SUBJECT: Useful Information about the Fall Term!

Dear Faculty Colleagues: 

As I mentioned in my July 16th email message, I promised to follow up on a number of items that will help us all better prepare for the fall semester. From a series of ‘listening sessions’ with faculty I’ve been holding (in company with a stalwart team of collaborators) it is clear there are several issues at the forefront of folks’ minds — ranging from face coverings policies, to building access issues, to what it will be like in the classroom, to winter term, and more. I want you to know that all Dearborn campus leadership, together with myself and my Provost’s team, have taken your feedback to heart and have been working to provide the safest possible workplace environment for faculty, students, and staff. 

So here are some updates and new information. Given this is a lengthy message (apologies), these are the topics addressed below: 

  • Canvas Course Shells published by faculty available to students starting August 10th 
  • Faculty Teaching on Campus: “Return to Campus” Guide and Screening
  • Classroom Face Coverings Management Policy and Syllabus Statement
  • Modifications and Cleaning of Classroom and Laboratory Space
  • Faculty Workspace 
  • Office Hours will be virtual
  • Fall Final Exams
  • CARES Funding and Faculty Technology Support Equipment
  • Digital Education Studio
  • Town Hall Save the Date and Future Communications

Canvas Course Shells published by faculty available to students starting August 10th 

With the fall semester primarily being online there has been interest among both faculty and students in having Canvas course shells “go live” before the start of the semester. Your faculty colleagues on the Digital Education Subcommittee agreed that this is a sensible measure which will permit students, first, to view their course syllabi sooner; second, to get a good sense for any synchronous meeting times; and third and very important, to get more comfortable with the new, reimagined semester they will face. As a result, Canvas course shells which have been published by faculty will be available to students starting on August 10 (three weeks before the start of the semester and two weeks earlier than normal). 

Please remember that students will not be able to view your course shell until you publish it. However, as with all previous semesters, unpublished course shells will be auto-published on the first day of classes. 

While publishing your course shells before the start of the semester is not a requirement, I strongly urge you all to consider doing it: the payoff could be considerable. The goal here is to better inform students, to alleviate unnecessary anxieties, and to give them the best chance to be successful. And remember publishing your course(s) doesn’t mean everything must be perfect! You may wish to leave most course items unpublished so students only see the syllabus. Canvas has a guide for publishing your course, and you can contact your college’s Canvas support staff with any questions about publishing your course shell or unpublishing specific content items.

Please remember that publishing your course does not mean students can be given readings or other assignments. All of that is reserved until the start of the semester to ensure equity of student access. 

Finally, if you have any questions or need assistance the Office of Digital Education is willing and able to help. 

Faculty Teaching on Campus: “Return to Campus” Guide and Screening

For those faculty teaching on campus for the fall semester I want to emphasize again that your safety, along with all members of our campus community, is of paramount importance; ensuring this governs, fundamentally, all the decisions being made.  

A “Return to Campus” Guide is being finalized that will provide further details and additional guidelines to augment the information provided in this message. This guide will be shared with faculty and staff the week of August 10.   

Two already established points, however. First and foremost, I want to bring your attention to the newly released Dearborn policy on face coverings which requires everyone — including faculty teaching in classrooms and laboratories — to wear a face covering over their nose and mouth while on campus grounds, inside and outside. It is therefore an absolute requirement that all faculty teaching on campus make use of face coverings for the entire duration of their time on campus and in the classroom. Please note that face coverings will be available on campus for any faculty, staff, or student who would like one. The distribution of face coverings will be addressed in the “Return to Campus” Guide.

Like students, faculty will also be asked to go through a screening process before entering any classroom building.  Additional information regarding this process will be shared the week of August 10. 

Classroom Face Coverings Management Policy and Syllabus Statement

Students will also receive a version of the “Return to Campus” Guide the week of August 10. Building check-in procedures, the face covering policy and other related information will be communicated. As a result of consistent messaging, as well as excellent work by student groups themselves to promote safe behavior, we believe that the number of incidents of student noncompliance with the face coverings policy can be kept to a minimum. However, I realize that we need to be prepared for all scenarios, which is why campus senior leadership recommended to the Chancellor the Classroom Face Coverings Management policy (click on the first accordion tab), to be used in cases where students fail to wear face coverings while in a classroom. 

I am happy to report that the University Curriculum and Degree Committee voted unanimously to require all faculty teaching on campus in the fall to include in their syllabi the Face Coverings and Classroom Safety Syllabus Statement.  This statement was developed by the Emergency Operations Committee and approved by the University Curriculum and Degree Committee. 

Modifications and Cleaning of Classroom and Laboratory Space

Our Emergency Operations Committee, in cooperation with Facilities Operations, the colleges, and various faculty and staff, have been working to plan and make modifications to classrooms and laboratories with the goal of ensuring safe social distancing as outlined in the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines and the Governor’s Executive Orders. This means some classrooms may have desks, tables, and chairs removed to ensure safe social distancing. I ask that you do your best to ensure that all individuals in your course adhere to and maintain these modifications. 

In addition, every active classroom building will have hand sanitizer stations at its entrance and on each floor. Facilities Operations is developing a supplemental cleaning plan for classroom buildings and will be providing paper towels and cleaning supplies in all classrooms and laboratories. Faculty and students will be responsible for cleaning high touch surfaces before and after each class and laboratory session. 

We are currently developing a building access policy. Faculty, staff and students should expect access to campus buildings to be carefully regulated to control entry and internal foot traffic. People will not be permitted to freely roam open buildings or to spend non-essential time there.  Everyone is expected to leave the building and campus as soon as their on-campus instruction or research activities are complete for the day.

Faculty Workspace 

The continued expectation for the fall semester for faculty and staff is that if you can work from home, you should continue to do so. This directive is in alignment with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines, which encourage staying at home when appropriate, and is in accord with the Governor’s Executive Orders. This is why we have greatly reduced on-campus activities in the fall, including the instructional delivery of courses. 

In keeping with that directive, the extremely difficult decision has been made that faculty will not be able to freely access their office for extended periods of work time. They may continue to request brief office access to retrieve books and other materials by following the procedures provided in the Campus Access Policy. I assure you that this conclusion was not reached lightly, but after much consideration of factors such as undesirably elevated building or hallway densities, the inability for custodial staff to cover all the necessary additional cleaning required (supply rooms, xerox machines, stairwell, elevators, rest rooms) to keep people safe, and the problem of tracking when and where people are in a building, so necessary for contact tracing in the case of positive test results. Finally, in many cases, faculty offices are not well-designed or distributed for safe social distancing practices.

I realize the additional weight this places on faculty, and its disproportionate effect on some of our colleagues. To that end, University leadership is currently finalizing a ‘swing space’ policy in which faculty will be provided with prepared quiet spaces in which to think, prep, and write, on a reservable basis. Final details will be shared the week of August 10. 

Office Hours will be virtual 

For the fall semester all office hours will be held virtually or by way of the telephone. Faculty are expected to provide to students in the course syllabus not only the specified office hours but the communication method (i.e., phone, Canvas chat, etc.). Virtual office hours give you and students flexibility; consider using a scheduling tool like to allow students to set up time with you. Or make your office hours unmissable by offering to work through a thorny problem or complicated data set (just be sure to record it for those students unable to attend!). You may also want to try using Zoom as it has a waiting room feature which allows faculty to control when a student joins a meeting/office hour. 

Fall Final Exams

As a reminder, the campus will be moving all courses --- even those currently assigned for in-person teaching --- to an online modality after the Thanksgiving break. This is to minimize the potential heightened concerns about COVID-19 transmission as we move into the influenza season. As a result, all final exams will be offered asynchronously to students. Guidance on how final exams will be scheduled can be found on the Registrar’s Office website

CARES Funding and Faculty Technology Support Equipment

Faculty that requested technology equipment to assist with virtual teaching needs (eg, WACOM tablets, headphones, document cameras, webcams) will have an opportunity to pick up the equipment on campus in the next couple of weeks. Orders were placed some weeks ago, but due to high demand (with everyone trying to buy the same things!), the equipment was backordered. While we do not have confirmed delivery dates for all items yet, the Information Technology Services Office will email faculty information on pickup once equipment is received.

PEC Recording Options and Digital Education Studio

The Office of Digital Education is working to make a new temporary recording room space in the Mardigian Library available to faculty by the beginning of the fall semester. The space will be available by appointment for recording short narrated powerpoint videos and LightBoard videos with the assistance of Aya Sheikh, Faculty Video Production Assistant. If you are interested in recording video with Aya's assistance, please fill out the Digital Education Video Production Request Form and Aya will respond with schedule options as soon as the new space is available. Plans are also actively being made to set up another, permanent recording space on campus as soon as possible. 

In addition, the Professional Education Center continues to offer appointments for faculty needing to develop course-related recordings, for which CECS online staff are providing support.  Appointments are required and must be scheduled at least a week in advance.  To schedule an appointment, please complete   CECS online staff will provide support. Appointments are required, and must be scheduled at least a week in advance. 

Town Hall ‘Save the Date’ and Future Communications

Please hold August 18, 2 p.m. - 4 p.m. on your calendars for a Town Hall meeting for faculty and staff. The first hour will be devoted to sharing information that impacts both faculty and staff. Faculty will be invited to remain on the line for information related to teaching and other faculty-specific issues (staff are welcome to stay on as well, if that is helpful to them). A Town Hall email will be shared with the campus in the coming days. 

Further communications to come! The chancellor and I are now restarting our weekly emails so that the campus community is provided timely and useful updates about the fall planning efforts as we approach the start of the semester. Again, look for the “Return to Campus” Guide (to be shared the week of August 10) for further details and additional guidelines to augment the information provided in this message. 

With apologies for the lengthy message, but hope it is helpful to our collective enterprise of a successful and safe Fall term.

With my best wishes, and continue to take care,


Office of the Provost

1080 - Administration Building
4901 Evergreen Road
Dearborn, MI 48128
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Phone: 313-593-5030