Office of the Provost


Planning Underway for Fall Semester

[Email to U-M community]
May 1, 2020

Dear Faculty, Staff, and Students:

Earlier this week, President Schlissel shared information about how the university is continuing to move forward with research, teaching, and service – work that has particular importance during this pandemic. He noted, too, that we are looking ahead to the fall term and developing plans for how we will continue to fulfill our responsibilities in each of these areas. Recognizing that we can’t predict how the pandemic will unfold, our strategy is to plan for an in-person, public health-informed fall term as well as for a remote or hybrid fall term.

We are cautiously optimistic that we will be able to deliver a fall term with as much in-person instruction as possible. We will be working differently in the months to come but our commitment to excellence has not changed. As we plan for the fall, we are guided by two principles: the safety and health of our community, and our long-standing commitments to academic excellence, equity, and inclusion. For the first, we rely on the counsel of public health and medical experts and State of Michigan requirements. For the second, the knowledge and insights of our faculty are critical to the learning experiences of our students.

The planning for fall is a campus-wide activity, requiring all of us to work together in setting broad guidelines. The provost’s office will work closely with the schools and colleges – the locus of academic activity – to determine how each of them can most effectively deliver instruction.

As provost and chief academic officer, I have charged seven committees with developing plans for our academic activities in the fall. They will support the work done in the schools and colleges by sharing best practices, identifying challenges, assisting in problem-solving, and making recommendations for decisions that need to be made centrally. Each committee includes faculty members and staff who bring expertise in the area and knowledge about relevant university policies and resources to the work. I am grateful to all of them for their willingness to serve our community in this way.

A coordinating committee will leverage information from six topic-focused committees to develop campus-level principles and guidelines for the fall term and will work to ensure that our academic activities continue to meet the university’s high standards and to prioritize equity and inclusion. They will work in coordination with Student Life (including planning for student housing) and with the committees President Schlissel has appointed to consider public health/medical and ethical concerns. I will work closely with the committee which is chaired by Alec Gallimore, Robert J. Vlasic Dean of Engineering.

Other coordinating committee members include:

Laura Blake Jones, Dean of Students
Amy Dittmar, Senior Vice Provost for Academic and Budgetary Affairs
Christine Gerdes, Special Counsel to the Provost
James Hilton, Vice Provost and Dean of Libraries
Kedra Ishop, Vice Provost for Enrollment Management
Laurie McCauley, Dean, School of Dentistry
Timothy McKay, Associate Dean for Undergraduate Education, LSA
Elizabeth Moje, Dean, School of Education
Michael Solomon, Vice Provost and Dean of Rackham
Lynn Videka, Dean, School of Social Work

There are six committees focused on different areas of academic activity. They include:

  • Instructional Planning, which will develop best practices for instruction in varied formats and examine how course offerings can be nimble and adjust to changing circumstances. Its chair is Elizabeth Moje.
  • Large and Foundational Courses, which will build on learnings from the Foundational Courses Initiative to enhance instruction for large classes which are likely to continue to be taught remotely. Timothy McKay leads this group.
  • Performance, Studio, and Lab Courses, which is charged with recommending creative options to address the particular challenges for teaching and learning when in-person activities are restricted. Laurie McCauley chairs this group.
  • Space and Collections that Support the Academic Mission, which will develop plans and guidelines for common spaces and access to collections when public health restrictions on in-person scenarios, and when collections are used remotely. James Hilton leads this group.
  • Curricular Support, Extra and Co-curricular Activities, and Engaged Learning is focused on equitable access to key academic resources and developing guidelines to enhance the range of academic experiences that contribute to student learning. Its chair is Lynn Videka.
  • Graduate and Professional Students is assessing the needs of these student groups and will propose and evaluate measures that could address these needs. Michael Solomon leads this work.

These committees will be meeting intensely in the coming weeks and will make recommendations to me as soon as possible. Their work, along with the vital work being done by faculty and staff in the schools and colleges, will be critical to our decisions about how we will offer a Michigan education to all our students in the fall term. I will share information with you as this work moves forward.

We will, of course, continue to be guided by the advice of medical and public health experts and will always prioritize the health and safety of our community. Our hope is that it will be possible to interact in person this fall. I look forward to the ways we can work together – creatively, flexibly, and responsibly – to bring the excitement of a Michigan education to all our students.


Susan M. Collins
Interim Provost and Executive Vice President for Academic Affairs