COVID-19 Update to Campus: June 26, 2020

To the Eastern Michigan University community:

It has been a very active week as we continue to plan for the fall semester and adjust to the uncertainties surrounding the pandemic. I thank our faculty and staff for their tireless work, their ideas and expertise, and their commitment to helping us plan for a safe return to campus.

As we slowly transition some activities to occur in-person on campus, it is important to remember that employees heading to campus must complete and submit a Daily COVID-19 Screening Form that can be found on the University Human Resources website. Employees are not permitted to enter a campus building unless the form has been completed and submitted, in advance, to their supervisor.

Additionally, students, faculty and staff must follow health guidance while on campus:

  • Wear face coverings;
  • Wash hands frequently and use hand sanitizer; and,
  • Maintain a minimum of six-foot physical distance from one another.

Individuals who are approved to come to campus may wear their own face covering or face coverings are available at the Department of Public Safety on 1200 Oakwood Street. Face coverings also are available every day at the entrances to buildings where classes for Summer B are being held – the Science Complex/Strong Hall, Sherzer, Ford Hall and Sill. A single entry point to each building has been designated -- tables at each entrance are staffed for student check-in, with face coverings and hand sanitizer available. Students and instructors teaching courses in these buildings have received instructions regarding these issues.

Following these steps is necessary to help keep everyone on our campus as safe as possible.

Virtual town hall meetings

I am pleased with the participation in this week’s virtual town hall meetings for faculty and staff. Both sessions provided an excellent opportunity to share the work of the Public Health Work Group, under the leadership of CHHS Dean Murali Nair. I thank Dr. Michael Williams for leading us through the group’s preliminary recommendations.

The primary areas covered in the meeting were:

  • An overview of the planning effort related to the fall semester, in which I was joined by Provost and Executive Vice President of Academic and Student Affairs Rhonda Longworth;
  • Preliminary recommendations of the Public Health Work Group; and,
  • A budget update by Chief Financial Office Mike Valdes.

Recordings of both sessions are posted and available for viewing in their entirety on the University’s COVID-19 website. I encourage everyone to view one of the meetings to learn more about our planning efforts. A Questions and Answers document stemming from the meetings is being prepared and will be posted next week.

We were able to answer many questions posed during the meetings. We also readily acknowledge that we do not have all the answers – plans are still being put in place, led by various work groups and including many faculty and staff members who bring great expertise to the operational areas and questions that are being addressed. We continue to move forward cautiously but deliberately toward a comprehensive plan for the fall semester, with the health and safety of students, faculty and staff as the guiding principle.

Fall semester planning

Classes will begin as scheduled on Monday, August 31 – as noted in the Academic Calendar. We plan to follow the calendar as posted through the fall semester and do not plan to end the semester early unless necessitated by changing circumstances of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Courses for fall will be offered in-person, online and in hybrid (mix of online and in-person) modules, depending on instructional needs and classroom availability. An evaluation of individual courses and the most effective method of delivery of classes is currently being conducted by the colleges and departments, under the direction of Provost Longworth.

We will continue to closely monitor federal, state and local health guidance and will be prepared to adjust our plans if necessary.

Winter semester

While January, the beginning of the winter semester, may seem like a long way away, we will continue to assess our best path forward based on campus safety, student needs, pedagogy and government guidance. In the months ahead, we will evaluate whether any adjustments to the winter semester calendar are necessary.

University guidebook

With the town hall meetings, regular email updates, and the ongoing planning work and discussions taking place in the various committees and subcommittees, a great deal of information is circulating. It can be difficult to find or recall specific information that has been shared. For that reason, it’s important for us to have a one-stop location for accurate and detailed information about the planning process and what the fall semester will look like for employees and students. To address this, the University will publish a detailed guidebook. This is planned for mid-July, once the Public Health Work Group’s recommendations are finalized. This will be a useful planning resource for everyone on campus.

Celebrating faculty expertise

As you know, I like to end our weekly updates by highlighting student, faculty or staff excellence. This week, I am proud to share the work of Dr. Judy Foster Davis, professor of Marketing and Integrated Marketing Communications in the College of Business.

Professor Davis’s research focuses on marketing communications strategies and policies in corporate and entrepreneurial settings and historical and multicultural marketing topics. Her book, Pioneering African-American Women in the Advertising Business: Biographies of MAD Black WOMEN, was published in 2017.

Professor Davis was recently quoted by several news media outlets in their coverage of racism related to brand name products. This quote, in an article in the Los Angeles Times, is particularly relevant: “Advertising and marketing play an important role in selling whiteness. They have played a role in perpetuating an image that whites are superior.”

Professor Davis was also quoted in articles appearing in The Washington Post and

Thank you for sharing your expertise, Professor Davis.  

As we head into the weekend, it is important to remember that despite the state’s “reopening,” we remain in the midst of a pandemic. Frequent hand washing, the use of hand sanitizer, and wearing face coverings continue to be critically important to stopping the spread of COVID-19.

Please stay safe and stay well. 

James Smith, Ph.D.