COVID-19 Update to Campus: May 8, 2020

To the Eastern Michigan University community:

As we head into a weekend that feels way too much like winter, I want to take the opportunity to wrap up the week to share some positive highlights and other initiatives among our colleagues that you might find useful.

Yesterday, I outlined the fall semester planning process in my note to our campus community. I will not rehash that message today, but I do want to emphasize its importance. I encourage you to read the message if you haven’t already done so. As with all of my messages, it is posted on the Office of the President Communications page. I would like to thank those of you who have written me and shared your views and perspectives about the importance of a planning process in these uncertain times.

I choose not to see these as dark times. While they are difficult and uncertain times, and certainly tragic times for those who are directly affected by COVID-19, I remain hopeful. With the great support of the Eastern Michigan University community, we will get through this together. The guidance from public health experts, faculty leadership, the facility team and administrative professionals gives me confidence that we will identify the best path forward to support our students and employees.  

Recap: Giving Tuesday Now

The impact of the COVID-19 public health crisis has disrupted everyday life throughout Eastern Michigan University, but no population has been more adversely affected than our students. The Student Emergency Fund received 294 applications in March, compared to four in February. The John and Angie Sabo Swoop's Food Pantry Room has had over 730 visits since March 11, 2020, distributing 16,679 pounds of food. Our students continue to be in desperate need of assistance during this time of uncertainty. This past Tuesday, thousands of caring and compassionate individuals across the globe celebrated Giving Tuesday Now. 

Thanks to the generosity of our EMU community, in just 24 hours Swoop's Food Pantry received over $19,000, the Student Emergency Fund received more than $44,000, and WEMU raised $22,334. 

With the generous matching gift of $50,000 from GameAbove, all donations to the Student Emergency Fund will be matched 1:1. Our Giving Tuesday Now efforts were also supported by two generous gifts to both the Student Emergency Fund and Swoop's Food Pantry from DTE and an allocation of funds to both by the EMU Foundation Board of Trustees. These funds will make a positive and immediate impact on our students.

Thank you so much to those who made a gift to the Student Emergency Fund, WEMU, or Swoop’s Food Pantry in honor of Giving Tuesday Now. Your support will help create a safety net for students who are facing financial hardship and want to return to school in the fall.

Swoop’s Food Pantry

The John and Angie Sabo Swoop’s Food Pantry Room served 62 students this week and will be open next week on Tuesday (5/12) and Thursday (5/14), from noon – 3:30 p.m. Clients are requested to complete an Online Shopping Request Form before arriving. Items will be bagged by staff and brought out to clients when they arrive. Visitors to Swoop’s can enter through the main entrance on the north side of Pierce Hall near the elevator. Swoop’s requires any student who has not used the pantry this year to complete the Swoop's Food Pantry Intake Form.

If you wish to donate items – those most needed this week are milk, black beans, barbecue sauce, flour, sugar, hand soap and toothpaste.

Items can be dropped off Tuesdays and Thursdays from 10 a.m. – noon at 104 Pierce Hall. Swoop’s can pick up items from your porch for those in the Ann Arbor/Ypsilanti area. Send an email to to arrange a donation pickup.

Please maintain social/physical distancing guidance when picking up or delivering items to the Pantry.

Campus events canceled for June

With Governor Whitmer’s extension of the Stay Home, Stay Safe Executive Order through May 28, and the uncertainty surrounding any form of large gathering in the immediate future, the University has extended its moratorium on campus events through the month of June. A determination for the scheduling of events in July and August will be made in the weeks ahead, consistent with the recommendations of public health officials and government directives.

Eastern Michigan is operating remotely; we are not “closed”

I continue to hear from many people that some of our employees have messages on their office voicemails or in an automatic reply to emails that indicate the University is “closed.” I ask that anyone who has that sort of message to please change it to indicate we are operating remotely. It can be very confusing to our guests who try to reach us.

Where to get free WiFi

WiFi access has become a challenge for many in our community who counted on access in University buildings or residence halls. Campus Technology, an online publication, has posted a list of locations where students can get free WiFi access during COVID-19. Please click on the link to access the list.

As announced previously, Eastern Michigan has joined with other area universities to establish a network of on campus outdoor hotspots where people can access WiFi from inside their vehicles. An Eastern hotspot is located at the Convocation Center, Parking Lot B. The strongest signal can be found nearest the entrance of the Convocation Center. Hotspot access is available from 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. and users should remain in their vehicles when using the hotspot due to physical distancing guidance.

Complete details about how to access Eastern’s hotspot, as well as the location of hotspots at other participating universities, can be found on the Information Technology hotspot link.

Faculty highlight

One of my highlights each week is learning about our faculty members’ creative efforts to inspire our students. I learned of another such example this week.

Dr. Eric Acton is a professor of linguistics. He shared with us a class project about linguistic discrimination that his students accomplished this past semester, overcoming the challenges of working remotely in the face of the pandemic.

Professor Acton shared how at the beginning of the semester, his students in Linguistics 310 (African American Language) “planned to put together a workshop for other EMU students about the problems of linguistic discrimination (discrimination on the basis of one's language/dialect) and the value of linguistic diversity. Then came the COVID crisis, which meant no opportunity to host an in-person workshop.

“However, we instead pulled together and developed a rich asynchronous workshop. For what would've been a live slide-based presentation, students recorded themselves presenting their portion of the slides, which I then compiled into a single presentation with interactive questions. They also took footage from interviews they had conducted on campus earlier in the semester and created a very powerful video on language and diversity at EMU.”

To Professor Acton, I thank you for sharing this story. It is a great way to end the week – remembering, and celebrating, why we do what we do.

James Smith, Ph.D.

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