After cancelling face-to-face classes this spring due to COVID-19, universities across Michigan are gearing up to bring students back to campus this fall.
Although the state of Michigan is doing relatively well with containing the outbreak, the epidemic is still far from over. Universities are trying to balance public health risks with the massive financial costs that would result from not reopening.
Most universities in the state will offer a mix of in-person and online classes to students, put COVID response protocols in place, and adjust their academic calendars to limit student travel to and from campus. But many details are in the process of being sorted at every school.
Here’s a breakdown of the various plans universities are putting in place for the upcoming semester:
University of Michigan
The University of Michigan released their “Maize and BluePrint” Monday. The university will reopen all three campuses in the fall.
In-person classes will be offered from August 31 until November 20. The traditional October fall break has been cancelled. After a nine-day Thanksgiving break, the semester will finish remotely, and final exams will be held online. Classes will resume for the winter semester on January 19, two weeks later than originally planned.
Students will be able to choose in-person, remote, or mixed instruction classes, and the university plans to provide a “robust set of fully remote classes.” According to the plan, “generally, large classes will be held remotely, small classes will be held in person, and medium-size classes will be a hybrid of the two. This and other means can be used to diminish classroom density.”
Social distancing measures will be put in place, and face masks will be required. When students return to campus, they will be encouraged to self-quarantine for two weeks. Dorms and dining halls will also reopen, with restrictions. More details are expected to be announced before the start of the semester.
Although officials feel confident enough to reopen, there are those within the university that are unsure about the plan.
The University of Michigan Graduate Employees’ Organization in particular is unhappy with the lack of clarity from school officials, saying in a statement: “U-M’s reopening plan leaves many questions unanswered, but what we do know at this point shows that it is insufficient to protect graduate students’ health and safety. Our union is in support of having a universal remote and asynchronous option with no documentation requirements. Creating an inclusive, accessible campus community will also require measures to support students who are parents, international students, students of color, students with disabilities, and others.”
U of M has also withdrawn from hosting the second presidential debate in October, citing safety concerns.
Michigan State University
Michigan State University released their reopening plan in early June. Classes will begin on September 2 as scheduled, and all in-person instruction will end November 25. The remaining three weeks of classes will be remote. Students will have the option to remain on campus through the end of the semester.
A mix of in-person and online classes will be available. Students who choose not to return to campus will have the option to choose from a selection of online courses.
Michigan State was set to pilot a fall break for the first time this semester, but that has been cancelled.
MSU’s plan was developed by the Reopening Campus Task Force, which is chaired by Executive Vice President for Health Sciences Norman Beauchamp Jr. and University Physician David Weismantel.
Like U of M, the MSU Graduate Student Union is also concerned about rushing reopening plans, saying in a statement: “Members are concerned about the health and safety risks of instructing in-person, and that they will need to teach in-person in order to maintain their salary. They are also concerned that to reserve their right to work remotely they will need to disclose health information that they would rather not, for fear of potential future discrimination. It should also be noted that work exceptions are not necessarily made if it is a spouse, child, or other cohabitant who is vulnerable to infection. We would like to work to ensure that all TAs are able to request and be granted remote TA assignments, without disclosing medical information, based on their concerns for the health and safety of themselves and others.”
Meanwhile, a COVID-19 outbreak has been connected to the popular student bar Harper’s. 34 cases are connected to Harper’s, and anyone who visited the bar from June 12-20 are cautioned to watch for symptoms.
Central Michigan University
Central Michigan’s semester will begin two weeks early on August 17 and will end two weeks early on November 25. Officials say this will allow the community to avoid “peak flu season.”
Students will move back onto campus in waves starting August 13. Regular fall events are likely to be rescheduled.
CMU is still evaluating its spring semester.
Eastern Michigan University
Eastern will be open in the fall for in-person classes. Students in residence halls will be able to choose whether they live with a roommate or by themselves.
Officials say a thorough plan is in the works detailing hybrid courses, health protocols, and more.
EMU also made a major change by announcing applicants for the 2020/21 school year will not be required to submit ACT/SAT test scores.
Ferris State University
Ferris State University is preparing to hold in-person classes for the fall semester starting August 31.
An official plan has not yet been released, but university officials say the plan will prioritize flexible teaching and learning approaches and implement social distancing protocols.
Grand Valley State University
GVSU will reopen campus in the fall, with no changes to the academic schedule. According to the university website, “University leaders are exploring multiple learning and living scenarios to be as flexible as possible and to accommodate all students safely.”
Part of that flexibility includes three options for classes: face-to-face, hybrid, and online. Each college at the university is responsible for identifying which classes can be adapted to new formats.
Michigan Technical University
Officials at Michigan Tech say that while they fully expect to hold in-person classes this fall, they are prepared to pivot between on-campus and remote instruction when necessary.
The university will have “near-normal” operations in the fall, with residence housing available and other services operating at 75-80% capacity.
Northern Michigan University
Northern Michigan has not released a full plan yet, but the university will resume in-person classes in the fall one week early beginning August 17. The fall semester will also end early on November 24.
Oakland University was the first school to announce plans to reopen.
Students will be able to choose from a mix of in-person, online, and hybrid classes. Social distancing measures will be in place across campus, including in classrooms. Residence halls will be open, but room occupancy numbers will be adjusted to maintain social distancing.
Oakland has frozen tuition, and costs will not increase this semester.
Wayne State University
Wayne State will resume classes as scheduled in the fall, but details beyond that are expected to be announced July 15.
In-person classes will be held with social distancing measures in place, and classes will be remote or online when that is not possible.
Officials say they will be flexible with plans as information about the pandemic changes.
Western Michigan University
Western Michigan has not yet announced plans for the fall. Officials released a statement in April saying they plan to follow health and safety guidelines from the state.