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University of Michigan winter semester plans: No-tolerance COVID rules, more remote classes

Undergrad students who don’t need to live on campus should stay home, officials say

'The Cube' is motionless in the video portraying an empty U-M campus. (University of Michigan)

ANN ARBOR, Mich. – The University of Michigan has announced its plans for the winter semester, including a no-tolerance approach to COVID-19 safety rules and even more remote learning.

U of M officials said safety remains a top priority, as well as allowing students to advance their academic goals and participate in activities beyond academics. Mental health and well-being are also top concerns.

Remote learning

For the winter semester, the current remote learning approach will continue, with more courses offered remotely, when possible, the university announced. Other formats will be maintained for classes that can’t be done remotely.

“In-person classes (will be) limited to those most effectively taught through this format or required for licensure,” the university release says. “Instructors will be able to use the format they believe is most appropriate.”

READ: Classmates help U-M student expand business helping older adults with tech during pandemic

There will be fewer hybrid classes that are partially online and partially in person, based on feedback from instructors about the difficulty of teaching them, U of M announced.

No instructor will be required to teach in person if they would prefer not to.

“The redesign of campus spaces has enabled limited in-person instruction to be conducted safely,” the release says. “There has been little evidence of viral transmission in the university’s educational facilities during fall term, so essential in-person educational experiences can continue.”

Testing

Testing capacity will be increased, with mandatory weekly testing for undergrads who live on campus, go to classes and activities in person, perform research, use university facilities or work on campus, U of M announced.

Here are some of the testing updates for the winter term:

  • Require a negative COVID-19 test from all residence hall residents prior to moving in. Students moving into housing for winter also are required to get the flu vaccine.
  • Implement mandatory weekly testing for all undergraduate students who live in residence halls.
  • Implement mandatory weekly testing for all undergraduate students who come to campus to attend in-person classes or activities, use facilities (e.g. libraries, unions, Rec Sports), work or do research on campus. Testing for this group prior to starting any on-campus activities also is required and will be made available. Compliance with mandatory testing requirements will be linked to Mcard activation and facilities access.
  • Offer convenient weekly asymptomatic testing to all students (graduate, professional and undergraduate) who are not otherwise covered by a mandatory program, as well as faculty teaching in person and staff working on campus.
  • Require a negative test for undergraduates departing university housing before returning to their permanent residence. A negative test will be recommended and testing made available for all other undergraduate and graduate students.
  • Expand the testing of individuals in quarantine to students living off campus and not using U-M quarantine housing.

Student housing

Undergrad students who don’t need to live in residence halls should stay at their permanent residences for the semester, officials said.

“Most undergraduates will be strongly encouraged to remain at their permanent addresses and access instruction remotely, including those currently living in off-campus housing in Ann Arbor,” the release says. “All U-M Housing contracts for undergraduate residents will be canceled for the winter term.”

Undergraduates who need to be on campus can request housing based on certain need-based criteria, such as health, wellness or safety concerns; financial need; specific academic need; status as international students or U-M Housing ResStaff student employees; or other extraordinary, extenuating circumstances, U of M revealed.

Burton Tower. (Hunter Dyke/Ann Arbor News via AP, File)

Undergraduate housing will be assigned one person per room, due to public health recommendations.

U of M officials said graduate and professional students are able to continue living on campus in their current locations and densities because there have been very few cases of COVID-19 within the graduate student communities.

Under the new plan, lounge spaces in housing will be accessible by reservation only, dine-in options in the dining halls will not be available and the university will maintain or increase its quarantine and isolation housing capacity of 600 units.

No-tolerance

U of M will be taking a “strict, no-tolerance” approach to enforcing COVID-19 policies during the winter semester.

Social gatherings of three or more people on campus living in residence halls will result in automatic probation, and public health violations by students in quarantine or isolation housing would mean automatic University Housing contract termination, according to the university.

Off-campus students who are determined to have engaged in these behaviors would be referred to the Office of Student Conflict Resolution, the Washtenaw County Health Department or both, U of M revealed.

In addition to the more serious penalties, the university will maintain the COVID Concerns Reporting Line for reporting off-campus concerns and continue enforcement partnerships with the Ann Arbor Police Department and Washtenaw County Health Department.

Mental health and well-being

The university will expand services for mental health, which includes scheduled well-being checks and opening the campus recreational sports facilities for students.

The university will add two mid-week, one-day “well-being breaks” without any scheduled academic activities on Feb. 24 and March 23.

Counseling and Psychological Services is expanding this year, with eight additional counselors to reduce wait times and augment services, which are mostly virtual for students during the pandemic.

U of M staff members working from home will continue to do so throughout the winter semester. Earlier this week, the university announced three additional paid days off during the upcoming holiday breaks for faculty and staff.

The Faculty and Staff Counseling and Consultation Office is offering virtual discussion groups for employees, tailored specifically to fostering resilience during the pandemic. Meanwhile, the Workplace Innovation and the Staff Experience committee, charged with providing recommendations to help staff members sustain their work as the campus emerges from the pandemic, is in the final stages of preparing recommendations.

Those recommendations are expected to focus on how to achieve the full staff experience for employees, regardless of work location.


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