COVID-19 Update to Campus: Oct. 8, 2020

To the Eastern Michigan University community:

In an ordinary year, expanding outdoor study areas for students might not warrant significant attention. But, as we all know, this is anything but an ordinary year.

In recent years, many students (and faculty and staff) have enjoyed the picnic tables in the area between Ford, McKenny, Starkweather and Welch halls. It is an attractive setting to study and eat, particularly on incredible fall days like today. Given the area’s popularity, and the desire to create more safe outdoor study space for students in a physically distant setting, the University has expanded outdoor study opportunities. This week, many new picnic tables were added to the grassy areas extending north from the current location toward King Hall. Tables have been placed both in the sun and the shade under our beautiful trees.

As a reminder, everyone on campus must wear face coverings even when outdoors, including at these study spaces, and must complete the COVID PASS Daily Health Screening every day they are present. When weather permits, student staff from the Engage @ EMU team will monitor the space to periodically wipe tables, remind students to comply with the University’s Safe Return to Campus Plan, provide face coverings, and answer questions. The tables have been placed by the University’s Facilities Division and should not be moved.

The expansion of outdoor study areas is the latest in our comprehensive efforts to establish a safe and supportive environment in the midst of the pandemic. Complete details about the University’s actions can be found at our COVID-19 Planning and Preparedness website.

I have several items to cover in this week’s message:

  • COVID-19 Dashboard
  • Virtual Speaker Series: Race, Policing and Social Justice in 2020 (part two)
  • Student Government Elections - New Student Body President and Vice President
  • Counseling and Psychological Services Available for Student Support
  • Newly Renovated Rec/IM Opens
  • Health Benefits Open Enrollment for Employees
  • Swoop’s Food Pantry Update
  • Six-Game Football Schedule Announced
  • Celebrating Eastern Michigan University Excellence

EMU COVID-19 Dashboard

In the seven days ending Oct. 6, the University administered 357 tests that resulted in 12 positive results. We identified a total of 21 positive cases from all sources over the same time period. Of that total, 10 were students who live off-campus and had no contact with campus prior to the time they tested positive; 11 were on-campus students – defined as a student who was living on campus or had visited campus during the applicable time period prior to the time they tested positive. No cases were reported among University employees.

Since August 12, the University has administered 4,001 tests that resulted in 41 positive results for a positivity rate of 1.02 percent.

This data can be found on the University’s COVID-19 Dashboard.

As noted in our message last week, increased testing for our campus community is underway. As our testing program continues to expand, those individuals who are subject to such testing will be notified with additional details. Please continue to monitor your University email for these important communications.

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 members who are deemed to have had close contact with someone on campus who tested positive are 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 mitigate future spread of the virus.

Virtual Speaker Series: Race, Policing and Social Justice in 2020 (part two)

Tonight, the College of Arts and Sciences will host the second of its three-part virtual speaker series: Race, Police and Social Justice in 2020. The session takes place from 6:30 - 8 p.m., and is titled “Working to Bridge the Divide Between the Police and Communities of Color: Reforms in the Aftermath of the Floyd Dent Case.” The featured speaker is William T. Riley III, Chief of Police of the Inkster Police Department.

The series was developed to examine the systems of policing, including socioeconomic and political challenges. It is intended to generate sustainable relationships among local law enforcement and the EMU community, in order to create systemic support and cultivate collaborations.

Registration information for tonight’s session can be found on the event homepage. You can also contact Dr. Barbara Patrick at [email protected] or Dr. Stephen Jefferson at [email protected].

The third and final session of the series takes place on Thursday, Oct. 22, from 6:30 - 8 p.m. It is titled “A Conversation on Race, Policing, Voting and Social Justice: Where Do We Go From Here?” Panelists are Derrick Jackson, Director of Community Engagement, Washtenaw County Sheriff's Office; Erica Hillard, Assistant United States Attorney, Northern District of Texas; Dr. Kevin Karpiak, Associate Professor of Criminology, Eastern Michigan University; and, Dr. David Klein, Professor of Political Science, Eastern Michigan University.

More than 100 people attended the opening session on Sept. 24. Please join me in thanking our outstanding faculty for creating this important platform for ongoing dialogue, learning and examination of these critical issues.

Student Government Elections - New Student Body President and Vice President

The annual student government elections were held last week. You may recall they were delayed from the originally planned schedule last March due to the pandemic. Eastern’s new Student Body President is Luis Romero and new Vice President is Colton Ray. New Student Body Senators also were elected. I look forward to working with our new student government team in the year ahead. Please join me in congratulating all of the students who ran for office, and those elected, for their commitment to the University.

Also, please join me in thanking outgoing President Ethan Smith and Vice President Hajer Abuzir for their outstanding efforts on behalf of Eastern Michigan University students over the last year.

Counseling and Psychological Services Available for Student Support

As we proceed through the fall semester of a very challenging year, I want to remind students about our Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS) office and the support it provides. CAPS is dedicated to addressing the mental health needs of Eastern Michigan University students. CAPS offers free and confidential counseling to students seeking support.  Students can make an appointment to talk to a counselor by calling 734-487-1118 during business hours. Students may also access CAPS after-hours phone support in the evenings and weekends by calling 734-487-1118. For additional information, visit the CAPS website or contact the office by email at [email protected].

Newly Renovated Rec/IM Opens 

The newly renovated Rec/IM Building opened for students, faculty and staff on Monday (Oct. 5). The renovations offer much more than a facelift – with new equipment and a striking, reimagined layout.

Levels 1 and 2 are open – this includes cardiovascular and weight training areas, gaming tables, and a commons area. Levels 3-5, which include the basketball courts, the indoor track and social areas, will open at a later date.

The Rec/IM is operating at 25 percent occupancy for all open areas, and staff will monitor and enforce these capacity limits.

Users are expected to follow safety measures, such as passing the University’s COVID PASS Daily Health Screening before being permitted to enter the facility, wiping down equipment before and after using it, wearing a face covering at all times, and maintaining physical distancing from others.

Patrons should arrive ready for their activity, as most changing spaces and showers are closed, with the exception of swimming pools.

The $16 million Rec/IM construction and renovation project is being financed through a student rec fee, proposed by EMU student leaders, after initial studies and input that began in 2014. Students can opt out of the fee, which was approved by EMU students in 2017.

A comprehensive effort to provide ongoing health, fitness and wellness programming, online and in-person outdoor activities, has been underway throughout the summer and remains in place this fall. The schedule is being updated on a regular basis with new health, fitness and wellness programs, and can be found at the Rec/IM website.

Health Benefits Open Enrollment for Employees

Open Enrollment began Oct. 1 and runs through 8 p.m. on Thursday, Oct. 15. Human Resources has been actively notifying employees about the process. Please visit the EMU Open Enrollment website for additional information and special notices.

Swoop’s Food Pantry update

The fall hours for the John and Angie Sabo Swoop’s Food Pantry Room are Mondays and Thursdays from 12 - 5 p.m., and 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 cereal, large containers of juice, oatmeal, barbecue sauce and sugar.

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.

Six-Game Football Schedule Announced

Eastern Michigan University Football will begin its six-game regular season on Wednesday, Nov. 4, with a road game at Kent State University.

Eastern will continue with Wednesday games at Ball State, Nov. 11, and at home against Toledo, Nov. 18. Eastern will close with three Saturday games – at home against Central Michigan on Nov. 28, at Western Michigan on Dec. 5, and at home versus Northern Illinois on Dec. 12. The regular season will conclude with the MAC Football Championship game Friday, Dec. 18, to be held at Ford Field in Detroit.

In accordance with COVID-19 safety guidelines, no general public attendance or tailgating will be allowed at games.

Celebrating Eastern Michigan University excellence

Eastern Michigan University faculty members have shown exceptional creativity this year in terms of engaging students amid the unprecedented environment, and Professor Frank J. Fedel is a prime example.

Professor Fedel faced a distinct hurdle in introducing new students to the typically hands-on discipline of EMU’s Orthotics and Prosthetics program. He worked over the summer to create a virtual environment of the orthotics and prosthetics lab space, so that incoming students who either had not seen it previously, or saw it only during a quick visit, would be somewhat familiar with the layout of the program’s fabrication labs. He shared the link to the virtual reality experience with the new students and received positive feedback.

Professor Fedel told EMU Today, “Even though that is not my area of expertise, I just like sophisticated uses of technology, and learned enough about programming when I was teaching it years ago to get involved with it. It’s something I did as a way to make students feel more present at EMU.”

Congratulations to Professor Fedel for your exceptional efforts to support Eastern Michigan University students!

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.