Leaders expect a ‘more normal’ fall, say vaccination is key


Most small and medium-sized classes in person. Guaranteed on-campus housing for all first-year students. Fans in the Big House for football Saturdays.

These aspects of the University of Michigan experience are what new students should anticipate when they arrive this fall for what university officials say will likely be a much more normal school year.

That was the reassuring message delivered to incoming first-year and transfer students, along with their parents, during a Zoom chat session April 15 with President Mark Schlissel, Provost Susan M. Collins, Vice President for Student Life Martino Harmon and Chief Health Officer Preeti Malani.

“It is really exciting to look forward to the fall coming out of the pandemic,” Schlissel said. “It looks much more like a traditional residential campus experience is in store for our students.”

Watch a video of the discussion.

Collins was among the university leaders who expressed optimism for the 2021-22 school year, saying fall plans include a high percentage of classes taught in person. Most small and medium-sized classes, like discussions and seminars, will be taught in person while larger lecture courses will mostly be taught remotely.

“Our approach is driven by public health requirements but also the pedagogical needs of each course,” said Collins, adding that the past year of teaching and learning has helped clarify what works best in certain formats.

Harmon said Student Life is “determined to provide as many safe and in-person activities as possible” this fall.

That includes a guaranteed spot in university housing for all incoming first-year students who pay their enrollment deposit and submit a Michigan Housing application on time, he said.

“We remain optimistic at this point that we’ll have a great residential fall,” Harmon said, adding that students should expect that some public health measures like face coverings and social distancing may be necessary.

During the call, the president promised parents the university would “take great care of your kids.” He cited the university’s work to help ease students’ financial burdens during the pandemic.

Schlissel said that when university leaders realized the $12.6 million provided in a first round of federal funding for emergency student grants last year wasn’t going to be enough, the university kicked in an additional $5.5 million to help students cover COVID-related expenses.

“The university has received its second round of federal relief, and we aim to once again go well beyond what we’ve been allotted to make sure our students can focus more on their education and less on financial emergencies,” he said.

A common message the leaders shared was to urge students to get vaccinated against COVID-19 as soon as possible to help ensure a successful fall semester for themselves and the community.

“The success of our fall plans really depends on the community being highly vaccinated,” Malani said.

Schlissel agreed, saying he was actively involved in discussions about whether students will be required to be vaccinated for the fall.

“The closer we can get to everyone being vaccinated, the more normal the fall semester can be,” he said.


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