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Home » Discover Rackham » Open Mike: Planning for the Fall Term

Dear Rackham Students,

President Schlissel this week announced plans for the fall semester. When combined with the research ramp-up and provisions for reopening research libraries, I believe the announcement introduces a new phase in which Rackham students are increasingly able to pursue their goals for education, research, and teaching. The ways in which these goals will be accomplished and pursued continue to require flexibility and new approaches. In addition, our personal circumstances vary widely, and many details still need to be formulated by schools, colleges, and departments. For me, it is critical that these plans promote the health of the public and campus community, that they reflect the highly individualized education of Rackham students, that they accommodate the experiential focus of that education, and that they align with the multiple roles of Rackham students in the university—as students, researchers, scholars, and instructors.

Throughout the COVID-19 crisis, Rackham has recognized the pressure and dislocation that you are experiencing in your education, research, and teaching at this unprecedented time. Last term, we heard your questions and concerns, and working with graduate faculty took steps to alleviate that pressure wherever possible. These steps included rapid changes in academic deadlines, institution of a modified grading policy, and expanded eligibility criteria for the Graduate Student Emergency Fund.

As we move into this next phase, Rackham will similarly continue to hear and work to address the needs of the graduate community. In the last few days, a number of you have written to me with questions and concerns about the instructional plans for the fall term, and the role of graduate students in them. I have heard you and conveyed those questions and concerns to Academic Human Resources and to the provost. 

Rackham is also taking additional steps to prepare for this new phase. Recently, we provided departments and programs guidance to chart an equitable approach for all students to participate in graduate studies this year, particularly for newly admitted international students who are grappling with travel restrictions and visa uncertainty. We also created an opportunity for graduate programs to apply for funding to hire and engage Ph.D. students during July and August in preparations for the term ahead. This program was organized and launched quickly to benefit both Rackham students and departments alike; it’s another example of the ways that Rackham and our campus partners will continually explore to support graduate students in these dynamic times. Departments have already broadly posted a number of these positions on both the and Michigan Student Employment websites. Additionally, our Graduate Student Mental Health Task Force will remain focused on providing resources and recommendations to foster student well-being.

As President Schlissel described in his message, the university is continuing to develop plans to protect vulnerable members of our community and to balance individual concerns with the mission of the university to every extent possible. I appreciate the feedback I receive from you and will continue to create opportunities and forums to hear it. Your input contributes to our creation of an environment of learning, discovery, wellness, and safety for all Rackham students in the year ahead.


Mike Solomon