ANN ARBOR, Mich. – On May 28, leaders of the University of Michigan announced that they will make a decision regarding the university’s fall semester by the end of June.
With recent announcements by Michigan State University, Davenport University and Madonna University, colleges and universities around Michigan are having to decide if they will resume in-person classes in the fall.
Through an hour-long virtual town hall meeting with faculty and staff, U-M President Mark Schlissel, Interim Provost Susan M. Collins and Interim Vice President of Student Life Simone Himbeault Taylor were cautious but hopeful about what the fall semester would look like.
Schlissel said that residents in Michigan have done a good job in handling the COVID-19 pandemic.
“However, in reality, I think this pandemic is going to be with us at least through the coming academic year,” he said.
He stated that the university has incorporated COVID-19 as a factor during its planning and budgeting for the next academic year based on advice from experts.
Regarding the university’s finances, Schlissel went over various impacts of COVID-19 including funds from the state of Michigan, financial aid to students, lost revenue sources, research funding, philanthropy and the university’s endowment.
✉ Like what you’re reading? Sign up for our email newsletter here!
“We did receive about $25 million from the CARES act fund from the federal government. Half of which is being pushed out directly to our students, students with financial need of various kinds related to the pandemic,” Schlissel said, “and the rest has to be used, by law, covering exceptional expenses, particularly student-oriented expenses due to the pandemic.
Schlissel said that the university was concerned about the health of its community and its ability to deliver its teaching, research and service missions, as well as its long-term future.
Regarding the upcoming academic year, Collins said, “well firstly, and most importantly, we are all very optimistic that the University of Michigan will have a public, health-informed in-residence academic year with as much in-person engagement as possible that is consistent with changing guidelines and conditions and with our core mission."
She said that while the university does not have specific details about what the fall might look like for the university, she explained how committees are exploring ways of safely prioritizing student education and experiences.
Additional factors being looked at include changing the student calendar to minimize travel, return-to-work needs of faculty and staff, health and safety, risk mitigation and diversity and inclusion.
She said that the university’s planning would enable it to pivot back to remote learning should the need arise.
Taylor said that Student Life is preparing for future residential experience and remote classes based on how the university has had to adapt based on its winter, spring and summer experiences during the pandemic. Changes may include testing within residence halls, social distancing, enhanced cleaning procedures, the use of personal protection equipment and changes to dining.
According to Taylor, Student Life has been engaging with student advisory boards and leaders to ensure student voices are heard and incorporated into fall planning.
The virtual town hall also addressed student safety and health, issues faced by graduate and PhD students, budget cuts to Michigan Medicine and how the university plans to deal with racial discrimination.