Messages & News

February 15, 2021

Message to U-M parents on planning for fall term

Dear U-M parents:

Some of you have shared your questions and concerns about our planning for the fall 2021 academic term at the University of Michigan. While no decisions have yet been made regarding the fall term, we remain optimistic and hopeful that the campus experience come fall will be much more normal than we are experiencing today.

It’s clear from our many campus conversations that our faculty, staff and campus leaders all are eager to do their part to deliver a fall semester for students that is as close to normal as we can be while continuing to prioritize the health and safety of our community.

That optimism was communicated clearly in the Feb. 12 campus briefing hosted by President Schlissel, Provost Susan M. Collins, Vice President for Student Life Martino Harmon and U-M Chief Health Officer Preeti Malani. We post the videos of these bi-weekly briefings on our website: https://president.umich.edu/news-communications/campus-weekly-covid-19-briefings/

Among the highlights from the most recent briefing were these:

  • Chief Health Officer Malani said she is feeling quite hopeful that things will continue to get better across the campus community with the pandemic. She encouraged everyone to display patience and persistence as we move forward together toward a more normal fall campus experience.
  • Vice President Harmon said his Student Life and Michigan Housing teams were carefully considering a number of options for a more normal, residential experience in the fall, but more work needs to be done before a final decision can be made. It is very difficult at this point to predict what the pandemic will look like come fall, but we can plan for a number of scenarios and be nimble.
  • Associate Vice President for Human Resources Rich Holcomb reported on a survey of non-teaching staff members on the Ann Arbor campus that indicated those staff members are interested in continuing to work remotely for one or more days a week once the campus community returns to a more normal work cadence. This survey covered a category of employees who are separate from instructors who teach our classes and will not affect our ability to host an “in-person” semester.
  • President Schlissel urged all members of the university community to take care of one another by following the public health guidance, which is critical to keeping our community safe until more vaccine is available.

The university will, of course, make decisions about the fall term that are informed by the then current status of the pandemic in our region and heed the advice of our campus, local and state public health officials. It is likely that some public health safety precautions will remain in place in the fall, such as wearing face coverings and maintaining social distancing.

The big unknown remains the availability of the vaccine, which today is in very short supply. We have developed the capacity to vaccinate as many as 25,000 persons per week and remain ready to provide vaccine for all members of our community who wish to be vaccinated according to state guidelines once supplies are adequate.

Finally, we want to acknowledge that the ongoing uncertainty of the pandemic is wearing on all of us. It’s been emotionally draining as each of us has had to adjust our work and personal lives to appropriately respond to this public health crisis that already has claimed the lives of 485,000 Americans.

We thank you for you allowing us the opportunity to share this information and for the privilege of helping educate your children. We also ask for your patience and understanding as we work diligently to make critical decisions, based on the latest scientific information available, in the weeks and months ahead. We promise to keep you informed and to continue to provide the very best educational experience possible for your children.

Take care and Go Blue!

Rick Fitzgerald
Office of Public Affairs