By Jacqueline Huntoon, Provost Senior VP Academic Affairs
Dear Faculty and Staff,
As described in the communication you received earlier today, both the CDC and Governor Whitmer have updated their guidance related to COVID-19.
As a result, we now know that classes will remain online through the end of the semester and that commencement will not be held as a face-to-face event on the originally scheduled date. At this time we don’t know if we will postpone the face-to-face event or hold a virtual event. We are thinking this through and will make definite plans as soon as possible.
As of today, other University locations and services will be temporarily curtailed. As of 3 pm today, per the Governor’s guidance, the J. Robert Van Pelt and John and Ruanne Opie Library will be closed, along with the A.E. Seaman Mineral Museum, the Gates Tennis Center, and the public facilities in the SDC. Tech Trails remain open, although the waxing shed and other interior spaces will be closed. Finally, only grab-and-go food service will be provided on campus (including the MUB and potentially the Library cafe if appropriate arrangements can be made) and in the local community; no sit-down dining in public spaces will be allowed on campus or in the community (per the Governor’s guidance). Additional information and updates will be posted to the Michigan Tech COVID-19 website. The limitations and closures listed here will be in force until at least March 30, 2020 pending further notice.
People who need access to Library materials should view the resources available on the Library website and/or the IT website. Staff in both the Library and IT are developing strategies to help patrons and users remotely so that everyone can continue to work and learn.
Be Flexible and Plan Ahead
Given the current circumstances, it is prudent at this time for people who are able to do their jobs from home to get ready to start working from home, should that become necessary. People who are members of at-risk populations should take extra precautions. For example, some of them may need to work from home now, whereas others may choose to come to campus, but then work in isolation (whether in time or space) from others.
Supervisors are being asked to be as flexible as possible to allow people the opportunity to get their jobs done in ways that make sense for everyone. If anyone has a question or concern, the first point of contact should be the direct supervisor. The Michigan Tech COVID-19 website also has a lot of information, including FAQs for students (and parents), staff, and faculty (including researchers). The office of the Vice President for Research has additional information available for researchers.
To ensure that we all stay connected even if some of us end up working offsite, those with Michigan Tech office phones should ensure that their voice messages are forwarded to other phones (https://www.mtu.edu/it/mitel-user-guide/), and/or email (https://www.mtu.edu/it/voicemail-to-email/), and/or get ready to access voicemail (https://www.mtu.edu/it/voicemail-off-campus/) from personal phones.
We’re All in This Together – Thank You for Your Help!
I think everyone now knows that the University is moving to remote instruction for all regularly scheduled courses. The Jackson Center for Teaching and Learning is continuing to offer guidance and support for instructional personnel who are moving their courses from face-to-face to remote instruction methods. I recognize that it is challenging for many faculty and students to make the transition from face-to-face to remote instruction under the best of circumstances. The fact that we are trying to do this all at once in less than a week has made this an incredible challenge for the entire University. I know that everyone is doing their best to meet this challenge and I thank everyone for their efforts.
In addition to the challenges associated with changing the way we teach and learn, people across campus are also being asked to modify activities related to almost every aspect of University operation. Facilities, dining, housing, and staff members in many other areas are actively developing and implementing new protocols designed to keep everyone, including themselves, healthy. These people take great pride in their work and are thinking hard about how to continue to provide the best possible service to the University. If you know or see one of them, please tell them thank you.
A few important points for Instructional personnel to think about at this time include how to ensure that all students, whether they are in Houghton or elsewhere, receive the same instructional experience. While students are being allowed to meet in small groups on campus at the current time, it is possible that all gatherings, even of small groups, may be disallowed on campus in the future. If that happens, remote instruction will be the only option open to any of us. We all need to plan ahead in case we come to that point.
Faculty should also be determining the most important learning outcomes for each course and focus their effort on helping students achieve those outcomes. No one should expect to be able to deliver the same course remotely as they had planned to deliver face-to-face under the time constraints we are facing.
We are hearing from many students and faculty that it has become impossible to hold classes at regularly scheduled times. Many faculty and students have new responsibilities, as a result of the closure of the K-12 school system, for example, that require them to work or learn at different times than they were able to commit to even as recently as a week ago.
Michigan Tech has always prided itself on providing high-quality, face-to-face instruction that prepares students to meet real-world challenges and hit the ground running upon graduation. No one should think that the changes being implemented this semester are anything other than a response to a worldwide health crisis. The University’s commitment to excellence in education has not diminished and I know that we are all looking forward to the time when things can get back to normal. We will get there and hopefully we will get there very soon. For now, however, we simply must do the best we can under the circumstances.
Clarifications Regarding Travel
There has been some confusion regarding the travel guidelines. Here are some clarifications.
- If you have traveled internationally within the past two weeks, please do not come to campus for at least 14 days since the time you returned from travel.
- If you think/know you may have been exposed during your travels, please do not come to campus for at least 14 days since the end of your travels.
Anyone who falls into the categories listed above must fill out the Returning Travelers (COVID-19) form. This is important because it appears that people who have COVID-19 may be contagious even before they begin to show symptoms. That means that people who have traveled during the last two weeks may have been in contact with individuals who were ill even though those people didn’t appear to be ill at the time.
The CDC continually updates its information regarding signs and symptoms of COVID 19. The most common symptoms appear to be fever, cough, and shortness of breath. If you, or someone with whom you have had close personal contact, has symptoms, please stay home, let your supervisor know, send an email to email@example.com, and call your health-care provider.
One habit you might want to get into to monitor your personal health is to take your temperature two times each day, once in the morning and once in the evening. As of today, the CDC says that “symptoms may appear 2-14 days after exposure.” The CDC offers some easy-to-understand flyers about how to “Stop the spread of germs” and “What to do if you are sick” that you may want to share with others (such as students and family members).
Self-Care and Care for Others
As we all continue to live through this unprecedented situation, I ask that we all remember that extraordinary challenges require extraordinary courage, trust, and empathy. Remember that every member of our University and local community may be facing enormous logistical, physical, and emotional hurdles. Please try to always assume that everyone is doing the best they can under the circumstances. Together we can try to minimize the impact of this disruption on our own lives and on our families and communities. For those who are working with students, I ask that you make a special effort to stay in contact with them. If you have a concern about a student, use the “report a concern” site to let others know. The fact that someone cares about a student can, immediately and over the long run, change that student’s life for the better.
I, and others, will do our best to keep you posted as changes are announced as we continue to monitor guidance from State and Federal sources. Please recognize that it may be necessary to make substantial changes very quickly in response to guidance we receive. Try to plan ahead as much as you can, this will reduce your personal stress and the stress on those around you. Take care of yourself–you are valuable to our University and community and we need you. Take care of those around you too.
If you have questions, send them to firstname.lastname@example.org. We are finding answers and responding to them as quickly as possible.
Provost and Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs