Michigan Engineering Team:
Last Thursday, I had the pleasure of speaking to many of you at our annual State of the College event. Although we interacted virtually, it was delightful to be “with” you and our staff community.
There were many questions asked during this session. I encourage those of you unable to attend — or who wish to review part or all of it again — to access the video of the presentation since a lot of material was covered. Top of mind for many was, of course, the question of when we will return to campus.
This is a pressing topic that minds across the University are tackling as we speak. Interim Provost Collins assembled a series of committees focused on the fall semester, and I have the honor of chairing the coordinating committee. In addition, the College’s COVID Action Teams are working on various fronts towards this effort. Our cautiously optimistic goal is to deliver a public health-informed fall semester with as much in-person instruction as possible.
This weekend, President Schlissel and Vice President for Research Cunningham announced the beginning of the University’s research re-engagement, allowing for the resumption of limited research activity compliant with state regulations. Meanwhile, our faculty are already hard at work to prepare for both in-person and remote instruction, potentially conducted in a hybrid way, in the Fall.
I want to emphasize, though, that most of you will not change your current activities – you will continue to conduct your work remotely. In fact, it is highly likely most staff will continue to do the majority of their job duties remotely through the remainder of the calendar year.
A new section of the College’s COVID website outlines three potential phases of our return to on-campus operations in Engineering. As you can see, we are likely to see waves of research labs reopening over the summer in Phase One, increased research and potentially onsite with online instruction in Phase Two with a full resumption of onsite operations projected much later. Even in Phase Three, working remotely may remain commonplace in the College.
During the research re-engagement phase, the campus will be more – not less – restricted. Staff, students or faculty members who are not included in each wave will not be allowed into College buildings without express prior approval and documentation. Those who have already been approved for COVID19 research or access for safety or mission-critical activities may continue to have access, but they will have to follow additional guidelines and protocols. A description of the process we will use for those seeking temporary permission to enter campus buildings will be forthcoming.
The restrictions and limitations placed in this phase and future phases of re-entry may be frustrating or disappointing to many of you. However, I want to stress that it is of critical importance that we get this right. Our ability to show the University and the State of Michigan that we can conduct research and operations in a responsible and safe manner will determine the future success and additional opening of activities across campus.
I also want to acknowledge that there are numerous concerns and considerations, unique to each individual, in returning to onsite work. We must be flexible around issues such as childcare, personal health, safety and comfort, while balancing our ability to successfully conduct our jobs. I want to assure you that these factors are being heavily considered in all stages of the planning process, and a top priority will be fairness and equity.
Our values, including transparency, collegiality, and a commitment to DEI, will be our guides every step of the way. And I have every confidence that our staff will continue to deliver work of the highest quality that ensures our ability to fulfill our research and educational missions, and serve the common good.
Dear Michigan Engineering Team members, please continue to take care of yourselves, your families and each other.