Ferris State announces plans for in-person fall semester

Kim Kozlowski
The Detroit News

Ferris State University is joining a growing list of public universities in Michigan that are planning for in-person classes during the fall 2020 semester amid COVID-19.

President David Eisler, who made the announcement during a virtual town hall meeting, said he was cautiously optimistic that classes and on-campus living could resume safely. 

"As we look toward the fall, we know there will be challenges ahead," Eisler said, "but our intent is to be open and to provide our students with a safe and engaging learning and living experience.”

The president added, "The university has developed plans to move back to remote delivery should conditions require it.” 

Ferris' announcement comes as college students are making decisions where to go, if at all, to get their education in the fall. While National College Decision Day has historically been held earlier this month, many colleges and universities have extended their enrollment deposit deadline to June 1 to give students more time to assess their options and circumstances amid COVID-19.

It also comes the day after Central Michigan University announced it is planning for in-person classes in the fall. Ferris and Central join Grand Valley State University and the three public universities in the Upper Peninsula — Michigan Technological, Northern Michigan and Lake Superior State — in announcing their plans for on-campus learning in the fall. Lake Superior has also announced it will begin the fall semester early on Aug. 10.

Meanwhile, Oakland University announced a "hybrid" fall semester with online and in-person instruction.

Private Michigan college are also starting to reveal plans for fall: Alma College and Hillsdale College have announced they plan in-person classes.

Alma College President Jeff Abernathy sent out an email to the campus community, saying the plan for fall is to return to small, in-person classes in a residential setting.

"We plan to welcome students back to campus this fall as originally scheduled," Abernathy wrote. "Things will of course be different: your safety is our top priority and so we will put protections in place that will require all of us to change our daily habits. Although campus may look a bit different in these ways, I look forward to the Alma community coming back together."

In a video message to the incoming fall class, Hillsdale's president, Larry P. Arnn, said: "Well of course we are going to have college."

Arnn said they are several reasons why Hillsdale is going to have students return to campus.

"This is what we do," he said. "We are humans. What does that mean to be human? It means we have to work. We’ll starve if we don’t. Also, by our work we shape our characters and inform our intellects.”

At Ferris, Eisler said safety will be the foremost concern of a committee that had been established and led by Jeanine Ward-Roof, vice president for student affairs

“The committee is reviewing a number of factors to be implemented to ensure a safe welcome back to campus for students,” said Ward-Roof. “This includes reviewing classroom utilization, strengthening cleaning protocols, implementing social distancing measures and sharing COVID-19 related education throughout the University community.”

Fall classes at Ferris are scheduled to begin Aug. 31.