Most classes will be taught in-person, residence halls will be open at almost 80% capacity and fans will be allowed to attend sporting events in-person “as allowed by the public health measures” during the Fall 2021 semester, the University of Michigan announced Friday afternoon.
While most small classes, seminars and discussion sections will be in person, most large lecture classes will continue to be remote, though the announcement said this could vary by school and college for pedagogical purposes. On-campus dining halls will offer in-person and carry-out meal options. Residence halls and living-learning communities will be open to students. Libraries, museums, study spaces, gyms and student support centers will have more in-person components available while still offering some remote options.
Additionally, campus employees who have been working remotely throughout the pandemic will return to campus in a phased manner over the summer. Some will continue to work remotely for some of the workweek. Research opportunities for graduate and undergraduate students will continue expanding gradually as well.
The plan presumes that all faculty, graduate student instructors and staff will have access to a COVID-19 vaccine before the fall semester and that a significant proportion of students will have also been vaccinated, according to University President Mark Schlissel.
According to the announcement, “this will all be accomplished within the boundaries of the state and local public health safety measures in place at that time.” At a COVID-19 briefing Friday afternoon, Schlissel noted recent COVID-19 developments such as lowering case numbers and improving vaccination rates.
“A third highly effective and safe COVID-19 vaccine has been approved, President Biden has called for all adults to be eligible for vaccination by May 1, we’re seeing fewer cases on campus and across the nation, and forecasts for hospitalizations are decreasing,” Schlissel said.
Furthermore, the state of Michigan announced Friday morning that all adults in the state will be eligible for a COVID-19 vaccine starting April 5, tossing out the phased approach the state planned while vaccine supply was more limited.
Chief Health officer Preeti Malani said weekly COVID-19 testing would continue to be offered throughout the summer and possibly the fall semesters and urged all U-M community members who are eligible to get vaccinated wherever possible.
“I’m very optimistic that the fall will look and feel more like a typical semester on campus,” Malani said. “We’ll all need to continue doing our part by remaining flexible and vigilant. I encourage everyone to get vaccinated against COVID-19 whenever you become eligible.”
By the end of the summer, Schlissel said the vast majority of the U-M community will be vaccinated. As of March 5, The Michigan Daily found that 26% of the U-M community has been vaccinated. Dr. Sandro Cinti said that 22% of the state is fully vaccinated in Friday’s COVID briefing.
“We will be moving quickly to a safer environment,” Schlissel said.
Still, Malani said students should expect face coverings and social distance to continue to some extent in the fall.
The fall semester plan is still flexible, so if vaccinations exceed expectations, in-person activities will expand and public health measures will be modified, Schlissel said.
Harmon said residence halls will offer space for all first-year students and as many other returning students as possible. He said U-M Housing will encourage all students to receive a COVID-19 vaccine before coming to campus in the fall.
Fall welcome activities during the first six weeks of the semester will be expanded to include second-year students and encourage more engagement with the campus community. Martino Harmon, vice president for Student Life, said he was looking forward to offering all students a more in-person experience on campus this fall.
“We also are focused on creating vibrancy and engagement especially during the first six weeks of the fall term to provide anchoring experiences normally associated with ‘the Michigan experience’ for first-year students and others,” Harmon said.
In an email sent to the U-M community on Friday, Schlissel acknowledged that it was “a year ago yesterday” when the University announced the remainder of Winter 2020 classes would be taught remotely.
“Since then, it’s not been easy for anyone. You’ve persevered and are working to get us back to the University of Michigan that we all love: a vibrant, energized and ambitious community of students, faculty and staff; a residential university that teaches, learns, conducts world-class research, serves the public and cares for millions of patients,” Schlissel wrote. “… Whether it’s our undergraduates wondering about getting their first jobs or a Ph.D. student concerned about the availability of faculty positions after graduation, our return to a more normal, in-person fall semester represents an opportunity to come together and help our students best prepare for an uncertain future.”
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