University of Michigan leaders are reaching out to inform faculty members and unit human resources officials about the procedures and resources that will help guide them as they prepare for students to return to campus this fall.
Susan Collins, interim provost and executive vice president for academic affairs, emailed all instructional faculty and graduate student instructors July 7 detailing the rationale and approach for the public-health-informed mixture of in-person and online classes planned for the fall and winter terms.
Meanwhile, Kevin Hegarty, executive vice president and chief financial officer, and Richard Holcomb, associate vice president for human resources, emailed unit HR officers and budget administrators July 8 offering guidance in determining which in-person services and operations are essential to conduct on campus.
In her email to faculty, Collins said U-M schools, colleges or units will implement a consistent approach across the Ann Arbor campus when it comes to deciding which faculty members and GSIs will conduct in-person or remote teaching.
“In keeping with our decentralized structure, many decisions will continue to be made by school or departmental leaders. This ensures that plans focus on the particular needs of each of our academic programs,” Collins said.
The campuswide approach for determining remote and in-person teaching includes:
- Instructors aged 65 or older, or who have a condition identified by the CDC as being at increased risk for severe illness from COVID-19 will not be expected to teach in person, but may choose to do so.
- Schools and colleges will endeavor to accommodate remote-teaching requests from instructors who have conditions the CDC says could place them at increased risk for severe illness from COVID-19, who reside with or are primary caregivers to someone with increased risk for severe illness, or who may be unable to secure child care during scheduled teaching times due to COVID-19.
- Schools and colleges also will endeavor to accommodate requests for remote teaching for instructors who do not fall into the categories above.
- Instructors with a preference or willingness to teach on campus will be encouraged to self-identify.
Collins said requests for remote or in-person instruction will be based on self-identification within broad categories, and will not require medical information or documentation.
Resources to aid faculty planning
Acknowledging that preparing courses for the coming year will require substantial work, Collins outlined available resources and said the Provost’s Office has been working with academic units to coordinate unit-based support with central resources.
In addition, U-M will offer instructors “Ready to Go Blue,” a set of support programs that include sessions highlighting successful strategies for online and hybrid instruction, how-to workshops on specific tools, and opportunities for consultations.
“We cannot predict how things will unfold, and understandably, there is considerable anxiety about the path ahead,” Collins said. “In the coming weeks, there will be more information about instructional planning and personal and community safety, and this information will be shared with you promptly.”
In their email, Hegarty and Holcomb said that everyone who can work remotely should continue to do so and that the start of the fall semester will not signal the return of all faculty and staff to campus.
“We do, however, have a planning window that we should use to consider which in-person services or operations will be essential to conduct on campus and to create appropriate plans for safe staffing and reopening of buildings so that the volume of occupants is well managed,” they said.
Plans “should mirror the hybrid approach of our classrooms, with a mix of in-person and remote work.” Any plan to restart or increase on-site services should include accommodations for staff members who need them due to disability or increased risk for severe illness.
Once critical activities are identified, unit supervisors can determine the on-site staffing levels required, and develop ways to ensure reduced density and appropriate safety precautions, Hegarty and Holcomb said.
Comprehensive information about the steps U-M is taking this fall is available at the Campus Maize and Blueprint website, and support also is expected from the Workplace Innovation and Staff Experience Committee, a universitywide team of staff charged with developing recommendations to help guide the longer-term management of remote and hybrid workplaces.
Additionally, every unit with staff working on-site must create a written COVID-19 work plan.