Update from Provost Harbor

March 23, 2020


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Dear UM Students and Colleagues:

As we prepare to embark on this “new normal” the remainder of spring semester, I really appreciate all the time and effort you are putting into adapting to our new circumstances. I also want to address concerns many have shared with me about the communication to students in our residence halls yesterday.


Today, remote instruction began and this will, inevitably, come with some difficulties. With all the preparations we have undertaken, we hope they are minor. UM stands ready to ensure remote instruction goes as smoothly for instructors and students as possible. It may take a day or two to address technical issues and get used to this new format. Please be patient and know we are committed to success in this endeavor. I ask that you approach this challenge with the same tenacity and “can-do attitude” with which you’ve approached the semester thus far.


Yesterday, we had a bit of misstep for which I want to apologize. We sent an email to students in the campus residence halls encouraging immediate move-outs. While the communication came from a place of deep caring and a need to ensure the health and safety of our resident students, it was not executed in the best way possible. Our housing team has been working around the clock, and they are deeply concerned about the potential for coronavirus to impact our students in residence halls, which are, by their nature, not ideal places to practice effective social distancing.

Although many students in our residence halls had responded to prior messages, the team’s goal was to create a sense of urgency so all students would complete one of three actions: 1) check out of the halls if that was their intention, 2) check in with housing to announce their intention not to return to the halls but leave their belongings until a later date or 3) check in with housing staff if they were indeed going to remain in the halls for the rest of the semester.

The message had its desired effect. More than 300 students responded in the first 20 minutes after the message was sent out, and our housing professionals were then able to follow up with those who needed assistance. I know the tone of the email may have struck many of you as inappropriate. Please know that the intentions behind this message, which I approved before it was sent, were the right ones despite the manner in which it was delivered.

To be clear, students who need to remain in the residence halls will be able to do so, and they will have the ability to use their meal plan.


This will not be the only misstep we make as we navigate our new normal. This is new territory for all of us. Campus and shared governance leaders are working together around the clock to get this right. Please have faith that we act with the best of intentions, even if the delivery is sometimes less than ideal. We have a long way to go together, and we need to support one another. We will get through this and come out stronger on the other side — if we work together and show each other patience, understanding and a positive attitude as we tackle the challenges our community will face in the days and weeks ahead — together.

Jon Harbor

UM Provost

This message was sent by University Relations on behalf of the Office of the Provost to all UM students, faculty, staff and administrators.

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