Takeaways from the September 16 town hall

September 20, 2021

Campus leaders shared the latest vaccination numbers, enrollment news and observations from the first few weeks of the fall semester.

The opening weeks of the fall semester have provided a much welcomed jolt of optimism on the UM-Dearborn campus. In a big change from last fall, around 80 percent of students are enrolled in at least one in-person credit. The latest student vaccination numbers look really good (details below). And we’ve had a very small number of COVID cases and no widespread outbreaks. The high spirits were definitely palpable at a Thursday afternoon town hall, where campus leaders shared their thoughts about the start of the Fall 2021 semester and answered your questions. If you missed it, you can view the full video here. Or keep reading for some of the main takeaways.

The latest vaccine and compliance numbers look really good

Good news just keeps rolling in about student vaccination rates. Two weeks ago, we reported that almost 66 percent of all students had submitted records documenting full vaccination and had them verified, with that number rising to 72 percent for those with an in-person class. Now, the overall student vaccination rate stands at 80 percent — and 87 percent for students with a face-to-face class. When you include students who have an approved religious or medical exemption, we’re looking at 96 percent overall compliance with the vaccine policy for students with at least one in-person class. Dean of Students Amy Finley says the university has a “small army” of people who are still calling and emailing students to try to assist those not yet in compliance. That’s a big deal because as of September 17, students who remain out of compliance will be moved to an online section of their in-person classes (if one is available), or administratively withdrawn from the course and issued a tuition reimbursement. Also, we shouldn’t fail to mention that faculty and staff vaccination rates are great too: For staff it’s 87 percent, for faculty it’s 85 percent overall, and 95 percent for tenure-track faculty.

The plan for the rest of fall (and winter)

The end of the drop/add period last Wednesday means that students and faculty should be able to settle into their routines this week. As of Monday, the testing and vaccine clinic will now be open just on Tuesdays and Wednesdays for students, faculty and staff who need their weekly test. Door screening is also scheduled to end after Friday, though it may continue for a little bit longer in a few locations, like the Mardigian Library. Should COVID cases arise on campus, the university is following the same reporting, contact tracing and quarantining protocols it’s been using all along. But because of the high vaccination rates and high compliance with the mask policy, it’s likely any COVID cases on campus will result in fewer students, faculty and staff needing to quarantine. “The CDC says that those who are both masked and vaccinated do not need to quarantine in the event they are exposed to a COVID-positive person,” Dean of Students Amy Finley explained during the town hall. Chancellor Grasso also said there’s no “magic number” for a COVID situation that could trigger a full shift to remote course delivery, though the university does have contingency plans for that. Grasso said that decision would be based on a variety of factors, including trends, the positivity rates among vaccinated people, hospitalization rates, changing variants, the efficacy of vaccines and advice from medical experts within the U-M system.

Campus leaders are also looking ahead to the winter semester, and we should have more details about the winter plan in a few weeks when the course schedules are due. As with fall, the demand for in-person classes is strong among students, so Interim Provost Gabriella Scarlatta says the goal is to have about 60 percent of courses offered in-person, up from this semester’s 50 percent.

Other good-to-knows

  • Fall 2021 enrollment numbers were stronger than expected. Because of the ongoing pandemic and a decline among community college transfers, the university was budgeting for an 8 percent decline in enrollment. Final enrollment numbers won’t be available until later this week, but it appears the decline was smaller than expected. However, enrollment among FTIAC students (First Time in Any College) was up compared to Fall 2020.
  • Chancellor Grasso announced that he is working with Henry Ford College President Russell Kavalhuna on a new partnership modeled after successful collaborations between peer four-year universities and community colleges. Expect details on that soon.
  • Having trouble with your internet signal outside? Your WiFi woes could end soon. ITS Director Carrie Shumaker says there are plans to install “pervasive Wifi” all across campus, including parking lots. Facilities and ITS teams are standing by pending the delivery of a few final pieces of essential tech, which has been delayed because of the ongoing chip shortage.

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Want more details from the September 16 Town Hall? You can watch the full video.

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