A look back at all of the events that defined the 2020 University of Michigan experience. Dominick Sokotoff/Daily.  Buy this photo.

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It’s been a tumultuous year at Michigan, filled with a number of ups and plenty of downs. This week, we look back at all of the events that defined the 2020 University of Michigan experience. Take some time to walk down memory lane, for the good, the bad, the nostalgic and the scary, and reflect with us on what it meant to be a Wolverine this year.

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January/February: Michigan sports underway

Michigan sports were in full swing at the start of the year. On New Year’s Day, Michigan Football took the field in Orlando, Fla., to play Alabama in the Citrus Bowl. It was Shea Patterson’s final game and the Wolverines lost 35-16.

Days later, Michigan Basketball, led by its new head coach Juwan Howard, took the court in a white-out East Lansing arena with some 15,000 fans to play the Spartans. Despite challenges, the team faced adversity throughout the early season and Howard’s team was looking forward to a March Madness run.

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January: Hundreds gather for “No War on Iran” demonstration

On Jan. 3, a United States drone strike targeted and killed Iranian General Qasem Soleimani near the Baghdad airport. Days later, hundreds of U-M students and faculty members gathered outside of Angell Hall for a demonstration against U.S. imperialism and potential war with Iran.

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January/February: Two top U-M officials face multiple allegations of sexual misconduct

In January, then-Provost Martin Philbert — who used to be the second-highest administrator at U-M — was placed on administrative leave due to multiple allegations of sexual misconduct. In the coming months, a WilmerHale investigation revealed decades of alleged misconduct by Philbert and confirmed that numerous U-M employees knew of accusations against Philbert, even as he was promoted time and time again.

February then revealed multiple allegations of sexual misconduct against the former director of University Health Service and U-M athletic team physician Robert E. Anderson. Some U-M students reacted to and protested the various sexual assault allegations, many expressing that they were disappointed but not surprised.

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March: Bernie Sanders rally brings Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, supporters to Diag

In March, then-Democtratic Presidential candidate Bernie Sanders held a rally with U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., on the Diag ahead of the Michigan primary. Waving white and blue “Bernie” campaign signs, over 10,000 students, faculty and community members attended the rally.

Despite the large turnout from U-M students, President-elect Joe Biden won the Michigan Democratic primary days later, winning approximately 53% of the Democratic vote.

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March: COVID-19 comes to Michigan, shutting down campuscanceling sports and upending senior year celebrations

For many students, the most life-altering effects of COVID-19 didn’t hit until they returned from spring break, though some had already adjusted their travel plans. On March 10, just hours after the primary election polls closed, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer announced the first two confirmed COVID-19 cases in Michigan and declared a state of emergency.

On March 11, U-M canceled classes for the rest of the week and moved to remote instruction for the remainder of the semester. The next day, all spring and summer study abroad programs were canceled, and U-M abruptly told all students abroad to return home. Then, the NCAA basketball tournament and the rest of spring and winter sports were canceled.

For graduating students, who unknowingly attended their last in-person classes, the online transition represented a jarring end to an otherwise normal college career. Paired with Whitmer’s lockdown order, the month of March left many students concerned and confused about the future of their school experience.

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Late May/June: Michigan community calls for racial justice

In late May and through June, U-M students and community members joined millions nationwide in demonstrations against police brutality and racial injustice. Protests were initially sparked after a white police officer killed George Floyd, a Black man, in Minneapolis, Minn., reigniting conversations around the history of policingpolice brutalitymass incarceration and more.


In Washtenaw County, hundreds protested after a video surfaced of a white Washtenaw County sheriff’s deputy punching Sha’Teina Grady El, a Black woman, in the head multiple times during an arrest in Ypsilanti Township. The Daily created Miseducation, a special collection of articles, multimedia and art tackling histories of racial injustice in America.

Students move into dorms at the beginning of the school year. Dominick Sokotoff/Daily.
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June/July: In-residence fall semestertuition increase announced as international students face uncertainty

In June, we heard the first news about U-M’s plan for an in-residence fall semester. As other universities opted for fully remote instruction, U-M was “cautiously optimistic” it could achieve a successful “public health-informed” student experience.

The Board of Regents also announced an increase in tuition and a $50 “COVID-19 fee,” to the anger and disappointment of many students. Further, some international students faced concern and confusion when a new executive order from the Trump administration required international students to leave the U.S. if all of their classes were online, though this order was later rescinded and then rewritten to apply only to incoming students.

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August/September: Big ten votes to postpone fall sports seasonthen changes course

In August, another blow came to the student experience on campus with the announcement that the Big Ten voted to postpone fall sports. Initially citing the mental and physical health of student athletes alongside challenges in preparations for a health-informed fall sports season, the Big Ten council of chancellors — including U-M President Mark Schlissel — voted to postpone the season.

However, one month later, the Big Ten presidents elected to reinstate the fall sports season. Big Ten presidents said they believed their universities could handle the fall sports season, notably the football season, while including new measures to include safe public health practices. Months later, Michigan Football would end up canceling three of its games following increases in cases within the program — including The Game with Ohio State University for the first time in more than 100 years.

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September: ‘Demanding transparency should be obvious’: ‘U’ community protests administration as strikes continue

Days after the start of the “public-health informed” semester, the Graduate Employees’ Organization went on strike, demanding increased COVID-19 protections and reduced police presence on campus. The strike sparked a series of demonstrations on campus, including a vote of no confidence in Schlissel by the faculty body. Resident advisers also went on strike, and MDining workers implemented a “slow-down” shortly after.

Pushback from student groups of color on campus led to the end of the Michigan Ambassadors program, which at one point involved armed police officers and was originally designed to serve as a “visible reminder” of the need to follow public health guidelines.

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October: Washtenaw County issues stay-in-place order for U-M students amid spiking COVID-19 cases

The Washtenaw County Health Department issued a two-week stay-in-place order for U-M undergraduate students to curb outbreaks of COVID-19 on campus. At the time of the order, U-M had tallied more than 1,000 COVID-19 cases, and quarantine and isolation housing occupancy was over 50%.

Undergraduate students, both on and off-campus, were told to stay in their residence unless attending class, accessing dining services or carrying out approved work that could not be done remotely. Some students returned to their primary residence. At this point, most remaining in-person classes were converted to remote instruction for the remainder of the semester.

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November: Students head to polls on Election Day complicated by pandemic

With the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and uncertainty about what the future may hold, U-M students that voted in Ann Arbor reported their feeling that their voices mattered now more than ever.

On Nov. 4, former Vice President Joe Biden was first projected to win the state of Michigan in a contentious election. Shortly before the projections were announced, current President Donald Trump’s campaign filed a lawsuit in the Michigan Court of Claims to stop the state from counting ballots. More lawsuits followed. However, despite the pushback from Trump and his campaign team, Biden was officially projected to win the presidential election days later on Nov. 7.

Michigan residents also elected Sarah Hubbard to the U-M Board of Regents, making her the second Republican member out of eight.

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November: After ‘unacceptable level’ of COVID-19 cases this fall, U-M makes changes for winter semester

U-M announced that its plans for the winter semester would shift dramatically from the fall reopening plan that earned the school a heavy dose of criticism.

U-M reduced undergraduate housing density by limiting on-campus housing to students who meet certain need-based criteria, ending a short-lived residential experience for most freshmen. Additionally, U-M’s winter semester plan offers more remote courses, adhering more closely to the approach used after the Washtenaw Health Department issued its stay-in-place order.

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November: Racial justice protests continue into the fall

As Michigan students prepared for final exams, the Food and Drug Administration authorized the emergency use of the COVID-19 Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine, a major step in curbing a pandemic that has killed more than 300,000 Americans.

Michigan Medicine began vaccinating employees after receiving 1,950 initial doses of the vaccine on Dec. 14.

Dr. Jason Knight, a rheumatologist and COVID-19 clinical trial lead, is among the first to receive the Pfizer Inc./BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine at Michigan Medicine on Tuesday, December 15, 2020. Dominick Sokotoff/Daily.
 Buy this photo.

December: V-Day at the ‘U’: Michigan Medicine begins COVID-19 vaccinations

As Michigan students prepared for final exams, the Food and Drug Administration gave emergency use authorization to the COVID-19 Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine, a major step in curbing a pandemic that has killed more than 300,000 Americans.

Michigan Medicine began vaccinating employees after receiving 1,950 initial doses of the vaccine on Dec. 14.

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