Fall 2021 return to campus

Dear WMU community,
Today, we are pleased to announce our plans for fall 2021 in which we will safely return to near-normal operations and the majority of our courses will be offered face to face. 

Whether in a laboratory, residence hall, classroom or the stands of an athletic event, we expect to offer a robust on-campus environment in the fall with the wide array of learning, living and co-curricular opportunities that make the Western experience one where students can fully explore and discern their purpose. 

On par with other Michigan public universities that have announced their fall plans, about 75% of Western classes will be in-person. Most of those will be fully face-to-face with 6% offered in a hybrid format. The portion of entirely in-person courses will be double those offered last fall. 

The last few weeks have brought an acceleration in the distribution of vaccines, which offers reason for hope and cautious optimism. With this in mind, we are anticipating a full return to in-person campus activity over the summer. Pending state guidance, we have tentatively set July 6—following the Independence Day holiday—as our target date for enhanced return to campus. At that time, we anticipate all departments, offices and services will return to full in-person operations. We have significant planning ahead to ensure a safe and smooth return to campus. 

Based on applying the lessons learned over the past year of the COVID-19 health crisis, including implementing safety policies and practices Universitywide and in each division, we are confident we can responsibly come together in classrooms and offices in compliance with state guidelines this fall. We will do so in an environment made safer as a result of wider-spread vaccination and the benefit of a full year of learning to safely manage our community together. As one example, according to an ongoing study of mask-wearing at Western, better than 90% of our campus consistently wears masks and wears them properly. 

We’ve demonstrated that, as a community, we know what to do and we are willing to do it. Let’s continue to work together as we progress toward a strong fall start. I encourage everyone to get vaccinated when eligible in order to help us reach herd immunity as a campus community. In addition, continuing to mask and follow other protective measures will help safeguard our campus community.

Through our COVID-19 Response Coordination Team and our Sindecuse Health Center, Western has been a leader among universities across the state in responding to the needs of our students, faculty and staff, including through the provision of rapid-result COVID-19 testing long before other institutions and as a result of our close partnership with the county health department. These and the safety plans we have for each department on campus are examples of our preparedness and success managing the pandemic in just a year.

Safeguarding the health and well-being of our campus community is always our top priority, and going beyond basic expectations is what sets Western apart.

We know this past year has been difficult, requiring all of us to be flexible and adapt to a changing environment, to be resilient in the face of challenges in our professional and personal lives, and to demonstrate strength and grace in the face of uncertainty and loss. We will use the strength and insights we have developed to carry us forward. Over the coming weeks and months, look for us to provide additional details about the rollout of fall semester 2021. We’re excited about the future we are creating together. 


Edward Montgomery