University leadership hosted a virtual Town Hall webinar to share information with faculty and staff regarding COVID-19 response and recovery efforts.

The Town Hall (video below) took place on Tuesday, May 12. Topics covered included:

  • Preparation and coordination with with university, health and government officials regarding campus safety
  • Fall 2020 teaching scenarios planning
  • Fall 2020 student recruitment efforts
  • Fiscal 2021 budget planning and projections

There was also a question and answer session at the conclusion of the presentations.

Fall Planning for Teaching

How will teaching be conducted in the fall?

There were numerous questions about fall teaching. Fall scenarios were covered in the Town Hall and a special webpage has been created outlining the current thinking at this time. Fall teaching scenarios were shared at the 26 minute mark of the Town Hall video. 

Return to Campus/Safety Plans for Safe Return

What safety precautions will be in place for a campus return?

This topic was addressed in the Town Hall. This portion of the Town Hall begins at the 15:40 mark of the video. 

There are task forces in place working on a safe return to campus plan. Information will be shared in June. 

Currently you must wear face coverings and practice social distancing while in campus buildings. If you can stay home, stay home. There are also reporting policies in place if you are suspect you may have COVID-19. If you must come to campus, please follow the policy outlined on the COVID-19 website. 

Please see more information on health, wellness and prevention and classes, work and campus services.

 

If we meet on campus, will class size be reduced? Or, have half the class one day, the other half of the class another day?

A return to campus plan is currently under development. The return will follow the latest guidelines issued by health and government officials.  Any on-campus activity will require implementation of appropriate social distancing. Any class on campus will be appropriately sized for the space in which it is held. Schedules of such classes will be developed to accommodate this need.  

Research

What is the plan to restart research?

This topic was discussed during the Town Hall. This topic was addressed at the 25 minute mark of the Town Hall video. Research will start up in a slow, phased approach. Currently Interim Vice Provost for Research Yi Lu Murphey is coordinating ramp-up plans with U-M Ann Arbor and UM-Flint colleagues and is developing teams for Dearborn implementation. A more detailed plan will be shared once the Governor’s executive order is lifted. 

Who is taking care of the animals contained in campus buildings? Are their psychological needs being addressed?

Faculty in charge of our animals have been deemed essential workers, so their roles have not changed since the pandemic began. Animals have been cared for in the exact same way as they always have been.  We always follow all prescribed protocols for caring for animals. 

Can human subject research continue? If not, when can it resume? How can we help students conduct these studies if not related to COVID-19?

Human subject research (HSR) that can be conducted remotely can certainly continue.  Other HSR will need to await appropriate guidance.

Curriculum/Academic Integrity

With more classes being conducted online, what can be done to protect against academic dishonesty.

This topic was covered in the Town Hall. The response shared: 

We did see a significant uptick in violations of academic integrity.  So did most other institutions of higher learning in the country.  But that’s no excuse: this is not acceptable and we must take it very seriously.  But it isn’t an easy one to solve.

So what are we doing?   

First and most important, both the Hub for Teaching and Learning, Digital Education, and each college’s Digital Education Ambassadors are available to talk through what is really the only answer to this intractable problem.  And that is for faculty to design new ‘authentic’ or ‘alternative’ kinds of assessment. This is not only to prevent cheating, but — more positively — to develop more effective ways to assess student learning.  Lots of help, lots of information out there, applicable to all fields of study.

While I know some on campus favor it, surveillance technology, or e-proctoring, is increasingly not perceived as the way forward, for numerous reasons.  Student stress and distress, significant privacy concerns.  And the very fact that we can’t win.  For every technology we try, sooner or later it will be bypassed, the kids and their enablers (Chegg) will be ahead of us.  This could turn assessment into an ‘arms race’: suspicious us versus evasive them.  Not the path we want.  

Second, we can build more education and reminders about Academic Integrity and our Honors Codes into our basic, foundational student experiences.  There are existing Canvas modules we can add to all our courses.  We can boost visibility in orientation, in student programming. I am happy to report Amy Finley, the Dean of Students, is going to be working with our new Student Government president, to get our best change agents, our students, involved and helping.

Faculty should consider relying on a variety of diverse and more frequent low-stakes assessments instead of few high-stakes assessments. 

Additional information on this topic will be shared soon. 

If unemployment and labor cuts linger in industry post-COVID, does the university have contingency plans to coordinate with industry to retool the curriculum?

We remain in the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic. Colleges continuously consult with and seek counsel from industry regarding needed job skills to improve curriculums. This will not change. Our strategic planning effort will consider the impact of COVID and be adjusted appropriately.

Does University leadership have any relationships with the Federal Economic Revitalization Task Force?

The university currently does not have a formal relationship with the Federal Economic Revitalization Task Force.

 

In the sciences, we are very concerned about financial needs taking priority above the quality of education that we can offer to our science students, especially as it pertains to laboratory experiences?

First, it is not that financial needs take priority over the quality of education, but that financial considerations but be considered and adapted to support continued commitment to our educational excellence.

The importance of laboratory teaching, and the specific difficulties the current situation poses to it, has been recognized since the beginning.  A task force, led by Dan Lawson (CASL), has been exploring options and best practices for how to deliver quality laboratory experiences for our students, remotely or — if possible — safely in our instructional labs in the fall.

 

Please address the status of sabbaticals - will they continue to be approved for eligible faculty?

Faculty eligible for sabbatical in Fall 2020 were given the option to defer, if their research plans would have been negatively impacted.  There are no plans to alter ongoing sabbatical policies.  Faculty should consult with their deans for additional information.

What happens to tenure and promotion cases waiting for approval by the U-M Board of Regents?

Promotion and tenure cases will be reviewed at the May Regents’ meeting. 

Is the school exploring the option of putting recording equipment in some classrooms so that at least some lectures can be offered in both face to face and streaming fashion? Can better broadcast equipment be made available?

Carrie Shumaker, Chief Information Officer, in consultation with the Hub and Digital Education, is working to explore our best options for expanded and improved recording capacity, both on campus and for individual faculty.

Why is tuition still so expensive for Summer 2020?

The expenses that summer tuition supports continue to be incurred as the university continues to function with staff and faculty working and teaching remotely.  The Summer Registration Fee was reduced by $100 and lab fees were not assessed, in recognition of those services that cannot be supported.  

Can we collect feedback from students and faculty regarding what worked remotely, what didn't, and if students have a preference to learn remotely or in-person?

The Mardigian Library, in a student-assistant designed survey that recently closed, reached out to faculty, staff and students.  Analysis of the results is currently ongoing, and will be shared soon.  While wishing to avoid ‘survey fatigue’, clearly we do want to capture perceptions and ways to improve.

 

Budget

An overview of the current budget situation, and options for reductions, was covered in the Town Hall. The budget presentation begins at the 33 minute mark of the Town Hall video. 

What is the potential for involuntary furloughs and layoffs; future of working remotely?

While reductions are on the list of possibilities, this action will be among the last options considered. 

Working remotely will become more commonplace on campus and will be included in returning to work planning. 

Has the university considered proportional salary reductions based on annual salaries?

The university is currently exploring various many options. The chancellor has taken a 10% salary reduction, senior leaders have volunteered 5% of their salaries and some faculty have volunteered a portion of their salaries. 

How much annual increase (if any) will UM-Dearborn staff see now? How much will staff be refunded for monthly parking fees? How many cuts will senior officers incur before it trickles down to staff?

Merit increases were suspended for FY21. This was communicated to campus in April. At this time, a portion of collected parking fees will not be refunded. Senior officer salary cuts are detailed above.

What are the current financial losses at UM-Dearborn (actual not projected)?

We are not expecting a loss for this fiscal year 2020.  We are currently modeling a fiscal year 2021 loss in the range of -$4.6M to -$20M, on a general fund budget of approximately $159M.  This is fluid and is impacted by uncertainties such as student enrollment behavior for the fall and state funding risk, which both impact this modeling.   

Have responses to voluntary furloughs and reduced hours helped fill anticipated funding gaps?

Our voluntary furlough program realizes savings for primarily this current fiscal year 2020, with the exception of a few 120 day-long furloughs that were requested.

There has been a lot of discussion regarding the COVID related expenses. I'm interested in learning more about any cost savings the university is experiencing due to the remote learning environment such as utilities?

With respect to utilities, we are hoping to realize some savings between $100k-200k for this fiscal year but will not know the specific amount until we reconcile energy charges in the future.  

 

Many staff have elected to take the voluntary furlough. Will these salary savings remain within the unit to help offset COVID expenses?

18 staff have volunteered to take the furlough and we will carefully work with each unit to realize savings.

 

What, if any, protection does our endowment provide?

The university has a modest endowment. Our endowment provides funding of approximately 1% or $2M, into our annual operating budgets.

Admissions and Recruitment/Fall Forecast/CARES Funding

Strategies and Fall predictions were addressed during the Town Hall. This portion of the presentation begins at the 28:50 mark of the Town Hall video. 

Will our out of state tuition differential scholarship remain in place and will increasing out of state enrollment be part of our long term enrollment and financial aid strategy?

For 21/22, we will be re-evaluating our financial aid leveraging to ensure a strategic investment of financial aid funds to support campus mission and goals, including a commitment to more need based funding, while maximizing net revenue. All populations will be a part of this analysis. Although we would like to increase our out of state student population, the lack of residence halls poses a challenge.

 

Most placement exams were eliminated for specious "budget" reasons. How will we "place" these students without affecting the quality of first year pedagogy?

The continuation of the proper placement of students is vital for ensuring academic excellence and student success. These placement processes help ensure that each student is properly placed in a class according to their demonstrated competency. Currently, all incoming students are expected to have standardized test scores but our current placement policies do include provisions for placing students without a SAT or ACT score. For English Placements, the campus requires students who do not have a standardized test score to be placed in COMP 105 (Writing and Rhetoric) and COMP 300 (Writing Studio). For Math Placements, our campus utilizes a combination of standardized test scores and a computer-based exam (Accuplacer) which students can take remotely. With that said, we agree that our campus needs to continue to monitor the effectiveness of these placement systems to ensure that students are being properly placed and are academically successful. 

 

Will international students be able to continue their studies at UM-Dearborn?

Much will depend on the current status of the pandemic and related federal  advisories/guidance/regulations. Online courses will continue to be made available. 

Are we actively recruiting part-time students— those that may be unsure of their future in higher education and presently looking for a kind of “gap year?”

In general recruitment is focused on attracting the student, with desired course load an individual decision.  We are supportive of offering part-time if that’s a preferred option. Currently, 30% of undergraduates and 79% of graduate students choose this option. 

Strategic Plan

The current status of the strategic planning process was addressed during the Town Hall. This portion was addressed at the 9:38 mark of the video. 

What actions can we take at UM-Dearborn to emerge from this crisis as a stronger and more efficient university?

This topic was discussed during the Town Hall.

Other

We really have to do something special for the class of 2020. What are we thinking about doing for our graduates?

The university developed a comprehensive plan to celebrate our Spring 2020 graduates. All Spring graduates have been invited to participate in the December ceremony later this year. 

Were you going to say something about UM-Dearborn student athletes and sports teams?

Athletic Director Matt Beaudry and university leadership are in close discussions with our athletic conference officials. Various plans are under consideration for fall competition and final details will be shared at a later date. Our primary goal is the safety and health of our student athletes.

What is the possibility of the Early Childhood Education Center opening after shelter at home order is lifted?

The Early Childhood Education Center (ECEC) is continuing to follow Governor Whitmer's Executive Order 2020-65 which suspends in-person K-12 instruction, Great Start Readiness Program (GSRP) program delivery and early childhood programs for the remainder of the 2019-2020 school year. More information on the Executive Order can be found here. 

While the guidelines (including Governor's Whitmer's Stay Home Order and Michigan Safe Start Plan) surrounding the pandemic continue to change daily, the ECEC is constantly evaluating and planning for a multitude of scenarios. Unfortunately, at this time we cannot confirm definitively if and when the ECEC will open this summer. There are many factors to take into consideration, most importantly the health and safety of the children and ECEC team members. As soon as there is clear direction from the appropriate entities ECEC families and the larger UM-Dearborn community will be notified.

What plans or strategies does leadership have to develop and market the UM-"DEARBORN" brand?

Marketing messaging and efforts center around student recruitment efforts. The Offices of Enrollment Management and External Relations collaborate on messaging reflective of the UM-Dearborn brand. Major efforts include a student CRM system and targeted, digital advertising. 

What steps will be taken to bolster staff morale when everything has been taken away (i.e. travel, merit increases, tuition support, etc.)?

We are not alone in facing this unprecedented financial crisis.  Although some perquisites have been rolled back to responsibly address our budget,  we are keenly aware that employee morale is an important component to our work. This topic has been discussed at the leadership level. University leadership is currently addressing budget and recovery aspects of the operation. This important point has been noted. 

Has there been any discussion about the future (restriction or expansion) of student employment on campus?

Student employment, which is a part of our financial aid strategy, is an important component of supporting our students and we are attempting to minimize any impacts to student security. 

 

How would the One University Campaign's recent report recommendations, if implemented, impact the enrollment challenges that UM-Dearborn faces in CASL?

UM-Dearborn’s position regarding One University, can be found here.  

Will individual faculty and staff be allowed to choose to continue remote work based on their individual medical or family medical situations?

Anyone who can work remotely without compromising efficiency or quality should do so. Otherwise, individual work plans should be discussed with your supervisor and/or Human Resources. 

In what ways does the administration recognize that “working from home” does not equate to “working from home with stay-at-home ordered children requiring supervision?”

University leadership acknowledges working from home presents many challenges for all individuals, not just those with young children. Individual work plans and issues should be addressed with your supervisor and/or Human Resources. 

How COVID-19 is influencing the university's plan for carbon neutrality?

This question was addressed during the Town Hall. This portion begins at the 12:30 mark of the Town Hall video. 

 

ELB construction update?

Construction was halted by the Governor’s executive order in early May. Construction crews have resumed activity. A new construction schedule is currently being worked on. A Winter 2021 opening is expected. 

Can the university work to have flexible spending money held over? Payflex has said that this is up to HR and without intervention from the university this money will be lost.

Only staff taking furloughs can make adjustments to their child care FSA accounts. Contact the Shared Services Center for assistance at 734-615-2000.

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