The coronavirus situation is gradually improving in Michigan and at U-M, but the “persistent and appalling pestilence of racism” continues across the nation, President Mark Schlissel said in a pair of emails to the University of Michigan community June 2.

Schlissel said that while Gov. Gretchen Whitmer has rescinded her Stay Home, Stay Safe order across Michigan, “much of what we are doing on our campuses will not change.”

That means those who can work from home should continue to do so, research labs will continue to gradually ramp up activity, and planning for the fall semester will continue amid optimism it will include as much in-person instruction as possible.

But any positive reaction to Michigan relaxing its coronavirus-related restrictions is diminished by recent deaths that “represent a different kind of pandemic — racism that continues to plague our communities,” the president said.

“I am disgusted by the sickening actions that caused the deaths of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery and Breonna Taylor. We’ve seen additional videos documenting harm against African Americans in our own surrounding communities and other parts of our nation,” he said in his email that focused on racism.

A town hall is planned for noon Friday to allow people to come together in an attempt to heal and examine these essential issues.

“The effects of the evil of racism are universal. We cannot ignore this reality,” Schlissel said. “Though we experience and live with the pain of these tragedies differently, we all have a responsibility to advance justice, equality, peace and understanding.

“Our university community will never fully thrive without a constant shared commitment to these, our highest values. We must make this commitment together, not only as humans, but also as members of a society that has devalued and perpetuated violence against African Americans for more than 400 years.”

In his email outlining what the university should expect with the end of Stay Home, Stay Safe, Schlissel emphasized that public health guidelines will remain in place for many operations, even as U-M continues its gradual reactivation.

“We need to ask you to help us implement and follow these guidelines and consider next steps as conditions improve, just like we came together to flatten the curve,” Schlissel said.

Details include:

  •  Those who can work from home should continue to do so. People should not come in to work unless directed by their supervisor. If conditions allow more in-person work to occur in the weeks ahead, that information will be shared.
  • Research labs will continue their gradual ramp up. The Office of Research’s careful, deliberate plan for the orderly and gradual resumption of research is working well and will continue.
  • Schools, colleges and departments will continue to engage in thorough planning for the fall semester, and details will be announced later this month.
  • Social distancing and face coverings in enclosed spaces remain essential, along with smart hygiene practices, such as hand washing. Those who are sick should stay home.
  • Employees already working on campus may continue to do so. Faculty and staff in some units have been working in person, following public health guidelines.
  • Plans for museums and libraries will be shared soon. The new executive order permits museums and libraries to open June 8, with public health precautions. The university is working to determine specifically how that will look on campus.

“I know that after such a long period of being asked to stay home, the temptation is strong to return to ‘normal’ activities,” Schlissel said. “I urge everyone to follow social-distancing guidelines when going out. Our continued success and improvement in controlling this pandemic depend on all of us.”

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