Frequently Asked Questions

  • WMU campus status

    Western Michigan University has taken the precautionary measure of extending distance education through the end of the summer II session, which concludes Aug. 14. In-person instruction begins with fall classes on Sept. 2.

    The summer commencement ceremony, originally planned for June 27, will be postponed to an undetermined future date. 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 as soon as possible.

Personal and Public Health

  • What are the symptoms of 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. If you are a WMU student, faculty or staff member in the Kalamazoo area and you have one or more of these symptoms, please contact Sindecuse Health Center at (269) 387-3287 to schedule an appointment for evaluation. The health care provider who contacts you may refer you for COVID-19 testing.

  • How do I know if I should be tested for COVID-19?

    Under new guidelines from public health officials, anyone may request a COVID-19 test. If you believe that you may have been exposed to the virus or if you have more than one of the symptoms listed above, please contact Sindecuse Health Center at (269) 387-3287 to schedule an appointment for evaluation. The health care provider who contacts you may refer you for COVID-19 testing.

  • What is the treatment for COVID-19?

    People infected with the novel coronavirus—COVID-19—should receive supportive care to help relieve symptoms. Currently, there is no specific antiviral treatment recommended for COVID-19 infection.

  • What can I do to be safe and keep others safe?

    Keeping campus safe requires everyone’s participation.

    There are four strategies to this:

    • Wearing a mask that covers your nose and mouth
    • Maintaining 6 feet of distance between yourself and others
    • Washing your hands frequently
    • Staying home if you are experiencing COVID-19 symptoms and getting tested at the earliest signs of symptoms, or if you believe you have been exposed.

    Sindecuse Health Center has compiled a list of COVID-19 precautionsVisit the CDC’s webpage for comprehensive protection advice

  • Should I wear a mask?

    Yes. Wearing a mask that covers your nose and mouth—a safety measure strongly recommended by public health experts and intended to protect all—is required of University community members. This fall, each WMU student will be provided with two masks. Masks will also be made available to employees who don’t have their own. Handmade masks are appropriate, but they should be laundered prior to wearing and on a regular basis. Remember, wearing a mask isn’t just about protecting wearers, it’s also about protecting those around them and their families.
     

  • Are there any exceptions to the mask requirement?

    Guidelines are still being finalized. We do understand that there are circumstances in which a face mask may not be feasible, including:

    • When an individual suffers from a medical condition that prevents the use of a mask.
    • During athletic activities, practices or events.
    • When the activity involves the use of the mouth such as is required when playing an instrument, acting, singing or eating.
    • When the person is alone in an enclosed individual office, residence hall room or apartment.

    We are thinking carefully about these situations as we finalize the guidelines.

Student, Parent and Academic Questions

  • What is the fall schedule of classes?

    We will return to in-person instruction for the 2020-21 academic year on Wednesday, Sept. 2. 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.

  • What will be different in classrooms and on campus this fall?

    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.

  • What do you mean by distance education?

    It’s a term that applies to using a variety of digital technologies in educating students. It includes live and recorded webinars, emails, online discussion boards, and digital spaces. Faculty can share reading assignments, collect papers, conduct group conversations and more. Students participate in many of the same ways they would do in an in-person lecture, complete reading and writing assignments and ask questions for clarification and discussion.

  • What if I do not have my own computer or access to one at home? Can I still take part in distance learning?

    The University has made 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.

  • I am a student who is having technical difficulties or has questions about my course. What should I do?

    If your challenge is with course content, please reach out to your instructor.  If the problem is a technical dilemma, please visit wmich.edu/elearning/students or the University’s help desk

  • Is the Invisible Need Project food pantry still open?

    For the safety of students and any Food Pantry workers the Invisible Need Project Pantry hours are Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. by appointment only.  Please email dosa-inp@wmich.edu to schedule an appointment.  Students are still permitted to only visit the pantry at most once every two weeks, and must be a registered WMU student.  Visitors are not permitted to enter the pantry.  A Bronco ID must be shown at pick-up and full instructions are provided with appointment details.

  • How can I get assistance through the Student Emergency Relief Fund?

    Invisible Need Project’s view of “unexpected & emergency” expenses has broadened in light of COVID-19.  SERF is available to help students with any basic/urgent expenses, even those which haven’t typically qualified for SERF (i.e., rent).  All requests still need to be submitted through the application (https://wmich.edu/invisibleneed/serf), including documentation.  Financial Aid eligibility is still part of the review process, and direct deposit of funds is being used when possible.

  • Is the city of Kalamazoo's bus service running?

    Kalamazoo Metro service resumed limited fixed route service on May. 18. For detailed routes and bus schedules, visit www.kmetro.com.

Student Well-being

  • What can I do to focus on my overall well-being during this time?

    It can be hard when you are out of your routine to make the same healthy decisions you were making before. It's important to remember all of the aspects of your well-being (physical, emotional, spiritual, social, environmental, intellectual, occupational, financial). For more information on how to maintain healthy habits during this distance education period, visit wmich.edu/healthpromotion for virtual workshops, well-being tips, and resources.

  • What is the Student Recreation Center offering online to help me stay physically active, relieve stress and combat any anxiety/depression I may be experiencing?

    Our fitness and intramural sports staff are working diligently to provide programs that you can do from your home on a daily basis to keep you healthy and active. All of our remote programs will be available by following us on our Facebook and Instagram accounts. You can find Yoga, Zumba, Barre and HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training) options. Intramurals is offering bracket challenges, Movie Scavenger Hunt, and eSports tournaments. Visit wmich.edu/rec/covid-19 for more info. We also encourage students to get outside daily: Take a walk, bike, go for a run, or discover campus/neighborhood in a new way. Get a Frisbee and play Frisbee golf using the trees as your flag.

  • I’m having a lot of stress or anxiety because of COVID-19. What can I do?

    It is common to feel stressed, anxious or overwhelmed during this time, and a lot of it comes down to feeling like we have a lack of control. Even when it feels like you don’t have control of a situation, there are things you can do:

    • Pay attention to your body and feelings for warning signs of distress
    • Maintain routine as much as possible and keep your body in good-working order
    • Practice healthy habits and kinds of self-care that benefit you. For example, get outdoors, go for a walk, try yoga or meditation, or listening to music.
    • It’s a good idea to stay informed, but be mindful of media and news exposure
    • Reach out to support people
    • Seek out 3 good things each day to help balance out the negative. Celebrate successes (even tiny wins) throughout your day.
    • People with preexisting mental health conditions should continue with their treatment plans during an emergency and monitor for any new symptoms.

    Check out additional resources at the Sindecuse Health Center Counseling Services page: wmich.edu/healthcenter/counseling/resources

  • I feel isolated and lonely. How can I continue to stay connected while quarantined or at home?

    For those who live alone, you might have to seek out more social opportunities than you typically would and find new ways to connect with friends or family virtually. For example, use a video chat application like FaceTime or Zoom to hang out with friends or family members or have a virtual game night. You can also find talk to someone at SHC Counseling Services or other online support groups.

  • I don’t feel safe at home/while quarantined. How can I protect myself?

    While staying at home is critical to slowing the spread and severity of COVID-19, not everyone feels safe in their home.

    Various organizations can provide confidential support for people who feel unsafe or for people who are concerned about someone else’s safety.

    • The FIRE Place Resource and Support Center is available virtually to help the WMU community with issues of sexual assault, unhealthy relationships, and other bias incidents. Visit wmich.edu/healthpromotion/fireplace to get connected.
    • If there is an urgent need, please contact the Michigan Sexual Assault Hotline. To Call: 855-864-2374 Text: 1-866-238-1454 Website: https://www.michigan.gov/voices4
  • I have lost a loved one during the COVID-19 outbreak. Where can I find support?

    Losing a loved one can be deeply painful, and you deserve support. The types of gatherings and social experiences that many people would usually have after the death of a loved one are often not possible during the COVID-19 pandemic. It’s important to seek alternative types of support.

    Sindecuse Health Center is offering telehealth visits for many appointments including counseling and psychiatric services. Visit wmich.edu/healthcenter to get set up.

  • Are Sindecuse Health Center Counseling Services still available?

    Yes. They recognize the negative impact on the emotional health of the WMU community as a result of the spread of COVID-19 and the disruption created to everyday life. This situation is both new and unpredictable. To support WMU's move to distance learning during the COVID-19 outbreak, the health center offers telehealth visits for many appointments. Primary care, counseling and psychiatric services are available. Eligibility varies according to services sought. Visit wmich.edu/healthcenter to get set up.

  • I don’t have health insurance or a regular doctor. How can I get care? Is Sindecuse Health Center still seeing people?

    Students may choose to investigate coverage options on the Healthcare.gov insurance exchange or Healthy Michigan Plan websites. Sindecuse Health Center will work with all students to help make sure that they are able to get care. Please call if you are in need of health care and are not sure of your options. Please call (269) 387-3287.

    Sindecuse health center remains open and recognizes the challenges of COVID-19. They will work with you to have your needs met. The health center may do patient assessments over the phone or using telehealth (online). Please call (269) 387-3287.

    There are organizations that offer health care at low cost, on a sliding scale or for free, under certain conditions. Because it’s important to stay home as much as possible, please call first with your concerns, whether or not you feel sick and even if you want to be tested for COVID-19.

  • I am having financial trouble because of the effects of COVID-19. What assistance programs can help me?

    There are multiple resources on campus that can help, including:

    For help with bills, visit https://www.usa.gov/help-with-bills. Information about government programs that help with bill payment, temporary assistance, jobs/unemployment, credit, etc. Website and Helpline also offered in Spanish.

Housing

Working on Campus

COVID-19 Allowance, Insurance and Related Matters

  • I’m a Staff Compensation System employee and I do not have any work assignment. What happens when I run out of COVID-19 allowance, annual and sick leave?

    Under the current plans provided, you would fall into a no-pay status and would continue as a WMU employee according to our existing policy language. After all of WMU’s benefits have been exhausted, an employee may be eligible for new federal benefits created by the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) which became effective April 1, 2020, and extends through December 31, 2020.

    For example, FFCRA includes the Expanded Family and Medical Leave Act (EFMLA) for eligible employees. This leave is available for up to 10 weeks after using the COVID-19 allowance hours. An employee must apply for EFMLA. Towards the end of April, Human Resources will provide detailed information regarding eligibility requirements, the application process and the payment to be received by the employee. Pay is calculated at two-thirds of the employee’s regular pay rate with a maximum of $200 per day for an aggregate total payment of $12,000.

    If you are not eligible for EFMLA and have used all your leave, you may remain an employee of WMU but without pay. In that case, you will be eligible to apply for unemployment benefits, including the enhanced federal unemployment benefit. For more information, call the Human Resources Service Center at (269) 387-3620.

     

     

  • What is COBRA?

    The Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act —COBRA—is a health insurance program that allows an eligible employee and his or her dependents the continued benefits of health insurance coverage in the case that an employee enters a no-pay status. At WMU, there is a 30-day grace period allowed for the payment of premium to prevent any gap in coverage under COBRA for benefits-eligible employees.

  • In what order can I use my leave? Do I need to use one before the other?

    You may use COVID-19 allowance, annual leave or sick leave—or any combination of the three—at your discretion.

  • Are other leaves available to me?

    After all of WMU’s benefits have been exhausted, an employee may be eligible for new federal benefits created by the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) which became effective April 1, 2020, and extends through Dec. 31, 2020.

    For example, FFCRA includes the Expanded Family and Medical Leave Act (EFMLA) for eligible employees. This leave is available for up to 10 weeks after using the COVID-19 allowance hours. An employee must apply for EFMLA. Towards the end of April, Human Resources will provide detailed information regarding eligibility requirements, the application process and the payment to be received by the employee. Pay is calculated at two-thirds of the employee’s regular pay rate with a maximum of $200 per day for an aggregate total payment of $12,000.

    For additional information, contact the Human Resources Service Center at (269) 387-3620.

  • If I go into a no-pay status, am I eligible for unemployment insurance?

    The University complies with all applicable laws regarding unemployment insurance. Employee circumstances regarding no-pay status will vary. Any concerned employee should contact the Michigan Unemployment Insurance Agency.

  • I’m a SCS employee. Is it possible that I will be assigned essential work for less than 40 hours per week?

    Yes, this could happen. 

  • As an employee, if I'm assigned to essential work for less than 40 hours per week, how do I get paid?

    You would report the hours you work as normal and then use the COVID-19 allowance or one of the leave balances for the remainder to achieve a 40-hour work week.

  • Will staff have insurance deducted from their paycheck if they go below normal hours?

    Yes. Under the policy, from March 23 to April 25, employees whose hours drop below normal remain responsible for the same health care deduction as before.  The employee deduction—your share—remains the same. An employee who enters no-pay status for an extended period would become subject to COBRA.

     

     

  • What is the difference between no-pay status and a layoff?

    An employee in no-pay status remains an employee of WMU while not earning pay. That individual retains his or her job and the ability to return to it when hours are available. WMU has a reduction in force—layoff—policy for SCS employees. It is not being invoked.

Campus Operations

  • Can I get into my campus building while we are sheltering in place at home?

    As of April 3, WMU implemented a building hibernation program. Building access is limited to those individuals who have an essential on-site need. But, faculty and staff can sign up for one-time grab-and-go access to campus buildings at the link below for access to various campus buildings to gather needed materials. This opportunity is not intended for extended on-site work. Sign up for only one slot. If a building fills, another day will be added. Contact your supervisor with any questions. People coming on site must complete the daily screening via the COVID-19 information link on the right side of the main page of GoWMU and are required to wear a cloth-based face covering inside a public space.

    Sign up here.

  • How does WMU clean and disinfect? What else is being done to limit risk and spread?

    Custodial staff are on top of cleaning procedures throughout the University. We have increased focus and intensity on high-touch areas such as switches and door knobs.

  • 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.

  • Is Bronco Transit still running?

    Service is currently suspended. Check Bronco Transit's website for updates.

  • What is the status of Sindecuse Health Center and its services?

    Some Sindecuse Health Center operations have changed. Primary care, counseling and pharmacy operations continue. Visit https://wmich.edu/news/2020/03/58661 for details about adjusted hours and suspended services. If you have a fever, cough, or are experiencing shortness of breath and you have a travel history, you should call Sindecuse (269-387-3287) before visiting.

  • What is the status of the office of Disability Services for Students?

    Staff of the Disability Services for Students office have begun working remotely, following the governor's executive order to shelter in place. However, DSS staff members will continue to be accessible for students and faculty who may have questions or need additional support with navigating accommodations. You may contact one of the following individuals for assistance:

  • What is being done with building systems and occupancy to help to safeguard students and employees?

    WMU will reduce the population density in classrooms, residence halls and other campus spaces to enable and maintain the required 6 feet of social
    distancing.

    Reducing exposure from potential hazard where appropriate may include increased ventilation rates; opening windows; installing physical barriers such as sneeze guards. If sneeze guards are needed, supervisors should request these through Bronco Fix It.

    Use of building common areas—i.e. lobby areas, waiting areas, breakrooms, copier areas and kitchenettes—will be limited to numbers needed to maintain social distancing requirements. No one should congregate in large numbers in common areas.

    All touchpoints should be wiped after contact or as often as reasonably practicable. Maximum capacity for common areas should be posted, however, if it is not posted, then the maximum occupancy is based on the distancing requirement of 6 feet between individuals.

    As recommended by the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air- Conditioning Engineers, the heating, ventilation and air conditioning—HVAC— professional organization, depending on the type of systems and HVAC technology that are in place, the University has, under current conditions, disabled demand control ventilation where applicable; increased air change rates for densely occupied spaces; enabled the outside air night purge where possible; and will review humidity levels.

  • What considerations are being made for people with physical disabilities, as far as getting around campus and access to buildings with restricted entrances and exits?

    The review of the online screening tool and any environments being modified are all going through ADA accessibility review so we can ensure individuals coming to campus will have the ability to have similar experiences and utilization of those tools. Once those decisions about building accessibility are made, Disability Services for Students will notify students so they know how to access buildings on campus.

University Finance and Business Questions

Privacy, Reporting and Sharing Information

  • I have information about an employee or student’s health that might need to be shared to protect public health. What do I need to know?

    A person’s medical record or condition should not be disclosed to anyone other than to his or her medical professional, a public health professional, or as the individual explicitly consents. University policy and federal law protect personal health information—Protected Health Information, or PHI. With the advent of the coronavirus, many people are, understandably, concerned about the health of students, co-workers and friends. The vast majority of these concerns arise from a genuine desire for the well-being of the individual and public health. But “genuine concern” is not an exception under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act—HIPAA—as it relates to Sindecuse Health Center, Unified Clinics or Human Resources records.

    Until further notice, unless the University is disclosing PHI to other providers or public health authorities, or there’s a serious threat to health or safety, WMU will not disclose the HIPAA-protected information of another individual.

    Individuals acting on their own behalf are not subject to HIPAA restrictions. They must, however, continue to follow University policy regarding confidentiality. The University will not tolerate surreptitious or secret surveillance of students or co-workers. If you suspect in good faith that someone may have health issues related to the virus, you should encourage them to self-report and comply with health authority directives. If they refuse to do so, you will not violate University policy or applicable law if you report your concern to the University’s medical director or to public health authorities. But you should disclose the least amount of information necessary to communicate your concerns.

  • I have information about a student that I think may impact public health. What do I need to know?

    The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act, or FERPA, makes the educational records of students confidential. Except in limited circumstances, the education record of a student may not be disclosed without the written authorization of the student. One such exception is for a matter of public health. In the event a student’s education record reveals something that may adversely impact public health, good faith disclosures to authorized individuals do not violate FERPA. You should disclose the least amount of information necessary to communicate your concerns.

  • A charity that I have never heard of sent me an email asking me to donate for COVID-19 relief. I also got an odd email with an attachment about COVID-19. What should I do?

    Unfortunately, in any time of uncertainty there are those waiting to prey upon the good intentions of the vast majority of people. The U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, or CISA, warns us to be vigilant for scams related to COVID-19.

    According to its website, the CISA recommends that we all avoid clicking on links in unsolicited emails and be wary of email attachments. Do not reveal personal or financial information in email, and do not respond to email solicitations for this information. Verify a charity’s authenticity before making donations. Review the Federal Trade Commission’s page on Charity Scams for more information.

    If you are a member of the WMU community, visit https://wmich.edu/phishing to learn more about phishing attacks and other online scams. If you have received a suspicious email or text message, you can forward it by email to abuse@wmich.edu or call the help desk at 269-387-4357. If you believe your Bronco NetID has already been compromised, visit https://wmich.edu/phishing/account-compromised for help in restoring your account.

  • What information will be disclosed, who will have access to it, and how will it be protected if I need an accommodation?

    Each day prior to coming to any campus facility or participating in any University activity, employees must complete a brief questionnaire found in GoWMU. The survey has a series of basic questions, such as whether you have been exposed to someone with COVID-19 or are experiencing symptoms. The
    information sought is just enough to determine whether the survey taker needs to be assessed at Sindecuse. Once at Sindecuse, you enter a HIPAA-protected process wherein health information is not shared beyond your health care providers and those you specify.

Travel

  • I was planning on leaving for a conference, meeting or other business travel soon, and it has been planned for months. What should I do?

    Effective March 11, all nonessential 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.

  • Where do I find out information regarding travel?

    The University has suspended all nonessential travel (both international and domestic). If you have a previously scheduled trip and you are not sure whether or not it is considered essential, your divisional lead (vice president or executive director) should be consulted. Airlines are providing updates that change daily, so be sure to monitor them as you review your travel plans. Find out more by visiting the WMU Travel website.

  • I am an international student and I cannot get home now. What do I do?

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

    Students in University apartments may remain if they chose, because they have an ability to practice social distancing and maintain adequate food supplies.