Provost's Update - March 11, 2020

Effective Operations

Institutional Priority #4

Institutional Effectiveness

As most of you are now aware, the University has been closely monitoring the coronavirus (COVID 19) situation and taking precautionary actions to limit any potential exposure or spread of the virus as the situation has evolved.  I want to thank you all for your ongoing attention to this important matter as we work through this challenging time.  The senior leadership team has been meeting around the clock on issues of preparation and response.  The health and safety of all members of our university community is of central importance to us all and we are acting from an abundance of caution throughout the decision-making process.  

We continue to monitor and evaluate guidance provided from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), the Washtenaw County Health Department and other local, state and federal agencies along with the World Health Organization (WHO) and many other professional organizations.  I want to thank faculty, staff and administrators who have provided (and continue to provide) advice, templates and other feedback as we move through this process.  The process of modifying courses, taking courses online and working remotely is by no means final or without unanswered questions today.  But we will provide ongoing updates to the campus on a variety of issues and answer questions as expeditiously as we can.  Please continue to direct student questions and concerns that you cannot address to the Dean of Students and other questions to the Provost’s Office.  Your patience, proactive, creative problem-solving and student focused thinking is greatly appreciated!

Today President Smith conveyed to campus a series of decisions about University operations.  My letter below is designed to be the first in a series of updates focused on more detail around Academic and Student Affairs Issues.


All University in-person course meetings are suspended through March 31st.  Student attendance on campus may not be mandated without the consultation of your Department Head and the express approval of a College Dean or the Provost.  These precautionary measures are being taken to promote social distancing and to support the slowing of the spread of the COVID 19 virus.

We have now created course shells in Canvas for all our winter in-person course sections that do not already have them. This action will allow faculty who have in-person courses to move their instruction fully online into Canvas should they elect to use that venue to do so.  Bill Jones will be in direct contact with all assigned course instructors regarding additional timeline details, training opportunities and other relevant information for using Canvas course shells.  Department Heads/School Directors should review all course sections to be sure that instructors are assigned to all active course sections.

Once all course shells are built, instructors will receive a notification from the Center for E-Learning including basic guidance for using the course shell, as well as the instructional tools available in Canvas. Having a course shell allows an instructor to facilitate communication and information sharing with students in all classes, provides instructional tools such as discussion boards, and assures data privacy, including that protected by FERPA and HIPAA, should an instructor wish to use that means of outreach. As a reminder, instructors may also easily email students through the “Faculty” tab in This is the same tab where you regularly enter course grades. 

Instructors may elect (based on pedagogical preference, disciplinary limitations or other reasons) to modify course assignments and delivery without using Canvas.  This may be done via the sharing of email assignments, video chats, group interactions online or other means.  If instructors elect to move outside of the canvas course shell environment they are expected to use University systems whenever possible, require no additional expense to students, respect FERPA, HIPAA, ADA and other regulatory guidelines around student data privacy while operating remotely.

Should any student need accommodations to participate fully in an online course section, instructors should immediately refer the student to the Disability Resource Center and they will work to make arrangements between the student and instructor to make this possible.

 Additional Notes:

Current classes that are presented in an online format will continue as scheduled.
We are working with faculty and staff who conduct performance, laboratory classes and others that are not easily modified to an electronic delivery method in order to determine the best approach for those classes. The university will provide specific guidance in the coming days. Guidelines will be reviewed daily and updates and/or modifications will be shared as more information becomes available.


Residence Halls

While completing classes virtually, students are encouraged to return to their permanent place of residence due to public health recommendations for social distancing. 

For students who choose to continue living on campus or are not able to return home (e.g., international students), the University will continue to fully support them in residence halls and dining facilities. Students who stay on campus must register online by Saturday, March 14, so the University can appropriately prepare residence halls and dining facilities.

We urge all students to make the choice that is best for their own personal situations.

Staff Employees

The University remains open while campus access is limited.  Further information will be forthcoming about remote work procedures and access to campus. Should you come to campus for brief periods of time, expect to find buildings (except those referenced specifically as open) to be locked.  Please check email and the EMU website before coming to campus, and please notify DPS of your presence on campus.
Employees should contact their human resources representative at University or Academic Human Resources to discuss any additional accessibility needs or concerns beginning Monday. 

Events and Services

Governor Whitmer today announced recommendations to cancel large events or gatherings of people. Following that recommendation, most EMU sponsored and outside events are cancelled March 12 through March 31. Some will be rescheduled if possible.  This includes registered student organization meetings and Week of Excellence events.  We will make every effort to reschedule these meaningful and important activities once the health situation in Michigan settles. Athletic events scheduled during this time will follow NCAA and Mid-American Conference guidelines as announced.

Specifically, tomorrow’s (March 12) ribbon cutting for the new Campus Wellness Center is canceled, as are weekend events.
No new events will be scheduled on campus through March 31.
Additional information and details about campus operations including Halle Library, Rec IM and Student Center services and hours will follow over the next two days.


All University-related travel to international destinations is now suspended. This is an update from our previous announcement that we were only suspending travel to countries with Level 3 and 4 level advisories.
All non-essential University travel to domestic locations is also suspended.
Any request for “essential” travel approval will be reviewed on a case-by-case basis by the Office of the Provost for approval.  Please review all currently approved future travel plans for compliance with this guidance and modify accordingly.  Supervisors should direct employees accordingly.  Any exception requests should be forwarded with an explanation for how the travel is essential to University business continuity or central job functions.   

We continue to strongly recommend and encourage caution about your personal travel choices, especially for international travel.  The public health situation worldwide is highly fluid as is government policy around travel restrictions.

AS OF TODAY, the Winter 2020 course and exam schedule after March 31 will resume as scheduled.  Summer Semester will also begin as currently scheduled.  However, the situation remains fluid and this guidance may change.  E-mail is the official means of EMU communication during this time period and employees are expected to regularly read emails or arrange an alternate means of obtaining information with their supervisor.  Additional details and updates will follow regularly as they are warranted.  Currently, there are no plans to change the Winter 2020 Commencement date or schedule.  This will be revisited should circumstances change.


More specific information will follow around other professional processes including evaluation, tenure and promotion, web-time entry, student employment and other issues.

Final Caution

Please make every effort to observe public health advice around social distancing, regular hand washing and self-monitoring, and other issues.  Should you, any member of your staff, or any students you interact with experience Coronavirus (COVID-19) symptoms (cough, fever greater than 100.4, shortness of breath), please contact your health professional immediately by phone for guidance and notify the Dean of Students as soon as possible thereafter.

Our most current, up to date information, and past campus updates are available at the Eastern Michigan University Health Services website.