Archived Messages

  • Aug. 28, 2020, WMU's Safe Campus Strategy and the COVID-19 Case Dashboard

    Dear WMU community,

    Thanks to all who joined us for Wednesday's Back to Campus Briefings, where President Montgomery and others reviewed the University's Safe Campus Strategy, the health and safety portion of our Safe Return Plan.

    Some highlights:

    • COVID-19 case counts will be posted in a dashboard on the Safe Return Plan website each Friday—beginning today;
    • Section 14 (Harm to persons) of the Student Code of Conduct has been updated to include sanctions for violating COVID-19 safety rules related to off-campus activities; and
    • All students, faculty and staff are required to complete a daily health survey before arriving on campus and may be asked to show clearance status to a supervisor, faculty member, Sindecuse Health Center staff member or others through the survey's badging system.

    It's useful to think of our Safe Campus Strategy as resting on four pillars—protect, monitor, test and isolate. The University will provide the tools and guidance—examples include the student mask distribution event, which begins Monday, Aug. 31, and the Safe Return Plan itself—but all of us must also do our part to individually stop the spread of the novel coronavirus. Please find more detail about each of the pillars of the Safe Campus Strategy below our signatures.

    We are confident the measures outlined in the strategy will mitigate the spread of COVID-19. But each of must make the commitment through our behavior to help keep ourselves, our neighbors and our campus safe—all together, all of the time. In this challenging period, we have the strength and the resilience to thrive and prosper as a community. We can do this.

    Sincerely,

    Kara Wood
    Associate Vice President for Community Partnerships
    COVID-19 Response Coordination Team chair

    Gayle Ruggiero, M.D.
    Medical Director
    COVID-19 Response Coordination Team co-chair

    Lt. Andrew Bachmann
    WMU Department of Public Safety, Emergency Management
    COVID-19 Response Coordination Team co-chair
     


    Safe Campus Strategy Overview


    Here's an overview of those four foundational strategies, which are detailed on the Safe Return Plan website.

    Protect

    • Wear a mask: Masks are required in indoor spaces and outdoor spaces where physical distancing is not possible.
    • Practice vigilant hygiene: Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds or use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
    • Maintain physical distance: Stay at least 6 feet away from others while in public spaces.
    • Stay home if ill: If you are experiencing even the slightest COVID-19 symptoms, stay home and call Sindecuse Health Center at (269) 387-3287 for next steps.


    Monitor

    Take the daily health survey: Students, faculty and staff must complete a self-monitoring questionnaire each day before arriving on campus. Find this health survey at wmich.edu/survey. The survey is integrated into the Sindecuse patient portal, which includes every WMU community member. You can also access it through GoWMU.

    Here's how it works:

    • Login directly through wmich.edu/survey using your Bronco NetID and password—or access the survey through GoWMU.
    • You will answer a series of screening questions.
    • Once completed, you will receive a "badge" that can be visible on your mobile device. You may be asked to show your badge before entering a class or event. Sindecuse staff also use the badging system to admit employees and visitors to the health center.

    Badges:

    Green = Cleared. It's OK to visit campus on the date shown.
    Yellow = Survey is overdue.
    Orange = Quarantine. You answered "yes" to a screening question and should contact Sindecuse for further assessment, or you have been identified as a close contact through contact tracing.
    Red = Isolation. You have tested positive, are being monitored by the health center and may live on or off campus.

    This time-stamped badge is accessible from the main screen of  .

     

    Test

    • Rapid-result testing: No-cost, rapid-result antigen testing for COVID-19 is available to the WMU community at Sindecuse.
    • Pre-fall mass testing: Ahead of the semester, a five-day, free testing event began Thursday and runs through Monday, Aug. 31, at the Student Rec Center. Call (269) 387-3287 to make an appointment. Due to the volume of tests and social distancing, walk-ins will not be accepted.
    • Always use Sindecuse for testing: Sindecuse offers an advantage in our fight against COVID-19 spread through dedicated, highly accurate testing, contact tracing and care exclusively for the WMU community. That means faster isolation of outbreaks. But we only get that protection if Sindecuse clinicians know about all the cases.


    Isolate

    • COVID-19 case communications: WMU will balance communicating information necessary to keep individuals and the community safe while also protecting privacy and abiding by federal law (HIPAA). All four strategies in this plan are designed to limit COVID-19 exposure. Case communication is one of many protections.
    • Chain of notifications: If an individual tests positive for COVID-19 through on-campus testing, Sindecuse will quickly notify the patient and will inform close contacts about their exposure to an infected individual. Those exposed must quarantine for 14 days. Sindecuse staff will also alert local and state health officials.
    • If the patient is a student: The student's name and isolation dates will be communicated to the dean of students and faculty. If the student gives consent, their diagnosis will also be shared with the dean of students and faculty. The director of housing will be notified if the student lives on campus. Sindecuse will direct Facilities Management to spaces that require special cleaning, if needed.
    • If the patient is an employee: The employee’s name, positive test result and isolation dates will be confidentially communicated to their supervisor. Sindecuse will direct Facilities Management on spaces and University vehicles that require special cleaning, if needed. Depending on the circumstances, colleagues who share a space with the employee may be notified that a co-worker tested positive. No other information will be shared.
  • Aug. 28, 2020, Penalties for violating COVID-19 safety rules in student code, including hosting prohibited parties

    Dear WMU students,

    Everyone on campus is eager to welcome you next week for the start of our fall semester. Our faculty and staff have been putting a lot of thought and effort into providing you with a great educational experience in a safe and healthy environment.

    Our Safe Return Plan details the myriad steps we have taken to try to keep everyone safe. Critical to our collective success is that we all behave responsibly. As Vice President for Student Affairs Diane Anderson announced earlier this week, we are updating the WMU Student Code of Conduct to reflect the need to demonstrate a shared responsibility in keeping everyone safe and healthy. The code’s changes (found in section 14, Harm to Persons) mean there are consequences—including suspension—for those who fail to comply with the Safe Return Plan, for those who host, organize or attend on- or off-campus gatherings that fall outside of the plan or otherwise show noncompliance with state-level executive orders or local health department policies.

    Additionally, on Monday, a Bronco Student Pledge goes live online. Under the pledge, you are agreeing to being an active participant in keeping our campus and local communities safe from the spread of COVID-19 by following health and safety protocols specified in the WMU Safe Return Plan and adhering to behavior expectations designed to foster the well-being of all members of the WMU community. When you log into GoWMU, you will need to affirm your commitment to the pledge. If you do not affirm, you will not be able to login.

    When we surveyed students this summer, not surprisingly, there was variability in opinion over what type of educational experience students wanted. Our faculty have also developed an array of online offerings to meet the needs of the 25% of you who want a fully distance schedule. However, three out of four students responded they either wanted a fully in-person educational experience or a hybrid experience with some in-person and some distance classes. The Safe Return Plan was developed to make that possible. While the plan includes social distancing and masking requirements for those coming to campus, 85% of students said they could adapt to the Safe Return Plan or were not concerned about it. Some (11%) even said that based on the plan, they were going to enroll for the fall when they previously had planned not to do so.

    We can have a successful return to campus, but to stay here, we need everyone to behave responsibly at all times, whether on or off campus and regardless of the situation. Don’t think that you can let your guard down for one day without consequences to yourself or others. Let’s learn from the experiences on some other campuses and avoid allowing one lapse by a few to negatively affect us all.

    Be prepared. Review the Student Code of Conduct, check your email regularly and visit the Safe Return Plan website for updates to processes and protocols. And, as always, if you have any health-related questions, please contact the Sindecuse Health Center.

    I look forward to a great fall semester. Be Smart. Be Safe. Be Broncos.

    Sincerely,

    Edward Montgomery
    President

  • Aug. 24, 2020, Back-to-School Briefing, testing event, the latest (students and families)

    The countdown has begun: There are nine days to go before fall semester commences. To equip you for a smooth and safe transition to the 2020-21 academic year, below is a roundup of changes as well as reminders and other important information:

    Back-to-School Briefings
    Get detailed information about WMU’s Safe Campus Strategy, the health and safety portion of our Safe Return Plan, this Wednesday, Aug. 26. University officials who are overseeing testing, contact tracing, isolation and quarantine, cleaning processes, conduct and contingency planning will discuss the plan.

    Faculty and staff-focused content: 9 a.m. on Wednesday, Aug. 26
    Student and parent-focused content: 7 p.m. on Wednesday, Aug. 26


    Access both briefings from wmich.edu five minutes before the appointed time. The entire community is welcome at either or both briefings. They will also be recorded and posted. There is a great deal of information to share. Questions will not be taken. Inquiries can be directed to info@wmich.edu.

    Get Tested This Week
    WMU is holding a five-day COVID-19 testing event, Aug. 27 through 31, at the Student Recreation Center on Main Campus.

    To get tested:

    • As a benefits-eligible employee, you will not be charged out of pocket for the test. Temporary employees will be eligible for a no-cost test during this event only.
    • Make an appointment by calling Sindecuse Health Center at (269) 387-3287. Due to the volume of tests and social distancing, we will not be able to accept walk-ins.
    • Arrive a few minutes early for your scheduled time, and be sure to wear a mask.
    • Park in Lot 13, which is just east of the rec center across Ring Road South, and check in at the large roll-up door.

    Results are typically available within one hour, and these will be posted to your Sindecuse Health Center patient portal account. If you are positive, our staff will reach out to you regarding your positive result.

    Be Prepared, Read the Plan
    The University’s Safe Return Plan is formatted in an easy-to-skim website. Take a few minutes to review it this week to ensure you are prepared and don’t get surprised on the first day of classes.

    Note: This is the only presentation format of the Safe Return Plan. This approach allows the University to update information dynamically, increase accessibility and maximize communication with a web-based user experience.

    Here's the latest:

    COVID-19 back-to-campus training video:
     WMU is offering access to a training program on COVID-19 safety for the return to campus. The Collaborative Institutional Training Initiative and the Association of American Medical Colleges have partnered to provide an overview of COVID-19, prevention strategies, recommended laboratory practices and points to consider as students, staff and faculty return to activities and operations. The course is available through Sept. 30.

    • Go to the CITI program website.
    • Click on the "register" button located in the blue login box to the right of the homepage.
    • Select Western Michigan University as your "organization affiliation" and follow the remaining registration steps.
    Accessing Waldo Library and University Libraries services: Waldo Library is starting a gradual reopening, beginning with the lobby and the first floor. While other parts of the library are closed, you can still access many services via an online chat or phone call.

    What to expect at the Bernhard Center: The Bernhard Center is enhancing many of its practices and procedures. Public spaces and meeting rooms will be cleaned more frequently, meeting room capacities reduced to accommodate for social distancing, furniture in dining and lounge areas has been spread out, hand sanitizer is available throughout the center, Bronco Express moved across the hall to the Global Lounge, which is much larger, and building hours have been reduced to accommodate extra cleaning (closing nightly at 10 p.m.). You can learn more by visiting the Bernhard Center website.

    Downloadable and self-adhesive COVID-19 signage available: WMU-specific signage with the University's safety messages is available in a variety of professionally printed, self-adhesive signs and floor decals. Messages include wearing a mask, social distancing, staying home when sick and overall COVID-19 reminders. An inventory of these signs and decals is available through Maintenance Stores in the Campus Services Building. University-branded signs may also be downloaded from the COVID-19 website.

    How to obtain an ID card and submit your photo: New this year, rather than University personnel taking photos for the Bronco Card, you may submit your own headshot. The Bronco Card is used for dining, residence halls, riding the bus, WMU events and more.

    Students and employees can start the process of getting their Bronco Card by submitting a photo online. The site also provides details on the type of photos that will be permitted—think driver's license photo; selfies and filtered photos will not be accepted. After a photo has been submitted and approved, allow 24 hours for processing of the information you provided. Bronco Cards may be obtained at Parking Services after the photo has been submitted, accepted and approved. Parking Services, located at 2507 W. Michigan Ave., is open Monday through Thursday, 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m.; and Friday, 7:30 a.m. to 4 p.m.

    If a replacement card is needed, please contact the Bronco Card office at (269) 387-6278 or email dps-broncocard@wmich.edu. Obtaining a new Bronco Card may result in a replacement fee.


    For more information, continue to visit WMU's Safe Return Plan website, which will be continually updated with new information as it becomes available.

  • Aug. 24, 2020, Back-to-School Briefing, testing event, the latest (employees)

    The countdown has begun: There are nine days to go before fall semester commences. To equip you for a smooth and safe transition to the 2020-21 academic year, below is a roundup of changes as well as reminders and other important information:

    Back-to-School Briefings
    Get detailed information about WMU’s Safe Campus Strategy, the health and safety portion of our Safe Return Plan, this Wednesday, Aug. 26. University officials who are overseeing testing, contact tracing, isolation and quarantine, cleaning processes, conduct and contingency planning will discuss the plan.

    Faculty and staff-focused content: 9 a.m. on Wednesday, Aug. 26
    Student and parent-focused content: 7 p.m. on Wednesday, Aug. 26


    Access both briefings from wmich.edu five minutes before the appointed time. The entire community is welcome at either or both briefings. They will also be recorded and posted. There is a great deal of information to share. Questions will not be taken. Inquiries can be directed to info@wmich.edu.

    Get Tested This Week
    WMU is holding a five-day COVID-19 testing event, Aug. 27 through 31, at the Student Recreation Center on Main Campus.

    To get tested:

    • As a benefits-eligible employee, you will not be charged out of pocket for the test. Temporary employees will be eligible for a no-cost test during this event only.
    • Make an appointment by calling Sindecuse Health Center at (269) 387-3287. Due to the volume of tests and social distancing, we will not be able to accept walk-ins.
    • Arrive a few minutes early for your scheduled time, and be sure to wear a mask.
    • Park in Lot 13, which is just east of the rec center across Ring Road South, and check in at the large roll-up door.

    Results are typically available within one hour, and these will be posted to your Sindecuse Health Center patient portal account. If you are positive, our staff will reach out to you regarding your positive result.

    Be Prepared, Read the Plan
    The University’s Safe Return Plan is formatted in an easy-to-skim website. Take a few minutes to review it this week to ensure you are prepared and don’t get surprised on the first day of classes.

    Note: This is the only presentation format of the Safe Return Plan. This approach allows the University to update information dynamically, increase accessibility and maximize communication with a web-based user experience.

    Here's the latest:

    COVID-19 back-to-campus training video: WMU is offering access to a training program on COVID-19 safety for the return to campus. The Collaborative Institutional Training Initiative and the Association of American Medical Colleges have partnered to provide an overview of COVID-19, prevention strategies, recommended laboratory practices and points to consider as students, staff and faculty return to activities and operations. The course is available through Sept. 30.

    • Go to the CITI program website.
    • Click on the "register" button located in the blue login box to the right of the homepage.
    • Select Western Michigan University as your "organization affiliation" and follow the remaining registration steps.
     
    Accessing Waldo Library and University Libraries services: Waldo Library is starting a gradual reopening, beginning with the lobby and the first floor. While other parts of the library are closed, you can still access many services via an online chat or phone call.

    What to expect at the Bernhard Center: The Bernhard Center is enhancing many of its practices and procedures. Public spaces and meeting rooms will be cleaned more frequently, meeting room capacities reduced to accommodate for social distancing, furniture in dining and lounge areas has been spread out, hand sanitizer is available throughout the center, Bronco Express moved across the hall to the Global Lounge, which is much larger, and building hours have been reduced to accommodate extra cleaning (closing nightly at 10 p.m.). You can learn more by visiting the Bernhard Center website.

    Downloadable and self-adhesive COVID-19 signage available: WMU-specific signage with the University's safety messages is available in a variety of professionally printed, self-adhesive signs and floor decals. Messages include wearing a mask, social distancing, staying home when sick and overall COVID-19 reminders. An inventory of these signs and decals is available through Maintenance Stores in the Campus Services Building. University-branded signs may also be downloaded from the COVID-19 website.

    How to obtain an ID card and submit your photo: New this year, rather than University personnel taking photos for the Bronco Card, you may submit your own headshot. The Bronco Card is used for dining, residence halls, riding the bus, WMU events and more.

    Students and employees can start the process of getting their Bronco Card by submitting a photo online. The site also provides details on the type of photos that will be permitted—think driver's license photo; selfies and filtered photos will not be accepted. After a photo has been submitted and approved, allow 24 hours for processing of the information you provided. Bronco Cards may be obtained at Parking Services after the photo has been submitted, accepted and approved. Parking Services, located at 2507 W. Michigan Ave., is open Monday through Thursday, 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m.; and Friday, 7:30 a.m. to 4 p.m.

    If a replacement card is needed, please contact the Bronco Card office at (269) 387-6278 or email dps-broncocard@wmich.edu. Obtaining a new Bronco Card may result in a replacement fee.


    For more information, continue to visit WMU's Safe Return Plan website, which will be continually updated with new information as it becomes available.

  • Aug. 21, 2020, Mass testing event set for Aug. 27-Sept. 1; make your appointment today

    Editor’s note: Message updated to reflect an extra day added to the multiple-day testing event. The final day is now Tuesday, Sept. 1.

    Dear campus community, 

    We're thrilled to welcome you back to campus. WMU is a University in which you can thrive and prosper, and we always want the on-campus experience to be as safe and healthy as possible.

    A critical step toward a safe campus is to test as many of us as possible before we rejoin the campus community. We need your help: Get tested now. We are fortunate to have no-cost, rapid-result antigen testing for COVID-19. Results are typically available within one hour, and these will be posted to your portal account. If you are positive, our staff will reach out to you regarding your positive result.

    We’ve made this as easy as possible for you: Testing is at no cost, and we’re having a multiple-day testing event, Aug. 27 through Sept. 1, at the Student Recreation Center on Main Campus.

    To get tested:

    • As a student or benefits-eligible employee, you will not be charged out of pocket for the test. Temporary employees will be eligible for a no-cost test during this event only.
    • Make an appointment by calling (269) 387-3287. Due to the volume of tests and social distancing, we will not be able to accept walk-ins.
    • Arrive a few minutes early for your scheduled time, and be sure to wear a mask.
    • Park in Lot 13, which is just east of the rec center across Ring Road South, and check in at the large roll-up door.

    Many of us are a little anxious about the start of school. I want to reassure you that we can have a safe and productive year. As our University's medical director, I cannot overemphasize that testing is a crucial step to fighting the disease and staying safe. Get tested. Encourage your friends to do the same. We can do this. Here are other ways to keep us all safe:

    • Wear a mask: On campus, masks are required in indoor spaces and outdoor spaces where physical distancing is not possible.
    • Keep your hands clean: Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds or use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
    • Maintain physical distance: Stay 6 feet away from others while in public spaces.
    • Monitor symptoms and get tested: Even after getting tested next week, if you ever develop symptoms of COVID-19, no-cost testing will be available to all on campus.

    Your well-being is paramount at WMU. We put measures in place to safeguard your health and constantly evaluate ways to improve our safety practices. To that end, please continue to read your emails and visit the University's Safe Return Plan website.  You will learn about new developments, enhancements to our safety protocols and our expectations of you as a campus community member. Together, we will make this a great year.

    Be Smart. Be Safe. Be Broncos.

    Thank you,

    Gayle Ruggiero, M.D.
    Medical Director
    Sindecuse Health Center

  • Aug. 19, 2020, Fall plans for in-person instruction remain in place

    Dear campus community,

    Recently, some universities have made headlines by choosing to move their fall courses online, as Michigan State University did late yesterday. While MSU is maintaining in-person instruction for graduate students as well as for those in its health, law and veterinary colleges and for those in lab, studio and performance-based classes, their decision has led to questions about whether our plans have changed.

    Given that our focus is on the health and safety of our community, we have consistently made decisions based on practices recommended by health professionals, the data about conditions on our campus and in our area, and government regulations. We will continue to do so. As the pandemic is ever changing, we are prepared to, and will, adapt accordingly. Based on these factors, we are continuing to implement our Safe Return Plan.

    Each day we are reviewing data and remain in continuous communication with the Kalamazoo County Health & Community Services Department (KCHCS). Just yesterday, Health Officer Jim Rutherford, who is leading our community response to the pandemic, met with University academic leaders at a Provost's Council meeting.

    I’ve asked for Mr. Rutherford’s current assessment of our situation. He says:

     

    Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic response, the Kalamazoo County Health & Community Services Department has been carefully evaluating data and providing public health guidance based on current trends in our county, state and country. We are applying that same methodology as we consult with WMU on their reopening plans and support their plan to welcome Broncos to campus this fall.

    From a public health perspective, risk cannot be entirely eliminated. So, we focus on reducing risk and providing practical ways to keep risk low. Our guidance is based upon the implementation of risk mitigation measures, which WMU has emphasized in its plan. These measures have proven to minimize transmission of COVID-19. Our health department staff continues to monitor relevant data and case studies, and we will continue to guide WMU based on the data and research as we move through the school year.

    By diligently following the public health recommendations, not only while in school, but most importantly during social interactions outside of school, people are reducing their risk of contracting COVID-19. It takes all of us sharing the responsibility and adhering to all of the public health recommendations.

     

    In addition to the guidance of health officials, we consider state and local information, such as local trends in new cases, state trends in new cases relative to testing and local hospital ICU capacity, to name a few. Yesterday I reviewed relevant data with cabinet members who are advising me on our response. Here are a few data points that you might find helpful:

    • Since mid-June, Michigan’s test positivity rate has remained flat, while testing has steadily grown. Positivity rate is the percentage of all tests that are positive. Among its neighboring states, Michigan has the lowest positivity rate and the second-highest testing rate.
    • Kalamazoo County’s new-cases trend peaked in mid-July and has flattened with a slight downward trend since then.
    • The local number of hospitalizations is low with sufficient capacity for critical cases.

    We also have one of the most comprehensive plans in the state, with every department having a tailored return-to-work strategy. Many of our employees will continue to work from home some or all of the time, and faculty and staff will meet in a variety of in-person, distance education and hybrid formats. We also have available to us highly sophisticated, rapid testing that we’ve made barrier-free for students, faculty members and staff through Sindecuse Health Center. Testing is complemented by a thorough contact tracing program—capacity that most peer institutions do not have available on site.

    As we move forward, I will continue to monitor an array of data and continue to work closely with KCHCS. I am prepared to take actions necessary to manage spread, should it occur, while delivering our mission to the fullest extent our local situation allows. Our community can safely come back to campus if we remain vigilant and continue to follow the plans so many of us have worked hard to develop and that will promote safety in all settings. We will succeed if we work together; I invite you to join me. 

    Sincerely,

    Ed Montgomery
    President

  • Aug. 10, 2020, Updates in return-to-campus planning and a cautionary experience

    Dear WMU students, faculty and staff,

    One week from today, our preparations for the return of students to campus will take the next step with the opening of several student-facing offices and return of additional residence hall staff. Shortly thereafter, on Sept. 2, we will be together again as a University community for the beginning of fall classes.

    In preparing for a safe in-person experience, the COVID-19 Response Coordination Team spent the summer planning with colleagues from across WMU to establish department-level protocols and practices that will guard against the exposure and spread of the novel coronavirus. I am grateful to everyone who has been involved in these efforts. They have done incredible work.

    In addition to these thoughtful strategies designed to safeguard our community, it's equally critical that our efforts to manage a public health crisis engage and enlist the public. All of us play a critical part in fostering a safe environment by adopting behaviors that mitigate spread.

    The news is filled with daily reports of outbreaks tied to events or gatherings where key behaviors—such as wearing a mask and physically distancing—were not observed consistently. Late last week, we learned that six members of the College of Aviation community tested positive for COVID-19, likely as the result of one such gathering. We hope their symptoms will be mild and their recovery speedy, but we also hope the lessons learned from this experience will be long lasting.

    While students, faculty and staff have adhered to health and safety protocols when at the aviation college, it appears that wasn't the case for one off-campus activity. As Aviation Dean Dave Powell wrote in his notification to the college, "The disease does not clock out when you leave campus."

    Many of those involved are now expressing regret. That is a positive sign, but this case suggests that each one of us also must make good choices—at all times. We can use this unfortunate moment to see that the virus is real, and while our precautions do work, we all have to do our part.

    As a campus, we will be continually monitoring and adapting as new information emerges, the thinking about best practices or the science develops, or the internal or external environment changes.

    You may have heard the Mid-American Conference announced over the weekend that fall sports will be postponed. While this is a loss for our student-athletes and our community, I wholeheartedly support this decision because it puts student-athlete safety and well-being first. In general, it is difficult to practice physical distancing or wear a mask while competing or practicing in sports. This is especially true in contact sports such as football and soccer. They simply do not allow for the safety measures we will employ in classrooms and labs, where physical distancing and masks will be universal precautions.

    It's clear that 2020-21 will be atypical in many ways, but we will traverse it successfully together. Throughout the year, we commit to communicating new or altered operational expectations. We ask you to stay informed by reading messages that come through your email and by frequently visiting the University's Safe Return Plan website, COVID-19 response website, as well as departmental websites.

    To that end, please find below a list of new developments that have recently been added to the plan. With these and other efforts implemented to date, we are planning for a healthy and productive academic year. We appreciate you for doing your part to keep yourself and campus well.

    Be Smart. Be Safe. Be Broncos.

    Thank you,

    Edward Montgomery
    President

    • The Safe Return site now offers guidance on using outdoor spaces and holding indoor and outdoor gatherings, in accordance with state directives, Kalamazoo County public health guidance and WMU's own health and safety plan. The guidelines detail the number of individuals permitted to gather in one location and under what circumstances.

    • Beginning with the fall semester for students, the WMU Parking Services permit system will go virtual, replacing physical parking tags and stickers. No more standing in lengthy lines to obtain a permit in person. Details are to come on a similar system for faculty and staff.

    • Textbooks, course materials, technology and gear are available to order online on the WMU Bookstore’s website. The bookstore also provides contact-free home delivery. Pickup will be available beginning Tuesday, Aug. 18, when the bookstore opens in the Bernhard Center. To accommodate physical distancing, a limited number of customers (about 50) will be allowed in the store at one time. Masks are required, and order pickup lines will reflect 6-foot distancing. Closer to the start of school, curbside pickup will be available in front of the building.

    • From antimicrobial solutions and misters to electrostatic disinfecting equipment and new UV light equipment, a number of state-of-the-art cleaning processes are being employed to mitigate spread of COVID-19 on campus. Read more about Custodial Services' innovations in cleaning and sanitation processes here.

  • July 24, 2020, Breaking down WMU's course formats this fall
    Video of WMU fall 2020 class-delivery method

    Dear students,  

    As we approach the first day of classes, we’re increasingly excited about welcoming you to WMU for a safe and productive academic year on campus. In anticipation of fall semester, which begins Sept. 2, faculty members are working hard to develop courses that are engaging, relevant and high quality.

    As I mentioned last week, we have been taking several steps to adjust schedules, consistent with our Safe Return Plan. That process is largely complete. At this time, the delivery methods for courses have been updated for 95% of course sections. The range of possibilities spans in-person, hybrid and three modes of distance education. To learn more about these formats, please view the video message above from Dr. James Springstead, an engineering professor who served on the Fall Contingency Task Force.

    We also have a breakdown of the course delivery formats on the Office of the Provost website, along with tips for students to succeed in them.

    Through whatever manner your classes are offered, know that they are designed to meet your learning needs and to advance you toward your educational and professional goals. Your instructors will be your guides, and our student services teams are ready to support you as well. Should you need assistance with your schedule, academic advisors are prepared to help. You can access your college's advising office through this page.

    Sincerely,

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

  • July 17, 2020, WMU's Safe Return Plan and the latest updates on personnel, budget

    Dear colleagues,

     

    Today I’m pleased to share our University’s Safe Return Plan. With a month and a half to go before we start the fall semester, we have a strong plan that will allow us to come back together on Sept. 2. Its development demonstrates our shared commitment to this community. It is the culmination of a continuing effort by a broad group of individuals who have studied the data, consulted with health experts, thought carefully and planned accordingly at a time when we all want answers quickly.

    This effort was enriched, informed and influenced by the questions and suggestions of everyone who participated in town halls, sent emails and made phone calls. Please join me in thanking the Fall Contingency Task Force and the COVID-19 Response Coordination Team for coordinating and leading the effort to develop this plan.

    This data-driven, public health-informed, collaborative approach is important in fostering a safe campus and supporting a strong academic year. The keys to its success are within our grasp with some fairly simple steps. Wear a mask. Practice social distancing. Wash your hands. Treat each other with respect and consideration.

    While we continue to confront a world with great uncertainty, I am looking forward to a great year on our campus. Our teaching, research and engagement will no doubt have a profound impact on our students and community.

    I also want to provide you with an update on several administrative matters. We now have some budget information from the state and, while not complete, we have finalized many stages of our personnel plans.

     

    Budget Update

    In May, we projected that in fiscal year 2020-21 we would face between a $45 million and $85 million budget shortfall. As a result of the magnitude of these cuts, we began planning for the worst case even as we hoped for better news in the fall. While actual fall enrollment is still unknown at this time, current state budget information and our enrollment trends suggest that our base budget shortfall will be near the $85 million estimate.

    Gov. Whitmer and legislative leaders reached a bipartisan budget agreement for necessary cuts to balance the state’s 2019-20 fiscal year budget. State baseline funding for public universities will be reduced by approximately 11%, which is about $12.4 million to Western’s operating budget. Keep in mind that while this cut is for the WMU fiscal year that ended on June 30, its effect will be felt in our 2020-21 base budget. And, as the state considers its 2020-21 fiscal year, which begins Oct. 1, our new appropriation level, with the 11% cut, will likely become our new baseline budget. Further, given the state’s projected deficit, it is quite likely that higher education in Michigan will experience another state appropriation reduction that will impact our 2020-21 budget.

    Despite this bad news with regard to state support for our base budget, we did receive news that we will receive federal CARES Act monies that the state has already obtained to help back fill the 2019-20 cut. It’s important to note that this is one-time money only. CARES Act funding must be spent on COVID-19-related expenses and comes with constraints that our state operational funding does not.

    It remains too early to tell how enrollment will play out. Orientation, one of our key indicators of intent to enroll, is ongoing, and we continue to see movement across all classes as students and families finalize their decisions.

     

    Personnel Update

    We received 96 applications for the faculty Voluntary Retirement Incentive Program, which closed on June 30. Applications came from every college. While I’m sure we will have formal goodbyes, I want to thank those esteemed colleagues who decided to avail themselves of this plan for their service to our students and to making the world, and WMU, a better place.

    The plan allows these 96 applicants a 45-day window to reconsider and withdraw if they so choose. As a result, we will not know the final number until the middle of August. This potential level of participation will certainly ease, but unfortunately will not eliminate, our budget pressures in meeting the $85 million shortfall. As a result, in mid-May the University took the step to notify all term faculty that they may be affected by a layoff. While no term faculty were laid off, we did not renew a number of contracts.

    Among AFSCME employees, the reopening of in-person activity has allowed us to recall many of our custodial personnel. As a result, 130 cleaning professionals will be on hand, all year, keeping our campus safe and clean. We were also able to recall many of our maintenance employees to help us prepare for the start of fall semester. We also anticipate a significant recall of dining staff in a few weeks as well. The recall process takes several weeks and can generate a great deal of position transitioning, so a final picture will be available with fall semester.

    Layoff notices for Staff Compensation System—SCS—employees are complete and the bumping process is complete in all divisions except our largest, Academic Affairs. Our best estimate is that all bumping will be complete by the end of July.

    Based on seniority, the layoff notice periods for SCS staff vary widely, from four weeks to a full year advanced notice. Layoffs will take effect on or before the first week of class for about 100 staff members with four weeks to four months of notice.

    The remaining staff have notice periods of six months or a full year before their layoffs take effect. During the fall semester, we will provide updated numbers for staff whose layoff notices are finalized.

    These personnel changes have been extremely difficult for those affected and for our community. None of these difficult decisions were made lightly.  

    Once again, I thank you for everything that you have done and are doing for WMU as we work through the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic. We will keep you apprised of further developments as we move into the coming academic year, and we welcome your continuing questions and ideas.

     

    Sincerely,

    Edward Montgomery
    President

  • July 17, 2020, WMU releases Safe Return Plan for fall semester

    Dear WMU student,

     

    Today I am pleased to share our University’s Safe Return Plan. With a month and a half to go before we start the fall semester, we have a strong plan that will allow us to come back together on Sept. 2. Its development demonstrates our shared commitment to this community.

    Many people have been planning the safest and most practical strategies for the academic year. They’ve been consulting the data, working with state and local public health experts and considering options for protocols that will allow you to enjoy an engaging semester while staying healthy and safe.

    I hope you’ve been reading the emails you’ve received about your academic schedule. Faculty and staff are still working out the details, so continue to monitor your inbox to see what adjustments might remain for your class offerings.

    By reviewing the Safe Return Plan, you’ll see what we have in place for everything from housing to dining to buying your textbooks. You’ll learn about what’s in store for move-in, how Sindecuse Health Center will handle COVID-19 testing and other services, and what you can expect for any in-person classes or labs.

    As I noted, your WMU faculty and staff are preparing for the fall, but we can’t keep everyone healthy and safe on campus without full participation from all members of our community. You are an important contributor. Please plan to wear a mask everywhere except within your apartment or residence hall room. Practice social distancing in all situations. Wash your hands and keep your living spaces clean. These actions might seem simple (and maybe a little uncomfortable), but they mean everything in keeping everyone healthy.

    Our motto for the year is: Be smart. Be safe. Be Broncos.

    I look forward to welcoming you back to Kalamazoo on Sept. 2. Enjoy the remaining weeks of summer, and get ready for a fun and productive fall.

     

    Sincerely,

    Edward Montgomery
    President

  • July 15, 2020,Update: WMU completes first step in converting student schedules

    Dear campus community members,

    Yesterday afternoon we successfully completed the first step of converting student schedules to our five COVID-19 class delivery methods. The updated delivery methods were entered in the student record system and are now viewable for students, even though course schedules are not finalized. Currently, 57% of our courses are in-person or hybrid (in-person and online) and 43% are in one of the three fully online modes.

    Three steps remain in the process before students will be able to view their fully updated schedules. In the next step, we will enter hybrid dates and course capacities to schedule classrooms. Once we enter this information, we will assess whether any location adjustments are needed to accommodate all sections in the classrooms, which are operating at 37% of their original capacity due to social distancing guidelines.

    Next, we will assess whether any adjustments are needed in the mix of delivery methods across sections and students. This will require collaboration between the registrar's office and academic departments. Our goal is to create schedules that meet students’ needs with the understanding that we are constrained by social distancing and room capacities.

    We plan for schedules to be finalized and ready for student review by July 23. Before that date, students may find changes to a class' delivery method from day to day. We will notify students when schedules have been finalized. At that time we will also share more information about each delivery method.

    Later this week, the University will distribute its safe return-to-campus plan, which will provide an overview of what to expect for the coming year.

    We appreciate your patience with this process. Student record systems were not designed with a pandemic and social distancing in mind. We have approximately 5,500 classes that must be assessed and adapted, and our team is doing all it can to create the best possible experience that maintains learning while protecting student health and safety.

    Sincerely,

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

  • July 1, 2020, You're invited: WMU parent town hall set for Wednesday, July 8

    Dear Bronco families,

    We're excited to welcome students back to an on-campus experience this fall that puts safety at the forefront while providing students with the high-quality education they have come to expect at Western Michigan University. Given the emergence and spread of the novel coronavirus, preparing a learning and on-campus living environment designed to protect your student's health has been our preoccupation for the past several months.

    To learn about the safety practices and protocols that will be in place when in-person instruction resumes on Sept. 2, please join WMU leaders at 7 p.m. Wednesday, July 8, for a virtual town hall meeting. At the scheduled time, you can access the town hall at wmich.edu/studentaffairs.

    We will be prepared to respond to your questions related to the classroom experience, online education, student housing, general campus life and other topics you may raise. Ahead of the town hall, please submit your questions using this Google form.

    As President Montgomery has shared in his most recent message to students and families, the University's safety plan advances four strategies for the on-campus experience:

    • Masks: Required of everyone while indoors, including in classrooms.
    • Rapid-result testing: Even for mild symptoms, testing is available to everyone on campus. Employees must complete a daily health screening. Everyone, including students, will be asked to isolate if they test positive for COVID-19.
    • Vigilant hygiene: Frequent hand washing and cleaning of high-touch surfaces.
    • Physical/social distancing: Maintaining at least 6 feet of distance from others while in public spaces.

    Every member of the University community has a role to play in keeping our community healthy and productive. Our motto is: Be smart. Be safe. Be Broncos.

    We look forward to engaging with you next week.

  • June 22, 2020, Update: President's message. to students and families regarding fall 2020 semester

    Dear WMU students and families,

    After a great deal of planning, we are very pleased to let you know that on Sept. 2 we will return to in-person instruction for the 2020-21 academic year.

    Following the start of classes, students will work through the fall without the usual October break, and in-person instruction for most classes will end on Nov. 20, about a week ahead of Thanksgiving. The last weeks of classes and final exams will be conducted remotely and the semester will end on Dec. 19. WMU's faculty voted on and approved this fall schedule on Wednesday, June 17. Forgoing fall break and ending in-person instruction early eliminates the public health risk associated with employees and students potentially bringing the novel coronavirus to campus after traveling to disparate communities.

    Our community will be back together on campus, but not all classes can feasibly be delivered in person. For instance, this will be true of classes that enroll more than 70 people. WMU is therefore prepared to provide instruction through a number of learning modalities, including in-person, hybrid, asynchronous online, fully synchronous online and partially synchronous online. More information about these modalities will be available closer to the start of fall semester.

    A safe campus for all
    Our first thought in every decision is for our students’ health and safety. While we’ve made a lot of progress, I know that there remain questions to be answered, especially around how best to promote health and safety. Increasing our precision on these guidelines is among our top priorities in preparation for fall. We are addressing them using the best public health and medical information available.

    A safe campus for all will require an all-in commitment. We are taking an approach with two pillars: culture and communication, combined with guidelines and enforcement. They will be designed to create a campus where we all exhibit these four behaviors at all times:

    Masks: Students, faculty and staff wear them indoors if you are not alone.

    Testing and monitoring: Monitor your health, and get tested immediately at the earliest symptoms. Stay home if you are sick. Sindecuse Health Center has rapid-result COVID-19 testing, which offers results on the same day or next day.

    Hygiene: Wash hands frequently and correctly; clean workspaces and high-touch surfaces thoroughly and frequently.

    Social distancing: Try to maintain 6 feet of distance all the time.


    Our goal is to build a community culture that supports shared reliance on the practices that will enable us to limit the spread of COVID-19 and remain open for in-person classes. We’re putting policies in place that will make it easy to support this culture and protect students, faculty and staff. We are keeping an eye toward making sure there is equitable enforcement and that we offer appropriate accommodations.

    While WMU already has a low ratio of students per faculty (16:1), when you return to campus, you will do so to smaller in-person class sizes while practicing 6 feet of physical distancing, using face coverings and studying in indoor spaces that are maintained using heightened sanitation procedures. Student housing and dining have been planned to promote safety and restrict the size of gatherings. We will provide additional information as we move closer to the fall. In the meantime, you can find updates on our COVID-19 website.

    I know that you’ll have more questions about how we are protecting your health and safety, and we are still finalizing policies and procedures. These are our priorities and we are addressing them using the best public health and medical information available. I know that you’ve heard it before, but it is very true that wearing face coverings, social distancing and frequently washing your hands are effective measures for limiting the spread. These are the foundational tools that we are employing to keep everyone safe; but it’s not enough for us to set up these guidelines—it’s incumbent on everyone to use them so that we can protect one another and keep our campus healthy.

    Thank you for your patience as we have painstakingly developed our plans and made these decisions. Individuals across our campus have been working diligently to ensure that every effort is focused on protecting your well-being while providing you with an outstanding educational experience.

    There's more information to come. At 3 p.m. on Wednesday, July 1, you are invited to take part in a virtual town hall. During this session, we will be sharing additional details about the fall semester. At the appointed day and time, you will be able to access the town hall at wmich.edu/president.

    Thank you, and I look forward to seeing you on campus in September.

    Sincerely,

    Edward Montgomery
    President

  • June 22, 2020, Update: President's message to employees regarding fall 2020 semester

    Dear colleagues,

    During the town hall session on Monday, June 15, we announced that we will be resuming in-person classes on Sept. 2. Today, I have further details on the timing and process behind our preparations for our upcoming transition to the fall semester and additional aspects of our University operations. Please also see the FAQs generated by last Monday's town hall, covering topics or issues you raised ranging from mask-wearing requirements for campus community members to personnel updates.

    Fall academic calendar
    Students will work through the fall without the usual October break, and in-person instruction for most classes will end on Nov. 20, about a week ahead of Thanksgiving. The last weeks of classes and final exams will be conducted remotely and the semester will conclude Dec. 19. Forgoing fall break and ending in-person instruction early eliminates the public health risk associated with employees and students potentially bringing the novel coronavirus to campus after traveling to disparate communities.

    As Provost Bott shared in last week’s Academic Forum and today in her town hall, our community will be back together on campus for in-person classes. But not all classes can feasibly be delivered in person. For instance, this will be true of classes that enroll more than 70 people. Working with their department chairs/directors and deans, faculty members may determine it is appropriate to provide instruction through a number of learning modalities including in-person, hybrid, asynchronous online, fully synchronous online and partially synchronous online.

    My thanks to the numerous faculty and staff who have worked to make this updated schedule happen, including the members of our Fall Contingency Task Force and the COVID-19 Response Coordination Team, along with great collaboration from WMU-AAUP and the Faculty Senate.

    A safe campus for all
    While we’ve made a lot of progress, I know that there remain questions to be answered, especially around how to best promote health and safety. Increasing our precision on these guidelines is among our top priorities in preparation for fall. We are addressing them using the best public health and medical information available.

    A safe campus for all will require an all-in commitment. We are taking an approach with two pillars: culture and communication, combined with guidelines and enforcement. They will be designed to create a campus where we all exhibit these four behaviors at all times:

    • Masks: Students, faculty and staff wear them indoors if you are not alone.
    • Testing and monitoring: Fill out the online health screening questionnaire found in GoWMU before coming to campus each day, and get tested immediately at the earliest symptoms. Stay home if you are sick. Sindecuse Health Center has rapid-result COVID-19 testing, which offers results on the same day or next day.
    • Hygiene: Wash hands frequently and correctly; clean workspaces and high-touch surfaces thoroughly and frequently.
    • Social distancing: Try to maintain six feet of distance all the time.

    Our goal is to build a community culture that supports shared reliance on the practices that will enable us to limit the spread of COVID-19 and remain open for in-person classes. We’re putting policies in place that will make it easy to support this culture and protect students, faculty and staff. We are keeping an eye toward making sure there is equitable enforcement and that we offer appropriate accommodations.

    While WMU already has a low ratio of students per faculty (16:1), when students return to campus, they will do so to smaller in-person class sizes while practicing 6 feet of physical distancing, using face coverings and studying in spaces that are maintained using heightened sanitation procedures. Student housing and dining have been planned to promote safety and restrict the size of gatherings. We will provide additional information as we move closer to the fall. In the meantime, you can find updates on our newly revamped COVID-19 information site.

    Return to campus
    When it comes to returning to work on campus, each unit is putting together return-to-work plans and University leaders are assessing which buildings will and will not be open this fall. Keeping buildings hibernated is essential to addressing our financial challenges.

    Although we will work remotely whenever possible, the needed preparations for fall return and the adaptations departments have made to accommodate remote work have supplanted the need for limited work schedules. Therefore, essential/conditional essential employment status for SCS staff will end on July 1. But employees should consult with their supervisors on how and where they will continue their work through the summer and into the fall. I want to emphasize that working remotely is still encouraged whenever it is feasible. We remain in Limited Operation Status and are continuing to consult with state and federal leaders and follow public health and safety guidelines.

    Reduction in Force notices nearly complete
    As we announced in May, the budgetary challenges brought on by the global pandemic have forced us to make some difficult decisions with regard to operations and staffing. Every part of the University was impacted and the choices before us were gut-wrenching. We have tried to approach each of these decisions with the utmost care and compassion.

    As part of addressing the anticipated budgetary shortfall, staff who will be affected should receive their layoff notices by July 1, as we move forward with planning to address the anticipated shortfall. The Reduction in Force process will now move into the bumping process, as required in the RIF Policy. However, we are likely to remain in a period of fluidity as units move through their reduction plans and more in-person operations resume on campus. For example, the bumping process still must be completed and some previously laid-off employees, such as maintenance workers, are being recalled. Moreover, final fall enrollment numbers are still unknown, state funding is in flux and the results of the faculty early retirement program are yet unknown. We should also keep in mind that the disease has not run its course, so there may yet be more government restrictions or actions.

    As we methodically work toward the "new normal" operation status on campus, I wish that I could tell you that our greatest challenges are behind us and that we are not facing further pandemic-induced stresses on our campus, but that would be disingenuous. Instead, I’ll tell you that I know that we can face whatever lies ahead because of the talent, the caring and the dedication of those in the WMU community. Thank you for everything that you are doing for our students and for each other in the face of ongoing uncertainty.

    Sincerely,

    Edward Montgomery
    President

  • June 1, 2020, Update: WMU remains on Limited Operations as governor lifts some stay-at-home restrictions

    Dear colleagues:

    Today, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer loosened some of Michigan's stay-at-home restrictions, but there are still significant limitations in place as part of the state's COVID-19 response. For example, while the governor's updated directives now permit outdoor gatherings of up to 100 people practicing social distancing, office work capable of being performed remotely must continue to be performed remotely to the maximum extent possible.

    WMU's campus remains on Limited Operations Status. President Montgomery communicated in a previous message that the University's restoration to normal operations would come in stages to ensure we have the appropriate and required public health protections in place, in compliance with government directives and campus safety. Thus, WMU employees will continue to work remotely until otherwise notified by their supervisors. Access to campus remains restricted to certain essential work only, and building access remains limited to those who have approval to return to authorized essential activities.  

    Several units have begun developing return-to-work plans that specify safety procedures and other processes that ensure appropriate and compliant measures are in place to protect public health. They are being reviewed for approval by the COVID-19 Response Coordination Team, in consultation with the Kalamazoo County Health Department and, ultimately, the President's Cabinet. While some requests have been submitted, reviewed and approved, most offices remain closed with work assignments being completed remotely. All University operations must be approved before restarting.

    In instances where a building remains closed or a supervisor directs employees to fulfill work assignments remotely, full-time, benefits-eligible SCS staff may continue to use available COVID-19 allowance balances in the absence of a work assignment.
     
    Later this week, we will be communicating more information to University leaders who oversee their operations and provide more guidance for developing and submitting plans.


    Thank you,

    Kara Wood
    Associate Vice President for Community Partnerships
    COVID-19 Response Coordination Team chair

    Gayle Ruggiero, M.D.
    Medical Director
    COVID-19 Response Coordination Team co-chair

    Lt. Andrew Bachmann
    WMU Department of Public Safety, Emergency Management
    COVID-19 Response Coordination Team co-chair

  • May 28, 2020, Update: Sindecuse now offers rapid-result COVID-19 testing

    Dear WMU community,

    Rapid-result COVID-19 testing is now available at Sindecuse Health Center, one of the few sites in Kalamazoo County with this capability. Results are typically available on the same day and will be posted in the center's patient portal. Patients may also call Sindecuse to learn test results by phone.

    Currently, testing is available to WMU students, faculty, staff and eligible retirees. At this time, we will prioritize symptomatic individuals, as well as faculty and staff working on campus in areas such as, for example, Dining Services, the Department of Public Safety, Facilities Management, Residence Life and Sindecuse.

    To schedule an appointment at the center, call (269) 387-3287.

    Testing procedures
    If you have active COVID-19 symptoms, have been exposed to someone who has tested positive, or if you previously tested positive and have become symptomatic again, call to schedule a telehealth appointment for further instructions for in-person testing. Telehealth visits are covered by many insurance providers.
     
    If you do not have symptoms, call to schedule a nursing appointment to discuss in-person testing. Insurance may not cover testing that is not determined to be medically necessary. If you have questions about coverage, consult your insurance provider.
     
    As a reminder, COVID-19 symptoms may include a dry cough, shortness of breath, fever, lessened sense of taste or smell, gastrointestinal issues, headache, chills, muscle pain or sore throat.

    After a positive result
    Testing that indicates a positive case of COVID-19 will be accompanied by contact tracing to determine and notify those who may have been exposed to the ill individual. If the patient lives in Kalamazoo County, Sindecuse staff will work with the Kalamazoo County Health and Community Services Department to assess the patient's close contacts. If the individual lives in another county, that community's agencies will be notified to carry out the necessary contact tracing.

    For more information about rapid-result COVID-19 testing at Sindecuse, including cost and payment procedures, visit wmich.edu/healthcenter/clinic/covid-19/covid-testing.

    We are here for your health needs, and same-day or next-day appointments are typically available. We strive to serve all WMU students, regardless of whether or not they have insurance; anyone in need of care should call for help.

    Thank you,

    Gayle Ruggiero, M.D.
    Medical Director
    Sindecuse Health Center

  • May 15, 2020, Update: Summer II session via distance education, CARES Act student relief

    Dear students and families,

    The entire WMU community remains focused on delivering the high-quality education you have come to expect here. You are at the center of every decision we make.

    I’m writing today with several important updates. First, as part of our continuing response to the effects of COVID-19, we have decided to offer WMU's summer II session via distance education. Though we are all eager to return to pre-pandemic life, we haven’t yet arrived at that stage in the effort to end the outbreak. At present, the governor's "Stay at Home" order continues to restrict our activities, and social distancing continues to be a necessary and effective practice to safeguard campus health and stop the spread of the disease.

    Classes for summer II begin June 25, the day after the conclusion of summer I. These summer months may present an opportunity to continue making progress toward graduation. They provide a convenient way to earn credits while you may be sheltering in place and away from campus. Undergraduate courses will be offered at the University’s online rate. Some graduate courses that allow for social distancing will be provided on campus, so graduate courses will be offered at the rate determined by the location of registration, main campus or online. Provost Jennifer Bott will send more detailed information about rates to currently enrolled graduate students.

    Our full intention is that we will welcome you back to campus and be fully operating this coming fall semester, assuming government directives and public health constraints beyond our control allow us to do so. We have teams working on contingency planning to ensure that WMU can safely provide in-person instruction to the fullest extent possible. In the period ahead, more information about the fall semester and related decision-making will be forthcoming.

    I also want to let you know that we are now accepting applications for students who may be eligible for financial assistance through the federal CARES Act. Please visit the CARES Act Student Emergency Assistance webpage to learn about eligibility and application processes.

    Along with disbursing these federal relief funds, by keeping the costs of tuition and campus housing down, we aim to ease the financial strain students are experiencing as a result of the outbreak. The pandemic's economic fallout has been one of its greatest repercussions. Universities throughout the state and nation are contending with this formidable health and financial crisis. WMU is not immune, and we've taken necessary but difficult action, including significant personnel reductions and employee wage cuts, to address the associated budgetary challenges.

    These proactive steps are designed to protect the University's core mission of providing the first-rate, high-impact experiences that lead our students to exceptional outcomes. Because of WMU's academic and co-curricular programming, our statistics show that 9 of 10 new alumni are employed quickly, working in their field, in jobs they like. We're proud of that. We're proud of our students.

    And as we make decisions guided by what's in their best interest, we are buoyed by the examples of their many successes:

    Kassidy Davis, a recent exercise science graduate who is ready to pursue a doctoral degree in physical therapy.

    Johnny Anderson III, who earned a bachelor's degree and is now pursuing his master's degree while working at his dream job in health care.

    Noam Morgenstern, an aviation alumnus who flies for Alaska Airlines and delivers critical supplies and personnel for pandemic response.

    Kobe Brown, who will begin a nine-month contract in August as a vocalist at Disneyland Tokyo.

    And you.  

    We will not compromise on what makes this University special. As we navigate this unprecedented period, we will model the resilience, grit, determination and hard work we help ingrain in our students, and through this experience, emerge stronger. 

    Thank you,

    Edward Montgomery
    President

  • May 8, 2020, Update: Progress toward returning to normal operations

    Dear Colleagues,

    The COVID-19 Response Coordination Team has been developing and recommending strategies for the safe return to work and study at WMU, given that Gov. Gretchen Whitmer has extended the stay-at-home executive order until May 28. As President Montgomery noted in his April 24 message to campus, the return to normal operations at WMU will proceed in steps and stages. It remains true that only employees with "essential" assignments are to be actively working, with managers and supervisors determining the assignments. If able to work off-site, employees with "essential" work should continue to perform those duties remotely until further notice.

    While the University currently remains on Limited Operations Status, we're writing today to make you aware that a few suspended campus operations will resume their work as some government-imposed restrictions have been relaxed, for example in construction, landscaping and manufacturing. We also have newly developed health and safety protocols designed to protect our community as the number of people on campus slowly rises in the weeks and months ahead.

    Michigan's stay-at-home protocols are allowing construction and other outdoor jobs in the state to resume. For WMU, this means construction crews restart work on the Arcadia Flats student apartment complex, the Student Center and the addition to the College of Aviation, beginning today, May 8. While we are finding substantial savings by suspending new construction projects, we will finish projects where completion is necessary to preserve our preexisting investments and mitigate rising construction costs.

    Landscape Services will begin tending to campus grounds again starting Monday, May 18, but at a limited level of operations. Other aspects of Facilities Management will come back online that day as well, including additional custodial services. Employees returning to work are performing a narrow set of essential services in very specific areas of campus.

    Additionally, under a new health and safety plan, employees working on campus must abide by social distancing practices, the use of face coverings as well as a daily screening protocol as part of continuing to keep our community safe.

    This plan was developed by WMU's Office of Environmental Health and Safety in partnership with the COVID-19 Response Coordination Team, with direction from the U.S. Department of Occupational Health and Safety Administration and the Kalamazoo County Health and Community Services Health Officer. The plan was also informed by provisions in the governor's executive orders allowing construction and outdoor jobs to resume.

    Detailed here some of the expectations include wearing a face covering if you are in an enclosed public space and unable to maintain six feet of social distance. Face coverings will be made available as needed to those who don’t have their own.

    Additionally, units across campus are beginning to develop individual return-to-work practices in accordance with health and safety needs specific to their work duties and location. The phase-in plan for research and creative scholarship is being developed by the Office of Research and Innovation in collaboration with the colleges. We expect that all guests on campus will follow the same social distancing standards and screening practices in place for employees.

    Access to WMU buildings will continue to be limited to those individuals who have an essential on-site need, which includes working in a facility on campus. Other individuals who feel they need essential access to a building must follow the request process outlined at wmich.edu/research/march24-status.

    We also want to encourage members of the campus community experiencing even mild symptoms of COVID-19 to contact Sindecuse Health Center at (269) 387-3287 to set up a telehealth screening. Symptoms may include a dry cough, shortness of breath, fever, reduced sense of taste or smell, gastrointestinal issues, headache, chills, muscle pain or sore throat.

    Though WMU is still a long way from operating as normal, our campus is moving in that direction. Keeping the WMU family safe and secure will guide our actions every step of the way.

    Thank you,

    Kara Wood
    Associate Vice President for Community Partnerships
    COVID-19 Response Coordination Team chair

    Gayle Ruggiero, M.D.
    Medical Director
    COVID-19 Response Coordination Team co-chair

    Lt. Andrew Bachmann
    WMU Department of Public Safety, Emergency Management
    COVID-19 Response Coordination Team co-chair

  • May 7, 2020: President's message to students, families: WMU's commitment: Putting students first

    Dear students and families,

    You are top of mind for us, more today than ever. The COVID-19 health and financial crisis has left no one untouched. We know that the pandemic is affecting you and your families in ways great and small, and that the future is filled with uncertainty. During these times, current information is particularly valuable, so I am writing today to provide several updates.

    I want to address your most common question first. It is our full intention to welcome you back to campus and be fully operating this coming fall semester, assuming government directives and public health constraints beyond our control allow us to do so. We have several teams working on contingency planning to ensure that WMU can safely provide in-person instruction to the fullest extent possible.

    As we navigate the public health threat, your safety is our number one priority. We have a team that is working on strategies and protocols that will enhance prevention and limit spread of the disease. We have another team working on approaches that will enable us to continue your education in a variety of scenarios where government or public health directives may constrain our operations. We will have more details for you as the fall return to campus gets closer. In the interim, we have held summer I classes at a distance, and we will decide by the end of next week about the extent to which the summer II session will be offered at a distance.

    I’m sure that you have read numerous news accounts of the impact the pandemic is having on our nation’s higher education system. WMU is not immune. We are projecting a $45 million to $85 million budget deficit for the next fiscal year. As reference points, the University of Michigan is anticipating up to a $1 billion loss, and one of our Ohio peers, Kent State University, is anticipating a $110 million loss. While all university revenue sources have been adversely affected by the pandemic, the impact of the disease on family finances of college-age students and cuts in state support to universities because of declining state revenues, are particularly salient. You can find detailed information about where our funding comes from and how we spend it by watching our COVID-19 Budget Brief.

    As they have done with our peers, these impacts have left us to make some difficult choices. We have developed a set of guiding principles to help us in making these decisions. Our primary tenet is: Students First. You are why we exist. We come to work to help you find your place in the world and turn that into a career. Given that 9 of 10 Broncos quickly find jobs that they like in their chosen field at graduation, student success tells us that we do this pretty well. That is not going to change.

    What do we mean by putting you first? It means we are freezing tuition, housing and dining costs next year. There will be no increase for you as you navigate this situation at home. It means each member of our University’s senior leadership—including me—has taken a 10% pay cut. Administrators at the next level have each taken a 5% pay cut, and staff members have taken a 2.25% cut. We have also made reductions in personnel levels and anticipate making further phased decisions and announcements through the summer. We will continue looking for every possible savings that does not compromise the high-quality education and core services that you have come to expect from WMU. Here are some of our other students-first steps:

    • Our faculty did a great job moving instruction to distance education platforms in just four days. Their efforts, and your adaptability, allowed us to complete the semester and achieve our learning outcomes during a terribly disrupted semester.
    • We have extended our credit/no-credit grading option to students until May 15—after grades are posted—to provide more options to students who may have been challenged by the transition to distance education. This option can be selected in GoWMU. Please email registrar-info@wmich.edu or contact your advisor with questions.
    • Sindecuse Health Center added telehealth in order to continue serving students seeking primary care, counseling and psychiatric services.
    • For our new Broncos, we moved our priority deadline for admission and scholarships from May 1 to June 1 to provide students more time to make decisions. We also implemented a test-optional choice for admission because of disruptions to SAT and ACT testing.


    I want to be forthright. Change is unavoidable as we navigate this financial and health crisis in our sector, but I want to assure you that we continue to rise to this unprecedented occasion. What won’t change is the quality of a Western Michigan University education—that is our ultimate commitment. On the other end of this crisis lies a stronger university. We aim to continue to be the place where students find their purpose, learn to overcome inevitable challenges and are prepared for a career they love in a changing world. Thank you for trusting us as partners in your journey.

    Sincerely,

    Edward Montgomery
    President


  • April 27, 2020: WMU community member tests positive for coronavirus

    Dear WMU community,

    Public health authorities have notified us that a resident of a University apartment has tested positive for COVID-19 (the coronavirus). This individual is self-isolating within their apartment, meaning this individual will not leave the apartment.

    How positive cases are managed
    To enhance safety, we work to notify facilities and custodial workers who have access to spaces that may be, or may have been, occupied by a patient.
     
    If an individual—or a family member of an individual—notifies us he or she has COVID-19, my team and I work with that person, 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 work through county health department 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.
     
    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 students, faculty, staff and family members to contact Sindecuse to report positive cases. Sindecuse will work with the University and public health officials to handle effective notifications.
     
    WMU has taken the necessary steps to provide appropriate social distancing to flatten the curve. I urge you to take advantage of these measures and stay home.

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

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

    Please be reassured WMU leaders are working together to navigate this complex public health crisis, and I will continue to provide updates. In the event of additional positive cases, the campus community will be notified on this COVID-19 website, which is regularly updated with information on WMU's response to the outbreak.
     
    Sincerely,
    Gayle Ruggiero, M.D.
    Medical Director
    Sindecuse Health Center

  • April 27, 2020, Update: COVID-19 testing expanded: Those even mildly symptomatic urged to contact Sindecuse

    Dear WMU community,

    To say that much has changed since we began tracking the novel coronavirus pandemic would be a major understatement. When COVID-19 was first detected within our state in early March, testing resources were limited and initially reserved only for those individuals with advanced symptoms who met Michigan Department of Health and Human Services—MDHHS—and local health department officials' criteria related to international travel or contact with travelers.

    The MDHHS has now expanded testing criteria as part of a "large-scale volunteer tracing effort." This development allows us to broaden our criteria here on campus.

    We are asking any WMU student, faculty or staff member in the greater Kalamazoo area who is experiencing even mild COVID-19 symptoms to contact the Sindecuse Health Center for screening and possible testing for COVID-19. Your care provider will determine, based on your symptoms and other information, whether a test is appropriate.

    Symptoms may include a dry cough, shortness of breath, fever, lessened sense of taste or smell, or gastrointestinal issues. If you are experiencing one or more of these symptoms and are a WMU student, staff or faculty member, please call Sindecuse at (269) 387-3287 to schedule a telehealth screening with one of our health care providers.

    If the medical professional determines that you should be tested for COVID-19, they will make arrangements with you to get tested at Sindecuse or another local site. Either way, you will receive guidance on how to care for yourself and what to do if your symptoms worsen.

    We thank everyone for doing their part in this challenging and continually changing situation. It's been a difficult time for our University, but if we each continue to maintain social distancing, shelter at home and contact the Sindecuse Health Center with any health concerns, we will come through this current situation together.

    Sincerely,

    Gayle Ruggiero, M.D.
    Medical Director
    COVID-19 Response Coordination Team co-chair

    Kara Wood
    Associate Vice President for Community Partnerships
    COVID-19 Response Coordination Team chair

    Lt. Andrew Bachmann
    WMU Department of Public Safety, Emergency Management
    COVID-19 Response Coordination Team co-chair

  • April 24, 2020, Update: Campus remains on Limited Operations Status, in alignment with governor's order

    Dear Colleagues,

    Yesterday, I shared difficult news about the impact of COVID-19 on WMU. I promised greater clarity when possible. Today, I write to clarify our continuing need for Limited Operations. I want to underscore that I, and all of our senior leaders, understand that uncertainty leads to concern as the pandemic wears on, so I want to communicate what we do know.

    Today, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer announced another short-term extension of the "stay home, stay safe" order. She and public health officials also are indicating that lifting the order will likely come in waves. We should plan accordingly and not anticipate an "all clear" that allows everyone to return to classrooms, offices and normal operations all at once.

    While still fuzzy, a picture is emerging for how we will handle returning to the WMU campus. Social distancing directives from the state will continue. We are committed to following the orders and guidance of our government and public health officials, who are making decisions that save lives and protect human health and safety. It is our intention to continue aligning our actions with that guidance. We will, of course, adapt and adjust as necessary to do what makes sense for our students, faculty and staff, and protects our University community.

    That means that as long as we have a "stay home, stay safe" order, we will maintain Limited Operations Status. This status means that we are not operating "as normal." It indicates that numerous functions of the University remain suspended or significantly curtailed. Our transition from Limited Operations to Normal Operations will aim to mirror the government’s social distancing guidelines as they begin to ease. The campus community will be notified when changes are made in any operating status. You can expect those changes to align specific WMU functions with specific government or public health guidance, instead of sweeping changes for the entire campus or for entire University divisions.

    As we move forward, please conclude that no new information means Limited Operations Status continues. Your best source of information about work assignments is your direct supervisors. Managers and supervisors should escalate questions to their supervisors, with subsequent escalations to President’s Cabinet members, who are coordinating as a body. We will provide periodic updates as the pandemic continues.

    For staff, the implications of Limited Operations Status means that "essential" and "conditional essential" classifications of work assignments for each work group remain in place. As previously communicated, COVID-19 Allowance balances remain available for the duration of shelter-in-place orders, to cover hours when there are no work assignments for a full-time, benefits-eligible staff member.

    More detailed information can be found online. If you have other employment-related questions, please contact the Human Resources Service Center at (269) 387-3620.

    In closing the week, we can celebrate that we have undergraduate and graduate students who are completing their degrees today. These graduates and our students are why WMU exists. Their success is evidence that we have each fulfilled our jobs and that we have done them well. While it remains true that there are tasks that cannot be completed during the pandemic, tasks are not people. The immutable truth is that tasks and work assignments did not educate, nurture, and enlighten our graduates—you did. We have played a critical role in their lives and helped them succeed and contribute to the common good. That will always be true. Thank you.

    Sincerely,

    Edward Montgomery
    President

  • April 14, 2020, Tap into WMU's many academic and student services

    Dear students,

    You are doing an amazing job with the transition to online instruction. We know it has not always been easy, but you have been facing the challenges head-on and persevering through them. While you are away from campus (we miss your presence), we wanted to remind you of the many ways you can connect with your support structures from a distance.

    As you continue to make progress in these final weeks of the semester, be aware of the following resources:  

    A to Z student services
    Academic advising and student services offices are still available to serve your needs. Visit our student services directory to find out the ways you can connect with an academic advisor, coach or other staff member you typically visit for support on campus.

    Disability Services for Students
    In alignment with courses being offered through distance education, disability services for students continues to be accessible for students who need support. Learn more here or by calling the office at (269) 387-2116.

    Learning tools
    From Google apps for education to Elearning guides, check out these tools designed to support your learning. Find step-by-step instructions on VPN, available software, using Webex, Microsoft Teams and more.

    Wellness
    We care about your mental and physical health. To keep you healthy and active, Student Recreation Center fitness and intramural sports staff have been working diligently to provide programs online. Find them on the SRC's Facebook and Instagram accounts.

    A healthy body and healthy mind go hand in hand. Maintaining both can be particularly difficult during stressful periods, but we're here to help. Counselors at Sindecuse Health Center are currently offering tele-counseling, available for all students who currently reside in Michigan. They also can help you find additional remote counseling providers. For more information, contact Sindecuse at (269) 387-1850.

    Internet connectivity
    If you are having issues with internet connectivity, we can help with that, too. There are a number of free or low-cost internet options available. If your issue is related to bandwidth (participating in video sessions, downloading or uploading content), we have student engagement teams standing by to assist in identifying problems and troubleshooting for solutions. Contact the Help Desk at (269) 387-4357 or email helpdesk@wmich.edu.  

    Invisible Need Project/Emergency Relief Fund
    If you're struggling with food insecurity, please take advantage of WMU's Invisible Need Project food pantry. The service has broadened some of its resources to accommodate new challenges facing students due to the COVID-19 outbreak. Learn more here. Additionally, the Student Emergency Relief Fund is a resource for students who have financial needs outside of the expected costs of education. Find details here.

    Tutoring
    Several remote tutoring options are available. Even if you’ve never taken advantage of tutoring in the past, if you need some additional assistance now, it’s easier than ever.

    We care about you and your ability to complete this academic year successfully. Don’t hesitate to reach out for resources—we are here to help and support you.

    Sincerely,

    Jennifer Bott, Ph.D.
    Provost and vice president for academic affairs

    Diane Anderson, Ph.D.
    Vice president for student affairs

    Candy McCorkle, Ph.D.
    Vice president for diversity and inclusion

  • April 13, 2020, Update: WMU COVID-19 Response Coordination Team succeeds task force

    Dear Colleagues,

    When we first became aware that the novel coronavirus could affect Western Michigan University, we quickly mobilized a COVID-19 Task Force. This body—which includes senior leaders from across campus as well as members from our longstanding critical incident teams—assessed immediate challenges and made recommendations to the President's Cabinet designed to protect the health and safety of our community while allowing us to carry out our educational mission. Task force leaders worked in concert with the Faculty Senate and consulted WMU-AAUP to establish mechanisms that addressed the far-reaching impact of executive orders on our academic and student support operations.

    Responding to this crisis to date has been a fast-paced, complex and multi-faceted endeavor. I'm grateful the University had in place a disaster and critical incident response infrastructure, which the task force leveraged to respond with greater agility, knowledge and proficiency. The dedication and service of the task force enabled the Cabinet to make decisions at the speed of the crisis while navigating an undeniably challenging time. I am immensely appreciative of members' work, which helped us to stay abreast of policy and health changes and to adapt in order to protect our campus and deliver our core mission. Please join me in thanking them, as they are owed a debt of gratitude.

    We have now entered the second month of this ongoing global pandemic. The next phase of our response will require a different rhythm and subject matter expertise. It will focus much more on coordination of resources to assist in addressing campus and local-community needs, while continuing to communicate with all WMU audiences. To maximize our effectiveness in these areas, we are sunsetting the COVID-19 Task Force and establishing a smaller and more narrowly focused new COVID-19 Response Coordination Team.

    I’ve asked Kara Wood, associate vice president for community partnerships, to lead the team. She is a member of the Cabinet and a FEMA-certified emergency manager. I have also asked Dr. Gayle Ruggiero, our medical director, and Lt. Andrew Bachmann of the WMU Department of Public Safety, to support this effort with their medical and emergency management expertise, respectively, as co-chairs.

    This new team comprises individuals with the deep knowledge and authority to guide the University’s health and human services, emergency management and community partnerships to respond to a dynamic public health crisis. It is decidedly administrative and managerial in nature. Similar to the task force, the coordination team will be charged with the responsibility of providing recommendations to me and to the President's Cabinet for ongoing decision-making.

    There’s no denying the challenge of these times. We are far from out of the woods, but I remain confident that, ultimately, we will emerge a tested and even stronger University. As a student-centered institution, the needs of our students and the safety of our community will remain our highest priorities. I thank each and every one of you who are, in the face of your own stress, anxiety and challenges, stepping up in ways we never imagined. Rest assured, you are making a difference.

    Sincerely,

    Edward Montgomery
    President


    COVID-19 Response Coordination Team

    Chair, Kara Wood, associate vice president for community partnerships
    Co-chair, Andrew Bachmann, Department of Public Safety lieutenant, emergency management
    Co-chair, Dr. Gayle Ruggiero, medical director

    COVID-19 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, medical director

    Members:
    Dr. Diane Anderson, vice president for student affairs
    Lt. Andrew Bachmann, Department of Public Safety lieutenant, emergency management
    Carrick Craig, general counsel
    Paula Davis, director of strategic communications
    Dr. Edwin Martini, associate provost for WMUx
    Dr. Suzie Nagel-Bennett, associate vice president for student affairs and dean of students
    Dr. Kahler Schuemann, chief of staff and secretary to the Board of Trustees
    Jan Van Der Kley, vice president for business and finance
    Kara Wood, associate vice president for community partnerships
    Paulo Zagalo-Melo, associate provost for global education

  • April 1, 2020: WMU community member tests positive for the coronavirus

    Dear Campus Community,
     
    The University has learned that a student has tested positive for COVID-19 (the coronavirus). We were informed that the student, who is a University apartment resident, returned home to a permanent residence outside of Kalamazoo County on March 24. Nevertheless, the University will take appropriate precautions to limit access to the apartment, while also respecting privacy.
     
    How positive cases are managed
    To enhance safety, we work to notify facilities and custodial workers who have access to spaces that may be, or may have been, occupied by a patient.
     
    If an individual—or a family member of an individual—notifies us he or she has COVID-19, my team and I work with that person, 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 work through county health department 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 students, faculty, staff and family members to contact Sindecuse to report positive cases. Sindecuse will work with the University and public health officials to handle effective notifications.
     
    WMU has taken the necessary steps 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 surpassed China with the most COVID-19 cases in the world, and Michigan ranks among the top states 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 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, and I will continue to provide updates. In the event of additional positive cases, the campus community will be notified through the University's COVID-19 website, which is regularly updated with information on WMU's response to the outbreak.
     
    Gayle Ruggiero, M.D.
    Medical Director
    Sindecuse Health Center
    Office: (269) 387-1850

  • March 31, 2020, Update: Summer I session to be delivered through distance education

    Dear Campus Community,

    We continue to monitor information from national, state and local public health officials on the evolving novel coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak. Recently, President Trump extended the federal social distancing guidelines until April 30. With the information we have at this time, we have determined that the best course of action for the Western Michigan University community is to offer all summer session I (May 4 to June 24) classes through distance education.

    The health and safety of our students, faculty and staff are our primary concerns in this fluid situation. We are announcing this decision now so that students and faculty have time to plan accordingly. We remain committed to ensuring students have every opportunity to make meaningful progress toward their degrees, even during this challenging time.  

    If you have already registered for a summer I course, your schedule will be updated to reflect this move to distance education. While our need for social distancing has interrupted many aspects of our day-to-day lives, it may present an opportunity to continue making progress toward graduation. These distance education courses will be offered at the University’s online rate and provide a convenient way to earn credits while you may be sheltering in place and away from campus and other activities.

    We have also decided to extend through May 15 the credit/no credit grading option for students currently enrolled in spring 2020 courses. Although we originally extended the deadline to April 3, we believe these extraordinary times call for maximum flexibility. So, we are moving the deadline to May to give our students further reassurance during this semester’s transition to distance education.

    This measure is intended to provide peace of mind and increased choice to students as they adapt to the rigors of distance delivery and the stress of this public health crisis. This will allow them the flexibility to see their final grades before having to choose whether to convert to a credit/no credit basis for each class. This gives students the choice on how their hard work will be recorded on their transcripts. Students who are considering the credit/no credit option are encouraged to speak with their advisors for guidance so they understand all of the potential ramifications.

    Faculty members, I hope that by announcing this decision about summer I courses now will give you ample time to prepare and plan. I want to reiterate my appreciation for your quick efforts to transition to distance education in March. Your work was commendable and your commitment to our students is appreciated. You will hear more details about summer teaching from Jennifer Bott, provost and vice president for academic affairs, soon.

    I know that this information about the continuation of distance learning during summer I raises questions for staff members about the impact on other campus operations. How and when we reengage physically on campus will be driven by the timing of any changes to the governor’s executive order to shelter in place and the need for social distancing. Unfortunately, the remaining uncertainty is considerable on this front because it depends upon the course of the disease. We will continue to monitor events closely for information on when authorities may relax these requirements, so that we can make further decisions about how and when to return to campus.

    These are truly exceptional times and we appreciate your flexibility and understanding as the COVID-19 public health crisis evolves. We will remain vigilant in protecting the community while advancing our educational mission during these unprecedented circumstances. Stay safe.

    Sincerely,

    Edward Montgomery
    President

    P.S. For students who purchased an annual parking permit, WMU Parking Services will offer a credit for the summer I session. More information will be available at wmich.edu/parking.

  • 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

    Video of President Montgomery interview 3-19-2020
  • 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.

    Video of President Edward Montgomery addresses the Board of Trustees 3/12/20

    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.