Throughout the duration of the coronavirus pandemic, we have been proud of the commitment of our faculty and staff to the university’s mission while keeping our community safe and healthy. Our plans for the fall 2020 semester, which were shared a few weeks ago, were developed to continue that commitment. We will move into the upcoming academic year guided by our desire to promote public health, outstanding teaching and a supportive learning environment.
Our region and state have made significant progress in controlling the spread of COVID-19. UM-Dearborn, as we all know, is located in the center of our state’s hardest hit area and unfortunately, as recent numbers indicate, the coronavirus pandemic is not under control. For this reason, we will continue to take extra precautions to provide a healthy and safe learning, teaching and work environment for our community.
This summer we have started to see the resumption of some on-campus research activities and we have had additional essential staff safely return to campus, all while following necessary safety protocols. The fall semester will bring to campus the return of a limited number of in-person classes, the Mardigian Library will resume limited on-campus activities, and select other campus operations will return in conjunction with public health guidelines.
We understand that many of you are thinking about the implications of returning to more in-person campus services and operations. Please know that we are following our previously announced strategy to gradually and carefully resume these activities.
The start of the fall semester will not signal the return of all faculty and staff to campus. We expect that the majority of faculty and staff will continue to work from home, as much as possible, throughout the fall semester.
We have now moved into the planning stage of finalizing which in-person services or operations will be essential to provide the University of Michigan-Dearborn experience expected by our students, while implementing appropriate plans for health and safety. Comprehensive information about the steps the university is taking to keep our community safe can be found on the university COVID-19 website, which will be updated as new information becomes available. In addition, every unit with faculty and staff working on-campus must create a written COVID-19 work plan.
Over the next few weeks, units and departments will be reviewing activities that are essential to the development of these plans.
First, unit and department leaders will be asked to promptly complete a brief survey that will help identify a preliminary estimate of the number of staff members who must work on-campus during the fall semester. The academic units, working with the Office of the Provost, will map out the faculty on-campus presence. From there, units and departments will be provided with a template to complete a more detailed return to work plan. Our plans should mirror the hybrid approach of our classes, with a primarily remote modality with only necessary in-person instruction that is supported by appropriate physical distancing. Also, any plan to restart or increase on-site services must be approved by the Chancellor or Provost as appropriate and should also consider accommodations for faculty or staff members who are at increased risk for severe illness in accordance with guidance from the Centers for Disease Control. Further details will be available soon to help units plan for these circumstances. These plans will be developed following the guidance for workplace safeguards and risk mitigation from the state of Michigan and the University of Michigan Office of Environmental, Health and Safety.
Once critical services are identified, unit and department leadership, working in collaboration with UM-Dearborn’s emergency management, facilities operations and environmental health and safety teams, will need to consider factors including workplace density, dedicated entry points for employees, use of a daily health self-screening app, face coverings, limitations on gatherings and employees’ completion of a basic online safety module. The university will announce testing and contact tracing protocols when available and is developing a campus-wide campaign to promote safer behaviors.
Once plans are completed, they will be reviewed and approved by the appropriate vice chancellor or dean, UM-Dearborn’s Office of Environmental Health and Safety and Office of Emergency Management and ultimately the Provost or Chancellor. This process is expected to be completed by August 7, 2020.
The Emergency Operations Center team is actively working on additional plans for the campus during the fall semester that are guided by health and safety including additional access to campus wireless internet and technology, and plans for limited activities in the University Center. Once details are available we will share them with you. We know that many questions remain, and we are working to provide answers as quickly and completely as possible.
We both have shared how impressed we are with the remarkable resilience the university community has demonstrated over the past few months as we’ve confronted this global health crisis. We continue to be thankful for the work that we have done together, and will continue to do, to maintain UM-Dearborn’s mission to provide an excellent education for our students. We thank you all.
Go Safe - Go Blue - Go Dearborn!