COVID-19 Update to Campus: June 1, 2020

To the Eastern Michigan University community:

Today Governor Whitmer announced a major update in Michigan’s fight against COVID-19. The stay-at-home order that was announced on March 23, 2020 was largely rescinded allowing retailers and restaurants to reopen effective June 8. In the new executive order, the Governor stated “While Michiganders are no longer required to stay home, we must all continue to be smart and practice safe social distancing.”

The University administration is assessing the new order and its impact on our operations going forward. For the immediate term, we will continue to operate in the same safe manner in which we have been functioning, with remote working to continue; Summer B classes will proceed as initially announced (see below). The Governor’s new order states the following: “Any work that is capable of being performed remotely (i.e., without the worker leaving his or her home or place of residence) must be performed remotely 

There is other major news affecting our community and nation. We must continue to call attention to the most pressing issue facing America today – and it is an issue that has afflicted this nation for far too long – the hatred and racial violence that led to the brutal death of George Floyd. On Friday, along with Provost Longworth and Steven Bryant, Director of Diversity and Community Involvement, I addressed the death of Mr. Floyd and the recent racial incidents against Black men and women that have plagued our communities (read Friday’s campus message). Over the weekend citizens across the nation protested racial violence and discrimination. I continue to stand firm in my resolve that racism and discrimination have no place in our communities. Public universities like ours simply must be agents for social justice and change. Please join me in championing these values at Eastern Michigan University.

Course delivery for remainder of summer

Our primary mode of delivering instruction will continue to be online/remote through the remainder of the summer. The Provost's Office will provide exceptions for a very limited number of late start (Summer B), in-person instructional experiences in areas where remote operation makes effective instructional delivery and outcomes difficult to achieve. These decisions to allow in-person instruction on campus will be made on a case-by-case basis and delivery will be subject to any and all government and University health regulations.

Details about summer registration, the EMU Summer CARES Grant, and program/class options can be found on the summer enrollment website.

Fall semester planning process

The University continues to move forward in the planning process for fall semester as outlined in my May 21 campus message: Update: Fall Semester Planning Process – May 21, 2020. These are our overall principles governing fall decision-making:

  • Our number one priority is the health, safety and well being of our students, faculty and staff. This will be the guiding principle in every action we take.
  • We are committed to providing students with the outstanding education they deserve, excellent service to our community, and a safe working environment for our employees.
  • Many questions remain unanswered about the epidemiology and future pattern of the COVID-19 virus. Therefore, our planning process will not make specific predictions about a single course of action. Instead, we will model different scenarios with varying timelines and contingencies.
  • This planning process should be expeditious but cannot be rushed; our goal is to make the best decisions, not necessarily the fastest decisions.
  • As with everything we do at Eastern, we must ensure that our actions are consistent with inclusive excellence – namely, the goals of diversity, equity, and inclusion.


The University’s Public Health Work Group and the Steering Committee, helping to manage these processes, have started meeting and will continue to meet regularly for the foreseeable future. A Remote Work Group is also being established. As outlined in the May 21 campus message, Wade Tornquist, Interim Associate Provost for Research and Graduate Education, has drafted a process for re-opening research laboratories, as permitted in the Governor’s recent Executive Order. This process will be submitted to the Faculty Senate for review at its June meeting.

Work Share for non-instructional bargained-for employees

On Friday, May 29, the University submitted Work Share applications for bargained-for staff to the Michigan Unemployment Insurance Agency. This includes employees from the FM, CS and PT unions who will work a reduced schedule effective Sunday, May 31 through August 1. The University’s intent in this process is to minimize the financial impact on our employees. Depending on individual base salaries, participation in Work Share could more than compensate employees for the decrease in their base salaries. This is similar to the application filed for the University’s non-bargained-for staff that started on May 18.  An FAQ about the Work Share program can be found on the Policies & Procedures page of the Human Resources website.

These other budget actions were announced previously:

  • Non-bargained-for staff will not receive a salary increase in FY21.
  • A salary reduction of 7 percent for me and members of the executive leadership team, who will continue working full-time. This reduction also applies to the head coaches in football and men’s and women’s basketball.
  • University travel is frozen until further notice.
  • Capital projects are being suspended or delayed, other than those prioritized.


Swoop’s Food Pantry schedule update

Based on a recent survey of shoppers, the John and Angie Sabo Swoop’s Food Pantry is modifying its hours to accommodate shoppers with work schedules that end later in the afternoon. This week, Swoop’s will be open on Tuesday (6/2) from 12:30 – 5:30 p.m. and on Thursday (6/4), 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 are pasta sauce, sugar, flour, toilet paper, barbecue sauce and black beans.

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.

Student-athletes achieve record GPA; football student-athletes attain record APR

Eastern’s more than 430 student-athletes earned their highest semester GPA with a 3.516 winter semester GPA. That surpasses the previous best of 3.238 set in the fall of 2016. Overall, 86 percent of the student-athletes earned a 3.0 GPA or higher. It marked the 21st semester in-a-row EMU posted an average GPA above 3.0.

Meanwhile, the NCAA released its annual Academic Progress Rate (APR) figures for the four-year period from 2015-16 to 2018-19 earlier this month and the Eastern Michigan University football program set a new multi-year school record of 976. That is second highest among football programs in the Mid-American Conference and tops the previous EMU record set last year at 970. The team also posted the highest single-year rate in program-history with a 987 to better the previous record of 982 set in 2016-17.

Ongoing community support

As I’ve stated in several of these messages and on many occasions, I am extraordinarily proud of the community support provided by our faculty, staff and alumni during this crisis. A reflection of that fine work was published in Friday’s MLive: Ypsilanti residents can apply for COVID-19 assistance ‘care packages’. The story discusses how Ypsilanti residents can receive a cloth face mask, hand sanitizer and more as part of a COVID-19 assistance care package program that launched earlier this week. Engage@EMU is a significant part of the effort.

To see the full scope of Eastern’s community efforts, please visit this news release with a complete roundup of our activities.

As a final note, I have included a link to a video I recently completed that was distributed last week to University alumni. The video celebrates the many great efforts of those on our campus and among alumni to support our communities in the wake of COVID-19.

To our colleagues and partners across the University, thank you for your support and contributions to these important community initiatives, as well as your efforts to assist in planning for the summer and fall academic semesters. With the great degree of uncertainty ahead, our future success will require that we continue to work together constructively and with greater collaboration than ever before.

James Smith, Ph.D.

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