In a statement emailed to the campus community on April 28, University of Michigan President Mark Schlissel addressed Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s extension of the “Stay Home, Stay Safe” order through May 15 and the University’s plans to gradually begin reopening facilities.
Whitmer’s new order requires residents to wear face coverings while in enclosed public spaces, however, residents not wearing one are not subject to criminal penalty. The order also lifted restrictions on certain outdoor activities and allowed certain businesses like landscaping and plant nurseries to reopen, as long as they follow strict social distancing guidelines. Additionally, businesses selling non-essential supplies are allowed to open for curbside pickup.
“Aligning with the governor’s public health-informed preparations to re-engage sectors of the economy, we have been preparing to begin ramping up some of our activities,” Schlissel said. “Units across the university have been developing plans to safely resume on-campus work when that becomes possible.”
The University is planning to first resume activities that cannot be done remotely, such as experimental lab and studio-based research. Schlissel said any in-person work will implement safety measures in accordance with medical and public health information. He noted there will also be further updates regarding Michigan Medicine later this week.
However, Schlissel said most nonessential University business will continue being conducted remotely until further notice.
“Much of what we are already doing will not change,” Schlissel said. “This includes the guidance that all employees who can work from home must continue to do so.”
Schissel addressed the statement he released to faculty and staff last week regarding the University’s financial situation, including a hiring freeze and an expected loss of $400 million and $1 billion this calendar year. He referred those who had questions about the policy changes to the University’s COVID-19 FAQ section.
Schissel claimed while no decisions have been made about the fall semester, the Office of the Provost has launched various planning committees focused on fall academic planning.
“I remain cautiously optimistic that we will be able to deliver a public health-informed fall semester on our three campuses, with as much in-person instruction as possible,” Schlissel said. “Until we have more information, we won’t know how this will look. I will share any decisions we make as soon as I can.”
Schlissel concluded the statement by inviting people to look at some University initiatives being conducted remotely. This includes a livestream video series hosted by the Institute for the Humanities called “House Calls: Virtual Studio Visits with Michigan Artists in a Pandemic,” which brings artists together from around the state via video chat.
“The arts and humanities can offer human connection in this time of isolation and uncertainty,” Institute Director Peggy McCracken said. “With ‘House Calls,’ we’ve commissioned Michigan artists to speak with us about how they are coping with and responding to our newly configured world.”
In addition, Schlissel encouraged people to look at the special content being posted on May 2 to the University Commencement page in honor of the graduating Class of 2020. He also addressed further efforts to schedule an in-person commencement.
“We continue to work with graduates to schedule an in-person commencement ceremony when we can do it safely,” Schlissel said.
Daily Staff Reporter Iulia Dobrin can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.