This message was sent to students of the University of Michigan’s Ann Arbor campus.
I hope you and your loved ones are having a safe, healthy and enjoyable summer. At the University of Michigan, we have spent the last few months preparing diligently to welcome you and begin another academic year.
The weeks leading up to the start of school are always filled with excitement and some anxiety, and the COVID-19 pandemic has certainly added to everyone’s worries.
I am writing today to share a few of the ways we are working to create a safe and healthy living and learning environment on our campus – and to ask for your help. The pandemic is growing worse in many parts of our nation, and it will take our collective commitment to have a successful academic year.
The most important measures we can all take are described in the video above.
- Wear a mask when you’re outside your home.
- Wash your hands more frequently.
- Avoid crowded places, especially indoors but also outdoor gatherings.
These are health and safety measures that are based on research, and they will help to protect you and your fellow students, as well as your roommates, professors, family members and everyone in our communities. Further recommendations and developments will be posted to our campus Maize and Blueprint site.
Vice President for Student Life Martino Harmon and University Health Service Executive Director Rob Ernst shared additional information with you on Monday, and I want to emphasize it here. We want to be sure that you feel free to decide the best option for you this year.
We are finalizing our course selection website with information on formats – in person, hybrid or fully remote – to help you choose which classes you want to take. About 70 percent of credit hours for undergraduates will be taken fully remotely this fall among those currently registered, with many hybrid courses offering the option to attend remotely as well. Final course format information will be posted August 7.
Please review your course selections with the class formats in mind as you decide whether to come to Ann Arbor, or study remotely from home this semester.
We realize that many majors require courses that can only be effective in person, and we’re committed to offering those. We also know that our new international students who come to campus need to take some in-person or hybrid classes because of federal guidelines.
If all the courses you need are available remotely, however, you may choose to remain at home and pursue your studies this fall. This is especially true if you (or your family) have risk factors that make COVID-19 more dangerous.
You will receive a high-quality education and continue progress towards your Michigan degree regardless of the class formats you choose. Your professors have been hard at work to ensure that the education we offer remains world-class. Also, many of the services provided by Student Life, such as Counseling and Psychological Services and student advising, will be available remotely.
Students who have already signed housing contracts will be allowed to cancel without penalty until August 14. We will amend our usual rules and allow students with housing contracts who study remotely in the fall semester to apply for housing in the winter semester, and we will make every effort to accommodate all requests.
Health and safety updates
If you do choose to come back to Ann Arbor, we have made numerous preparations to keep you as safe as possible, but as I said above, you will have to be committed to do your part.
All U.S. students coming to Ann Arbor will need to practice enhanced social distancing during the 14 days before arriving. During these two weeks, monitor your health, reduce your contact with others and follow the guidance shared by Vice President Harmon and Dr. Ernst. The 14-day period will begin upon arrival for students arriving from international destinations. Students coming from some U.S. locations with high incidence of COVID-19 may need to practice additional distancing upon arrival, as well. We will track this information and let you know which locations may have additional distancing requirements before your arrival in Ann Arbor.
We’ll also ask you to complete an online learning module that includes important information on COVID-19.
Students moving into U-M Housing’s residence halls and apartments are expected to be tested for the virus that causes COVID-19 and be cleared before arriving in Ann Arbor. U-M is partnering with Quest Diagnostics to provide testing kits, at no additional cost, directly to on-campus housing students to self-administer and then mail back to Quest for analysis.
If you are planning to live in U-M Housing, you will receive an email this week with additional information and instructions on testing. Students living in our Munger Graduate Residences had an earlier move-in, and they are being tested after arrival.
If you choose to come to campus, you can expect to see a carefully crafted response to how we handle suspected or positive cases of COVID-19. This includes:
- We’ll offer students virus testing when indicated and care through our University Health Service.
- We’ll continue to work closely with local public health officials to perform contact tracing for all infected students and employees as we have throughout the pandemic.
- We’ll support and provide living space for any student who develops symptoms or tests positive and needs to quarantine or isolate safely. This includes meal delivery.
- We have created an online tool so members of our community can check any symptoms daily. The tool also offers advice on seeking care. We’re modifying the tool for students, and it will be available later this month.
- We are working on a plan to perform surveillance testing of students in residence halls.
Wolverine Culture of Care
The first weeks after you arrive are pivotal to our shared health and success, as well.
As I’ve previously noted, U-M is requiring all students, staff, faculty and visitors to wear a face covering that covers the mouth and nose while anywhere on campus grounds. This includes when inside buildings, outdoors and on U-M transportation on all of our campuses. It is difficult on a busy university campus to maintain distance from groups even while outdoors, so requiring face coverings outdoors will help slow the spread of the virus. One exception is when you’re in your own room or residence.
The research is clear that wearing a face covering is one of the most effective tools we have for preventing the spread of COVID-19 and saving lives.
Our Division of Student Life worked closely with U-M students across campus this summer to develop the Wolverine Culture of Care – a commitment to keeping the U-M campus community as healthy and safe as possible. We encourage you to review and post these guidelines as a reminder on how to best care for yourself and to be respectful of your shared responsibility for the health of others.
This is crucial not just for you and your friends and family members, but for the thousands of people who live in Ann Arbor or work on our campus. Across the country and here in Michigan, we’ve seen how one gathering or party can cause an outbreak. Each incident places additional demands on our health care professionals, contact tracers, and staff across the university, city and county.
Thank you for choosing U-M
I want to express my appreciation and admiration to all of you. You’ve chosen to study at a premier public research university, in one of higher education’s most dynamic academic environments.
I know that we are asking you to take on responsibilities that go above and beyond what was expected several months ago. Wear a facing covering. Avoid gatherings. Connect with friends and loved ones remotely. Take some or all classes online.
But you chose Michigan because you knew you were ready for a challenge. We now hope you will extend that enthusiasm, to meet a challenge not only from your academics but from a world that has changed – and a world that you can help to ensure will change for the better, bolstered by your University of Michigan education.
Throughout the many difficulties of the pandemic, I’ve been amazed by the incredible resilience and talents of you, our students. World-class education during a pandemic is no small feat. It’s hard and rarely as smooth as we would like. This is true for us as teachers and you as learners.
For months, you’ve shared with us your resilience, your innovative ideas for how to make our university safer, and your outstanding commitment to a university that aspires to create a better world for all.
Thank you all so much. Stay safe and healthy. See you soon.
Mark S. Schlissel, M.D., Ph.D.