The University of Michigan has erected 13 outdoor canopies around campus to give students additional space where they can study and take a break between classes this fall. 

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The open-sided canopies contain tables and chairs spaced out to maintain social distancing. They are open from 8 a.m. to sunset Monday through Friday, and from noon until sunset on weekends, through Oct. 28.

With new limits on the use of indoor spaces because of the coronavirus pandemic, officials are looking to the canopies as a way to meet students’ needs while also keeping building densities low.   

Photo of Jennifer Pomerantz (left) and Elaine Hanke of Michigan Conference & Event Services measuring the distance between tables inside a tent on North Campus.
Jennifer Pomerantz (left) and Elaine Hanke of Michigan Conference & Event Services measure the distance between tables to ensure social distancing inside a canopy at The Grove on North Campus. (Photo by Eric Bronson, Michigan Photography)

“Providing canopies around campus is a coordinated, creative way to address the concerns we’ve been hearing from schools and colleges about making sure students have plenty of places to safely study or rest between classes on campus,” said Amy Dittmar, senior vice provost for academic and budgetary affairs.

“The use of indoor spaces will be more limited this year because of efforts to de-densify buildings, so we decided to take advantage of the mild fall weather to provide an outdoor option to students. With public health recommendations guiding the way, we can maintain safe operations on campus.”

Nine canopies of various sizes have been installed on Central Campus and four on North Campus. In total, they have seating for about 500 people.

The canopies are designed for individual use only, so people will not be allowed to hold classes or group meetings there. Students will be expected to wear masks and maintain a distance of at least 6 feet from each other. A list of rules will be posted at each canopy.

Photo of workers erecting a canopy near the Rackham Building at the north end of Ingalls Mall.
Workers erect a canopy near the Rackham Building at the north end of Ingalls Mall. (Photo by Eric Bronson, Michigan Photography)

Kambiz Khalili, associate vice president for Student Life Auxiliary Services, said the canopies will have cleaning supplies that students can use to disinfect tables and chairs. University staff will also regularly clean them.

Information and Technology Services is working to boost Wi-Fi signals in nearby buildings to extend coverage to many of the canopy locations, said Andy Palms, ITS executive director of infrastructure. The canopies will not be equipped with electricity.

The plan for the canopies originated in the Provost’s Office, with a subcommittee of the Provost’s Re-entry Planning Review Committee ironing out the details. The university opted for canopies instead of tents because the lack of walls allows air to circulate freely. The coronavirus is known to spread more easily in confined spaces.

Khalili said a number of other colleges and universities across the country have recently installed canopies.

“We want to enhance our students’ on-campus experience by providing additional spaces to study, eat and take a break during the day,” he said. “At the same, this is also a great opportunity for them to enjoy the beautiful fall weather at Michigan. It’s a win-win situation, I think, for everybody.”

Photo of students walking near a canopy installed at The Grove on North Campus.
Students walk near a canopy installed at The Grove on North Campus. (Photo by Eric Bronson, Michigan Photography)
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