Provost's Update - March 23, 2020

Effective Operations

Institutional Priority #4

Institutional Effectiveness

Provost's Email to the Division of Academic and Student Affairs, March 23, 2020

I hope everyone is settling into some semblance of a routine that works for you in the middle of this quickly evolving situation. We are working hard to keep you as informed as we possibly can about how the University is responding to the COVID-19 emergency and to provide resources and support wherever possible to make the transitions we are all making as smooth and successful as we possible.

As indicated when we announced the initial decision to transition to an online/virtual class schedule, there have been bumps in the road. Over the past few days we issued a student survey that needed a more thorough review before posting. There has been changing guidance around the safe use of computer rooms, research labs, and studios, software implementation challenges. But as has been the case throughout this emergency challenges have been met with constructive, direct communication, hard work, flexibility and an abiding focus on supporting students and each other in the best ways possible. I am so very proud to be a part of the EMU community. Thanks to each and every one of you for all you’ve done to help us all get through this emergency.

Today I wanted to share a few pieces of information focused primarily around issues and details specific to Academic and Student Affairs. The Provost’s Office continues to collect a listing of COVID-19 updates from professional organizations, links to instructional and support resources, and current information here. These items focus more on references to support Academic or Student Affairs implementation issues. The University’s update page should be consulted for the most current EMU information.

As referenced in the President’s messages to the campus community last week, the University made the difficult decision to extend online/virtual class program delivery through the end of the winter semester, April 27. We also must now begin to plan for the contingency that we will not be back to regular in person operations until early May. As a result, I have delayed the start of Summer Registration until Monday, March 30 in order to allow for a review of the Summer A course schedule and to allow for the potential revision of offerings currently scheduled to alternate summer terms, online or hybrid format. The Registrar and my office will push out calendar information tomorrow to support this review process. Please know that we will make every effort to return to in person delivery options as soon as is feasible and safe for public health but we must plan for the real possibility that this cannot happen by the current Summer A start date of May 4. If this situation has taught us all anything, it is the value of human interactions. I speak only for myself in saying that I have enjoyed learning new technology, even if on the fly, and have been surprised at what is possible online. I will also say that I deeply miss the quality interactions that happen when I’m in the same room with colleagues. Fall Registration will begin as previously announced tomorrow, March 23rd.

This does present a few challenges with regard to pre-requisite sequencing in a small number of cases. Toward that end, we will enter pre-requisite waivers upon request and support the follow up to check compliance with pre-requisite completion for summer centrally. Until Summer Registration opens, please send pre-requisite waivers that you cannot process in your departments for some reason to [email protected].

Employees, other than those designated by their supervisors, will continue to work remotely for the time being. A return date to regular on-campus operations for employees will be communicated at a later date, as this evolving situation warrants. If you have particularly challenging situations and/or you would like advice, please contact the appropriate Human Resources Office for support. We want to find ways for all to be successful in this temporary remote only environment.

The Provost’s Office will continue to send periodic updates around issues and details focused on Academic and Student Affairs in particular. I apologize if there is some overlap with President Smith’s notes to campus, but we want to assure people receive information as quickly as possible so it is useful. For your reference, we will post all prior Provost email updates to our Provost's Wednesday Briefing webpage. There is also an FAQ list at the University’s COVID Resource Page.

Today’s email update includes information about:

  • Gratitude/Thank You
  • Housing
  • More Summer/Fall Registration
  • Graduation/Commencement
  • Clinicals/Labs/Research Labs/Instructional Studios
  • University Library
  • Academic Support Services for Students


I want to extend my thanks to the many Nursing Faculty members, NPs, PAs, student nurses, and other EMU colleagues who have volunteered to assist our local health systems as they face the daunting challenge of dealing with the COVID-19 emergency. Over the past few days, nearly 200 of our EMU community members have volunteered to assist with testing, gathering needed supplies and supporting area hospitals in so many ways. Their work is just beginning and we’ll give you updates. This effort is #TRUEMU and I am grateful to have such wonderful colleagues and friends across campus.

You each received early yesterday a request for supplies we are gathering to donate in support of those hospitals as well. There are simply not enough supplies currently in stock where they are needed and the hospitals need our assistance. In making the very difficult decision to end their student clinical experiences altogether, our faculty colleagues dug deep and found a constructive outlet for their disappointment. I am touched by their generosity and inspired by their determination to pitch in and fight against this epidemic however we can. Please take a moment to thank a nurse, thank any health care provider you know, thank a volunteer, and let’s all help out however we are able.


As has been shared in past messages from President Smith, we are in the process of moving the majority of our residential students out of the residence halls and campus apartments. A few students will remain because their EMU apartment or unit is their permanent home, they are international students who cannot currently return to their home country or some other similar need. Please be mindful of how stressful this disruption may be to students you teach or offer support services to over the coming weeks. EMU would not have made this decision if we thought there was any other option that would have been able to adequately protect students and the general public health from COVID 19. Students must schedule move out times so that numbers are spread throughout the days until the final move out date of March 31, 2020. Housing and dining staff have dealt with more changes in policy than we can all truly appreciate over the past two weeks and they have done so with calm determination and creativity. Please join me in thanking them for their professionalism, compassion and hard work on behalf of our students! Great work!!


For the time being, Fast Track incoming student registration for new and transfer students has transitioned to alternative formats including online, virtual group interaction settings, phone consultations, and so on. President Smith’s messages have shared information about how UACDC and other Advising offices will be operating in the coming weeks. If you have not done so already, I’d ask each campus office to post on their website information about how students may obtain advising or other information they may need in support of their Fall and Summer Registration. Academic colleges, departments and schools should consider reaching out to students even more proactively than usual as students may be confused or daunted by all of the transitions that have taken place so quickly over the past few weeks. Communication is an important tool to engage and support the persistence of students towards their degree. I know it is a lot to ask in the face of everything else taking place right now, but consider how we might best help students and ourselves support some of our normal routines and practices along the way.

University Advising will undertake additional outreach to students as well. Consider alternative means of advising such as posting materials to your college or department website, phone-in or video conferencing, or using the Google Suite of tools.


President Smith announced last week that the April Commencement Ceremony has been postponed. Current CDC and State of Michigan guidance is that we will not be able to schedule large gatherings of that size before at least mid-May. Once we are cleared to schedule larger events, we will proceed in evaluating the available options. Please reassure any graduating students that they will be provided the opportunity to walk in a commencement ceremony at a future point in time should they wish to do so. Please also emphasize that they will graduate on time. If you are aware of any student with particular issues related to timely graduation caused by the COVID-19 emergency please have them contact [email protected] and we will work to assist them in resolving those challenges. I address some common issues below with some academic policy waivers that have been discussed with Faculty Senate and are effective for Winter semester 2020.


Under separate cover, all academic personnel will receive a formal memo from me announcing a series of temporary waivers (Winter 2020 semester only) to academic policies around grading, withdrawal and graduation requirements. Waivers detailed in the memo include:

  • Extension of the deadline for students to request the P/NP grading option
  • Extension of the deadline for students to request certain types of Withdrawals from courses.
  • Waiver of degree requirements related to the cancellation of 1 credit hour in person PEGN courses since the decision to suspend in person operations.
  • Alternative means of completing LBC requirements for graduation.

The information will also be posted to the Records and Registration web site in the coming days.


Classroom Labs, Instructional Studios, and similar hands-on instructional activities:

I want to reinforce that all of the measures we are currently taking are designed to address an ongoing public health emergency. We must be guided first and foremost by the need to slow the spread of COVID-19 but the impact of those decision is wider in some areas. For classroom labs, studios, and similar instructional activities, instructors should work with their department head or school director and dean as needed to determine how course content will be modified and research and creative continuity preserved. There are no open instructional laboratories or classrooms on campus at this time. We will review that action regularly but for now no instructional plans should depend on student access to in person laboratories on campus.

We suggest instructors consider whether content might be:

  • Delivered to the students via alternative methods (online, remote learning, etc.);
  • Modified to complete via watching a faculty member demonstrate by short video;
  • Modified to allow students to analyze the data the experiment would have generated;
  • Waived, or adapted in some other manner;

Please contact colleagues at other universities and your professional organizations/accrediting bodies for advice and guidance in how this might be accomplished if you cannot easily see a way to modify instructional content. And in the end, if the content cannot be modified in any way that is appropriate for the learning objectives for the course, please work with your Dean’s Office, EMU Registrar Chris Shell and Associate Provost, Academic Programming and Support Service, Michael Tew, to seek other credit or grading modifications that can best resolve the educational challenge for students and the academic program.

Clinicals, Practicums, Field Placements, and other similar instructional activities:

These external activities may continue as scheduled (in conjunction with placement sites) if it is determined to be appropriate but these situations are now very rare in light of the highly limited social interactions permitted under current state declarations. The instructor of record or the placement director for these activities should be the first contact for students dealing with closures, suspension of clinicals/practicums, and other changes to their appointments. The instructor of record should also make the Department Head or School Director, and the Dean’s Office aware of any changes and seek modifications of the experience as needed. The situation is highly fluid so please continue to monitor and communicate changes and concerns. We urge you to have a plan should there be a need to end these altogether in the coming days, if you have not done so already. Student/Instructor health and safety is our number one priority and it is now highly unlikely that it is appropriate for these types of activities to be underway. Social interactions should be kept at a minimum, with health and hygiene protocols in place for any activity that does take place. If you need advice about what those types of protocols might be, please contact Ellen Gold, Dean of Students via email to discuss.

Research Labs, Professional Studios and Creative Activities:

I have directed Deans to work with each impacted area to develop a plan to move to highly scaled down, continuity and preservation operations only. For now this is a plan but it is likely that we will need to make this move in the coming days so plans should be made promptly. Already, no students may be required to be on campus.

Peer universities are requesting that instructors consider the minimum activity needed to preserve the research or creative activity. Instructors should make their Department Head or School Director, and the Dean’s Office aware of particular cases that require special solutions. Specific guidance around research laboratories will come early in the week from Interim Associate Vice President Wade Tornquist and College Deans.

For grants that are ending, most granting agencies allow no-cost extensions. The federal emergency declaration will support the need for these extensions as well. The major funding agencies now have “FAQ” pages for common questions in these unique circumstances. EMU’s ORDA office can also be contacted via email to help with questions. Again, continuity is important but the current health emergency dictates a need for minimal social interaction.

Other Gatherings on Campus:

  • If you plan to visit campus to retrieve items or work for any length of time, notify DPS
  • Swipe-access is required to enter all buildings.
  • If an activity can be delayed, it should be delayed.
  • First and foremost, student presence cannot be mandated.
  • Faculty should not be holding meetings in-person at this time on campus – please meet remotely. If small groups must work together in person, please work with your supervisor, department head or school director, unit leader around an agreed upon set of protocols and practices. Exceptions should be very minimal but may be requested via Deans to the Provost.


All in person services delivered in the Halle Library building are now suspended. This decision was detailed in President Smith’s message to campus Friday. Although the library building is closed because of the Governor’s executive order, the library faculty and staff are committed to providing research support.

Research support is available online in a variety of ways.

  • 24/7 chat reference through the Ask a Librarian service (EMU Librarians are now staffing most hours normally covered in person via this chat service)
  • E-mail or phone by filling out this online form
  • Virtual appointments via phone or Google Meet with subject specialists

Much of the library's collection is available electronically via Esearch and the library's other databases. This includes many ebooks assigned in courses. Faculty and students who need to access specific material that is not available electronically should contact their subject specialist to help identify alternatives.

The library has a number of resources available for faculty for online learning (via Canvas or another option.) If in Canvas, there is a "Library Guides" link at the bottom of the LH navigation column that will take you directly to an appropriate research guide. Additionally, the library offers a number of tutorials and instructional videos that you can point students to.

Please keep library materials until the library reopens, including EMU, MelCat, and Interlibrary Loan items. Due dates will be automatically extended and fines will be waived.

Please see the Library Services for Online Learners and Library Services Updates pages for additional information.