Read President Smith's Sept. 25 update to campus

To the Eastern Michigan University community:

Thank you to our faculty and staff, who have helped facilitate a great start to our delayed and limited in-person class schedule. Your commitment and focus on maintaining an excellent and enriching educational experience for our students in these challenging times continues to shine. And, to our students who are making adjustments in their approach to learning and classes, whether online, hybrid or in-person, thank you. This unprecedented situation requires flexibility and understanding from each of us. Overall, our collective efforts to support one another and accomplish our educational mission remain positive and successful.

As we proceed through the semester, the health, safety and well-being of everyone in our Eastern Michigan University community remains our overarching priority. I remind everyone to follow health and safety guidance, and the #EMUSafe signage you see across campus.

I have many items to cover in this week’s message:

●      COVID-19 dashboard

●      Virtual speaker series: Race, Policing and Social Justice

●      Recent sexual assault investigations regarding incidents from several years ago

●      Mid-American Conference reconsideration of fall football

●      Homecoming 2020: The Remix

●      National Hispanic Heritage Month

●      Important reminders: Updates to processes and procedures

●      Swoop’s Five Days to $5,000 fundraiser

●      Celebrating Eastern Michigan University excellence


EMU COVID-19 Dashboard

We continue to conduct testing for COVID-19 and are tracking both the number of tests conducted as well as positive cases. As reported last week with the introduction of the EMU COVID-19 Dashboard, we will update this Dashboard regularly on the number of tests conducted, positive case counts, and the utilization of residence hall space reserved for students in isolation or quarantine.

In the seven days ending Sept. 22, the University administered 452 tests that resulted in two positive results for a percent positive of .44 percent. During that same time period, we identified a total of 10 positive cases from the University-administered tests, self-reporting, or other verified sources. Of those 10, seven were students who live off-campus and had no contact with campus prior to the time they tested positive, and three were on-campus students – defined as a student who was living on campus or had visited campus during the applicable time period prior to the time they tested positive. No new cases were reported among University employees.

As I indicated last week, we will continue to seek insights from faculty and staff experts and make adjustments to the Dashboard going forward.

A reminder that the Washtenaw County Health Department, with University support and assistance, conducts contact tracing on positive cases related to on-campus activities. Any Eastern community members who are deemed to have had close contact with someone on campus who tested positive are notified directly and provided information about what they should do. It is the responsibility of every EMU student and employee to submit the COVID-19 Report Form should you become aware of a case or test positive yourself, so that we may follow up and mitigate future spread of the virus.


Virtual speaker series: Race, Policing and Social Justice in 2020: Looking Back and Moving Forward

Last night, the Eastern Michigan University College of Arts and Sciences hosted the first of a three-part virtual speaker series titled “Race, Policing and Social Justice in 2020: Looking Back and Moving Forward.”

Last night’s session was titled “Addressing the Ills of Policing within Minority Communities: Precursors to the Floyd Dent Police Brutality Case in Inkster, Michigan.” The program featured Dr. Barbara Patrick, Associate Professor of Political Science.

The next two sessions will take place on Thursday, Oct. 8, and Thursday, Oct. 22, from 6:30 - 8 p.m.

The events are free and open to the public. Those interested in attending the virtual sessions, which are conducted via Zoom, must register through the links below:

●      October 8 registration link

●      October 22 registration link


The series was developed to examine the systems of policing, including socioeconomic and political challenges, and is intended to generate sustainable relationships among local law enforcement and the EMU community in order to create systemic support and cultivate collaborations.

For more information, visit the event homepage, or contact Barbara Patrick at bpatric1@emich.edu or Stephen Jefferson at sjeffer2@emich.edu.


Recent sexual assault investigations regarding incidents from several years ago

We are deeply concerned about the reports of criminal sexual conduct involving our former students. We stand by and strongly support all survivors of sexual assault. There is no place for sexual violence in our campus community and we will always take swift action to stop it.

When these criminal cases came to light this past summer, the University immediately initiated a thorough review into the original allegations, which occurred at off-campus residences a number of years ago.

Our initial review of Title IX and Department of Public Safety records regarding this situation indicate that in no case did a complainant come forward who wished to proceed with a formal investigation by our Title IX or Public Safety office. With few exceptions, no Title IX investigation can proceed without such a person coming forward, or without the evidence such a person might share. Thus, although our Title IX office did offer continuous support services where appropriate, the law did not allow us to launch a more formal Title IX investigation in either case.

To be clear: this does not mean that the University reached any conclusion about what happened in either case.

This past summer, when a complainant came forward to University Police, we immediately and proactively contacted the Ypsilanti Police Department, which has jurisdiction because the incidents occurred off campus and in the city of Ypsilanti. The University has actively provided information and supported the Ypsilanti Police investigation throughout.

In 2019, the University initiated a comprehensive independent external review of our Title IX polices and procedures. That review and final report, which can be found at https://www.emich.edu/documents/title-ix-policy-and-process-report-2019.pdf, drew the following conclusions:

●      “Eastern complies with Title IX in all of the following aspects of its sexual misconduct policies and procedures.”

●      “My recommendation moving forward is that the University continue with its high level of compliance.”

●      “In sum, my review of Eastern Michigan University’s Title IX compliance office and related policies and procedures reflects that the institution has made a very meaningful commitment to addressing sexual misconduct in its educational community. This commitment is reflected in the University’s highly-trained and highly-competent Title IX Coordinator and Title IX Investigator; in its efforts to provide widespread prevention education and training to the University community; in its detailed student investigation procedures which are fair to both parties; and in the cooperation, respect and support the Title IX office receives from its many campus partners.”


Given the recent cases that have come to light, the University recognizes the importance of taking a further look at the specific handling of these incidents. Earlier this month the University commissioned the external firm of Cozen O’Conner, with whom the University has no existing relationship, to review and audit our Title IX and related policies, procedures, and actions regarding these events. We are committed to knowing if our processes related to the recent cases were followed by University employees and, if not, why not and what steps should be taken to ensure that our students are protected and supported. The results of this independent review will be made public.

To reiterate, EMU takes all claims of sexual assault and sexual misconduct seriously and is committed to the thorough investigation of these incidents. If you have any information or wish to report any incident of sexual assault or misconduct, please contact EMU Police at 734-487-1222 or at dps_questions@emich.edu, or file an incident report with the EMU Title IX Office: https://www.emich.edu/title-nine/index.php.


Mid-American Conference reconsideration of fall football

Last month, the Mid-American Conference (MAC) moved all fall 2020 sports to spring 2021 competition as a result of concerns over COVID-19. The MAC was among the first Division 1 conferences to take that action, which was quickly followed by similar decisions by the Big Ten and the PAC-12 conferences. Now, with those conferences and others reversing course and reinstating fall football on a reduced schedule, the MAC is considering a similar return to fall football on a reduced schedule.

Collectively, the MAC presidents have received presentations from health and safety experts, and had extensive discussions about appropriate testing processes and the frequency of such testing. During our discussions, I have made clear my deep concern for student-athlete safety and well-being. Any consideration of a return to a limited fall football schedule must be accompanied by a robust process that ensures frequent testing and monitoring of all matters related to student health and well-being.

Because the NCAA championship schedule has already been set for all of the fall sports that were moved to spring, the MAC will not move other sports, such as women’s soccer, back to fall.

The discussions regarding football remain underway. I expect a decision will be made soon, as early as this weekend.


Homecoming 2020: The Remix

A truly unique and special homecoming celebration will take place next week: “Homecoming 2020: The Remix.”  Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, EMU’s homecoming celebration will take place virtually and remotely. It begins next Tuesday, Sept. 29, and runs through Sunday, Oct. 4. 

During the celebration, a variety of fun and interactive virtual events will be available for EMU students and alumni, faculty, staff and community members to celebrate the start of the Fall 2020 semester “together,” while remaining physically distant. 

Highlights of “Homecoming 2020: The Remix” include an evening of bedtime stories featuring a selection of children's books by EMU alumni authors, an EMU student talent show on Instagram live, a series of live virtual DJ parties, a virtual cooking demonstration with Chef Elle Simone – who is an EMU alum and America’s Test Kitchen chef, a virtual game night, and much more. 

The details for how to participate in these events, as well as the full schedule of events can be found on the EMU Homecoming webpage.


National Hispanic Heritage Month

September 15 marked the beginning of National Hispanic Heritage Month. The Hispanic community represents the second largest population in the nation – and Eastern is proud of our many connections to the Hispanic community. The annual César Chávez Day of Celebration on campus is always a standout event and the most emblematic of our efforts to celebrate the cultures and contributions of the Hispanic community. Despite the demographic trend with a substantial reduction in graduating high school seniors, first-year Hispanic enrollments have increased by 15 percent.

Please join me in celebrating our Hispanic community and the many contributions made to Eastern Michigan University, and to our state and nation.


Important reminders: Updates to processes and procedures

We continue to provide regular updates to students, faculty and staff on important matters or changes in processes and protocols. Over the past week, we have issued the following messages. Please make sure you have reviewed these and are familiar with the information.

●      Social Gatherings: University Policies and Practices - Sept. 18, 2020
 

●      Face Coverings and Physical Distancing: University Policies and Practices - Sept. 18, 2020
 

●      Political Campaign Participation – Sept. 23, 2020
 

●      Federal CARES Act Student relief Funds Fall Distribution - Sept. 24, 2020

 

Swoop’s Five Days to $5,000 fundraiser

Swoop’s Five Days to $5,000 fundraiser is underway to celebrate the five-year anniversary of Swoop’s Food Pantry and the John and Angie Sabo Swoop’s Food Pantry Room. Click on the Swoop’s Food Pantry five-year celebration link to watch a video about Swoop’s first five years, and to donate.

The fall hours for Swoop’s Food Pantry are Mondays and Thursdays from 12 - 5 p.m., and Wednesdays from 12 - 6:30 p.m.

Shoppers 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 new 2020-21 Swoop's Food Pantry Intake Form.

If you wish to donate items – those most needed are large snacks, granola bars, paper towel, barbecue sauce and tofu.

Please email swoops_pantry@emich.edu in advance to make sure someone is present to handle your delivery.

Please maintain physical distancing guidance when picking up or delivering items to the Pantry.


Celebrating Eastern Michigan University excellence

In these times of international uncertainty, it is wonderful to acknowledge the work of an instructor who is doing his part to make a positive impact at the student level.

Dr. Geoffrey Stanton, a part-time lecturer in the Department of Music and Dance, recently completed a five-week summer residency as a visiting professor for Szechuan University in the People's Republic of China. This was an experimental on-line endeavor in which a handful of American professors and instructors across the country were specifically invited to participate. Dr. Stanton taught two courses in music appreciation, which required writing 40 two-hour lectures.

Dr. Stanton has been with EMU since 2008. He is a prize-winning composer and recipient of the 2015 Part-Time Lecturer Outstanding Teaching Award. In an interview with EMU Today, Dr. Stanton said students reacted very positively to his teaching, making many comments on the papers he graded, "(Eastern) is definitely on the radar with China. A lot of Chinese students are interested in coming here."  

On behalf of our students, faculty and staff, thank you for these fine efforts, Dr. Stanton!


Health and safety reminder

As I do each week, I will conclude with an important health and safety reminder. Please continue to:

  • Practice effective hand washing and the use of hand sanitizers;
  • Wear face coverings; and,
  • Observe physical distancing.


These three actions, when taken together, dramatically reduce the risk of contracting COVID-19.

Please continue to follow the University’s COVID-19 Planning and Preparedness website for ongoing updates.

James Smith, Ph.D.

September 25, 2020

Written by:
James Smith

Contact:
Geoff Larcom
glarcom@emich.edu
734-487-4400