University of Michigan announces 2021 Fall term plan: Most classes will return to in-person, fans can attend athletic events

Residence halls set to open at 80% capacity

FILE - Fans cheer as the Michigan team takes the field at Michigan Stadium for an NCAA college football game against Wisconsin in Ann Arbor, Mich., Oct. 13, 2018. Michigan's Big House will be sitting empty when the leaves start to change this fall. From Ann Arbor to Los Angeles to Oxford, that most American of pursuits, college football, has either given up hope of getting in a traditional season or is flinging what amounts to a Hail Mary pass in a desperate attempt to hang on in the age of COVID-19. (AP Photo/Tony Ding, File) (Tony Ding, Copyright 2018 The Associated Press. All rights reserved)

ANN ARBOR – The University of Michigan has just announced its 2021 Fall term plan, and it will be a drastic shift from the current campus environment.

According to officials, most classes will be taught in person, residence halls will open at roughly 80% capacity and fans will be able to attend athletic events in the stands.

University President Mark Schlissel made the announcement at the beginning of a live COVID-19 briefing on Zoom with other university leaders.

“Based on the hopeful trends of decreasing COVID-19 cases and increased vaccine supply -- along with the collective efforts and creative will of the University of Michigan community -- I’m pleased to announce that for the fall semester on the Ann Arbor campus, we will teach most classes in person and have greater occupancy in our residence halls, in-person dining and student support services, along with some continuing precautions to maximize health and safety for our university community,” Schlissel said.

“Though a definitive vaccine timeline continues to evolve, we can expect that, by the end of the summer, the vast majority of our adult community will be vaccinated, and we will be moving quickly to a safer environment,” he continued.

Read: Michigan State University: 75% percent of fall undergrad classes will be in person

As school officials work to finalize many details of the plan over the next few months, the “foundational expectations” as of March 12 include:

  • Campus employees who have been working remotely during the pandemic will return to campus in a gradual, phased approach over the summer, based on the nature of their jobs, with some employees continuing to work remotely for a portion of their work week. Employees will receive adequate notice regarding work plans and will learn more in the months ahead from their immediate supervisors.
  • Most moderate to small classes, seminars and discussion sections will be taught in person, while most large (lecture) classes will continue to be offered remotely. There could be variations by school and college for pedagogical purposes.
  • Residence halls and living-learning communities will be open to welcome and serve students.
  • Dining facilities on campus will offer in-person and carry-out meal options.
  • Most student-facing services, such as libraries, museums, study spaces, Recreational Sports facilities, counseling, wellness and other support services will have expanded in-person opportunities, while continuing to maintain remote options.
  • Research opportunities will continue to expand so that students at all levels of study — graduate and undergraduate — have opportunities to engage in research activities.
  • U-M Athletics will welcome fans into the stands to cheer on the Wolverines at Michigan Stadium, Crisler Center and other venues as allowed by public health measures at that time.

“We serve our academic mission by offering students transformative and engaged learning experiences on and off campus, and by attending to their diverse educational needs,” Provost Susan M. Collins said in a statement. “In this context, a residential education is core to who we are as an institution and central to our ability to serve our academic mission.

“Given current trajectories and working together, we can achieve the goal of an innovative, responsible return to a residential experience in the fall — with significant and increasing in-person engagement, and minimal health risk for our faculty, graduate student instructors, staff, students, and community.”

Vice President for Student Life, Martino Harmon, said that the school’s goal is to house in residence halls all new freshman and as many other students as possible.

Harmon said that new students can expect expanded fall welcome activities and the opportunity to engage with others on campus. Second-year students who missed out on these opportunities in fall 2020 due to the coronavirus pandemic will be included in this fall’s welcome activities and campus traditions.

“I’m very optimistic that the fall will look and feel more like a typical semester on campus,” Chief Health Officer Preeti Malani said in a statement, citing increasing vaccinations and declining case counts. “We’ll all need to continue doing our part by remaining flexible and vigilant. I encourage everyone to get vaccinated against COVID-19 whenever you become eligible.”

She said that COVID-19 testing will continue on campus throughout the summer and into the fall if public health guidance should recommend it. She added that students should expect face masks and social distancing to remain a part of life on campus to some extent during the fall semester.

The plan was announced hours after the state of Michigan declared that all residents age 16 and up will be eligible to receive the COVID-19 vaccine on April 5.

About the Author:

Meredith has worked for WDIV since August 2017 and was voted one of Washtenaw County's best journalists in 2019 by eCurrent's readers. She covers the community of Ann Arbor and has a Master's degree in International Broadcast Journalism from City University London, UK.