Making preparations to bring staff back for Fall


As you heard from President Mark S. Schlissel and Dean Alec D. Gallimore last week, the University will have a public health-informed in-residence semester this fall. 

This will mean the resumption of instruction and associated activities on campus in August – but of course it will look very different than it did before we left campus in March due to the challenges of COVID-19. 

Numerous health and safety measures will be in place – including face coverings, reduced staffing and physical distancing measures – to ensure the safety and comfort of each and every staff, faculty member and student. To date, we have been successful in re-engaging our research activities, which gives us confidence that we will be able to continue conducting ourselves safely while fulfilling our mission.

Within Engineering, we will be reinforcing the University’s guidelines, and asking that each person join in prudent health and safety actions that will embody our values and a commitment to caring for one another. We must consider issues of inclusivity and safety while at the same time providing excellent customer service for our faculty, staff and students. As we develop our Phase Two Return to On-Campus Operations plans, we would like to ask for your feedback. 

Please complete this anonymous, four-question survey right away. We will use this information to guide us in our decision-making and communications. This survey will also inform the content of an upcoming Town Hall with Alec from 9-10:30 a.m. on 24-July, which you will hear more about soon.

If you have not yet done so, I encourage you to review the information provided by the University on the Maize and Blueprint website. Below are some of the key highlights. Although the University’s plans are comprehensive, there are still many details to be worked out. The College’s COVID Action Teams are working diligently on those answers. We welcome your feedback or questions here, and encourage you to use the College’s COVID website as a resource.

Thank you very much for your dedication, flexibility and patience as we continue to tackle these unprecedented challenges.

Stay safe,



Academic Calendar

The academic calendar has been adjusted to reduce back-and-forth travel for students, and allow sufficient time between semesters for implementing any needed public health protocols before students return. This includes:

  • A start date on 31 August, no fall break, and online coursework only after Thanksgiving break through exams and the end of the semester
  • Winter semester start on 19 January, later than usual, and no spring break in 2021

A Mix of In-Person and Remote Classes

Students will have the option of choosing whether to return to Ann Arbor for a hybrid learning experience or study from home in a fully remote mode. In particular, many of our international students will need remote learning options because they will not be able to come to Ann Arbor this fall. 

Departments have received a request from the College regarding teaching plans for the fall, which should be submitted in early July. Guidelines for making those decisions include:

  • The goal of ensuring excellence of our educational offerings, regardless of delivery method, while balancing the health and safety for students, staff, and faculty. 
  • The review of learning objectives of each course and critical evaluation of which must be done in person, and which can be accomplished at high quality remotely.
  • Design and laboratory courses will have the highest priority for in-person meetings, and the College will provide reasonable resources to accomplish this. This may necessitate adding sections during evenings and weekends, or expanding workspaces into classrooms. 
  • COVID room capacities based on current guidelines for social distancing are:
    • No more than 50 people (students and instructors) in any one room.
    • For lecture courses, no less than 36 sq ft per person (may increase as the length of time in the room goes above 80 minutes). 
    • Minimum of 6 ft. between individuals
  • Students will be required to wear appropriate PPE during class. Instructors will not need to wear face masks while lecturing (although they are welcome to if they choose) within a demarcated “lecture zone.” 


“Stackable” Precautions

The University will be deploying multiple layers of safeguards simultaneously that will combine to form a “stackable” set of interwoven interventions that will enhance health and safety for all members of our community. These include:

  • Extensive monitoring in real time; 
  • Health screening tools to support self-monitoring;
  • Purchasing more hand sanitizer, masks and other forms of personal protective equipment;
  • Additional cleaning protocols; and
  • Managing building access and reconfiguring spaces.

On-Campus Working

  • Engineering is developing a return to on-campus operations plan for Phase Two, which will include an increase of in-person work for those involved in instruction, faculty support or student services support. 
  • We will continue to develop plans to protect vulnerable members of our community, and will work with individuals to every extent possible to address their concerns.
  • It is imperative for all of us to monitor any symptoms, and stay home if we’re sick.