Provost's Update - June 3, 2020

Effective Operations

Institutional Priority #4

Institutional Effectiveness

Dear Colleagues,

I am profoundly sad and angry over the series of brutal racial incidents that have unfolded nationally in recent weeks. We are called in times like these to be allies, supporters and defenders of Black students, faculty, staff and citizens who face ongoing discrimination individually, systemically and institutionally. Eastern Michigan University’s mission as a public institution of higher education and learning is grounded in values of inclusion, excellence and respect for all individuals. Injustice, inequity and discrimination are not welcome on our campus. Black Lives Matter here.

To say that means we also must acknowledge that we haven’t done enough to fully embody those commitments and values across all we do. We must seek additional and innovative ways to welcome and include people from differing backgrounds, experiences and viewpoints to this community. And, we must expand and enhance ways we educate about patterns of racism and other forms of discrimination in our society and act to address them. In our division, we will start with the work of our President’s Commission, our Faculty Senate’s Task Force on Campus Climate, Race and Diversity, the ongoing efforts of staff in the Center of Race and Ethnicity and throughout the Office of Diversity and Inclusion along with our college and departmental efforts, as well as our outstanding faculty and staff experts across campus. Much capacity exists for us to draw on, much has been done- we simply have more to do.

We must continue our efforts to be a community that embraces difference, supports everyone and helps all to thrive. Inclusive communities examine themselves and their practices with intention. We must take this moment to ask ourselves important questions about everything we do and every process we have in place. Are we structured in a way that promotes inclusive excellence? Do we recruit, admit, educate and assess students in ways that respect and value a range of experiences, competencies and talents? Are we staffed in a way that demonstrates our goals? Do we recruit and hire employees through processes and criteria that expand what it means to be “qualified” and “best”? Are we leaders and advocates around instructional practices and methodologies that speak to people from the full spectrum of experience? Do we tenure and promote in ways that advance inclusion - respecting and “counting” a wider range of research methodologies, conference and performance venues, journals, and more? Are we surveying and measuring our conditions and progress in ways that can support and advance accountability? There are so many areas where we can re-energize, act and lead from all parts of the institution. Let’s take on these tasks with the passion, energy and focus they deserve in the coming days, weeks and months.

Today’s update includes information and updates about the following topics:

  • Planning and Budget Updates
  • Eastern Lecturer Receives Accounting Teaching Excellence Award
  • Resources for Online Teaching
  • The Provost’s Office Website and Support Services
  • Working Remotely and Staying Secure
  • Consider a Gift - Student Emergency Fund or Swoop’s Food Pantry
  • Final comments

Planning and Budget Updates

President Smith has recently provided University planning and budget updates in a series of campus-wide messages. All of our COVID related communications, including those messages, are viewable here. We have much work to do in the coming months to prepare for a significantly changed academic year. Our first steps are to plan around protocols and practices for re-opening that are consistent with Governor Whitmer’s executive orders, any federal and state government guidelines about health and safety practices and other professional guidance available. This includes (but isn’t limited to) discussions of health and symptom monitoring, contract tracking processes, cleaning and hygiene protocols, PPE, space assessments, layout designs, traffic pattern analysis, inclusive design and accommodations.

Work is well underway but like much of the COVID-19 pandemic experience, we are in relatively uncharted territory and guidance shifts frequently. I’d ask that we all be patient with each other and allow recommendations to be presented for discussion and review in the coming weeks. I do understand and appreciate the need to move forward and gain certainty around plans for fall. But that must be balanced against the careful consideration of changing governmental guidance, emerging information about the spread of the virus, any potential mitigation strategies and the need to keep a community of nearly 20,000 people as safe and secure as possible.

As of today, no final decisions have been reached about instructional mix or classroom/space practices on campus at the time of re-opening. Some in-person operations including some instruction will be possible but the dimensions are still to be determined. More stakeholders must be engaged before final decisions can be reached. Our available information continues to grow and as more certainty about local conditions and directives emerges units, departments, and colleges will develop specific proposals and gather input in forming those plans. We expect to return to in-person campus operations but they will be balanced with remote work, more online offerings and greatly modified practices that we will need to work through together as a community.

The Michigan Association of State Universities (MASU) will soon issue guidance we will draw on and many other states and professional associations are issuing process documents as they gather expertise and information as well. If you are interested in reading such guidance, I would suggest beginning with resources listed at LibGuides, a tool provided by the Association of College and Research Libraries (a division of ALA), or review planning guidance at peer regional institutions (e.g. CMU, WMU, Ferris, GVSU, Oakland University, etc) in Michigan or documents developed by professional organizations such as the ACHA Considerations for Reopening IHEs in the COVID-19 Era, or governmental sources including the U.S. Centers for Disease Control Information for Institutions of Higher Education.

We have much work left to do in finalizing our plans. Much is underway specifically in the areas of mapping classrooms to ascertain what can be done in person and what we will need to do remotely, establishing traffic patterns, workplace and instructional accommodations that will need to be in place, housing and dining options and more. Please take the open opportunities that will be available to provide feedback, offer ideas and suggestions, and ask questions.

Two particularly time sensitive planning tasks are a process to re-open faculty research and creative spaces and a plan for residence hall assignments for fall that may be shared with incoming students.

  1. With regard to lab and studio spaces, summer is a prime time for faculty work in these areas and we are anxious to put in place a process to re-open these spaces under very closely specified conditions. I have asked Wade Tornquist, Interim Associate Vice President for Graduate Studies and Research, to lead a group in putting together a draft that is consistent with a recent process established by Governor Whitmer in Executive Order 2020-90 (COVID-19). The order lays out a series of required actions, procedures and plans that institutions must have in place in order to re-open spaces. Deans have been asked to consult with faculty members in their colleges who use these types of spaces for their feedback and the draft will be presented to Faculty Senate for feedback and input next week. Our hope is to issue and implement a compliant process by no later than June 15.
  2. We need to finalize a plan for Housing. We have capacity available to offer students the opportunity to request single accommodations should they desire that feature. Housing staff are hard at work developing protocols and processes that would allow us to open with this new approach to offering and assigning rooms, enhanced cleaning and distancing protocols, developing updated community standards for this new time of operations. We continue to consult with colleagues across Michigan and the country more broadly along with our campus experts in Public Health around the best ways to structure a plan to resume in person operations in this area. We will seek feedback and share updates as they are available.

COVID-19 planning unfortunately does not come without a need to examine sudden, deep and negative impacts to our institutional expenses and revenues in both the short and long term. Higher education budgets, particularly those at regional comprehensive and private institutions in the upper Midwest and Northeast have been under pressure for some time. COVID-19 has now increased those challenges tremendously. As President Smith noted in his messages, the ongoing challenges of population/demographic shifts for enrollment, declining funding commitments from state government, and limited funds provided to state and federal financial aid programs have all served to put long term pressure on our institutional budgets. We have become increasingly dependent on tuition as a source of revenue to fund our operations at a time when the pool of graduating seniors in our traditional geographic community continues to decline 1-2% each year for nearly another full decade. With less governmental financial aid support available, we must spend increasingly on institutional aid to attract and retain students. With considerable help, input, analysis and effort from all groups on campus, we had confronted those challenges to reach a stable budget plan for FY20 and FY21. The COVID-19 pandemic jeopardizes that hard won stability.

President Smith announced several immediate cost-saving actions in an effort to strategically address dramatic shortfalls. These include:

  • President Smith and the University’s senior leadership team (those individuals that report directly to the President) along with the University’s three highest paid athletic coaches have taken a 7 percent salary reduction. This action was effective on Friday, May 1st, and continues until further notice.
  • Senior leaders in the Division of Academic and Student Affairs Division (those senior administrative leaders who report directly to me) have taken a 5 percent salary reduction. That action was also effective May 1st and continues until further notice.
  • On Monday, May 18, most of the University’s employees not covered under a collective bargaining agreement began a reduced work schedule/three- or four-day work week under the State of Michigan’s Work Share program, with a corresponding reduction in pay of 40 or 20 percent. This will be in place through August 1, 2020, and will affect more than 200 administrators and staff in all areas of the University.
  • Effective June 1, most non-instructional University employees covered by a collective bargaining also joined the State of Michigan Work Share program referenced above. As a point of information, instructional staff were not asked to participate in the work share program because they are not appointed to work during the period (May-August) as a part of their regular contract/appointment year. Only those individuals assigned to conduct specific work assignments (teach course sections, conduct research studies, etc.) are appointed. They are compensated only for that specific work during those months.
  • All University travel is frozen until further notice.
  • Capital projects are being suspended or delayed, other than those prioritized.
  • Non-bargained-for staff will not receive a salary increase in FY21.

We are by no means finished with budget work. There is much planning yet to be done over the next few months and conditions may continue to evolve as state revenue estimates are reviewed and potentially revised. The Division of Academic and Student Affairs leadership team will be engaging all of our campus constituents - faculty, lecturers, administrators, and staff - in order to identify additional budget savings so that we position ourselves to continue offering the highest quality education for our students and community. We will reach out to you individually and collectively in the coming weeks to invite your participation in these important conversations. I look forward to hearing from all of you as we move through those processes.

Eastern Lecturer Receives Accounting Teaching Excellence Award

Please join us in congratulating Tony Kurek, Full-time Lecturer II, Accounting, on being named the recipient of the Michigan Association of Certified Public Accountants (MICPA) 2020 Accounting Teaching Excellence Award. In making this award, the MICPA award committee recognized Tony’s ability to, “instill the value of being a well-rounded and ‘all-in’ student in order to become a contributing member of the profession and its mission.” An impressive fact for EMU: this same award was bestowed upon Tony’s former professor and mentor, Dan Brickner back in 2010. Tony will accept his award at the MICPA Annual Awards Dinner on October 8.

Resources for Online Teaching

Throughout the last half of the winter term, we pushed out a good deal of information and many resources pertaining to online teaching and learning. You may not have had time then to fully review those materials in the midst of an emergency transition so as our thoughts turn to planning for the fall semester, a reminder that they are still available seems in good order. Among those resources, I call your attention to the Faculty Development Center (FDC), under the direction of Peggy Liggit. The FDC offers many online resources including remote teaching strategies, a library of examples, remote consultation, and a series of helpful online webinars to assist you in setting up and organizing your content.

The FDC will continue to support conversations around teaching and learning from more inclusive perspectives. I thank them for their willingness to support our institutional initiatives and needs so effectively and with so much passion.

Peggy Liggit is hosting Office Hours in the virtual Faculty Development Center from 9:00-10:00 am Monday-Friday. Bill Marino, online learning librarian, is the co-host of these sessions. Please consider stopping by to converse with them about questions, planning, etc. Through Google Meet, they can discuss your ideas, questions, and any concerns about your summer syllabus, how to teach and support students remotely and what other programming you may need to support learning. To access the Office Hours: Join Hangouts Meet

Additional resources for teaching remotely found on the FDC website:

The Center for E-Learning (CFE), directed by Bill Jones, supports instructors using the Canvas learning management system as a resource in their online, hybrid, and face-to-face courses. Our instructional designers provide training, consultation, and technical advice on deployment of Canvas tools and associated web applications for learning activities including discussion, assessment, lecture-capture, web conferencing, and textbook/multimedia integration. CFE online support is available for instructors, students, and staff.

The Halle Library at EMU also offers support for instruction and learning. These resources include information instructors and students might need to facilitate coursework, such as online books and journals, using the Ask A Librarian portal for 24/7 help, integrating instructional videos and tutorials into Canvas courses, connecting to Research Guides developed by library faculty, and arranging research consultations and online instruction with library faculty.

The Provost’s Office Website and Student Support Services

At our Provost’s Office website, we offer a comprehensive listing of resources for faculty, staff, students, and the campus community to help you in the new term. We will update the list regularly, here are some of the general highlights:

For Faculty:

General Information on COVID-19
Working Remotely
Teaching Online - Tips, Tricks, and Resources
Resources and Articles from External Resources

For Students:

General Education Office
Student Athlete Support Services
Campus Bookstore
Community Resources

More specifically, it’s especially important to familiarize yourself with these support services available to the campus community:

  • Dean of Students - The Dean of Students Office, under the direction of Ellen Gold, works with students, student families, faculty and staff to create a culture of care designed to enhance students’ academic and personal success, including issues of illness and attendance in class. Contact the Dean of Students Office by phone: 734.487.1107; fax: 734.481.0050; or via email [email protected].
  • University Advising and Career Development Center (UACDC) - The Eastern Michigan University Advising and Career Development Center (UACDC) is here to help students choose the right academic and career paths for your goals, talents and passions. From helping you choose and register for coursework to exploring available employment opportunities, there are many ways the UACDC can open doors for you.
  • College-specific advising questions should be submitted via email to the following addresses:
  • University Writing Center (UWC) - The UWC provides virtual writing support to students through synchronous appointments or asynchronous support via email.
  • Holman Success Center (HSC) - The HSC provides personalized student support services through various activities and initiatives including the Robert Holman Learning Center, tutoring, group study activities, and individualized coaching.
  • Office of the Ombuds - The role of the Ombuds is to ensure adherence to EMU policy, confirm due process as it relates to institutional protocol, assist with resolution and prevention of both academic and non-academic concerns, and to make appropriate data based recommendations to the Office of the Provost.
  • Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS) - Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS) is dedicated to addressing the mental health needs of Eastern Michigan University students. Our staff provides confidential counseling using a short-term model and limited psychiatry appointments for medication (insurance or payment is required; call to inquire).
  • Disability Resource Center (DRC) - The DRC works collaboratively with students, faculty and staff to create an accessible, sustainable, and inclusive educational environment for all students. The DRC acknowledges that classroom and campus accessibility needs and considerations are expanding as more classes and campus experiences incorporate online and technological components. The DRC staff is dedicated to providing access to students, faculty and staff with resources to educate and create an equitable campus experience for the EMU community.
  • Title IX Office - The Title IX office at EMU remains operational and functioning remotely at this time. Anyone impacted by sex/gender discrimination is encouraged to contact the Title IX office to make a report by emailing the Title IX Coordinator, Anika Awai-Williams at [email protected], or leaving a voice mail at the Title IX Office 734.487.2202 or making an online report.

Working Remotely and Staying Secure

Over the course of the last couple of months, many of us have become familiar with various video-conferencing platforms. With the support of EMU’s Division of Information Technology, we’ve introduced several time-saving and security features to ensure success with the use of the platforms in use at EMU. You can view more about these features at EMU IT’s Working Remotely website here, and IT recently added updates to their Zoom Video Conference Service website here.

In particular, please note IT’s recommendations on Securing Your Zoom Meetings.

For faculty who wish to establish virtual office hours, IT also suggests viewing this link to learn about using Zoom waiting rooms to facilitate virtual office hours:

Faculty and staff who handle sensitive data have a responsibility for the safe storage and sharing of this information. Please visit the Sensitive Data Guide to learn more.

Read more about Zoom’s FERPA compliance; HIPAA compliance, and privacy policies. Using the proprietary version EMU acquired provides more security and protective functions than the public licensed version.

Consider a Gift - Student Emergency Fund or Swoop’s Food Pantry

The COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted just about every aspect of our lives and unfortunately, our students have been severely impacted. You can be the safety net for #TRUEMU students trying to navigate this crisis. I hope you will consider making a gift to the Student Emergency Fund or Swoop's Food Pantry to have a direct and immediate impact on students' safety and well being. We have seen an unprecedented demand for the services offered through these two student support projects, and it’s certain that this demand will continue for some time as students navigate their way back to some s

Visit EMU's Foundation website to learn more about how YOU can make a difference in our students’ lives!

Final Comments

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. Our most current, up to date information, and past campus updates are available at the Eastern Michigan University Health Services COVID-19 website.

Previous Provost’s Updates and regularly-updated resources for faculty and students are available at the EMU Provost’s Website.

We encourage all of you to continue observing public health advice around social distancing. Should you, any member of your staff, or any students with whom you interact experience Coronavirus (COVID-19) symptoms (cough, fever greater than 100.4, shortness of breath), please contact a health professional immediately by phone for guidance and notify the Dean of Students as soon as possible thereafter.