COVID-19 Update to Campus: March 24, 2020

To the Eastern Michigan University community:

The light of dawn this morning brought with it the new day, but also a new way of conducting our personal and professional lives. Governor Whitmer’s “Stay Home, Stay Safe” Executive Order went into effect this morning, further restricting our day-to-day routines as we all adjust to this unprecedented crisis. The Governor’s actions, and those occurring in other states and at the federal level, are deeply needed and necessary as we fight the global pandemic of COVID-19.

As announced yesterday, the University implemented several additional actions following the Governor’s Executive Order. Those actions are in alignment with and extend the steps the University already has in place to reduce the on campus work force.

At this time, employees working on campus include only those designated by their supervisors in the following areas: 1) those engaged in the safety and well-being of our community; 2) those involved in the maintenance of facilities and business operations; 3) employees in housing who are supporting the remaining students who live on campus; 4) support services personnel who facilitate online/virtual/distance learning technologies; and, 5) those working at WEMU 89.1 for their role in providing critical information to the public.

In each of these cases, it is expected that public health guidance for social distancing and hand washing/hygiene is followed. We also ask that any of the above designated employees or students who still live on campus who feel ill or symptomatic of COVID-19, stay home, self-monitor and contact their medical provider as necessary.   

We have several updates to share with you today.

Extension of Temporary COVID-19 Related Leave Allowance for eligible employees

The University is extending the time frame in which its Temporary COVID-19 Related Leave is available. Full-time, benefits-eligible employees are eligible for up to 80 hours of additional paid time off pursuant to this leave through Monday, April 13, 2020.

This additional time must be used in the case of quarantine, isolation or family care needs related to COVID-19 exposure or illness, or other related scenarios, including a temporary lack of work assignments. This is a one-time allowance of paid time off to be utilized during this current pandemic. If the leave allowance is exhausted before April 13, sick leave and/or other leave may be used. This COVID-19 leave allowance is subject to prior approval by your supervisor.

Employees with questions may contact the University Human Resources Benefits Office at [email protected]. Please continue to monitor EMU’s COVID-19 website for updates. 

Residence halls/housing move-out questions

We have received many questions from students who have left their resident hall room or apartment, but did not formally checkout and still have items remaining in their room or apartment. We also have been asked if coming to campus would violate the Governor’s “Stay Home, Stay Safe” executive order. 

First, yesterday’s Executive Order by the Governor does not prohibit travel for such purposes. Section 7 of the Governor's executive order states as follows:

Section 7(b): Individuals may also travel:
(1) To return to a home or place of residence from outside this state.
(2) To leave this state for a home or residence elsewhere.
(3) To travel between two residences in this state.

Students moving their belongings from campus to their permanent residence fall within these exceptions.

Further, to be eligible for the housing and/or dining credit previously announced, all personal items must be removed and formal checkout and key return completed no later than March 31 at 5 p.m. The University cannot store personal belongs or furniture.

In addition, the University must undertake a deep cleaning of all residence hall rooms and apartments, and cannot begin that process until a room has been officially vacated for 14 days, in the interest of the safety of our employees who clean the rooms, following public health guidance.  

Update on student grade and withdrawal options

We received several questions from students about the announcement from the Provost’s office yesterday about extended deadlines for student grade and class withdrawal options. As indicated yesterday, these include:

  • Extending the deadline until the end of the semester for students to request the Pass/No Pass grading option;
  • Extending the deadline until the end of the semester for students to request certain types of withdrawals from courses;
  • Waiving degree requirements related to the cancellation of one-credit-hour in person PEGN courses since the decision to suspend in person operations; and, 
  • Implementing alternative means of completing LBC requirements for graduation.

Students will receive details on how to extend the deadlines and waivers noted above in a separate email from the Provost’s Office that will be sent within the hour.    

Student government elections postponed until September 2020

As a result of the unprecedented disruption to campus life that affects every student, the University has postponed until September 2020 the Student Government election that was scheduled to occur tomorrow, March 25, and Thursday, March 26. The exact date of the September election will be determined and announced in the near future.

To ensure that students retain representation, the current Student Government – which was scheduled to remain in place until late-April – will continue in their roles until the transition to a new Student Government this fall. All candidates who submitted a valid petition to run in the March election will automatically appear on the September election ballot unless they request to have their name removed. As with all matters related to this rapidly evolving global crisis, we will continue to update students about the election process.

Moving forward

This morning I participated in an in-depth interview on WEMU 89.1 conducted via phone by Morning Edition host David Fair. The extensive discussion included recent actions taken by the University to ensure the health and safety of our campus community, and the transition to distance/online learning and remote operations for a majority of our employees. The interview addresses many of the ongoing questions that have been raised by our students, faculty and staff – you may find it helpful in answering questions you have.

In addition, today we posted a new Frequently Asked Questions resource to the University’s COVID-19 website. It features a drop-down format with individual sections for questions pertaining to specific areas of our University community: University Operations; Students; Instructors; Staff; Parents and Family; Community Members; Prospective Students; Travel; and, COVID-19 Information. We hope you will find this to be helpful resource in addressing questions you may have.

Despite these times of trial and challenge, the Eastern Michigan University community continues to do wonderful things to support our fellow citizens. We have continued to highlight the work of Swoop’s Food Pantry. Some other recent initiatives include:

  • Eastern’s nursing program developed a plan for nursing students, faculty, and/or alumni to assist IHA at their nearby drive-thru COVID-19 testing sites. A total of 245 people have volunteered to participate in this effort.
  • EMU Police committed to assisting in the delivery of Meals on Wheels in the community, with more than 20 officers volunteering for deliveries next week.
  • And, as mentioned in previous messages, our community continues to donate medical supplies to be delivered to local hospitals.

There are undoubtedly many more examples of these kinds of efforts happening throughout the University community. Please share them with us. It is important at these times of challenge that we continue to embrace and support the positive actions around us -- they reflect the very best of the human spirit.

Please continue to heed social distancing guidance, as well as hand washing and other prevention measures, and follow your University email and our COVID-19 website for additional updates, as well as resources to keep you safe.

James Smith, Ph.D.

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