President Mark S. Schlissel, 23 March 2020
U-M guidelines on Gov. Whitmer’s “Stay Home, Stay Safe” order, spring and summer courses to go remote
To All Members of the U-M Community:
Today, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer issued an order that the vast majority of Michiganders "Stay Home and Stay Safe," calling for the suspension of most in-person work beginning at midnight through April 13, 2020, for our state in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The order broadly directs residents to remain at home or in their place of residence to the maximum extent feasible, and references several exceptions that are relevant to our university. These include workers in health care, public health, public safety, and critical infrastructure. Specifically, the order references federal guidelines that specify as critical: "educators supporting public and private K-12 schools, colleges, and universities for purposes of facilitating distance learning or performing other essential functions, if operating under rules for social distancing."
Thanks to the considerable efforts of many across the University of Michigan, we’re already doing much of what the governor’s order specifies. We have implemented strong measures that maintain critical aspects of our education, research and patient care while protecting health and safety and diminishing spread of the virus.
The actions we have taken will remain in place, as they align closely with the governor’s order:
• Winter term classes will continue remotely and in alternative formats. Instructors and those supporting technology needed for remote delivery of courses should work remotely but can continue to utilize university and classroom resources to deliver remote instruction as needed.
• We will continue to support students living on and near campus by providing essential on-site support.
• Employees who can work from home will continue to do so.
• The order will not significantly alter the university's research operations, as we moved last Friday to ramp down all noncritical laboratory research activities.
We’ve significantly reduced density on our campuses, work is happening differently, and we continue to fulfill our mission. This has happened quickly and professionally – and I cannot overstate my appreciation for your commitment.
For the duration of the governor’s executive order, I now ask everyone to explicitly implement the following:
• All campus employees should work remotely unless your unit needs you on campus to maintain the work we’ve identified as critical to our mission, including in the delivery of courses remotely. I would encourage managers to identify work that could be reassigned and for employees to work with unit managers in identifying creative solutions and ideas. This does not apply to Michigan Medicine, which is developing its own guidelines based on the executive order and will communicate those soon.
• Supervisors should continually evaluate their units’ operations, including finding appropriate ways to redeploy employees for supporting critical operations and/or tasks that can be performed remotely within their units.
• There will be additional anxiety, questions and considerations as we seek to understand how the Stay Home, Stay Safe order affects us. I ask supervisors to communicate as quickly and thoroughly as possible, understanding that we are in a period that is virtually unprecedented in how it affects us as people.
• Continue to stay home if sick, observe social distancing guidelines, and per the order, "all public and private gatherings of any number of people occurring among persons not part of a single household are prohibited."
Many employees are asking how they can help. Michigan Medicine has asked all who are able to consider donating blood.
We will continue to post updates, information and answers to frequently asked questions on our COVID-19 information website. The university has activated its emergency call center to assist those with COVID-19 questions specifically related to U-M responses. It is available Monday-Friday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. at (877) 763-3040.
For medical related questions, please call your doctor. Michigan Medicine patients with questions about symptoms, home management or advice should call the Michigan Medicine COVID-19 hotline at 734-763-6336.
Update on spring and summer terms
Additionally, I am announcing that all spring and summer term courses at the University of Michigan’s three campuses will be conducted remotely in alternative formats. This decision aligns with our ongoing efforts to respond to the pandemic, by maintaining this critical part of our mission while encouraging social distancing.
In conjunction with our provost’s offices, I ask schools and colleges to prioritize offering programs and coursework that allows current students to keep working toward their degrees and not fall behind.
Schools and colleges will have the flexibility to cancel programs that they determine cannot be delivered with high quality in a remote format.
More details on this will be available today in the University Record.
This has been a challenging time for everyone in our community. We’ve been affected personally – and tragically – by the spread of the virus. We’ve been asked to think and work differently, under considerable time pressures and growing stress.
We’ve also demonstrated our strength and resilience as students, faculty, staff and community members. While the COVID-19 pandemic has placed extraordinary demands on our university and its people, your response has exceeded the extraordinary.
Thank you for your dedication, your creativity and your support of one another and our mission as a public university.
Mark S. Schlissel, M.D., Ph.D.