COVID-19 Update to Campus: June 15, 2020

To the Eastern Michigan University community:

I hope everyone had a safe weekend. Like many of you, I am concerned about how some people are reacting to the reopening of our economy. In my limited travels over the weekend, while maintaining physical distancing and wearing a mask in public settings of course, I observed a number of people conducting themselves as if it is business as usual. The COVID-19 pandemic is very much still with us, as evidenced by the dramatic increases in cases in many other states. I hope everyone will continue to follow the necessary and ongoing safety guidelines issued by county, state and national public health professionals.

At the same time, individuals and communities around the nation continue to protest our nation’s systemic and institutionalized racism and the deadly actions that claim the lives of Black individuals. Yesterday’s new video released by the attorney for the family of George Floyd provides further documentation of the horrific killing of Mr. Floyd and the inaction by other police officers on the scene as witnesses plead with them to check his pulse.

Sadly, the violence targeting Black individuals did not end with George Floyd. The weekend killing of Rayshard Brooks by police in Atlanta is the latest such incident demanding justice. And, while not deadly, the actions of a white San Francisco skincare CEO and her husband captured in a now viral video confronting a man writing Black Lives Matters on his own property, point to the racism prevalent in our society and the common transgressions against BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and People of Color).

Black Lives Matter! As an institution of learning, we must commit to more listening, learning, teaching and the promotion of greater awareness and understanding surrounding racism and demands for accountability, change, activism and social justice. This is a major focus of many of our faculty colleagues across the University and I commend them for their actions and planning to further this dialogue in the months ahead.

Last week, the Faculty Senate issued a statement condemning acts of hatred, bigotry and discrimination. The Faculty Senate statement, and others issued by the University, can be found on the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion website.

There are several other important items to cover today.

Virtual Town Hall Meetings

The uncertainty due to COVID-19 and its impact on the University and our fall planning process is creating a considerable number of questions among many on campus. We continue to focus on sharing information broadly and as frequently as possible. To that end, next Tuesday, June 23, we will hold two virtual town hall meetings via Zoom for University employees.

From 8:30-10 a.m., a virtual town hall meeting will be held for University faculty and instructors. Visit

From 1-2:30 p.m., a virtual town hall meeting will be held for all other University employees. Visit

Presentations will focus on two areas:

1)     Plans for the fall semester, which will include a report by the Public Health Work Group; and,

2)     The University budget situation and outlook.

Opportunities for questions and answers will be an important element of the sessions.

Due to the information to be provided in the virtual town hall meetings, next Monday’s administrative leadership meeting is canceled.

This weekend’s virtual town hall meeting: Empowering Communities in Responding to the Challenges of COVID-19

I had the opportunity to participate and provide opening remarks for Saturday’s virtual town hall meeting, “Empowering Communities in Responding to the Challenges of COVID-19.” The town hall was co-hosted by EMU’s Center for Health Disparities, Innovations and Studies (CHDIS). Great dialogue and discussion took place among the 140 attendees. Please join me in acknowledging the fine work organizing the event by Dr. Tsu-Yin Wu, professor of nursing, Dr. Meriam Caboral-Stevens, associate professor nursing, and Dr. John Sonnega, assistant professor of HPHP in organizing this event. CHDIS is planning more sessions in the future covering a broader array of matters.

Visa processing for international students

Visa processing is the number one discussion topic in our international student advising community. The U.S. Department of State has suspended visa processing globally. Our understanding is that there are limited visa appointments available and those appointments are for emergency and essential reasons. Our recommendation for international students is to continue to check their local embassy and consulate for any updates. It is our understanding that some students might obtain visas late in the process -- mid-to-late August -- and will need to make flight arrangements on short notice. Other students who are unable to get visas due to Consulate closure and lack of flights or imposition of travel restrictions might have to defer their classes to the winter semester. 

For students unable to enter the country for fall classes, virtual/online classes may be a possibility. International students can contact Joe Vainner or Dr. Eva Ye at the International Admissions Office by phone at 734.215.0205 or email at

Students should continue to be flexible in their planning. Those students who have received their I-20 forms should continue to check the U.S. Department of State website for the local embassy and consulate operation:  

For travel information, they can check the CDC's webpage: 

For a comprehensive list of travel restrictions around the world:  


Swoop’s Food Pantry update

This week, Swoop’s will be open on Tuesday (6/16) from 12:30 – 5:30 p.m. and Thursday (6/18), 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 toilet paper, dish soap, hand soap, pasta sauce and rice side dishes.

Items can be dropped off Tuesdays and Thursdays from 10 a.m. – noon at 104 Pierce Hall. Swoop’s can also 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 physical distancing guidance when picking up or delivering items to the Pantry.

Looking ahead

I am very much looking forward to sharing with employees the fine work of the Public Health Work Group in the virtual town hall meetings a week from tomorrow. Attendees will get a good sense of the group’s level of expertise and the great efforts undertaken to research guidelines and best practices as part of the fall planning process. I look forward to seeing many of you then. 

Have a great week.

James Smith, Ph.D.

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