1. Safeguarding our semester together

    August 24, 2020

    Dear Students:

    The beginning of the academic year is a week away, and many of you are moving to Ann Arbor or settling in to your new homes for the semester. We know that this is an exciting time for you, and we share your enthusiasm and hopes for a successful fall semester.

    All of you can expect courses that reflect the academic excellence of the University of Michigan. Our schools and colleges have designed courses that will be delivered in a way to meet the challenges of the pandemic – whether you will be learning in person with us or taking classes that are fully remote.

    Those of you coming to Ann Arbor will also see the results of an incredible amount of preparation. Last week, Vice President for Student Life Martino Harmon shared several of the measures we’ve taken to enhance health and safety across our campus and in Ann Arbor.

    In our classrooms, studios and labs, Provost Susan M. Collins and her colleagues have instituted safety measures that include reduced density, restricted entry into buildings, reconfigured spaces, increased cleaning and readily accessible hand sanitizer.

    We’re requiring that everyone stay home when sick and that everyone wear a face covering when on campus, unless you’re in your own residence. We will also be randomly screening students throughout the semester for asymptomatic infection with the virus that causes COVID-19.

    Our preparations and precautions have been developed in collaboration with some of our university’s foremost public health and medical experts. We’ve also worked closely with U-M students on many of these measures, and it has been invigorating to see your classmates deeply invested in the planning for a successful semester.

    And we’ve partnered extensively in the local community, with the city, county, local businesses, community engagement police officers, neighbors, and landlords, bolstered by the reality that we all stand to benefit from our collective success and keeping you and the entire Ann Arbor community safe and healthy.

    Taking care of ourselves and each other begins now

    Together, we have created an opportunity that allows you to get the most out of your University of Michigan experience during the COVID-19 pandemic. But we will not succeed without your help and commitment – and we’re proud to join together in sharing the importance of our collective effort.

    As of Friday, nearly 5,800 of your classmates who will be living in Michigan Housing had completed pre-arrival tests for the virus. That’s one important step.

    In different parts of the country, including some areas in Michigan, we are seeing increasing numbers of COVID-19 cases. Often, outbreaks are being traced to events where people did not follow public health guidance. These include gatherings without appropriate social distancing, and those in enclosed spaces without face coverings. Indoors and out, it will be essential that you wear a face covering and keep the density of people low while you’re socializing. Have fun, but remember to be safe!

    What may feel like a brief moment of letting your guard down could end up shutting down our in-person classes.

    This is likely what happened at other universities around our nation that have been forced to go fully remote despite extensive planning efforts of their own. We have been closely monitoring the experiences of other universities as they attempted to begin their fall semesters – and a few key insights have emerged:

    • Infectious disease experts have been amazed at the velocity of spread of this virus. They remarked that the actions of a few quickly changed the picture on campus in a matter of days even while most students were adhering to sound public health practices.
    • Preparations to prevent spread of infection have worked well in classrooms, residence halls, and elsewhere on campus, but it’s behavior off campus that is the major risk. It just takes one unsafe gathering to upend all of the preparations we have made.

    Please help us, and each other, have a safe, healthy and successful semester

    While COVID-19 does not usually result in severe illness in students, it can be serious and even lethal in those with underlying conditions or who are older. Join other U-M students, faculty and staff in following safety measures across campus to protect yourself, your family, your friends, our staff and faculty, and your community:

    • Maintain a physical distance of 6 feet or more between yourself and others.
    • Wear a face covering that covers your mouth, nose and chin everywhere on campus including indoors, outside and on U-M transportation.
    • Wash your hands frequently with soap and warm water for 20 seconds. If unable to wash your hands, use hand sanitizer.
    • Cover your coughs and sneezes. Avoid touching your face.
    • Please do not greet friends with a hug or a handshake.
    • If you’re gathering with others, meet outdoors when possible and limit the size of the gathering. The smaller the group, the safer the event.
    • Do not share common food and beverages.
    • If you feel sick, stay home and away from others. Seek medical attention from our University Health Service if necessary. UHS can be reached at 734-764-8320. Faculty have been instructed to forgive absences for illness.
    • Get vaccinated against the flu. We will make it easy to do this later in the fall.
    • All members of our campus community who live in our residence halls or will enter campus buildings will be required to check themselves for COVID-19 symptoms each day by answering a brief set of questions using our ResponsiBLUE daily symptom checker tool. Students should do this daily regardless of whether they will be on campus on a given day—it’s online and takes moments.

    If everyone follows the guidelines and embraces our Wolverine Culture of Care, we have the best chance to stay safe this semester.

    Choose to be smart and play it safe

    Because there is so much at stake for everyone, we are going to be very diligent in enforcing our public health protocols. All students must follow them or face sanctions or interventions as stated in the Addendum to the Statement of Student Rights and Responsibilities, which your fellow students helped us to develop this summer. This includes the expectation to adhere to gathering limitations established by university policy and local and state regulations.

    You can help make sure everyone participates in this team effort, as well. Encourage your parents and friends to wear face coverings on campus. If you see someone not wearing a face covering, please courteously request that they do. If a gathering is too large or not appropriately distanced, stay away. If someone,  a friend, colleague or one of our Michigan Ambassadors speaks with you about being safe, please listen.

    Additionally, our COVID-19 Concerns Reporting Line allows community-based public health concerns to be addressed via a system that has been designed to reduce the need for law enforcement as a first response. To report a public health concern, please call 734-647-3000. One of our Michigan Ambassador teams will respond with friendly reminders.

    We want all of you to have the best experience possible, enjoy yourselves, and make the progress you need to earn your Michigan degrees. We strongly believe that being forced to go fully remote for all U-M instruction would adversely – and disproportionately – affect many students who need classes that can only be delivered in person or who must rely on campus resources to fully access a Michigan education.  Here, we have robust WiFi and other technology resources needed for hybrid instruction. We also have a stellar University Health Service that provides quality care for students, and we provide a safe and welcoming home to our international students.

    Being smart and dedicated is what got you into Michigan – and it will keep everyone here this semester and beyond, while protecting your classmates, instructors, friends, loved ones and those who are most vulnerable in our communities.

    We appreciate your commitment to our university and to the tens of thousands who call Ann Arbor home. We’ll continue to post updates and information on our Campus Maize and Blueprint website throughout the semester.  Thank you and Go Blue!

    Sincerely,

    Mark S. Schlissel, M.D., Ph.D.
    President

    Susan M. Collins, Ph.D.
    Provost and Executive Vice President for Academic Affairs

    Martino Harmon, Ph.D.
    Vice President for Student Life

    Amanda Kaplan
    President, Central Student Government

    Saveri Nandigama
    Vice President, Central Student Government