COVID-19 Update to Campus: July 31, 2020

To the Eastern Michigan University community:

As we continue our preparations for the start of the fall semester that is now just one month away, many of our planning initiatives to adjust operations for our new normal are becoming clearer. You can see signs of this across campus.

In some areas, classrooms are being expanded by knocking down walls to provide additional space for physical distancing. Directional signage is being placed campus-wide that notes one-way entry and exit from buildings and in and out of certain classrooms. Seats in lecture halls are being marked off to reflect at least six-foot spacing. Floor stickers are being prepared to note where to stand to maintain appropriate physical distancing. Face coverings are being purchased to distribute to all students and employees. Hand sanitizer stations are being set up all over campus. Plexiglas shields are being placed in classrooms. And, significantly enhanced cleaning and disinfecting practices by the University’s facilities team remain underway.

One of the most significant efforts now occurring is the finalization of the course schedule. We expect to post that late next week, the result of a tremendous amount of work and input from faculty, department heads, deans and academic administration.

We will have fewer students on campus, fewer in-person classes and a far greater number of online classes. This is a planned outcome of our intent, as outlined from the outset of the planning process, to reduce the possibility of exposure to COVID-19 and to keep our campus community as safe as possible. This effort also included the mapping of every classroom space by Geographic Information Science (GIS) students and faculty to determine the layout of each classroom to allow for six-foot distancing.

The one certainty to which I can attest in this very uncertain time is that, through this process, the excellence of our faculty and their teaching methods, whether in-person or online, will continue to provide outstanding opportunities for our students to succeed! 

University housing and single rooms

Housing is in the midst of its annual planning process to welcome students for the fall semester. This year the process is very different than in years past. Ensuring the health and safety of our on campus residents is the number one priority; a great deal of planning is underway to ensure distancing, regular cleaning and disinfecting, and safe practices to limit the spread of COVID-19.

We will share more about these specific plans in the days and weeks ahead.

One important point to note is the success of the University’s single room initiative, which was announced the beginning of June. The effort was designed to provide opportunities for students, who felt safer living alone, to be able to do so at a reduced cost. It turned out to be exactly what many students were seeking. We have 601 single room commitments for the fall semester. This compares to 279 last year.

Updates for employees

Work Share: This week marks the end of the University’s Work Share program that was initiated in mid-May. It expires tomorrow, August 1. As of August 2, employees who were on a Work Share plan will return to their pre-Work Share program appointment and should consult with their supervisor regarding their schedule for next week. 

VERIP: This week the University expanded its Voluntary Early Retirement Incentive Plan (“VERIP”) to include non-instructional staff. Eligible faculty members were offered the plan in late June. Eligibility requirements can be found on “As You Retire” on the University Human Resources website. Eligible faculty members have until August 31, 2020 to participate in the plan. Eligible non-instructional staff members have until September 25, 2020.

Swoop’s Food Pantry update

Next week, the John and Angie Sabo Swoop’s Food Pantry Room will be open on Tuesday (8/4) from 12:30 – 5:30 p.m. and Thursday (8/6) from 12 – 3 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 condiments such as salt, pepper, ketchup and mustard, as well as cereal, tofu, ramen, and ready to eat meals.

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 [email protected] to arrange a donation pickup.

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

More information

Understandably, we are receiving many requests for more information about the University’s plans for the fall semester. As you know, we communicate at least once a week, and sometimes more, to share details about the University’s plans or important announcements. At times of great uncertainty though, you can never communicate too often.

To that end, I just recently participated in an interview for a special summer edition of EMU Today TV, along with Dr. Michael Williams, associate professor, director of the School of Nursing, and a member of the University’s Public Health Work Group. The 30-minute program is focused on the planning underway for the safe return to campus. The program is hosted by Eastern Michigan alumnus Mark S. Lee, a part-time lecturer in the College of Business, a blogger for Crain’s Detroit and a frequent contributor to various Detroit-area media outlets on business topics. EMU Today TV is available on Xfinity On Demand and on the University’s YouTube channel. The program is produced by the School of Communication, Media and Theatre Arts.

As I do on many of these messages, I will conclude with an important health and safety reminder as we head into the weekend. Please continue to:

1)    Practice effective hand washing and the use of hand sanitizers;

2)    Wear face coverings; and,

3)    Observe physical distancing from those around you.

These three actions, when taken together, dramatically reduce the risk of contracting COVID-19.

Please continue to follow the University’s COVID-19 website and the EMU Safe website for ongoing updates.

Have a safe weekend.


James Smith, Ph.D.