President's Message to Campus - Aug. 21, 2020

Welcome Back Faculty and Staff

It is a pleasure to welcome faculty and staff to the start of the 136th academic year at Ferris State University. This fall semester on the Big Rapids campus, at Kendall College of Art and Design, and at our statewide locations will look and feel much different. These initial first days will require care, flexibility and extra kindness as we become familiar with the changes on campus, wearing masks and social distancing. Please take time to welcome new colleagues, and help them when needed. If you are new to our University community, we are delighted you are here. When you need assistance please ask. We are here to help.

Throughout the summer we have watched the media’s intense attention on higher education during this pandemic. The focus tends to be on the sensational news story that can attract the most attention. Within the past week we have seen this in coverage of decisions at the University of North Carolina, and then Michigan State and Notre Dame in the same day. There is very little coverage of colleges and universities that have opened successfully. Many important characteristics of Ferris State University are different than UNC, MSU and ND. We are an institution of small classes with the absence of large lecture sections seen at major research universities. We have significantly reduced the number of classes taught face-to-face and are using large rooms for academic instruction on our Big Rapids campus to provide social distancing. In our residence halls and dining facilities we have reduced density. Big Rapids is a small, rural community with a very low number of COVID-19 infection.

A commonality however for all institutions is how we influence behaviors to avoid potentially unsafe or unhealthy situations. We know we cannot control the behavior of others. But what we can control are our own actions. We can educate, and share with our entire University community, why taking actions to reduce risk, such as wearing a mask, practicing social distancing, and washing our hands often can help reduce the spread of COVID-19. We must all do our part by educating each other, and our students, by practicing daily these four simple measures to reduce the risk to ourselves and to each other.

As conditions surrounding COVID-19 are continually changing, we remain in constant contact with our local health department officials. Our plans have been developed on and our decisions are made based on practices recommended by local, state and federal health professionals, and we are poised to adapt when necessary.

Re-engagement Planning Update

The FSU Re-entry Committee continues its work shaping the University’s re-entry to the fall semester. A significant amount of collaboration, planning and execution have taken place across the University, carefully addressing the requirements and changes necessary that enable us to welcome our students, faculty and staff to campus.

As we get closer to the start of the semester there is much information to be shared. The Re-entry Committee sent several messages this week highlighting the –  

Our Re-entry Committee continues to follow the guidance of our local health department and public health experts, in addition to the practices recommended from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Thank you to the Re-entry Committee, and thank you to everyone for taking an active role in helping us return for the fall semester.

Operation Move-in Needs Volunteers

On Wednesday through Friday of next week, students will begin moving onto campus. The Bulldogs in Action team is still recruiting volunteers to assist students with the move-in process from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Volunteers are needed to drive golf carts, transporting belongings to the residence halls.

Safety measures will be implemented and a training session will be held prior to move-in to discuss routes, golf cart use and sanitizing techniques. I am hopeful you will have an hour or two to donate to help our students have a great move-in experience. I am planning to do this again this year and invite you to join me. It is an enjoyable way to help our students and is of significant assistance to them. If you have ever moved a daughter or son to college you understand how this is appreciated. Please contact Jennifer Thede or sign up online to assist. Thank you for considering this opportunity to safely welcome our students to campus.       

Athletics

Acting on the unanimous recommendation of conference athletic directors the GLIAC Council of Presidents voted to suspend all sports competitions until Jan. 1, 2021. This decision reflects similar actions by the majority of Division II conferences across the country. We know this is disappointing for our student-athletes and their coaches, who will work very hard to support them during this period. At the same time, we look forward to when it is again safe for these competitions and we can cheer on our Bulldogs. A decision has not yet been made by our hockey conference, the WCHA, but is anticipated in the next two to three weeks. 

Closing Thoughts

Over these past months we have all experienced the challenges accompanying this pandemic. Each of us has learned important lessons from this experience. We understand the importance of making smart, responsible decisions, as our behaviors impact on the health and safety of others. We know that in this rapidly evolving environment we must be ready to adapt to changes necessitated by COVID-19. You have done just that, and it is in this spirit that we are able to move Ferris forward and to help our students through this pandemic.

Thank you for all of your efforts as we navigate through this challenge together. Please continue to stay safe and healthy.

David L. Eisler, president