Takeaways from the June 25 virtual town hall

June 30, 2020

University leaders shared an update on the FY21 budget, the cancellation of fall athletics, working from home, and the hybrid model for fall classes.

Campus in Summer

Because the coronavirus situation is still very fluid, many details surrounding the fall semester are still coming into focus. But as always, we want to keep you informed about what university leaders do know, as they’re able to share it. In case you missed it, here’s a quick summary of the main takeaways from this past Thursday's town hall. You can also watch the entire town hall online

Here's where the budget stands right now.

The big development last week was that the university's proposed budget did not pass at the June 25 U-M Board of Regents meeting. However, the $158.3-million FY21 operating budget was subsequently approved at a special meeting of the regents on June 29. It includes a 1.9 percent increase in tuition, a new block tuition system and increased financial aid for students. Thus far, the university has taken big steps to maintain typical levels of staffing. But Chancellor Domenico Grasso said if the university faces steeper-than-expected financial challenges in the fall, reductions in staff are possible, especially in areas where the pandemic has temporarily made work unnecessary. One big piece of good financial news from the meeting: U-M President Mark Schlissel announced the creation of a new $20-million fund to support student success initiatives on the Dearborn and Flint campuses. Grasso says this will help the university invest in things like academic advisors, tutors, career counselors and new technology that helps students graduate in less time. Vice Chancellor for Business Affairs Jeff Evans also reported that the university has so far saved about $1.9 million through reductions in temporary overtime, utilities, travel, supplies and event hosting. Anyone who wants to submit cost savings ideas directly to Chancellor Grasso can do so via this online form

Athletic seasons are canceled for fall. Here’s why.

Last week, the university announced that it would not be participating in fall athletic seasons, and the reason has everything to do with helping control the spread of coronavirus. Multiple universities across the country have already seen outbreaks among their athletic teams. Leadership simply didn’t want to take a chance that could happen here — especially given that many of our students, faculty and staff commute in and out of some of the hardest hit areas in Michigan. “Because we’re going to be primarily remote, and many of the student activities are going to be remote, it did not make sense to ask our athletes to come to campus and incur a higher risk level than what we were expecting of the other students, faculty and staff,” Grasso said.

Be prepared to work remotely for the rest of the summer.

While certain activities, like research, are starting to reopen on campus, Chancellor Grasso said faculty and staff should now plan on working remotely for the rest of the summer. He also encouraged folks to come to campus to pick up things like office furniture or technology that might be necessary to continue working remotely. If you’d like to do that, you’ll first need to get approval from your supervisor. Then, you’ll need to complete an online training and, on the day you plan to come to campus, a health screening. You can find more details about that process in this campus email. 

Plans for a hybrid fall semester are moving along.

Details are coming together quickly for the “remote-first” plan for fall classes. Earlier this month, leadership announced that most courses would be taught remotely, with some classes having scheduled times for students to gather, either virtually or in-person. Other classes, like labs, senior design and other courses requiring a high level of student interaction or special equipment, will be taught in person using additional health and safety protocols. Provost Sue Alcock reported that departments have already sorted through which classes will be taught in each format, and students will know by mid-July if their classes will require meeting up for any synchronous sessions. Alcock said faculty can also expect increased support for building their online courses. By July 15, all faculty will be able to access facilities for recording lectures and course materials. Additional details will be shared by the Provost’s Office soon.