebook will serve as a comprehensive source of information for faculty, staff and students around public health standards, community expectations, education and training, enforcement, how to request accommodations, and other important topics. The plan is to have the guidebook completed over the next two weeks, at which time it will be shared broadly with the campus community.
We know that classroom space will be extremely limited in the fall because of physical distancing standards. The comprehensive mapping of campus classrooms, with adjustments for physical distancing, continues. This is being done in coordination with an analysis of courses and class sizes to determine right-fit classrooms. Beginning next week academic departments will be asked to provide information about their fall schedule in order to facilitate the scheduling process.
This work is of the highest priority. As this process nears completion in the next two weeks, we will have a clearer picture of what classes will be in-person and what classes will be virtual/online. These findings will be communicated broadly once finalized.
The members of the Public Health Work Group, the Safe Return Steering Committee, and the rest of our campus community are closely following the ongoing and changing landscape surrounding COVID-19. As all of us have observed, the number of cases is increasing and the population of those testing positive is becoming younger. These trends are deeply concerning and bear close monitoring in the days and weeks ahead.
State budget update
Earlier this week, the governor and state legislature announced an agreement to resolve the state budget deficit for FY20. Public universities will receive an 11 percent reduction in state appropriations (for Eastern Michigan that amounts to $8.4 million), with the difference being made up for FY20 with one-time federal CARES Act funds received by the state. No plans were announced for the FY21 budget. While the agreement lessens the financial impact to the University from COVID-19 for FY20 (which just ended), considerable uncertainty for FY21 remains. Michigan has a multi-billion dollar revenue gap for FY21, without the benefit of the one-time federal CARES Act funds. It is not known at this time whether this year’s 11 percent reduction for state universities will establish the new starting point for the FY21 state budget discussions.
The impact of COVID-19 on the University’s budget cannot be understated. The massive and growing expense for the purchase of face coverings, gloves, plexiglass, cleaning and disinfecting products, the movement of furniture to ensure appropriate physical distancing, and many more items, are all happening at significant cost. The expenses related to this work continue to grow daily and represent a key element of the University’s budget moving into FY21.
Federal CARES Act funds distribution to students
The University has begun to distribute nearly $6.9 million in federal student-relief CARES Act funds directly to students. Since March, the COVID-19 pandemic has imposed unprecedented hardships on our students, making these funds a vital form of support. The broad distribution of funds will focus on Eastern students with significant needs.
The University is also providing direct grants-in-aid to undergraduate students who receive a federal Pell Grant, or to those who did not receive a federal Pell Grant but demonstrate unmet financial need of $1,000 or more. That need is based on Eastern Michigan University’s federal cost of attendance and the expected family contribution from the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) and other forms of financial aid, including loans.
Graduate students who receive an unsubsidized federal student loan also are considered for funding.
The federal CARES Act funds are being distributed in the following overall amounts:
• Winter 2020: one-fifth of the funds, or $1,379,440.
• Fall 2020: two-fifths of the funds, or $2,753,793.
• Winter 2021: two-fifths of the funds, or $2,753,793.
A total of 7,260 students who were enrolled in the Winter 2020 semester have received $190 each for that semester. Winter 2020 students are receiving a smaller grant because the first half of the semester was uninterrupted prior to the pandemic.
Our plan for distribution of the federal CARES Act funds recognizes that the COVID-19 disruption to education is not a one-time event. It will continue to impact students in many ways over the coming months until there is a vaccination for the disease. Additional details can be found on the University’s CARES Act website.
Swoop’s Food Pantry update
Swoop’s provided 1,122 pounds of food to 37 shoppers this week. Next week, Swoop’s will be open on Tuesday (7/7) from 12:30 – 5:30 p.m. and Thursday (7/9), from noon – 3:30 p.m.
Clients are requested to complete an Online Shopping Request Form before arriving. Items will be bagged by staff and brought out to clients when they arrive. Visitors to Swoop’s can enter through the main entrance on the north side of Pierce Hall near the elevator. Swoop’s requires any student who has not used the pantry this year to complete the Swoop's Food Pantry Intake Form.
If you wish to donate items – those most needed are tofu, non-dairy milk, canned red beans, hand sanitizer and dental hygiene items such as toothbrushes, toothpaste and dental floss.
Items can be dropped off Tuesdays and Thursdays from 10 a.m. – noon at 104 Pierce Hall. Swoop’s can also pick up items from your porch for those in the Ann Arbor/Ypsilanti area. Send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org to arrange a donation pickup.
Please maintain physical distancing guidance when picking up or delivering items to the Pantry.
July 4 holiday information for employees
As a reminder, Friday, July 3, 2020, is a University holiday so EMU will be closed. If employees have any questions about how your typical work shift may be affected by the University holiday, please discuss it with your supervisor. Of course, any collective bargaining agreement provisions applicable to University holidays apply in this case as well.
For employees who are participating in the Work Share program, sections D.3 and D.4 of the Work Share FAQ have been updated with details about how to account for the holiday. In short, you need to (1) follow the Work Share rules included in the FAQ and (2) agree with your supervisor on what your work week will look like.
I hope everyone has a wonderful holiday weekend and well-deserved break. Be safe and stay well.
James Smith, Ph.D.