Campus Update: Dec. 16, 2021

To the Eastern Michigan University community,

As we wind down to the close of the fall semester and head into the holiday season, and a much needed and deserved break, I want to thank our students, faculty and staff for their efforts to keep one another safe and for continuing to support excellence in the classroom, on our campus and in the community. As Michigan’s second oldest public university, Eastern Michigan University has inspired generations of students to succeed in their careers and their lives. Every day, each of you is part of making that happen and for that, you should be proud.

We have much to celebrate in this very active end to the semester, as you will note in this week’s update:

  • Commencement Ceremonies on Sunday
  • Multicultural Graduation on Friday
  • Football Competes in LendingTree Bowl on Saturday
  • Welcome Home 2025 to Transform Student Housing
  • Eastern Welcomes Afghan Refugee Families
  • COVID-19 Mitigation
  • Convocation Center Renamed George Gervin GameAbove Center
  • Swoop’s Food Pantry Holiday Schedule

Commencement Ceremonies on Sunday

On Sunday, we will celebrate the completion of academic degrees for more than 2,100 students. This is always the highlight of the year and I look forward to joining our students on this special day. We have taken a number of safety precautions due to the pandemic. These include:

  • Splitting the traditional single ceremony into two ceremonies, divided by colleges, in order to create smaller events with fewer people and more open space for physical distancing;
  • Requiring facemasks to be properly worn at all times by all graduates, participants, family members and guests while inside the Convocation Center; and,
  • Restricting the number of guest tickets per graduate.

Additional details can be found on the commencement website.

As a reminder, the University is planning to host an in-person ceremony in 2022 (date TBD) for graduates from the spring and winter of 2020, and spring of 2021, who did not have in-person ceremonies due to the pandemic.

Multicultural Graduation on Friday

The Multicultural Graduation Celebration, celebrating the spirit of Eastern’s inclusiveness, takes place Friday evening. Hosted by the Center of Race and Ethnicity (CORE), the event honors the achievements of graduating students of color. The celebration can be viewed via Facebook live from 5-7 p.m. Friday on the @EMUCore Facebook page.

Football Competes in LendingTree Bowl on Saturday

The football team is again on the national stage, playing in the LendingTree Bowl in Mobile, Alabama on Saturday. This marks the fourth time in the last six seasons Eastern has made a bowl appearance. The Eagles will play Liberty University. Students in the marching band and cheer and dance teams will be on the field and in the stands to help cheer on the team. Game time is 5:45 p.m. EST. It is televised on ESPN and will be broadcast on 89.1 WEMU.

Welcome Home 2025 to Transform Student Housing

With last week’s approval by the University’s Board of Regents, plans for new student housing communities that will further transform Eastern’s campus, are moving forward. Welcome Home 2025 includes an investment of more than $200 million over the next three to four years that will be financed through a partnership with Gilbane Development Company, which has successfully conducted many similar projects at universities across the country.

More detailed planning and design processes will begin soon, but among the signature elements of Welcome Home 2025 is the construction of a new, approximately 400-bed apartment-style residence hall next to the Student Center that will overlook the pond on the north side of campus.

The University has made significant investments in academic facilities in recent years, as exemplified by the expansion and renovations to the Science Complex and Sill Hall.

Now it is time to turn our attention to another critical area for our students. Goals of the plan include:

  • Student affordability; keeping reates affordable is the number one priority. 
  • Ensuring a high-quality residence life experience: EMU will continue to employ resident assistants, assign rooms to residents, coordinate programming, and manage our housing policies.
  • Student engagement: students will be extensively involved in the design process and ongoing management of EMU student housing.

The University has never considered privatizing student housing. Under our current plan:

  • EMU will not be selling student housing facilities; 
  • EMU will continue to approve any adjustments to housing rates;
  • Residence life staff will remain employed by EMU; and,
  • EMU will continue to manage virtually all key aspects of the student housing experience.

Please visit the Welcome Home 2025 website for additional details and answers to frequently asked questions.

Eastern Welcomes Afghan Refugee Families

As you know from the joint message with Student Government leadership earlier this week, Eastern, in collaboration with Jewish Family Services of Washtenaw County (JFSWC), will host about a dozen Afghan refugee families on campus. I am extremely gratified by the great number of students, faculty and staff members who have come forward offering to assist, volunteer and support this effort and make the families feel welcome. Please visit the JFSWC Resettlement and Integration Services webpage for information on how you can support the effort. This project is truly reflective of who we are as a University. I am proud that we are not only talking the talk, but walking the walk of our “All Are Welcome Here” messages on light-post banners and signage around campus.

COVID-19 Mitigation

 During this holiday season, please remember that the pandemic is still with us and protective measures remain important. As we prepare to gather with our loved ones and friends, please keep the following reminders top of mind to ensure everyone returns to a safe campus.

The CDC recommends the following guidelines for safe holiday gatherings:

  • Protect those who have not received the vaccine by getting yourself vaccinated. You may also consider getting a booster shot before gathering with your friends and family. Please visit the University’svaccination information website for information about where to obtain a vaccine. Don’t forget to certify your vaccination status.

  • Wear well-fitting masks in public indoor settings.

  • If you are sick or have symptoms, don’t host or attend a gathering.
  • Get tested if you have symptoms of COVID-19 or have had close contact with someone who has COVID-19.

  • If you are not fully vaccinated and must travel, follow CDC’s domestic travelor international travel recommendations for unvaccinated people.

  • Everyone, even people who are fully vaccinated, is required to wear a maskon public transportation and follow international travel recommendations.

Once you return to campus in January, we urge members of the Eastern community to receive a free COVID-19 test at the Student Center. The hours of operation can be found on the testing center website. Frequent testing is encouraged as symptoms may appear 2-14 days after exposure to the virus.

Students living in on-campus housing have been notified of the requirement to provide documentation of a negative test result prior to move-in.

By working together, we can enjoy a safer holiday and protect our health, as well as the health of our loved ones. Let’s do our part in keeping our EMU community safe.

Convocation Center Renamed George Gervin GameAbove Center

Last Saturday, in a moving ceremony that took place during halftime of the men’s basketball game, I was thrilled to announce the renaming of the Convocation Center to the George Gervin GameAbove Center. Mr. Gervin was present to celebrate George Gervin Day and the halftime announcement of the renaming of the arena was a surprise to him. It is a fitting tribute for the man known as “The Iceman” for his Hall of Fame skills on the court and multiple NBA scoring titles. We hosted our largest crowd of the year for the celebration and they were treated to an exciting four-overtime Eagles victory.

Gervin attended EMU from 1970 – 1972, and led the team to a birth in the 1972 NCAA College Division National Championship Final Four.

GameAbove, a giving circle of passionate EMU alumni dedicated to the University’s success, committed $2.7 million to EMU Athletics to improve the facility's technology infrastructure and enhance the student-athlete and visitor experience. To date, GameAbove and its members have committed over $25 million to EMU to support students, faculty, staff, and the Ypsilanti community. On behalf of the Eastern Michigan University community, I would like to thank GameAbove and its members for their strong and ongoing support.

Swoop’s Food Pantry Holiday Schedule

Swoop's will close for the semester at 5 p.m. Friday, Dec. 17 and will reopen on Monday, Jan. 10. Swoop’s would like to thank all of the generous donors who kept the shelves stocked this past semester and provided Thanksgiving and holiday baskets to students. Swoop's is still working to meet its crowdfunding goal for #GivingTRUEDAY!

Most needed items are: peanut butter, rice, cereal, pasta sauce and condiments. Items can be dropped off in the John and Angie Sabo Swoop's Food Pantry Room in 104 Pierce Hall starting Jan. 10, or you can arrange a porch pick up by emailing [email protected].

Final Comments

As we have throughout the pandemic, the University remains prepared to adjust our #EMUSafe protocols based on future guidance from health experts and any impact on the University. Please continue to monitor your email for any future updates, and I remind you that hand washing, mask wearing, vaccinations and booster shots are the best way to mitigate the spread of COVID-19.

Please stay well and have a wonderful holiday break.

James Smith, Ph.D.