First Michigan college unveils fall plan: masks, tests, some campus classes

Oakland University

The fall semester at Oakland University will be a hybrid between remote learning and in-person classes, with face masks and massive coronavirus testing.

Update: What we know about Michigan college plans in fall amid coronavirus

Face masks, a massive coronavirus testing program and conversion of ballrooms into social-distance-safe classrooms are among the changes planned for fall at Oakland University, as the public university scrambles to adjust to campus life during a pandemic.

Oakland on Friday became the first Michigan public university to announce its plans for the fall semester, unveiling a strategy that tries to balance safety and learning that could foretell plans at other state campuses.

In a letter to students, staff and faculty by Oakland President Ora Hirsch Pescovitz said Oakland will take “a hybrid approach that includes both face-to-face and remote instruction.”

Other public universities are studying options for the fall. At a virtual town hall meeting Thursday, Wayne State University President M. Roy Wilson and Michigan State University President Samuel Stanley hinted that the fall semester would continue with remote learning, similar to what has taken place since mid-March when campuses around the nation shut down to slow the spread of the coronavirus.

In the same town hall meeting, University of Michigan President Mark Schlissel said he still hoped to bring students back to Ann Arbor in September.

Related: Lansing Community College goes mostly online for fall amid coronavirus
Related: Northern Michigan University: Campus open in fall despite coronavirus fears

None has gone as far as Pescovitz did Friday, laying out in detail what the fall semester will look like for the 20,000-student campus in Auburn Hills.

“That’s what we’re planning to do,” Pescovitz said, “assuming we don’t have an executive order that restricts our plans.”

In an interview with Bridge, Pescovitz offered the most detailed version yet of what college life could look like in the age of coronavirus. Oakland’s plan includes:

  • In-person laboratory classes, but limited to a small number of students. “We might have three students in a large lab where social distancing is possible, and where they can wear masks and can be tested before they come in,” Pescovitz said.

  • Some classes moved to larger venues on campus – the university president offered an example of a class of 50 in a room that seats 250 so students can maintain safe social distance.

  • Ballrooms in the Oakland Center student union may be converted to classrooms, because they are large enough for safe social-distancing.

  • Because there are a limited number of large venues on campus, many classes will be held online.

  • Sports teams will play, but players will be tested for coronavirus frequently.

  • No spectators at sporting events.

  • Face masks will be required on campus.

  • Dorms will be open, but only 20 percent of Oakland’s students live on campus, so most can retain social distance in their homes.

  • Frequent testing of students, staff and faculty. “I hope Michigan will have the ability to do more COVID cases than we can today,” Pescovitz said. “We hope to be able to do testing on campus, along with serology and contact-tracing. That allows us to be as safe as possible. If frequent coronavirus testing is not possible, the university could take the temperature of students frequently.

Pescovitz cautioned that her school’s plans could change, depending on the status of the pandemic in Michigan and statewide executive orders. But she said university officials are moving forward with logistics for a hybrid education plan for the fall semester.

“This is absolutely a work in progress,” Pescovitz said. “A Herculean effort lies in front of us. But we can assure the public, students and parents we will absolutely have a great year in front of us.”


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Michael borton
Sat, 04/25/2020 - 6:02am

These rules are not base on science just like gov whitmer orders not science based.
Mask dont work unless special fitted n95 and you must be trained in it use.
Than the completly random "social distancing" not sure where this comes from 6 feet is a joke if you really wanted to use science you use 20 feet . the average cough and sneeze according to MIT study travels 12 feet but can travel up to 24+ feet and droplets can stay in air 10 minutes.

Sat, 04/25/2020 - 2:06pm

Research shows that masks do provide some protection, but it's very questionable if it would be enough protection in an enclosed space like a classroom for 2 hours. The guidelines on distance is a joke though. You are correct about that.

Arlene Clark
Sun, 04/26/2020 - 9:53am

Michael Borton, your use of research gate as a scientific source is weak. If you search for "review of" in your browser, you'll see its limitations. The lack of peer review, pre-publication status of articles (which mean no vetting has occurred), commercial focus, seriously diminish the truth of what is posted there.

Sun, 04/26/2020 - 10:48am

Are you a doctor? Why do you assume you know more than university professors or health care professionals? Just because you’ve read some articles from forums or popular science magazines doesn’t mean you’re qualified to speculate on the best approach to a public pandemic. I have a friend whose fit, healthy 75 year old grandfather is on the verge of death because of this virus. It is something real. So unless you believe that you are qualified to go to a hospital and work with these patients and see what it’s actually like first-hand, please just have more patience with people who have to make these momentous, very hard decisions.

E L Gross
Sat, 04/25/2020 - 11:00am

Thank you Oakland University for leading the way in protecting our students. Making these decisions based on the recommendations of the scientific community is both difficult and necessary. We are all members of a global community, and what we do as individuals effects everyone.

Sun, 04/26/2020 - 1:50am

I’d rather have my civil liberties then this BS.

A Yooper
Sat, 04/25/2020 - 1:26pm

Sports with testing players "frequently" is a joke.
In the confines of the small locker rooms, coaches offices, etc., is ridiculous.
Wake up people.......this virus is a killer....what is it that you Oakland people don't get!!!!!!!!!

Jane Doe
Sat, 04/25/2020 - 2:50pm

Have a kid there and one deciding this may affect the decision making process. I feel this may not be the safest option.

Sat, 04/25/2020 - 4:42pm

This is so ridiculous. Masks are Not Needed. As the Data is showing across the country, the Median Age of Deaths will be in the mid 80s and the Average Age of Death near 80. In New York City, ~94% of all Deaths so far are among the aged with Multiple Underlying Conditions; ~33% of those that died on a Ventilator had severe Diabetes. Is it worth shutting down the Economy? We cannot sustain this any longer.

One cannot live in a bubble, Risk is part of Life. Liberate Michigan, Liberate Oakland University.

Use Common Sense and protect the Vulnerable.

No Masks being worn by this Household.

The Risk remains very low for an American under age 75 in reasonable Health.

Sat, 04/25/2020 - 8:55pm

If nobody signs up for classes I'll bet they would change their policies. The money is more important to them than the students safety.