Dec. 21: Academic planning for spring semester

Dear Colleagues,

On Friday, state leaders announced that Michigan colleges and universities were asked to delay the start of their spring semester instruction to encourage the continued decline of COVID-19 cases in our state. President Stanley, Provost Woodruff, and our university leaders endorse this updated timeline. 

This means that our spring 2021 semester will begin the week of January 11 with a “Reading, Reviewing, and Reflection” period that does not include any online or in-person class meetings. We ask that you encourage faculty to provide their students with syllabi and course schedules by January 11 so they use the time to prepare for the semester, and also inform them that classes should not meet either in person or online during the first week of the semester.

On-campus students will move into residence halls starting on Friday, January 15. Many of these students depend on the residence halls to provide them with internet connectivity, so there are substantial equity issues at play if online classes begin meeting before students can move into the residence halls. Lack of reliable access to the internet or study spaces will prevent online courses from meeting until after move-in can be completed. However, between January 11 and January 19 instructors should:

  • Post their course syllabi and schedules to allow students to begin their preparations for the semester
  • Be available by email to answer any questions that students might have

Additionally, instructors could, for example, ask students to use the time between January 11 and January 25 to:

  • Review materials that students ought to have mastered prior to taking the current class
  • Complete a questionnaire provided by the instructor to help the instructor know more about the students’ interests, preparations, or goals
  • Solicit from students a list of questions, ideas, or main areas of inquiry for the instructor and/or other students to consider
  • Provide readings that introduce students to the course and that they could have read in preparation for the first course meeting on or after January 19
  • Ask students to write a short, ungraded reflection on the course’s objectives as they relate to the students’ personal or professional goals
  • Encourage students to complete their DEI education

The timeline for spring 2021 semester will be:

  • Synchronous and asynchronous online classes will begin meeting on Tuesday, January 19.
  • Any classes that were planned to be in person, will start online on January 19 and then will transition to in person beginning January 25.
  • The Open Add Period will end at 8:00 p.m. on January 25.
  • The last day to drop a class with no grade reported is March 10.
  • Wellness days will be held as previously scheduled on March 2-3.
  • The last day of class meetings will be April 21.
  • April 22-23 will be study days during which no classes will be held.

Faculty are strongly encouraged to arrange their schedules in such a way as to allow the wellness days to provide students with much-needed breaks from their studies. Additional information will be shared on the Together We Will site as it becomes available.

We understand that these schedule changes will necessitate adjustments, and we recognize that the health and safety of our communities depend on our cooperation. By starting with a “Reading, Reviewing, and Reflection” week, we are making sure that the 12,000 students who receive more than $50 million in financial aid can still receive their support in early January as they have planned. Federal guidelines prevent financial aid support from being distributed no more than ten days before the start of a semester. We are trying to prevent a negative impact on our students during a time when they are already struggling with many pandemic-related challenges.

As we have said many times throughout the pandemic, we need to be flexible and continue to adapt to rapidly changing situations. We must rise to the challenge of making needed changes to protect the health and safety of our community. We cannot predict what other changes may still emerge, and while we can see the end of this pandemic on the horizon, we still have several more challenging months ahead of us. For these reasons, we are asking the faculty who are scheduled to teach the 400 in-person classes in spring semester to be prepared to move their classes online if the situation necessitates such a transition.

Thank you to everyone for your continued flexibility and commitment to making sure our students receive a world-class education in a safe and respectful manner.

Sincerely,

Mark A. Largent
Associate Provost for Undergraduate Education
Dean of Undergraduate Studies