Winter Term 2021 Plan

The University of Michigan has developed a comprehensive plan for Winter Term incorporating public health guidance, lessons learned from the Fall Semester and extensive feedback and engagement with the community that reflect the following:

  • Safety remains a top concern throughout our community.
  • Students and instructors want the opportunity to advance their academic goals.
  • Activities beyond academics are essential.
  • Stressors have been unprecedented — mental health and well-being are key.

As a result, the following decisions have been made:

  • Testing capacity will be increased, with mandatory weekly testing for undergraduates who live on campus or attend in-person classes or activities, perform research, use facilities or work on campus.
  • The current approach to instruction will continue, with more courses offered remotely where possible, while still maintaining other formats when needed.
  • Undergraduate students who don’t need to live in residence halls should remain at their permanent residences for the semester to reduce density in U-M residence halls.
  • A strict, no-tolerance approach to enforcing COVID-19-related policies will be taken.
  • Expanded services for mental health, scheduled "well-being breaks" and campus recreational sports facilities will be available to the U-M community.

View the President's Message » Read the full Record article »

With the goal of balancing safety concerns with the university's academic mission and the well-being and support of the campus community, U-M plans to do the following during the Winter 2021 Term:

Offer more remote learning options

Continue the approach to instruction the university has implemented in recent weeks of more remote classes, with in-person classes limited to those most effectively taught through this format or required for licensure. Instructors will be able to use the format they believe is most appropriate. There will be fewer hybrid classes that are partially online and partially in person, based on feedback from instructors about the difficulty of teaching them.

No instructor will be required to teach in person if they would prefer not to.

The redesign of campus spaces has enabled limited in-person instruction to be conducted safely. There has been little evidence of viral transmission in the university’s educational facilities during Fall Term, so essential in-person educational experiences can continue.

Expand COVID-19 testing

Among the key aspects of the Winter Semester plan are a number of new testing protocols and opportunities. The university will:

  • Require a negative COVID-19 test from all residence hall residents prior to moving in. Students moving into housing for winter also are required to get the flu vaccine.
  • Implement mandatory weekly testing for all undergraduate students who live in residence halls.
  • Implement mandatory weekly testing for all undergraduate students who come to campus to attend in-person classes or activities, use facilities (e.g. libraries, unions, Rec Sports), work or do research on campus. Testing for this group prior to starting any on-campus activities also is required and will be made available. Compliance with mandatory testing requirements will be linked to Mcard activation and facilities access.
  • Offer convenient weekly asymptomatic testing to all students (graduate, professional and undergraduate) who are not otherwise covered by a mandatory program, as well as faculty teaching in person and staff working on campus.
  • Require a negative test for undergraduates departing university housing before returning to their permanent residence. A negative test will be recommended and testing made available for all other undergraduate and graduate students.
  • Expand the testing of individuals in quarantine to students living off campus and not using U-M quarantine housing.

De-densify on-campus housing

The university will reduce undergraduate housing density through a process that limits access only to undergraduates with certain need-based criteria. Most undergraduates will be strongly encouraged to remain at their permanent addresses and access instruction remotely, including those currently living in off-campus housing in Ann Arbor. All U-M Housing contracts for undergraduate residents will be canceled for the Winter Term.

Undergraduates who need to remain on campus for the Winter Term can request housing based on certain need-based criteria, such as health, wellness or safety concerns; financial need; specific academic need; status as international students or U-M Housing ResStaff student employees; or other extraordinary, extenuating circumstances.

Undergraduate housing will be assigned one person per room following public health recommendations.

The process for students to request consideration for winter semester housing will be shared directly with students living in University Housing.

Graduate and professional students are able to continue living on campus in their current locations and densities because there have been very few cases of COVID-19 within the graduate student communities.

The shift to less dense undergraduate housing is intended to mitigate the inherent risks of students residing on campus at a time when weather prevents outdoor activities and the risk of virus spread is greater.

Additionally, fewer students living on campus will help to lower the student-to-resident assistant ratio, a recurrent concern raised by resident assistants in feedback to university leaders. This option also will allow for better support of our undergraduates, more manageable enforcement of COVID-19 violations and less need for additional dining and studying space.

Under the new plan, lounge spaces in Housing will be accessible by reservation only, dine-in options in the dining halls will not be available and the university will maintain or increase its quarantine and isolation housing capacity of 600 units.

For information about off-campus housing, please visit

Strictly enforce COVID-19-related policies

The plan includes increased accountability measures with more serious consequences for those who violate public health policies.

Enforcement will take a no-tolerance approach for certain violations. Social gatherings of three or more on campus living in residence halls will result in automatic probation, and public health violations by students in quarantine or isolation housing would mean automatic University Housing contract termination. Off-campus students who are determined to have engaged in these behaviors would be referred to the Office of Student Conflict Resolution (OSCR), the Washtenaw County Health Department or both.

In addition to the more serious penalties, the university will maintain the COVID Concerns Reporting Line for reporting off-campus concerns and continue enforcement partnerships with the Ann Arbor Police Department and Washtenaw County Health Department.

Increase mental health and well-being services

The university will add two mid-week, one-day "well-being breaks" without any scheduled academic activities on Feb. 24 and March 23. Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS) is expanding this year with eight additional counselors to reduce wait times and augment services, which are mostly virtual for students during the pandemic. Additional wellness services such as Wolverine Wellness and Recreational Sports facilities also will continue to be available to the U-M community.

U-M staff members working from home will continue to do so throughout the Winter Semester. Earlier this week, the university announced three additional paid days off during the upcoming holiday breaks for faculty and staff, thanking them and saying they “have risen to the challenge” of advancing the university’s mission during the pandemic.

The Faculty and Staff Counseling and Consultation Office (FASCCO) is offering virtual discussion groups for employees tailored specifically to fostering resilience during the pandemic. Meanwhile, the Workplace Innovation and the Staff Experience (WISE) committee, charged with providing recommendations to help staff members sustain their work as the campus emerges from the pandemic, is in the final stages of preparing recommendations. Those recommendations are expected to focus on how to achieve the full staff experience for employees, regardless of work location.

Engaging with the community

U-M’s Winter Semester plans were developed from recommendations made by the Campus Coordinating Committee to Provost Susan M. Collins and Martino Harmon, Vice President for Student Life. The committee, chaired by College of Engineering Dean Alec D. Gallimore, submitted the recommendations after engaging with the campus community and incorporating feedback, advice and suggestions from the following sources:

  • Student survey of all degree-seeking students and five focus groups of undergraduate housing residents
  • Instructor survey sent to all tenure-track and clinical-track faculty, lecturers and graduate student instructors
  • Staff survey sent to select groups engaged in student-facing work closely related to the academic experience in Student Life and schools and colleges.
  • Budget administrators
  • Chief human resources officers in academic units
  • The Public Health Steering Committee
  • The Academic Program Group of deans and directors

The committee sought to balance a number of concerns through its recommendations, including the university’s academic mission, public health, mental health and community well-being and the experience of students, staff and faculty.

Recommendations for testing were developed by School of Public Health Advisory Group and the COVID-19 Campus Health Response Committee. University leaders also discussed the plan with officials from the Washtenaw County Health Department.

University leaders also met with many individuals and groups, including the COVID-19 Faculty Council, while the plan was under development to gather critical feedback and ideas.

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