Schlissel outlines university operations under new state order


President Mark Schlissel says all University of Michigan employees should now work remotely “unless your unit needs you on campus to maintain the work we’ve identified as critical to our mission.”

That action, one of several items in a March 23 universitywide email update, followed Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s statewide “Stay Home, Stay Safe” order to help stem the spread of the novel coronavirus and COVID-19.

The president also announced that all spring and summer courses at U-M’s Ann Arbor, Dearborn and Flint campuses will be conducted remotely in alternative formats, as has been the case for winter semester courses since March 16.

Whitmer’s March 23 order directed all Michigan businesses and operations to “temporarily suspend in-person operations that are not necessary to sustain or protect life.”

The order takes effect at 12:01 a.m. March 24 and lasts through April 13. It directs Michiganders to stay in their homes unless they’re a part of the “critical infrastructure workforce,” engaged in an outdoor activity, or performing tasks necessary to the health and safety of themselves or their family.

“Thanks to the considerable efforts of many across the University of Michigan, we’re already doing much of what the governor’s order specifies,” Schlissel said. “We have implemented strong measures that maintain critical aspects of our education, research and patient care while protecting health and safety and diminishing spread of the virus.”

Schlissel said Whitmer’s order specifically references federal guidelines that specify as critical “colleges, and universities for purposes of facilitating distance learning or performing other essential functions, if operating under rules for social distancing.”

In his email, Schlissel said:

  • All campus employees should work remotely unless their unit needs them on campus to maintain work identified as critical to the university’s mission, including in the delivery of courses remotely. Michigan Medicine is developing its own guidelines based on the executive order and will communicate those soon.
  • Managers are encouraged to identify work that could be reassigned, and employees are urged to work with unit managers in identifying creative solutions and ideas.
  • Supervisors should continually evaluate their units’ operations, including finding appropriate ways to redeploy employees for supporting critical operations or tasks that can be performed remotely within their units.

Schlissel said he recognizes there will be additional anxiety, questions and considerations as U-M seeks to understand the effect of Whitmer’s order. “I ask supervisors to communicate as quickly and thoroughly as possible, understanding that we are in a period that is virtually unprecedented in how it affects us as people.”

He reiterated that employees should stay home if sick, observe social distancing guidelines, and per the governor’s order, “all public and private gatherings of any number of people occurring among persons not part of a single household are prohibited.”

Other actions already taken will remain in place:

  • Winter term classes will continue remotely and in alternative formats. Instructors and those supporting technology needed for remote delivery of courses should work remotely but can continue to utilize university and classroom resources to deliver remote instruction as needed.
  • U-M will continue to support students living on and near campus by providing essential on-site support.
  • Employees who can work from home will continue to do so.
  • The order will not significantly alter the university’s research operations, as U-M moved last week to ramp down all noncritical laboratory research activities.

“We’ve significantly reduced density on our campuses, work is happening differently, and we continue to fulfill our mission. This has happened quickly and professionally — and I cannot overstate my appreciation for your commitment,” Schlissel said.

“This has been a challenging time for everyone in our community. We’ve been affected personally — and tragically — by the spread of the virus. We’ve been asked to think and work differently, under considerable time pressures and growing stress.

“We’ve also demonstrated our strength and resilience as students, faculty, staff and community members. While the COVID-19 pandemic has placed extraordinary demands on our university and its people, your response has exceeded the extraordinary.”


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