• March 27: Three WMU community members test positive for COVID-19

    Dear Campus Community,

    We have learned of three Western Michigan University community members who have tested positive for COVID-19. All three are students.

    One student, who was last on campus on March 10, notified us through a family member they had tested positive after returning home to the east side of Michigan. The student’s professors and classmates were notified.

    Another student developed symptoms after distance learning began and has been isolating and following protocols from a health care provider and Kalamazoo County's health department. This individual resides off campus.

    The third student, who also became symptomatic after distance learning began, resides on campus, tested positive and remains in isolation. We have been working collaboratively with our local health department, and they have contacted all persons who need to take any additional precautions. There are no additional precautions required for the public. We continue intensified and extensive cleaning of spaces throughout the campus, as needed.

    When WMU's Sindecuse Health Center or the health department identifies a person who has a positive case of COVID-19, my team works in collaboration with their medical team and family to identify close contacts, notify them, and quarantine the patient.

    There may be other members of the campus community who have developed symptoms or are being treated or tested in other locations. However, at this time, these three are the only cases of which we are aware.

    Please continue to take extra precautions and practice good hygiene. Wash your hands with soap and water; use hand sanitizer as an alternative. Avoid touching your nose, eyes or mouth. And practice social distancing. Should you feel you have started to develop any symptoms (fever, cough or shortness of breath), please do not hesitate to connect with your local health provider or Sindecuse Health Center for further guidance.

    How positive cases are managed
    Positive COVID-19 cases are managed depending on how WMU learns about the case.

    If an individual, or a family member of an individual, notifies us he or she has COVID-19, my team and I work with him or her, family members, and medical providers to verify the diagnosis. When the diagnosis is confirmed, we work with the Kalamazoo County Health and Community Services Department (health department) and assess close contacts of the patient.

    If the patient lives in Kalamazoo County, we notify the health department and work through their protocols, which include notification of all persons needing additional services. If the individual lives outside this county, those agencies work together to provide guidelines for that person. The health department plays a vital role in tracking and notification.

    Self-diagnoses are beginning to strain our care providers and other personnel. If you believe you have COVID-19, please visit your care provider (always call ahead) and get assessed first. Well-meaning notifications that are unconfirmed create unnecessary fear and confusion in an already stressful situation. We ask that students, faculty and staff or family members contact Sindecuse to report positive cases. Sindecuse will work with the University and public health officials to handle effective notifications.

    WMU has taken the steps necessary to provide appropriate social distancing to flatten the curve. I urge you to take advantage of these measures and stay home. The United States has now surpassed China with the most COVID-19 cases in the world, and Michigan ranks fifth in the U.S. for positive cases.

    We continue to meet the needs of our University family (faculty, staff and students), and we encourage those who need additional care to reach out and call:

    ●    Sindecuse Health Center (269) 387-3287
    ●    Counseling and Psychiatric Services (269) 387-1850

    All told, the population of WMU approaches 30,000, about the size of a small city. Keeping us all safe requires a coordinated response. On daily matters, I work very closely with my COVID-19 Task Force co-chairs, Dr. Jennifer Bott, provost and vice president for academic affairs, and Tony Proudfoot, vice president for marketing and strategic communications. They are both members of the President’s Cabinet, and they escalate policy decisions to that body and the president, as appropriate. Please be reassured we are all working together to navigate this complex public health crisis.

    I will continue to update you as new information becomes available.

    Gayle Ruggiero, M.D.
    Medical Director
    Sindecuse Health Center
    Office: (269) 387-1850

  • March 26, 2020, Update: WMU announces financial credits for housing, meal plans and parking permits

    Dear students and families,

    With the beginning of distance education on March 16, closure of residence halls this past week and the governor's stay-at-home executive order for the state of Michigan that took effect on March 24, all due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the majority of students have departed Western Michigan University's campus while continuing to pursue their academic studies remotely.

    As a result of early departure from campus this spring semester, WMU students may be eligible for partial credits for housing, meal plans and parking permits purchased. The University developed the credit plans in recognition of students' prior investments for the following services and accommodations.

    Housing
    Students who checked out of their residence hall between March 11 and March 24, 2020, and departed the facilities, will have a credit applied to their student account. Those vacated residents who had a meal plan during the spring 2020 semester will receive a $1,000 account credit. Residents who did not have a meal plan this semester will receive a credit of $500. Additional details, including eligibility requirements and contact information, will be provided in a separate email to residents.

    Commuter meal plan
    Students who had a commuter meal plan and did not live in a residence hall for the spring 2020 semester also are eligible for a credit. The credit will range from $60 to $500, depending on the cost of the meal plan purchased. Look for additional details, including eligibility requirements and contact information, to be provided in a separate email to students who have purchased this meal plan.

    Parking permits
    WMU Parking Services will be offering prorated credits for the 2019-20 annual parking permit and 2020 spring semester permit. Students who continue to live and park on campus will not be eligible for the credit. Eligible students may request a credit to their account by submitting their name, WIN and WMU permit number to parking@wmich.edu. After WMU's campus is back to full operations, students may also make their request by calling (269) 387-4609.

    The amount of the parking permit credit is based on the length of time a permit may be used, the purchase price and the closure of the residence halls (when a permit was not in use). For annual permits, which are valid from Sept. 1, 2019, through Aug. 31, 2020, the credited amount will be $30. The annual permit will remain valid after campus returns to normal operations through the end of August. For spring semester permits, valid from Jan. 1, 2020, through April 30, 2020, the credited amount for the semester permit will be $60. A requested credit will be applied to student accounts after WMU's parking office reopens.

    For any of the housing, meal or parking permit credits, students may receive a refund if the total credit is greater than the total amount due on their student account. The appropriate credit will be applied first to any outstanding charges, then to spring 2020 tuition, then to fees. The University will issue a payment for any credit balance that remains.
     
    Thank you for your patience as the University worked to formulate these plans.

    Diane Anderson
    Vice President for Student Affairs

    Jan Van Der Kley
    Vice President for Business and Finance and Chief Financial Officer

  • March 24, 2020, Update: Safeguarding our future in a period of uncertainty

    Dear faculty and staff,

    The last few weeks have been intense, with each day bringing new information for all of us to absorb and sort out as we learn more about the spread and impact of the novel coronavirus.

    To date, most of that news has been unwelcome and challenging as the number of cases worldwide exceeds 400,000 and nears 1,800 right here in Michigan. Yesterday, Gov. Whitmer issued an executive order to "shelter in place" to further limit social interaction and slow the spread of this disease.

    I understand that none of us signed up for this crisis and, unfortunately, there is no playbook to tell us just what to expect, what to do next, nor how long the crisis will last. I know there are answers you want about what is happening today and what the future may hold. We are working to answer as many of your questions as we can. I also believe it is important for me to acknowledge that some answers simply do not exist.

    No one knows the course of this disease and when we might expect to return to normal. We are operating with incomplete, ambiguous and constantly changing information. I empathize with how that uncertainty adds to the stress or anxiety we may feel around our own and our family’s security, as well as our community’s safety. This is the situation that we share.

    As our national and local leaders struggle to contain the virus, the effects have begun to ripple through our economy. Just last week, unemployment insurance claims in Michigan surged by 2,100 percent. With most service and entertainment industries shuttered and "shelter in place" orders leaving other industries to significantly scale back or close altogether, some experts are forecasting that nationwide as many as 5 million people will lose their jobs this month. Higher education has not been immune to this. Moody’s rating agency downgraded the sector from stable to negative, as expenses are expected to outpace revenue for the next 12 to 18 months.

    Despite the gloomy news in the state and across the country, I think it is important to keep in mind that no one at WMU has been laid off. No one has lost their health insurance. Last Thursday evening, I said we were going to get through this together. I believe that is as true today as it was then, even with all of the economic distress going on around us.

    Of course, this does not mean that you, our faculty and staff, have not felt the impact already. You have. The faculty transitioned to distance education in a matter of days. Dining Services moved to grab-and-go service in a matter of hours. Residence Life is in the process of checking out the majority of our students and assisting others who are returning to campus to pick up their belongings. And some employees will be moving to limited hours of work and having to draw among the three paid leave programs the University provides. Our senior leadership continues to work unabated, but each one has also volunteered to forfeit at least two weeks of leave, some more, during this period. And they have pledged $10,300 to the Student Emergency Relief Fund.

    There are understandable concerns about the duration of this crisis and leave balances. We established the COVID-19 allowance to help mitigate the impact by giving two additional weeks of leave. That leave can be used first for all those employees who do not have work assignments during this time.  

    I have also asked each division head and supervisor/manager to make thoughtful determinations about how to adjust hours of work to meet critical short-run needs while being sensitive to the impact on staff. Both of these considerations are important, but the solutions will not be a one-size-fits-all approach. Effective implementation requires the good judgment of our leaders and supervisors/managers to make decisions that make sense given their particular situation. Put more simply, our approach is to focus our energies on managing the work that must be done this semester, even during this crisis.

    We all know from our daily jobs that some work must be done today, other work can only be put off for a matter of weeks and still other tasks can be delayed until after the end of the semester without doing lasting damage.

    The President’s Cabinet, COVID-19 Task Force and I are monitoring the impacts of this public health crisis on the University and you, our employees, both in the short term and over time. We will continue to consider actions that may help mitigate widespread impacts in the coming weeks. We will have to continually adjust to this shifting environment until the pandemic abates.

    As we move forward, please know this: We consider every step very seriously. We know our decisions have consequences that are felt by our community. Have we gotten a lot right? Time will tell, but I think, yes. Will we make mistakes? We are human, so, most likely, yes. The key will be to correct and recover as quickly as possible and learn when that happens.

    Making no decisions is not an option, nor is waiting for crystal clarity about the future. Waiting until the train hits you is not a good strategy and neither is failing to respond to what is happening around us. We cannot hide and hope that this too shall pass. It has already touched us, and the sense from every expert is that we are wise to prepare for the next challenge. Avoiding doing so only invites peril in the long run.

    I know you still have questions and concerns for yourself, your colleagues and the University. The FAQ section of our COVID-19 website is updated frequently. It includes answers to your questions about the COVID-19 allowance, other forms of leave and related matters. It will continue to be updated as we know more.

    I also encourage employees to reach out to their supervisor or Human Resources with additional questions. We are committed to adapting and keeping you informed about developments that affect our community.

    Thank you for the part each of you is doing to help our students and WMU weather this storm.
     
    Edward Montgomery
    President

  • March 23, 2020, Update: Implications of Gov. Whitmer's stay-at-home executive order for WMU

    Dear Campus Community,

    Late this morning, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer issued a sweeping stay-at-home executive order, effective March 24 at 12:01 a.m. through April 13 at 11:59 p.m.

    The order focuses largely on directives to employers: "No person or entity shall operate a business or conduct operations that require workers to leave their homes or places of residence except to the extent that those workers are necessary to sustain or protect life or to conduct minimum basic operations."

    As we monitor global, national and state news, we have been anticipating this action. The steps that we have taken so far to identify critical work will make complying with this order much more orderly and manageable.

    We share the governor’s concerns during this public health crisis and will fully comply with her directive. As a result:

    • Our delivery of distance education will continue without change. This is consistent with the governor’s order.
    • Starting at midnight tonight through April 25, all staff, unless listed in the exceptions below, must fulfill their essential work at home in a manner consistent with the WMU policy on work assignments that I announced on Friday and was subsequently detailed in a series of emails from Human Resources. Your manager/supervisor will remain your point of contact for work assignments and any additional questions you might have on your status.
    • Those without an essential work assignment for some or all of this time must take one of the three types of leave available (COVID-19, annual or sick). The leave must be taken in a manner consistent with University policy. We will continue to monitor information from the governor and public health officials for guidance on whether the University might be able to return to normal operation before the April 25 date we have established.

    Exceptions:

    The governor’s executive order allows the following exceptions to the stay-at-home policy: "Workers whose in-person presence is strictly necessary to allow the business or operation to maintain the value of inventory and equipment, care for animals, ensure security, process transactions (including payroll and employee benefits), or facilitate the ability of other workers to work remotely."

    The following list provides examples of essential work as determined by WMU and in compliance with the executive order. This list is not intended to be exhaustive, but to help serve as a frame of reference.

    • Necessary communications and information technology staff
    • Grab-and-go dining operations necessary for student housing residents who remain on campus due to extenuating circumstances
    • Staff in Disability Services for Students
    • Human Resources
    • Necessary maintenance staff
    • Payroll
    • Power plant
    • Research faculty and staff involved in the care of living organisms
    • Residence hall staff necessary for the purpose of serving residents who remain on campus due to extenuating circumstances
    • Sindecuse Health Center
    • University police

    The governor shared some sobering data at her press conference this morning that requires our attention and action. The number of COVID-19 cases in Michigan doubled over the weekend, and she mentioned several times that if we do not take significant action, our current caseload trajectory looks a lot like Italy’s. That could take us to about one million cases with only 25,000 acute care beds in the state. Social distancing is the best tool we have to prevent such a situation, so I urge you to stay home and comply with this order from the governor.

    This latest news will further disrupt our daily routines and is likely to raise anxiety levels further still. We will continue to monitor the situation and the impact it is having on our students and employees. We will communicate more soon, but I wanted to share these details as soon as possible.

    Sincerely,

    Edward Montgomery
    President

  • March 20, 2020, message to students, families: Distance education extended through term, residence halls to close

    Dear students and families,

    At this time, there remain no confirmed cases of COVID-19 on Western Michigan University's campus or in our county. However, as a result of the continuing spread of the disease in the state of Michigan, we have decided to take the additional precautionary step of extending distance education through the end of the spring semester, which concludes Saturday, April 25. Final exams will be conducted during the week of April 20, also using distance means.

    Residence halls will be closing at 8 p.m. Tuesday, March 24. Staff will communicate this morning with residents about checkout procedures designed to balance social distancing with students' scheduling needs.

    Move out will proceed in two phases. Students still living in residence halls may check out Friday, March 20, through Sunday, March 22. Those who have already returned home will receive instructions for retrieving their belongings and checking out from Sunday, March 22, through Tuesday, March 24, at 8 p.m., when residence halls will close for the semester.

    WMU will provide financial consideration for those students affected by the early closing of the residence halls and dining. More details will be forthcoming in the coming days.  

    Students with extenuating circumstances, such as international students, Seita Scholars and Foundation Scholars, will be permitted to remain in a residence hall. Dining services will be available to them. For other students who would like to appeal to remain in their residence hall, a communication from Residence Life will include contact information.

    Because they have an ability to practice social distancing, students in University apartments may remain if they so choose. Students in off-campus communal living arrangements, such as fraternities and sororities, are encouraged to consider whether they are able to effectively practice social distancing or if it is better to return to their permanent home.

    Unfortunately, WMU's commencement ceremonies, which were to take place on Saturday, April 25, will have to be postponed. We understand and empathize that this is a loss for our graduating students, their families, and the Bronco community. But we are committed to ensuring that you have an opportunity to celebrate. Details, including an alternative date for the exercises, are pending and will be communicated soon.

    Please continue to visit the University's COVID-19 response website, which features answers to your frequently asked questions, as well as other information.

    These are anxious times and our community, as well as others around the globe, face extraordinary challenges ahead. Please know that we are in this together. It is in these times that we put our best selves forward, and I am seeing that every day. I believe in the WMU community. I know that we are resilient, and I have seen your perseverance. Thank you for your continuing flexibility in these extraordinary times.

    Sincerely,

    Edward Montgomery
    President

  • March 20, 2020 message to campus: Distance education extended through term, changes in work arrangements ahead

    Dear Campus Community,

    At this time, there remain no confirmed cases of COVID-19 on Western Michigan University's campus or in our county. However, as a result of the continuing spread of the disease in the state of Michigan, we have decided to take the precautionary step of extending distance education through the end of the spring semester, which officially concludes Saturday, April 25. Final exams will also be conducted during the week of April 20 using distance means.

    These changes will have cascading effects throughout our organization, from on-campus housing to employee work arrangements Universitywide. Effective Monday, March 23, through Saturday, April 25, University operations will be limited to those activities that are essential for the institution to continue its most critical functions, which includes delivering distance education. More information on how this will impact employees across campus will be shared in messages to employee groups later this morning.

    Residence halls will be closing on Tuesday, March 24, at 8 p.m. Students with extenuating circumstances, such as international students, Seita Scholars and Foundation Scholars, will be permitted to remain in a residence hall. Dining services will be available to them. Because they have an ability to practice social distancing, students in University apartments may remain if they so choose. Students in communal living arrangements off campus, such as fraternities and sororities, are encouraged to consider whether they are able to effectively practice social distancing or if it is better to return to their permanent home.

    Unfortunately, WMU's commencement ceremonies, which were to take place on April 25, will be postponed. We understand and empathize that this is a loss for our graduating students, their families and the Bronco community. But we are committed to ensuring that you have an opportunity to celebrate. Details, including an alternative date for the exercises, are pending and will be communicated soon.

    These are anxious times and our community, as well as others around the globe, face extraordinary challenges ahead. Please know that we are in this together. It is in these times that we put our best selves forward, and I am seeing that every day. I believe in the WMU community. I know that we are resilient, and I have seen your perseverance. Thank you for your continuing flexibility in these extraordinary times.

    Sincerely,

    Edward Montgomery
    President

  • March 20, 2020: Essential Research Continuity Memo to the WMU Community

    Dear Colleagues:

    In the face of unprecedented and uncertain times, The Office of Research and Innovation has worked closely with the leadership of WMU and college deans to prepare for the possible disruptions in operations due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

    Our COVID-19 website https://wmich.edu/research/covid-info-research outlines research guidelines and provides key information on numerous topics and will continue to be updated.

    Our priority is to protect the health and safety of the WMU research community consistent with the WMU actions described this morning.  The key facts are outlined below.

    • All ORI research support units are operational for essential functions, although staff members are working remotely where possible.  
    • Face-to-face group meetings and group research work related to essential research are discouraged, even when social distancing and stringent hygiene processes are practiced.  WebEx or other videoconferencing resources should be used to replace face-to-face activity wherever possible.
    • Research related to COVID-19 is encouraged and can continue, with appropriate efforts to reduce in person meetings and utilize remote access to the fullest extent possible.
    • Essential operations for projects unrelated to COVID-19 can continue with clear procedures to reduce person to person contact and includes examples such as
      • maintaining liquid nitrogen levels in storage tanks and critical gases for cells line, equipment and long term experiments.
      • maintaining ongoing animal experiments where stopping the experiment would compromise the project but not starting new projects unless they are essential
      • feeding and caring for animals
      • maintaining critical cell cultures
      • monitoring long term experiments in the public interest
      • any work requiring travel must comply with the university travel policy prohibiting non-essential travel
    • For research involving continuing essential operations, the number of staff who are required to maintain in-person, essential operations must be minimized. Essential operations that include care and feeding of animals should remain alert to announcements from the ORI compliance staff and not expand any work.
    • University equipment cannot be removed with the intention of performing research or creative scholarship at an off campus site, if the work is not normally performed at that location.
    • Each lab should develop a communications plan for notifying lab personnel of any temporary changes and assure all contact information and processes are in place to efficiently share updates on operations.  This can also be used if the situation changes in the future.
    • Face-to-face human subject activities should be delayed or replaced with remote access following the guidelines already provided by ORI.  
    • If necessary review and implement the lab hibernation process available at https://wmich.edu/research/covid-questions
    • You can continue to pay staff and students on current grants unless notified otherwise by ORI.
    • Assure that anyone, regardless of student or employee status, that as a result of the COVID-19 outbreak determines it is not in their best interest to conduct on-campus laboratory work they can do so without fear of retribution.
    • Research leaders should promote continuing interactions via remote processes to support their teams, and help more junior investigators such as students identify remote work that they can perform such as data analysis, research planning, reading the literature, writing manuscripts or theses, preparing for committee meetings etc.
    • We are closely following government actions, and possible further restrictions of on-campus laboratory work remain a possibility.

    Last, we know you all want to help in the situation, and our colleges are working to collect any extra personal protective equipment such as gloves, masks, disposable gowns, face shields, respirators including those with face shields, ethanol or isopropyl alcohol, etc. that could be used by medical professionals.  Please contact Terri Kinzy or your research dean to arrange for donations to be delivered to Sindecuse Health Center who will assure they are used to protect health case staff.

    As always, please do not hesitate to reach out for assistance, we are here to help.  Our actions now protect the long term research and creative scholarship at WMU.

    Terri Goss Kinzy
    Vice President for Research and Innovation

    Jennifer Bott
    Vice President for Academic Affairs and Provost

  • March 19, 2020, message from President Montgomery: Our shared mission: Holding tight to the immutable in life

    Dear WMU Community,

    Our community, state and, indeed, the world continue to face challenging times brought on by the spread of the novel coronavirus.

    In these difficult and uncertain moments, it is natural that we feel a heightened sense of anxiety and worry about what the future may hold. While each day brings new developments, I want to assure you that WMU and its leadership continues to both monitor and respond to the emerging situation.

    Our COVID-19 task force and leaders from every division are in close communication and working constantly on next steps. You will be hearing more tomorrow morning about our efforts, but for now I wanted to take a moment to share some thoughts on how our community has responded to date. I sat down with Paula Davis, WMU's director of strategic communications, to create this video.

    I want to express my gratitude to the faculty, staff and students who have pulled together to help us weather this storm. I know that we are stronger together. If we summon our individual and collective strength, we will come through this, showing the entire world that Broncos are resilient, tough and determined to meet any challenge they face.

    Sincerely,

    Edward Montgomery
    President

  • March 18, 2020, message to students: Credit/No Credit option for undergraduate students

    Dear WMU undergraduate students-

    We are in our first week of transitioning to distance education and I want to thank you for your flexibility during these unprecedented times. I’ve heard from several of you about your uncertainty concerning performance and how this transition may impact grades in courses.

    In light of this increased level of uncertainty, we are providing undergraduate students the option to change their course grading method to credit/no credit through Friday, April 3.  This change can be done on a course-by-course basis.  In other words, you can choose to change one, several, all, or none of your courses to credit/no credit.  If a course is already credit/no credit, that course will remain unchanged.  Any spring 2020 course may be changed to credit/no credit, including courses counting toward your major and/or minor.

    This is an important decision that must not be taken lightly.  It is important to understand what credit/no credit means.  “Credit” will be posted for each undergraduate student who earns the grade of “C” or better. “No Credit” will be posted for any grade below a “C.”

    It is also important to understand that there may be some implications to selecting credit/no credit for one or more of your courses.  And, these implications may vary from student to student.

    • “Credit/No Credit” courses, while counting toward a degree, will not be used to determine the overall grade point average (GPA) of the individual student.
    • If you receive financial aid, even though credit/no-credit courses are not used to determine your overall GPA, the grade in these courses can impact your standing of satisfactory academic progress.
    • If you are repeating a class this semester, and you switch that course to credit/no credit, the letter grade you previously earned will not be excluded from your GPA.  You must receive a letter grade to have a course flagged as a repeat on your record.  If you are on academic probation and have questions about how this might impact your academic standing, you are strongly encouraged to contact your advisor.
    • If a course prerequisite requires a grade higher than a “C”, and that prerequisite course was switched to credit/no credit, special permission will need to be granted by the department before you will be able to enroll.  The department will have access to the letter grade you earned in the credit/no credit course to make that determination, even though the letter grade will not appear on your transcript.

    If you are uncertain if you should change a course to credit/no credit, your academic advisor will be able to help you make that determination.

    If you have any questions about financial aid, you should contact the Office of Student Financial Aid.

    In order to change the method of grading to credit/no credit, please follow the directions below.  Please note that if you currently have a registration hold, you will need to email registrar-info@wmich.edu to request the change to the grading mode.

    1. Log into GoWMU;
    2. Select “Add/Drop classes” from the Registration menu under ALL LINKS;
    3. Select “Spring 2020” from the term drop down and click the Submit button;
    4. Click on “Letter” next to the course you wish to change to Credit/No Credit;
    5. Select “Credit/No Credit from the Grade Mode drop down box;
    6. Click “Submit Changes” button at the bottom of the page.

    Again, thank you for your flexibility and commitment to your studies at Western Michigan University. As always, I wish you great success in finishing your courses.

    Sincerely,

    Jennifer Bott, Ph.D.
    Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs

    Carrie Cumming
    Western Michigan University Registrar

  • March 18, 2020, morning update: Information about library services and research/teaching labs

    Dear Campus Community,

    We have a few resources and information to make you aware of this morning:

    Resources for the research community during the COVID-19 response
    The Office of Research and Innovation is committed to continuing to support faculty and staff engaged in research and creative scholarship to the fullest extent possible while WMU instruction is being delivered via distance education. The research office has compiled guidance and resources online at wmich.edu/research/covid-info-research. Guidance includes laboratory hibernation process protocols, information on continuing human subjects research safely, funding agency updates and answers to a long list of frequently asked questions. The site will be updated regularly with new resources.

    Library services available through state-mandated closure of library facilities
    Students, faculty and staff may visit wmich.edu/library for 24/7 access to University Libraries' wealth of online information and resources. Along with other services, visit the site to:

    • Access electronic reserves and place requests to make portions of physical reserve items available electronically.
    • Request new electronic resources, including streaming videos and expanded licensing for e-books.
    • Request materials to be delivered electronically or via intercampus mail or UPS (All WMU students, staff and faculty are eligible for this service).
    • Submit questions and requests anytime through the libraries' online form.

    Librarians and staff continue to be available online to help all WMU users. You can find additional information here.

    Please take advantage of these services and resources as needed. And, as always, continue visiting wmich.edu/covid-19 for updates.

    Sincerely,

    WMU COVID-19 Task Force Chairs
    Dr. Jennifer Bott, Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs
    Tony Proudfoot, Vice President for Marketing and Strategic Communications
    Dr. Gayle Ruggiero, University Medical Director

  • Your March 17 COVID-19 response update

    Dear Campus Community,

    Good morning and Happy St. Patrick's Day. Today is our second "first day." Many of our students will meet with their instructors at a new distance. And though your instructors might be geographically distant, students, their guidance and answers will be as close as your nearest screen. Take a deep breath, Broncos, and stock up on patience, grace and determination.

    Yesterday, we announced a COVID-19 80-hour leave allowance for full-time, benefits-eligible staff. Effective March 16, through April 3, full-time, benefits-eligible staff are eligible for up to 80 hours of additional paid time off. To be clear, this leave allowance is subject to prior approval by supervisors. Please visit the COVID-19 website for more information about the allowance. You will find it contained in the March 16 afternoon message to faculty and staff.

    This morning, our international students are especially on our minds. We are so proud to host you from more than 100 countries around the world. Please know that we are all navigating this pandemic together. We know that you face especially acute difficulties in this situation with travel restrictions, being far from home and family, and other challenges unique to living abroad. Please know that you, along with all of our students, faculty and staff, are in our thoughts. You will always belong here. WMU is committed to being an inclusive and welcoming campus.

    Your most important tools for staying safe these days are soap, water, hand sanitizer and information! We will continue to keep you updated. We’re doing our best to provide new information in these emails.

    Here are additional sources:

    • Your @wmich.edu email account. Monitor it often.
    • The COVID-19 website—wmich.edu/covid-19, where we have been putting all official information. This is your first reference point.
    • We’re really social. We are posting lots of updates and even answering a few questions between meetings on our University social media accounts.
    o    WMU Instagram  
    o    WMU Twitter
    o    WMU Facebook
    • The COVID-19 information email address—info@wmich.edu. Keep sending your questions; we are receiving hundreds. We answer direct questions when appropriate. If we get the same question often, we add it to the FAQs on wmich.edu/covid-19/faq and sometimes in email messages like this one.

    We are weathering this storm together. Your extra work, your perseverance and your good humor have not gone unnoticed. Thank you.

    Sincerely,

    WMU COVID-19 Task Force Chairs
    Dr. Jennifer Bott, Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs
    Tony Proudfoot, Vice President for Marketing and Strategic Communications
    Dr. Gayle Ruggiero, University Medical Director

  • March 16, 2020, afternoon message to faculty, staff: Additional on-campus changes, governmental directives

    Dear faculty and staff,

    We continue to monitor the COVID-19 global pandemic. Our top priority is the safety and well-being of our community, which guides our decisions. We are writing today to inform you of several changes in University operations.

    Searches
    Given the need for social distancing, the University has been carefully considering the implications on searches for open positions.

    Searches bring many people to campus from afar. The pandemic creates inequities due to differential distances job candidates must travel, and their method of travel to come to campus. There are different levels of comfort candidates have with technology that would allow for virtual interviews. Searches also bring committees together in small rooms with a high level of interaction.

    Upon careful consideration and effective immediately, the University has suspended all searches until April 3. This decision will be revisited closer to that date. If an offer has already been extended, it may be accepted and finalized. All other search activity is suspended.

    State of Michigan-mandated actions
    Also, in being responsive to an order from Gov. Gretchen Whitmer today, several new changes  go into effect on WMU's campus as of 3 p.m.

    • All on-campus dining will shift to grab-and-go and takeout service only;
    • University Libraries will be closed;
    • Fitness sites located in student housing, athletic facilities, the Student Recreation Center,  West Hills Athletic Club and Lawson Ice Arena will be closing until further notice.

    Flexibility for Employees
    When possible, managers and supervisors are encouraged to allow staff the opportunity to work from home. If remote work is not possible, a new COVID-19 allowance has been established.

    To ease the impact of COVID-19 on full-time, benefits-eligible staff, the University has established a temporary, 80-hour leave allowance. Effective today, March 16, through April 3, full-time, benefits-eligible staff are eligible for up to 80 hours of additional paid time off.

    This additional time must be used in the case of quarantine, isolation or family care needs related to COVID-19 exposure, illness or other related scenarios, including a temporary lack of work assignments. Childcare challenges brought about by the closure of K-12 schools will also qualify. This is a one-time allowance of paid time off to be utilized during this current pandemic. If the leave allowance is exhausted before April 3, sick leave and/or annual leave can be used. All leave is subject to prior approval by your supervisor, including this allowance.

    Also, when possible, managers and supervisors are encouraged to allow staff the opportunity to work from home. If remote work is not possible, eligible staff may use the new COVID-19 allowance before sick leave or annual leave for purposes of childcare with approval from their manager or supervisor. All units that have not been mandated by the state of Michigan to cease operations must maintain a physical presence for walk-in visits and to serve students.

    Staff will be instructed on how to report use of the COVID-19 allowance in a future communication. We understand there will be other questions. Please call the Human Resources Service Center at (269) 387-3620 and monitor wmich.edu/covid-19 for updates.  

    Equipment
    Through a new loan program, the University is making 200 laptops available for WMU students who do not have alternative access to a computer. The computers are to be used solely for WMU educational purposes. Students can make the request on the classroom technology page, by contacting the help desk at (269) 387-5041 or by emailing oit-classtechlist@wmich.edu. Also, we encourage students without home internet services to explore temporary free services that have been offered by companies like Comcast and Spectrum/Charter. Instructors who do not have alternative access to a computer should contact their college IT office.

    Meetings and Events
    Consistent with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's new guidance, WMU is lowering its threshold from less than 100 to less than 50 for the permissible number of people to gather at any one event.

    Commencement
    We have had numerous questions about commencement. We continue to monitor the situation daily. We will communicate our decision regarding postponement on March 27, recognizing the significance of this milestone for our students and their families.

    All of these modifications to our campus operations are intended to protect the health and safety of this community and remain in compliance with local, state, and federal orders. Thank you for your flexibility in this rapidly evolving circumstance that we are all managing together.

    WMU COVID-19 Task Force Chairs
    Dr. Jennifer Bott, Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs
    Tony Proudfoot, Vice President for Marketing and Strategic Communications
    Dr. Gayle Ruggiero, University Medical Director


  • March 16, 2020, afternoon message to students, families: Additional on-campus changes, governmental directives

    Dear students and families,

    WMU continues to monitor the COVID-19 global pandemic. Our top priority is the safety and well-being of our community, which guides our decisions. We are writing today to inform you of changes in University operations.

    State of Michigan-mandated actions
    In being responsive to an order from Gov. Gretchen Whitmer today, several new changes went into effect on WMU's campus, beginning at 3 p.m.

    • All on-campus dining will shift to grab-and-go and takeout service only;
    • University Libraries will be closed;
    • Fitness sites located in student housing, athletic facilities, the Student Recreation Center,  West Hills Athletic Club and Lawson Ice Arena will be closing until further notice.

    Equipment
    Through a new loan program, the University is making 200 laptops available for WMU students who do not have alternative access to a computer. The computers are to be used solely for WMU educational purposes. Students can make the request on the classroom technology page, by contacting the help desk at (269) 387-5041 or by emailing oit-classtechlist@wmich.edu. Also, we encourage students without home internet services to explore temporary free services that have been offered by companies like Comcast and Spectrum/Charter. Instructors who do not have alternative access to a computer should contact their college IT office.

    Meetings and Events
    Consistent with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's new guidance, WMU is lowering its threshold from less than 100 to less than 50 for the permissible number of people to gather at any one event.

    Commencement
    We have had numerous questions about commencement. We continue to monitor the situation daily. We will communicate our decision regarding postponement on March 27, recognizing the significance of this milestone for our students and their families.

    All of these modifications to our campus operations are intended to protect the health and safety of this community and remain in compliance with local, state, and federal orders. Thank you for your flexibility in this rapidly evolving circumstance that we are all managing together.

    WMU COVID-19 Task Force Chairs
    Dr. Jennifer Bott, Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs
    Tony Proudfoot, Vice President for Marketing and Strategic Communications
    Dr. Gayle Ruggiero, University Medical Director

  • March 16: Moving forward successfully through collective effort

    Good morning, WMU community,

    We are moving into the first day of distance education for our students. We want to thank everyone who has contributed to that effort as we all work hard to continue serving our students in new ways.

    What the Western Michigan University faculty and staff have done is nothing short of amazing. They created and facilitated dozens of workshops and trainings and worked hard to prepare more than 4,000 course sections for distance delivery. They’ve also launched a new webpage to support instructional continuity and another to support student access to distance learning—all within an incredibly short time frame.

    And through the hard work and dedication of staff,  WMU continues to offer students our array of on-campus services.

    Though we are all moving into uncharted territory together in many cases, if the past week was any indication, we will face any challenges with a continued focus on what’s most important—providing a quality education while helping our learners build their resilience and capacity to manage change. Let’s remember to treat each other with grace and understanding, whether we are interacting in person, via the telephone or a digital platform.   

    Don’t forget to continue checking the wmich.edu/covid-19 webpage for FAQs and other information.

    Thank you for your creativity, your diligence, your flexibility, and most of all, your dedication to WMU.

    Sincerely,

    Dr. Jennifer Bott, Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs
    Tony Proudfoot, Vice President for Marketing and Strategic Communications
    Dr. Gayle Ruggiero, University Medical Director
    Co-chairs of the WMU COVID-19 Response Task Force

  • Provost's March 16, 2020, message to students: Distance education information and resources

    Dear students,

    I want to begin by thanking you all for your patience and understanding as we made the difficult decision to shift classes to distance learning in response to COVID-19.

    For those new to the concept, distance learning simply means using a variety of technologies to help facilitate learning in a format other than face-to-face classes. It can include things like live and recorded webinars, emails, online discussion boards, and digital spaces. Faculty can share reading assignments, collect assignments, conduct group conversations and more.

    You will participate in many of the same ways you would do in an in-person course, such as viewing lectures, engaging in discussions, completing and submitting your work, and asking questions for clarification and discussion.

    Since we announced the shift to distance learning late Wednesday afternoon, your faculty have been working incredibly hard to get ready for this shift, and have collaborated with staff from across campus to accomplish some amazing things, including:

    • Preparing over 4,000 course sections to be delivered from a distance;
    • Creating and facilitating dozens of workshops and training on distance learning run by both faculty and staff; and
    • Sharing countless examples, tools and ideas from across all areas of study for how best we can manage this transition and provide continuity for you.

    We have also created a unified learner support page that you can use to find quick start guides and other resources related to our distance learning transition. You can find that support page at the following link: wmich.edu/elearning/students

    If you have questions about the Elearning system and other technology tools your courses may begin using, please utilize the support page. Our hope is that you will direct your technical questions to these resources, and save the content questions from your courses for your faculty.

    If they have not already, your instructors will be reaching out to you to share their current plans for the next several weeks. Please know that they are doing everything they can to make this transition easy for you; this is a major change for all of us.

    I want to acknowledge the significant difficulties that we are facing. I also want to reassure you that the entire University is committed to your success in this and future semesters' coursework. We will continue to evaluate the situation and do what's necessary to protect our community while maintaining our essential operations, the most important of which is our academic mission.

    Please keep visiting WMU's COVID-19 website to stay abreast of the University's response. The site includes a regularly updated frequently asked questions section with information on a range of topics, from how the University is managing Dining Services to Sindecuse Health Center hours of operation.

    Remember that we are Broncos. We are strong. We are driven. We are resilient. And we make our way through these challenges together.

    Dr. Jennifer Bott
    Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs

  • Provost's March 16, 2020, message to instructors: Distance education information and resources

    Dear Colleagues,

    I want to begin by thanking you all for the amazing, difficult work that you have done over the past several days. Since we announced the shift to distance learning late Wednesday afternoon, this campus has banded together to accomplish some incredible things, including:

    • Preparing over 4,000 course sections to be delivered from a distance;
    • Creating and facilitating dozens of workshops and trainings run by both faculty and staff;
    • Developing a system to allow students in need the ability to check out laptops; and
    • Launching a unified instructional continuity support page that you can find at wmich.edu/elearning/instructional-continuity.

    The instructional continuity page continues to be updated regularly and contains checklists, training resources, and online guides for a variety of distance learning and technology tools.

    We now must turn our focus to helping our students navigate this challenge as best we can. As you might expect, we have heard from many students over the past several days who are anxious about their ability to navigate distance learning, finish their courses, and, in some cases, to graduate on time this spring. We know many of our students were already experiencing high levels of stress and anxiety and this situation is understandably heightening those feelings for some.

    In order to best triage and manage the flow of technical questions and answers, we created a new learner support page, which your students may want to use as their starting point for guidance and support with Elearning and other tools: wmich.edu/elearning/students.

    In order to make technical support as effective as possible, we are asking you to fill out this distance delivery methods form to indicate which tools you will be using in your distance delivery of courses. This information will be available to the help desk staff who will be fielding calls and emails from students, and it will allow us to quickly check and make sure that students have the knowledge and resources they need to be successful in your courses. The form is very brief and should take only about two minutes to fill out.

    I know this work is incredibly challenging, and a high level of uncertainty surrounds the days and weeks ahead. I also know that in addition to your work challenges, you all have personal concerns that you may be dealing with as well.

    I will continue keep you informed about University decisions and our plans for the rest of the term. I also recommend visiting WMU's COVID-19 website often to keep abreast of the University's response.

    With tremendous gratitude for all you continue to do,
    Jen

  • March 14, 2020, Update: Regarding the state's K-12 schools closure

    Dear Colleagues,

    On Thursday, the state of Michigan announced the closure of all K-12 schools through April 5 to curtail the spread of COVID-19. As WMU remains open to serve the needs of our students, we realize the closure of K-12 schools poses challenges for faculty and staff who are working parents.   

    Consistent with the University's recent decision, and in effect while WMU provides distance education, if a manager or supervisor determines that an employee can perform his or her duties from home, that manager or supervisor should consider allowing telecommuting. We also understand that some offices may have limited staffing. It is important for WMU to maintain physical presence in each unit while the University remains open.

    We also recognize that the work duties of some employees cannot be performed remotely. Those individuals are free to use annual leave or sick leave. Please understand that employees are not permitted to have their children in the workplace, consistent with the University's minors on campus policy. The policy was established to protect children’s safety and well-being.

    As we work through this challenging period together, we understand the resiliency it requires and we are truly grateful for your commitment to our students and to the University. The exemplary manner in which you are doing your work and serving our students is the foundation of WMU's strength.

    Sincerely,

    WMU COVID-19 Response Task Force co-chairs

    Dr. Jennifer Bott, Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs
    Tony Proudfoot, Vice President for Marketing and Strategic Communications
    Dr. Gayle Ruggiero, University Medical Director

  • President's March 13 message to students, families: Important safety information for tomorrow

    Dear WMU students and families,

    WMU cares deeply about the well-being of our student body and our entire Bronco community. That's why the University has instituted a number of changes on campus to safeguard the health of our community during the worldwide outbreak of COVID-19. Following the practice of "social distancing" has been a key part of that strategy.

    Today, we were made aware of planned weekend activities that could also pose a threat to the well-being of students, should they decide to take part in them.

    This afternoon, the city of Kalamazoo declared a state of emergency in anticipation of large gatherings this weekend known as "house crawls," which can attract thousands. Such gatherings could expose participants, as well as public safety and first responders, to increased health risks and are contrary to all of the recommendations of public health officials. It is why cities from Boston to Chicago have canceled their St. Patrick’s Day festivities.

    The planned activities this weekend would also be in direct violation of the executive order Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer issued today prohibiting the assembly of 250 or more people as part of efforts to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

    We stand with our city and our state government in promoting public safety, security and health. We urge our students and community members to reconsider their participation in such activities. WMU is committed to working with City Manager Jim Ritsema to prevent any disruptive and unsafe activities.

    There are plenty of safe ways to celebrate St. Patrick's Day. Engaging in reckless behavior and contravening mandated governmental orders are not among them. Provisions of the WMU Student Code of Conduct and state law carry severe penalties/sanctions for disruptive or riotous behavior that leads to injury or damages property.

    It is fine to celebrate the season, but let's all engage in behavior that supports and maintains the safety and health of our community. That's what Broncos do.

    Edward Montgomery
    President

  • March 13, 2020, Update: Additional answers to questions posted

    Editor's Note: The following update was written late last night before the state of Michigan announced the closure of all K-12 school buildings through April 5. WMU's COVID-19 Response Task Force is aware of this significant development. Discussing its potential implications is our top priority today. We will have more information soon on how this will impact WMU.

    Dear WMU Community,

    We are here with another update as WMU transitions to delivering all instruction through distance education and makes other necessary operational adjustments in the face of the COVID-19 global pandemic.

    As you can imagine, we are receiving hundreds of questions, which we are answering as quickly as we can during this unprecedented modification in how we do business. Based on your questions, we are regularly adding new content to our COVID-19 website. Last night, we added significantly to the "frequently asked questions" section and to a section dedicated to updating the status of on-campus events as that information becomes available.

    If you have not yet received a personal response, we encourage you to visit the website at wmich.edu/covid-19, where you may find the answers to many of your inquiries. Thank you for your patience and understanding as we work to keep you informed.

    In this update, we would like to share two short video messages that highlight, on a few dimensions, how WMU is managing operations under this public health threat.

    In other related news:

    The MAC and WMU Intercollegiate Athletics have announced the suspension of all remaining 2019-20 competitions, along with most recruiting and practices.

    The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has added nearly every country in Europe to its Level 3 "avoid nonessential travel" warning list.

    "That Golden Girls Show!," scheduled for March 19 in Miller Auditorium, has been postponed.

    We cannot fully express our appreciation for the flexibility, hard work and resilience that our community is demonstrating.

    Sincerely,

    WMU COVID-19 Task Force Chairs
    Jennifer Bott, Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs
    Tony Proudfoot, Vice President for Marketing and Strategic Communications
    Gayle Ruggiero, University Medical Director

  • March 12, 2020: President Montgomery addresses the Board of Trustees

    At the March meeting of WMU's Board of Trustees, President Montgomery provided an update on the University's response to COVID-19. His remarks are below.

    As I am sure you have all heard, yesterday afternoon our University’s COVID-19 Response Task Force made the decision to cancel classes for today and tomorrow, which will reconvene on Monday, March 16, with remote instruction for all students through Friday, April 3.

    As a University, we are here to serve student learning and growth, even when circumstances outside of our control create tremendous uncertainty. We are grateful to our faculty and staff members who are preparing to deliver services to our students at a distance, including advising and other related student services. They are responding valiantly and putting students first, as they always do. And we are grateful to our students for showing the kind of flexibility and adaptability that will make them tomorrow’s most resilient and employable professionals.

    As you, our governing body gathers today, it is fitting to share our thinking with you and others about the science behind our decision to move to distance education.

    Our goal right now is to FLATTEN THE CURVE. Each step that WMU has taken so far is proactive and preventative. Remember there are no known COVID-19 cases at WMU. We are not trying to contain the spread from a patient within our community—or even nearby. Instead, we are aiming to slow the spread of an emerging and dangerous disease.

    Here’s how it works: Imagine being very sick, going to your doctor to get help, and finding there is no capacity to treat you. That is the scenario we aim to avoid for our entire community.

    In one scenario, hospitals become completely overwhelmed because the number of new cases emerge so fast that our health systems are overloaded and cannot treat the sick. In a much better scenario, the number of very sick people remains manageable because cases are spread out and hospitals have the capacity to effectively treat the population. Flatten the curve imagines those two scenarios on a chart. One is a dangerous spike that overwhelms the system. The other one is a curve flattened over time that spreads cases over time to keep cases within capacity—flatten the curve.

    There are two reasons we don’t close altogether, and both are about students. First, our students have invested heavily in their education here. We are determined to deliver on our promise in every way that circumstances allow.

    Second, this situation impacts people very differently. Some believe we should have closed the University days ago. Others think we should still be operating as normal, and we have every perspective in between. Our current solution optimizes on our commitment to deliver on our promise of a high-quality education while maximizing choice. If a student wants to go home, she can. If a student wants to stay, he can. If a student goes home and gets their fill of mom and dad, they can come back.  And as an access institution that also has a large international student body, we have students that simply can’t go home or for whom WMU is their home.

    We will continue monitoring this rapidly evolving situation, and will make the decision on whether to extend distance education by Friday, March 27.

    Our University facilities will remain open, including residence halls and dining facilities, and staff will continue all standard business operations. 

    Our task force and University leaders remain in contact with county and state health department officials to monitor the situation, and with our state government to engage in two-way communication that will support protecting our students and all Michigan residents.

    This is a rapidly changing situation, and we will keep everyone apprised of changes in COVID-19 cases as they affect our WMU community and will continue to work across our campus to ensure a safe and secure environment.

    Again, I appreciate the work of our faculty and staff and all they are doing to rise to the occasion and serve our students.

  • March 12, 2020, Update: What you need to know moving forward

    Dear WMU Community,

    Thank you for your patience and resilience as we face the unprecedented challenge of managing University operations under a public health crisis while continuing to provide the high-quality educational experiences and services WMU students expect.

    Though the manner in which we deliver instruction will be modified, please know that WMU is committed to maintaining a high-quality education while minimizing the disruption to student progress.

    Students, you will understandably want answers from your faculty members about exactly how the learning experience will be conveyed over coming weeks, but we ask that you give them time to adjust during Thursday and Friday's suspension of in-person instruction. We are confident they will be in touch when they are up and running.

    We have one new update: Effective immediately, all nonessential WMU travel, whether to a domestic location or an international destination, is suspended.

    Flattening the Curve
    Here is the most common question we are getting: “Why is WMU transitioning to distance education while campus remains open?”

    We understand why this requires a little clarification and it starts with understanding what we aim to achieve. Each step that WMU has taken so far is proactive and preventative. Remember there are no known COVID-19 cases at WMU. We are not trying to contain the spread from a patient within our community—or even nearby. Instead, we are aiming to slow the spread of the disease as new cases emerge.

    Here’s how it works: Imagine being very sick, going to your doctor to get help, and finding there is no capacity to treat you. That is the scenario we must avoid.

    The simple chart below shows two possible outcomes of this pandemic—one manageable, one dire. In one scenario, hospitals are completely overwhelmed by the number of very sick people, and they become unable to effectively care for them.



    In a better scenario, the number of very sick people remains manageable because cases are spread out and hospitals can effectively treat the population. This is our collective goal: flatten the curve to slow new cases and stay within health care system capacity.

    This is social distancing on a grand scale. We need the help of the entire campus community to make this work. Do not congregate in large gatherings. Avoid public places when possible. And take other common sense steps.

    Here are answers to some of the other common questions we are receiving:

    Is WMU closed?
    No. The University has simply moved in-person instruction to distance education and canceled events with 100 people or more to minimize interpersonal contact to slow the potential spread of the novel coronavirus, COVID-19.

    We have received a number of similar questions about specific services and facilities. To answer those: Yes, residence and dining halls are open; Yes, tutoring services, computer labs and student support offices are open.

    I feel sick, should I get tested for COVID-19?
    The symptoms for COVID-19 are fever, cough and difficulty breathing. If you have these symptoms, you should call your health care provider or Sindecuse Health Center to schedule an appointment for evaluation. Remember to call ahead so health care workers can advise you on whether it's necessary to schedule an appointment.

    What if I do not have my own computer or access to one at home? Can I still take part in distance learning?
    Yes, you may remain on campus. The computer labs, like all other University services, will remain open and available to students. The University is working on the possibility of loaning laptops to students in need. We are still working on this, but we remain hopeful.

    Do I have to go home?
    No. The University and all of its services will remain open. If you have access to Wi-Fi and a computer, you may choose to continue your studies from home. But do avoid gathering in large groups.

    Are all facilities being regularly cleaned and sanitized?
    Yes, Facilities Management has stepped up cleaning and sanitizing for all University buildings, including residence and dining halls, offices, labs and recreation areas—every place on the campus.

    Are the National Collegiate Hockey Conference playoffs open to the public this weekend?
    No. The NCHC has announced that this weekend’s quarterfinal games will be closed to the public. These and all of the proactive measures that WMU is taking are aimed at protecting students while enabling them to continue with their studies with minimal disruptions. We greatly appreciate everyone’s cooperation and patience as we work to address the situation.

    As always, for more information, visit wmich.edu/covid-19, email info@wmich.edu or call (269) 387-8400.

    WMU COVID-19 Task Force Chairs
    Jennifer Bott, Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs
    Tony Proudfoot, Vice President for Marketing and Strategic Communications
    Gayle Ruggiero, University Medical Director

  • March 11, 2020: Guidance, expectations for WMU employees during suspension of in-person instruction

    Dear faculty, staff and student employees,

    We are writing tonight to provide more information following today's announcement that Western Michigan University will begin delivering instruction through distance education on Monday, March 16, through Friday, April 3.

    As noted in President Montgomery's communication, unless otherwise specified, all WMU sites and operations remain open and services will continue to be provided. Unless otherwise specified, the University's normal policies and procedures remain in place. Effective Monday, March 16, events that anticipate an attendance of more than 100 will be canceled.

    Effective immediately, all non-essential travel, whether to a domestic location or an international destination, is suspended. What constitutes essential travel should be determined by your manager or supervisor. If there is some question regarding whether or not the travel is essential, your divisional lead (vice president or executive director) should be consulted.

    Our focus remains on continuing the high-quality education that students expect while also protecting our campus community. Until WMU returns to normal operations and in-person instruction, the University will follow these policies:

    All WMU staff, unless otherwise notified, will continue to report to campus according to the normal work schedule. Managers or supervisors of a specific department or unit will determine if any changes in work assignments or responsibilities should occur.

    If a manager or supervisor determines that an employee is able to perform his or her duties from home, that manager or supervisor should consider allowing telecommuting for the limited time that distance education is in effect.

    WMU employees should continue to follow procedures identified on wmich.edu/covid-19 for "at work" and "if you are sick precautions." Procedures for reporting absence and use of sick leave continue, as per the related WMU policies and collective bargaining agreements remain in effect.

    For our student employees, departments are encouraged to provide them with the opportunity to continue to work if doing so is in their interest. For many of our students, this income is critical in helping them to continue their education. However, if during this period of distance education the student determines it is not in his or her best interest to work, then we will honor this decision and not penalize the student in the future if returning to the position.

    We understand that you may still have questions. Please feel free to call the Human Resources Service Center at 387-3620. Staff stand ready to assist you. Also, please continue to monitor wmich.edu/covid-19 for updates.

    Thank you,

    Dr. Jennifer Bott, Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs
    Tony Proudfoot, Vice President for Marketing and Strategic Communications
    Gayle Ruggiero, M.D., Interim Medical Director
    Co-chairs of the WMU COVID-19 Response Task Force

  • March 11, 2020: Distance-learning resources for instructors

    Dear Colleagues,

    As you saw in Dr. Montgomery’s message this afternoon, we are moving to remote instruction for the next two weeks. To assist in preparations, we are suspending classes tomorrow and Friday to give you time to make adjustments to your courses.

    Today, we asked more than 30 distance education experts across campus to step forward and assist their colleagues in making the transition, because we all share the same goal–student success. Creating an environment that allows our students to continue to progress with their knowledge, understanding and application of course content unites us all.

    How can you get started? We’ve compiled a checklist that can guide your thinking as you focus on helping students master your learning outcomes. In addition, the following opportunities are available to you over the next several days and beyond:

    • WMUx and a group of faculty champions are prepared to help individual faculty members and departments shift course materials and assessments to the online environment. We are incorporating disciplinary guidance into these materials. Our faculty champions met for two hours today to strategize and prioritize methods for helping their colleagues launch distance content in the middle of a semester, focusing on keeping materials simple, organized and clear for students. It became apparent that our colleagues understand that, for some, this is matter of course and, for others, will be an entirely new experience. They stand ready to serve all.
    • Please visit wmich.edu/elearning/instructional-continuity for quick start guides, webinars and other tools to help guide instruction and engagement with your students. These include virtual office hours, conducting asynchronous discussions and providing assessment feedback and grades.
    • We are working with our advisors and student success coaches to begin or continue conversations around course selections for summer, fall and beyond.
    • We are mobilizing our technology resources to provide increased help desk services and on-demand trainings for faculty and students. We are coordinating laptop rentals with WMUx, the Office of Information Technology and our college IT staff to assist students in need. We are creating a process for students to request this type of support and will distribute that tomorrow, March 12.

    We recognize that not all learning occurs in a classroom; we have students working in internships, clinical placements, and other experiential learning activities. Please work with your community partners providing these experiences to help understand how WMU’s distance education decision may or may not impact your students’ placements. We encourage our students to continue these experiences if they feel safe in doing so.

    I know how hard you all work and that transitioning your courses to distance formats for any period of time is not easy. Obviously, these are unusual circumstances, and we are all committed to making the best of the situation to ensure that students can complete the semester.

    We also know that your students will look to you to be the expert on many things that may be better addressed by others. Please feel free to share their concerns or questions with me at info@wmich.edu.

    I greatly appreciate your commitment to continuity of instruction and service to our students.

    Jennifer Bott, Ph.D.
    Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs

  • March 11, 2020: Campus response to COVID-19 (coronavirus)

    Dear Campus Community,

    After consulting with Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, other Michigan university officials and the local health department earlier today about COVID-19 (the novel coronavirus), Western Michigan University will begin delivering instruction through distance education on Monday, March 16, through Friday, April 3, effective for all locations. The University will continue monitoring this fluid situation and determine by Friday, March 27, if that time frame needs to be extended.

    In-person instruction will be suspended on Thursday and Friday, March 12 and 13, to provide faculty the opportunity to begin moving course content online so that students may successfully complete the semester. More direction will be provided to faculty later today, and students can anticipate more guidance in the coming days. We are grateful to our faculty and staff members who are preparing to deliver services to our students at a distance, including advising and other related student services.

    This measure is being taken to ensure continued campus safety and help slow the spread of the illness, which helps ease demand on health care systems now and in the coming days and weeks. There remain no known cases of COVID-19 on campus. Earlier today, the Kalamazoo County Health Department indicated in a press release that there are no local cases, but cautioned that could change at any time.

    Unless otherwise specified, all WMU sites remain open and services will continue to be provided. Effective Monday, March 16, events that anticipate an attendance of more than 100 will be canceled.

    For those living on campus, residence and dining halls will remain open and fully operational.

    More information will be forthcoming today. The University is taking these steps to protect the health and well-being of the WMU community. Please continue to monitor wmich.edu/covid-19 for the latest information. I appreciate everyone’s efforts to work together and keep our community safe.

    Sincerely,

    Edward Montgomery
    President

  • March 10, 2020: Update from the WMU COVID-19 Response Task Force

    Dear Campus Community:

    We are writing to share an update from the University's COVID-19 Response Task Force. We will continue to regularly post these updates, including the latest consideration of policies and procedures related to COVID-19, at wmich.edu/covid-19.

    But first, we'd like to address an issue that emerged this afternoon. Earlier today, an employee in the Clifford Center, located in Brown Hall, presented cold symptoms and was advised, out of an abundance of caution, to be evaluated at Sindecuse Health Center. The employee has been evaluated and cleared by clinicians.
     
    As a reminder, it is influenza season and it is not unusual for people to become ill with any number of ailments that are not the novel coronavirus. The health center has a protocol in place, based on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s guidance, to evaluate individual cases and identify a combination of symptoms and exposure that would elevate concern.
     
    The Clifford Center, which has one employee, has been closed through its regular protocol when it is not staffed. Closure is not related to the coronavirus.

    We also want to share, as we actively respond to the rapidly evolving public health crisis posed by the novel coronavirus, what we are monitoring and some of the considerations at play.

    WMU’s response is being managed by the COVID-19 Task Force. It includes several vice presidents and cabinet members, as well as representatives from business and finance, facilities, general counsel, the Haenicke Institute for Global Education, marketing and strategic communications, the president’s office, public safety, Sindecuse, and student affairs.

    The task force closely monitors throughout each day:

    • Global, state and local news coverage of the outbreak;
    • The international and domestic incidence of COVID-19;
    • Public health guidance, including from the CDC and Kalamazoo County health officials, in coordination with WMU's medical director;
    • Reports from national higher education-related organizations, including the U.S. Department of Education and the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities; and,
    • Michigan government and other state groups, including Gov. Gretchen Whitmer's task force on COVID-19, the state health department and the Michigan Association of State Universities.


    Among key issues under ongoing discussion by the task force:

    • What events would escalate our response to the outbreak, in consideration of how widespread the virus becomes, and what those escalations might look like at WMU;
    • Managing continuity of instruction should we need to offer coursework remotely;
    • International and domestic travel restrictions; and,
    • The value of social distancing, including self-quarantines and at what crowd size an event may be counterproductive to hold due to public health concerns.


    This is not an exhaustive list, but it includes the issues and ideas being deliberated. As this situation continues to unfold, we will come to decisions based on keeping our campus safe. And we want to hear from you, realizing that the sound thinking and resilience of our campus community will help us endure through this difficult period.

    Please continue to send your questions, thoughts and comments to info@wmich.edu or call (269) 387-8400.


    Sincerely,
     
    Dr. Jennifer Bott, Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs
    Tony Proudfoot, Vice President for Marketing and Strategic Communications
    Co-chairs of the WMU COVID-19 Response Task Force

  • March 8, 2020: WMU classes resume tomorrow, what to expect

    Dear Campus Community,

    Welcome back from spring break. Ahead of classes resuming tomorrow, we wanted to share with you some of the steps we are taking to keep campus safe. We understand that you return at a time of global concern about COVID-19, the novel coronavirus.

    Currently, there are no known confirmed COVID-19 cases in Michigan, and there are no confirmed or suspected cases on our campus. Nevertheless, WMU leadership is closely monitoring and responding to the spread of this illness—both abroad and domestically.

    What WMU is doing to keep us safe (highlights):

    • We are prioritizing numerous education and preventative measures, which are some of our most effective strategies;
    • Custodial staff is on top of cleaning procedures throughout the University. We are increasing focus and intensity on high-touch areas, such as switches and door knobs;
    • We are identifying faculty, staff and students who have been to any of the four countries on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention—CDC—Level 3/"avoid nonessential travel" list. That list includes mainland China, Iran, Italy and South Korea. In general, the community appears to be reassuringly responsive to our requests for information and self-quarantining—thank you;
    • We have prohibited University-related travel to countries the CDC warns against visiting, and we are also encouraging people to avoid those places for personal travel;
    • Sindecuse Health Center has enacted prevention protocols on-site;
    • A team comprised of leaders from the president’s cabinet, the health center, public safety, academic affairs, student affairs and other areas is meeting regularly to review our protocols and procedures—and make adjustments as needed.

    What you can do to be safe and keep others on campus safe:

    • Tell us if you have traveled, or plan personal travel in the future, to China, Iran, Italy or South Korea so that we can assist with a self-quarantine of 14 days. Send an email to info@wmich.edu or call (269) 387-8400;
    • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds or use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer;
    • Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth with unwashed hands;
    • Avoid close contact with people who are sick, and avoid close contact with others, if you get sick;
    • Report international visitors planned to arrive on campus in the next three months by  emailing information to info@wmich.edu;
    • If you have a fever, cough or difficulty breathing, visit your doctor (call ahead). Or visit Sindecuse Health Center, calling ahead at (269) 387-3287 before visiting the center.
    • Stay informed. Visit this web page often and monitor your WMU email.

    We will continue to keep you informed as new information becomes available or if the situation changes. Our best approach is a vigilant, measured and proactive response. If we work together, we can do a great deal to help keep the entire WMU community safe.

    Sincerely,

    Dr. Jennifer Bott, Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs
    Tony Proudfoot, Vice President for Marketing and Strategic Communications
    Co-chairs of the WMU COVID-19 Response Task Force

  • March 5, 2020: Updated WMU coronavirus-related travel restrictions, expectations for returning travelers

    Dear Campus Community:

    WMU continues to monitor the incidence of coronavirus across the world and in the United States. There are currently no confirmed cases of the novel virus, also known as COVID-19, in Michigan, and no confirmed or suspected cases on WMU's campus.

    We are mindful, however, that the current situation could change. As such, leaders from the health center, public safety, academic affairs, student affairs, and other areas continue to meet regularly to review our protocols and procedures. I want to update you on the latest steps the University is taking.

    The University is following the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidance on travel restrictions related to the illness. The CDC has issued a Level 3—“Avoid nonessential travel”— advisory for the following countries due to extensive COVID-19 outbreaks: mainland China, Iran, Italy and South Korea.

    Effective immediately, and in accordance with the CDC's Travel Health Notices, WMU is prohibiting all University-related travel to warning Level 3 countries and suspending WMU programming in those nations, as well.

    Protecting the health and safety of our campus community will require everyone’s help and cooperation. If you have traveled to mainland China, Iran, Italy, or South Korea—or traveled through airports on layovers in these countries—and are returning to Kalamazoo, please inform the University before your return. Please send a message to info@wmich.edu or call (269) 387-8400. Faculty or staff members or students returning from these countries will be asked to self-quarantine for 14 calendar days. The university will provide guidance about procedures when you notify campus of your return.

    Regarding faculty/staff international travel on behalf of the University

    If you have University-related international travel plans to countries that are not at warning Level 3 per CDC guidance, please consult with your supervisor about those plans. Until further notice, WMU employees will not be required to travel internationally.

    Personal travel

    Additionally, all members of the University are encouraged to reconsider personal international travel until further notice. If you have questions, please send those to info@wmich.edu or call (269) 387-8400. Also note that as the situation develops, it is possible the number of CDC Level 3 countries could grow.

    Under CDC recommendations, if you were in a country with a COVID-19 outbreak and feel sick with fever, cough or difficulty breathing, within 14 days after you depart that country, you should:

    • Seek medical advice. Call ahead before you go to a doctor’s office or emergency room. Tell them about your recent travel and your symptoms.
    • Avoid contact with others.
    • Not travel on public transportation while sick.
    • Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue or your sleeve—not your hands—when coughing or sneezing.
    • Wash hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds to avoid spreading the virus to others.
    • Wash your hands with soap and water immediately after coughing, sneezing or blowing your nose.
    • If soap and water are not readily available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains 60% to 95% alcohol. Always wash hands with soap and water if hands are visibly dirty.

    About coronavirus from the CDC

    Coronavirus disease 2019—COVID-19—is a respiratory illness that can spread from person to person. The virus that causes COVID-19 was first identified during an investigation into an outbreak in Wuhan, China, in December. Patients with COVID-19 have had mild to severe respiratory illness with symptoms of fever, cough and shortness of breath. For more information about the virus and its incidence, visit the CDC coronavirus website.

    Keep WMU welcoming

    I have been reading national news accounts of acts of discrimination against individuals of Asian descent due to the outbreak. The University prohibits discrimination based on many personal attributes, including national origin. I invite you to join me in keeping WMU a welcoming environment for all people.

    Our utmost concern is safeguarding the health and well-being of the WMU campus community. As we know more in the course of this evolving public health crisis, we will continue to update you on the University's response.

    Again, please send any question or concerns to info@wmich.edu or call (269) 387-8400.

    Edward Montgomery
    President

  • Jan. 31, 2020: WMU-related travel to China prohibited

    Western Michigan University has been monitoring the coronavirus situation this week. Late Thursday, Jan. 30, the U.S. State Department issued a Level 4, "Do not travel to China," advisory.

    The warning is intended to limit the spread of coronavirus, which the World Health Organization calls a global health emergency. Level 4 is the highest travel warning issued by the State Department. This is in addition to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's highest warning, Level 3: Avoid non-essential travel, which was issued on Monday.

    WMU is following this guidance in order to preserve the health and safety of our community, which is always the first priority. With that goal in mind, all WMU travel to China is prohibited, effective immediately and until further notice. Travel authorizations to China, which are to be completed in advance, will not be approved. Personally incurred expenses for travel to China will not be reimbursed.

    The University also encourages faculty, staff and students to avoid personal travel to China. WMU will follow CDC and Kalamazoo County Health & Community Services guidance for containing the spread of the respiratory illness. Such guidelines could call for a symptomatic individual to have curtailed attendance at work or in class if they have traveled to China since December 2019, when the current virus outbreak began.

    Anyone who plans personal travel to China is encouraged to closely monitor the CDC’s Travel Health Notices website and the State Department’s Travel Advisories website.

    What you need to know about coronavirus:

    Novel coronavirus 2019-nCoV—is a newly identified coronavirus that is causing an outbreak of pneumonia illness. It was first identified in December 2019 in the city of Wuhan, Hubei Province, China. Since then, the virus has been identified in multiple other countries, including cases in the United States.

    According to the CDC, human coronaviruses are common throughout the world and usually cause mild to moderate illness in people. This new virus is a public health concern because:

    • It is newly identified and so much is still unknown about it.
    • Two other human coronaviruses, MERS-CoV and SARS-CoV, have caused severe illness.

    The best place to get the most recent information about coronavirus is on the CDC coronavirus website.

    What is the risk?

    According to the CDC today: "This is a serious public health threat. The fact that this virus has caused severe illness and sustained person-to-person spread in China is concerning, but it’s unclear how the situation in the United States will unfold at this time.

    "The risk to individuals is dependent on exposure. At this time, some people will have an increased risk of infection, for example health care workers caring for 2019-nCoV patients and other close contacts. For the general American public, who are unlikely to be exposed to this virus, the immediate health risk from 2019-nCoV is considered low.”

    Symptoms and transmission:

    Symptoms may be flu-like, ranging from mild to serious, and include:

    • fever
    • cough
    • difficulty breathing

    Person-to-person spread is occurring, although it’s unclear exactly how it is transmitted and how easily the virus spreads between people.

    Treatment:

    People infected with coronavirus—2019-nCoV—should receive supportive care to help relieve symptoms. Currently, there is no specific antiviral treatment recommended for 2019-nCoV infection.

    Prevention:

    There is no vaccine to prevent this virus, and the CDC advises that the best way to prevent infection is to avoid exposure.

    Currently, 2019-nCoV has not been found to be spreading in the U.S., so there are no additional precautions recommended for the general public to take.

    Here are everyday actions to help prevent the spread of respiratory viruses:

    • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
    • Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth with unwashed hands.
    • Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
    • Stay home when you are sick.
    • Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash. Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces.

    Recommendations for people with respiratory symptoms:

    If you have symptoms of fever, cough, and/or difficulty breathing and in the last 14 days you traveled to Wuhan, or visited an affected region in China, or had close contact with someone who had traveled to an affected region in China and had respiratory symptoms, you should:

    • Immediately seek medical care. Before you go to a doctor’s office or emergency room, call ahead and tell them about your recent travel and your symptoms.
    • Students can call Sindecuse Health Center at (269) 387-3287.
    • Avoid contact with others.
    • Do not travel while sick. Please do not get on public transportation or arrive at the campus health center unannounced. Call ahead.
    • Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue or your sleeve—not your hands—when coughing or sneezing.
    • Wash hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. Use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer if soap and water are not available.
  • Jan. 28, 2020: WMU monitoring emergent coronavirus, CDC guidance

    WMU is monitoring public health concerns prompted by an emergent coronavirus that originated in China and that also is behind a small number of cases of illness in the U.S. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says this strain is a very serious public health threat. According to the CDC's assessment today, "for the general American public, who are unlikely to be exposed to this virus, the immediate health risk from 2019-nCoV is considered low." Because it is flu and respiratory disease season, officials advise getting vaccinated for flu and using everyday preventive actions to stop the spread of germs, and taking flu antivirals, if prescribed. The CDC also issued a Level 3 travel warning: Avoid all nonessential travel to China.  For more information, visit cdc.gov/coronavirus.