CBS Detroit – University of Michigan President Mark Schlissel sent a letter to students and staff on Friday announcing major changes for the winter semester in how the university continues to manage COVID-19. One of the biggest concerns according to The University Record is to limit how many undergraduates will be living on campus.
This plan came after UofM’s administration reviewed guidance from public health agencies, feedback from the campus community, and lesson learned from the fall term. UofM was one of the few schools to go ahead with a fall term on campus after even their counterpart, Michigan State University canceled on-campus classes for the fall semester this year.
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According to the University Record, one of the main provisions of the new policy is that undergraduate students who don’t need to live on campus should “remain at their permanent residences”. The goal is to reduce density in the various residence halls across campus. For those undergraduate students who will be staying on the Ann Arbor campus, either living, working, learning, or doing research will have to undergo mandatory-weekly COVID-19 testing. Housing contracts for undergrads will be canceled for the winter semester. Undergrads who need to live on campus can request housing based on health, wellness, safety, financial or academic needs, or status as an international student. Students who do live on campus will be given their own dorm room. Student access to lounge spaces and dining in cafeteria will be by appointment only, with a push for grab-and-go meals.
Plus the university administration writes major increases in asymptomatic testing for all members of the campus community. UofM is also taking new measures to support mental health and well-being.
According to Schlissel, top priority is safety and the plan comes after staff and students voiced requests for more testing and opportunities to advance their academic goals. According to the University Record Schlissel wrote, “We have engaged broadly across the campus to gather input from faculty, staff and students,”. “Our plan for the winter term reflects the best of what we learned and what we’ve heard that you hope to achieve going forward.”
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UofM Provost Susan M. Collins said, “Planning for the winter semester has been a delicate balance of many important priorities, including safety and public health concerns, our academic mission and the experiences of those in our U-M community,”. Collins also said to the University Record, “I appreciate the thought, energy, and care that so many have contributed to developing a path forward for our university.”
With the new policies to take effect, for now, they will continue with the policies they already have underway. Which include more remote classes and learning. Classes that require in-person teaching will be limited to those that require it to be taught effectively or is required for people to be licensed. UofM says instructors will have the freedom to use the format they deem is best, with fewer hybrid classes. As instructors say it’s difficult to teach in an online and alternating in-person format. UofM is not forcing anyone to teach on campus unless they’re comfortable doing it.
For mental health and general well being, UofM is doing a myriad of things. They are adding eight additional counselors to their Counseling and Psychological services to reduce wait times. Wolverine Wellness and Recreational Sports facilities will be available to the UofM community. Next, they have added two additional Mid-week and one-day “well-being breaks. These breaks are scheduled to give instructors and students some time off on February 24 and March 23. UofM is also giving three additional days off to staff during upcoming holiday breaks among other initiatives.
In October the university ordered all students to stay in their dorms after coronavirus cases surged on campus, following the advice of the Washtenaw County Health Department, but the order was rescinded on November 3rd as COVID-9 cases among 18-29 year-olds was decreasing in Washtenaw County. The number of cases across the county being from UofM students decreased by nearly half from 60% to 33%.
Enforcement of the new winter semester policies will be more strict they say with a “no-tolerance” approach. Social gatherings of three or more in campus living and residence halls is automatic probation. If students are in quarrantine or in public isolation by public health order will face a termination of their univeristy housing contract for any violations. Off campus students can face the Office of Student Conflict and/or the Washtenaw County Health Department.
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