COVID-19 Update to Campus: Sept. 10, 2020

To the Eastern Michigan University community:

Tomorrow marks a tragic day in United States history – the 9/11 terrorist attacks that forever changed America. It was 19 years ago that 19 terrorists took control of four airplanes, crashing two of them into the twin towers of New York’s World Trade Center, another into the Pentagon in Washington, D.C., and the fourth into a field in Pennsylvania.

Nearly 3,000 innocent lives were lost. Among them were 343 firefighters and 60 police officers. It is the deadliest day in history for our first responders.

Annually, on the morning of the anniversary and consistent with the time the first plane struck the World Trade Center, Eastern Michigan University holds a memorial remembrance at our 9/11 Memorial, which features a damaged steel beam from the 74th floor of the south tower. The memorial is located in the grassy area adjacent to Pease Auditorium.

This year, due to COVID-19 physical distancing and restrictions on public gatherings, a formal memorial event will not take place. I ask that our EMU community join me in a collective moment of reflection tomorrow at 8:46 a.m. to mark this tragedy and the lives of the mothers, fathers, children, sisters, brothers, aunts, uncles, friends and first responders who perished on that day.

The words emblazoned on our memorial are profound:

“In honor of the many lives lost in the attacks of 2001, and to recall the courage shown by so many that day, we solemnly place this memorial here. May we forever remember their lives and courage.”

Although EMU will not be able to host our annual memorial event in Ypsilanti, the 9/11 Memorial & Museum in New York City will be holding a memorial live stream program tomorrow morning. To view it, visit: The program begins at 8:40 a.m.

Today’s campus update includes:

  • New Public Health Work Group
  • Campus COVID-19 testing update
  • Reporting of tests and positive cases
  • Quirk Theatre name review
  • EMU Aviation Program new partnership
  • Swoop’s Food Pantry update
  • Highlighting Eastern Michigan University excellence

Ongoing COVID-19 guidance: New Public Health Work Group

Eastern Michigan University is fortunate to have a wealth of expertise in the public health arena, and this has helped guide our actions concerning COVID-19. I am pleased to announce the members of the second iteration of the University’s Public Health Work Group. The initial Work Group engaged through the summer and developed the Safe Return-to-Campus Plan guidebook. Several members of the original team have agreed to continue on the new Work Group alongside some of their esteemed colleagues. The Work Group members are:

  • Dr. Murali Nair, Dean, College of Health and Human Services (chair)
  • Dr. Sherry Bumpus, Associate Professor and Director of Nursing Operations
  • Dr. James J. Carroll, III, Associate Provost and Associate Vice President for Administration
  • Dr. Matthew Evett, Professor, Computer Science
  • Dr. Judith Kullberg, Professor, Political Science
  • Dr. Beverly Mihalko, Associate Professor, School of Health Sciences
  • Dr. Karen Saules, Professor, Psychology, and Director of the Community Behavioral Clinic
  • Dr. John Sonnega, Associate Professor, Health and Human Performance, and Director of Public Health
  • Dr. Michael Williams, Director, School of Nursing
  • Dr. Andrea Gossett Zakrajsek, Professor, School of Health Sciences


I extend my gratitude to each of the members for agreeing to serve, or continuing to serve, in this most important role for the University. The Public Health Work Group will continue to monitor public health guidance and the latest research into the spread of COVID-19, and advise the University accordingly.

Campus testing in response to COVID-19

We continue to move closer to expanding testing of our campus community as previously discussed in our campus messages on Aug. 24 and Sept. 3. We are committed to a robust testing process that will include ongoing testing of students and employees. This important undertaking will allow us a broader opportunity to provide care and resources to those individuals who test positive, as well as to identify any concerning trends in positive cases, so that we can react as necessary. Preliminary plans for this expanded testing process are being discussed with the Public Health Work Group tomorrow.

Public dashboard for COVID-19 cases and testing

The testing data noted above will be reported on a public dashboard that is in the final stages of development. The dashboard will be posted on the University website and will track the aggregated results of campus testing along with a percentage of those testing positive. It will also include a week-by-week view of the number of positive cases among students on-campus, students off-campus, and employees. The dashboard is being developed by the Institutional Research and Information Management (IRIM) office. We expect the dashboard to be published next week, and we will continue to fine-tune it going forward.

Current data: During the time period of Aug. 23 - Sept. 4, EMU registered 23 new positive cases of COVID-19. Fifteen were off-campus individuals who self-reported or were reported by another person. (“Off-campus” means that these persons reside off campus and had no close contacts on campus.) During the same time period, Eastern conducted a total of 1,418 tests and registered eight that were positive, for a positivity rate of 0.564 percent. Currently, we have two students who tested positive and are isolated in campus housing. Additionally, five students who may have been in close contact with a COVID-positive person are being quarantined in campus housing.

A reminder that the Washtenaw County Health Department, with University support and assistance, conducts contact tracing on positive cases related to on-campus activities. Any Eastern community member who is deemed to have been in close contact with someone who tested positive is notified directly and provided information about what they should do. It is the responsibility of every EMU student and employee to submit the COVID-19 Report Form should you become aware of a case or test positive yourself, so that we may follow up and prevent a spread of the virus. 

Quirk Theatre name review

Earlier this week, I formally requested that College of Arts and Sciences Dean Dana Heller and Kathleen Stacey, Director of the School of Communication, Media and Theatre Arts and Professor of Communication, initiate a review of the Quirk name as referenced on the University’s Quirk Building and on Quirk Theatre. As many have noted, recent social media posts by a historian who is an Eastern graduate, provide archival materials that suggest a Quirk family member from Ypsilanti in the late 1800’s - early 1900’s, promoted blackface shows in the local community. The University issued a statement about this on Sept. 1, 2020, expressing our deep concern about this racist history, stating that these types of demeaning and hurtful stereotypes are an affront to everything we stand for as an institution.

I asked Dean Heller and Dr. Stacey to establish a committee charged with moving quickly to conduct a review of the historical considerations and investigate/make recommendations of a course of action around the naming of these facilities.

College of Engineering and Technology announces new partnership for Aviation Program

Eastern Michigan University’s Aviation Program has entered into a new partnership with Crosswinds Aviation, a flight training school dedicated to having a transformative impact on the lives of youth beginning careers in aviation.

The new partnership will add a variety of benefits to the Aviation Program. With three airport locations in Livingston, Genesee and Oakland counties, Crosswinds Aviation will offer easier access for commuter students. With plans to add a Willow Run location in the near future, EMU Aviation students will soon have four convenient locations for training. Complete details of the partnership can be found in the news release.

Swoop’s Food Pantry update

Next week, the John and Angie Sabo Swoop’s Food Pantry Room will resume its regular fall hours: Mondays and Thursdays from 12 - 5 p.m., Wednesdays from 12 - 6:30 p.m.

Shoppers 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 new 2020-21 Swoop's Food Pantry Intake Form.

If you wish to donate items – those most needed are: white rice, barbecue sauce, ramen noodles, dish soap and hand soap.

Please email [email protected] in advance to make sure someone is present to handle your delivery.

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

Highlighting Eastern Michigan University excellence

One of the best parts about my role as president is to highlight excellence among our students, faculty and staff. I have another such example to share with you today.

History Professor Steven Ramold, who has taught 19th century U.S. and American military history at Eastern since 2005, has been rated Washtenaw County’s best professor in annual reader rankings by Current Magazine.

The 2020 rankings, which cover a wide range of entertainment, eating and other elements of Washtenaw County, draw upon reader votes and are a popular feature of the magazine, which is published in Ann Arbor.

"Teaching at Eastern is a great experience,” Ramold told EMU Today. “The students have such a desire to succeed that it makes it a pleasure to work with them every day, and the chance to conduct research and publish my work is very fulfilling. Even after 15 years at Eastern, I still look forward to going to work."

Congratulations Professor Ramold!

In that same set of reader rankings in Current Magazine, Eastern’s excellent public radio station, WEMU, was also featured. WEMU was rated Washtenaw County’s best radio station. Reporter Jorge Avellan was rated top journalist in Washtenaw County, and EMU graduate Daniel Long, producer and host of The Groove Yard, was rated as the county’s top radio host. 

Congratulations #TeamWEMU!

Health and safety reminder

As I do each week, I will conclude with an important health and safety reminder. Please continue to:

  • Practice effective hand washing and the use of hand sanitizers;
  • Wear face coverings; and,
  • Observe physical distancing.

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

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

James Smith, Ph.D.