Coronavirus (COVID-19) Response

With the health and safety of our community a top priority, the SMC administration is monitoring the developing coronavirus situation and will post updates here in addition to communicating with students and employees directly via email.

In response to the coronavirus, classes are moving to an online-only format for the remainder of Spring Semester. SMC's physical campuses will be closed and will operate virtually until further notice. The residence halls will remain open to a reduced population of students, and visitors to the halls will not be permitted. Full details may be found in the updates below.

For more information, see the Frequently Asked Questions.

Tips and resources for understanding and combating coronavirus may be found at the Center for Disease Control's (CDC) official coronavirus website.


Latest Updates

March 30 Update

Published on 03/30/2020

Dear SMC Community,

We are beginning our third week of online learning, and I continue to be impressed by the commitment of our faculty and staff in serving our students. We are all developing new skills and tapping abilities in ourselves which, perhaps, we weren’t aware of before this month.

As we adapt to remote work and push through to Spring Break, we have been monitoring general developments and government guidance to anticipate how to best move forward.

  • We have made the decision to extend teaching and learning online through the end of Spring Semester on May 1. We are doing so to align with other colleges in the area and to provide a bit more certainty for students and families who are planning ahead. During Spring Break (April 4-12) we are encouraging a break from teaching and learning as much as possible.
  • Student workers will continue to be paid through the end of the semester, as long as they remain enrolled and engaged in their courses. We are doing this because we are sensitive to the fact that many student workers were counting on earning this money.
  • SMC’s campuses will continue to be closed physically but operate virtually through at least April 13. Of course, we will communicate further should any changes to this timeline prove necessary.
  • The residence halls will remain open to residents only. Final checkouts will be available when government restrictions have been lifted and campus has been reopened to visitors.
  • Commencement ceremonies have been postponed until late summer. Our intention is to celebrate the accomplishments of our graduates in some manner once gatherings are again permitted.

Students, please remember my original challenge for you to stay engaged in your courses, to use the virtual tutoring and advising resources that remain available, and to finish strong. Make us proud of your persistence in the face of uncertain times so your future self can look back at this period in our collective history and be reminded of your own ability to navigate difficult circumstances.

As I have said in previous messages, I believe the College will emerge stronger as a result of this crisis. Similarly, I believe each of us will exit this phase better equipped for engagement with a dynamic world.

Onward Together,

Dr. Joe


March 23 Update

Published on 03/23/2020

Dear SMC Community,

For our faculty and students, I hope your second virtual learning Monday is going well. I know this was such a fast change, and I cannot say enough about the flexibility of our faculty, staff, and students.

As many of you are aware, Governor Whitmer has issued a “stay-at-home” order for Michigan residents through Monday, April 13. This anticipated action aligns the rest of the state in large part with how SMC is operating already, but there are a few changes we need to implement to comply with the order and curb the spread of COVID-19. To that end:

  • The campuses will continue to be closed physically but operate virtually through April 13. (HR will follow up with additional guidance for employees.) The residence halls will remain open to residents only.
  • All teaching and learning will continue online through April 13, with the exception of Spring Break (April 4-12), when we are encouraging a break from teaching and learning.

This semester will not be remembered as a perfect one, as essentially nothing has gone according to plan. But here is what the Spring 2020 semester will be remembered for:

  • Unparalleled flexibility from our students
  • Unmatched creativity from our faculty
  • Unwavering commitment from our staff

At some point we will gather in all the places that we prefer: the classrooms and labs, the SAC, the commons, the library, the lawn between the residence halls, the theatre in Lyons, the softball field, and so on. Until then, we must do our best through the Google Suite, Moodle, and Zoom. And during these trying times, we must learn that the buildings aren’t what make us a College. Rather, it’s the relationships and the commitment to knowledge for all that binds us together, no matter the medium.

Onward Together,

Dr. Joe


March 19 Update

Published on 03/19/2020

Dear SMC Community,

As we continue this journey with COVID-19, we have seen many examples of everyday heroism from our faculty and staff. In just ten days, we have witnessed a “scale up” effort to shift courses and student support online. While this isn’t the preferred method for migrating courses and services to a distance format, necessity required us to make this bold move. My message to those beyond the campus is that these herculean efforts are the result of your commitment to seeing students complete the Spring Semester. They are great examples of our core values as a “learner-centered college” with “21st century services.”

We have taken appropriate steps as the number of cases in the state has increased, including limiting the public from frequenting our campuses, as well as closing the Fred L. Mathews Library and the Zollar Building. On Wednesday, the majority of our staff began working from home, leaving a single employee in most service units to help with immediate student needs.

We must further guard against the spread of the virus by closing the physical campuses effective Monday, March 23 until April 6. We are announcing this move now to provide additional time for everyone to prepare. During this physical closure, Southwestern Michigan College will operate virtually and abide by the following directives:

  1. Teaching and learning will continue primarily via the Moodle platform. There may be exceptions, which will be communicated from the instructor of record to the students in the course(s). However, the exceptions can no longer require students to complete work in our various lab environments. We are striving to avoid face-to-face interactions with students.
  2. All testing and assessment will be administered remotely. Faculty will continue to give students specifics about their exams and other assignments.
  3. Student support, including registration advising for Summer and Fall Semesters, will be delivered via email, Google Meet, and in some cases, by phone.
  4. Faculty will be able to access campus for course preparation, but we ask that this be limited as much as possible.
  5. Staff who can telecommute will continue doing so.
  6. The residence halls will remain open at this time, although the population living on campus is sharply reduced. (Last week, we limited visitors to protect the community. We have asked students not to go back and forth between home and the residence halls after hearing this was happening in a few cases.)
  7. Designated staff will continue to report to campus. Note that this definition has changed; please see the new guidance from Human Resources.

Please await specific directions from your Chair, Dean, Director or VP.

Finally, to comply with government guidance prohibiting groups of 50 or more participants for approximately the next eight weeks, we have made the difficult decision to delay commencement ceremonies until later in the year. We fully intend to celebrate the accomplishments of our graduates and will communicate new information as plans are finalized.

Onward together,

Dr. Joe


March 17 Update

Published on 03/17/2020

As the status of COVID-19 (coronavirus) continues to change, I am heartened to see how we have come together as a community to support student success while balancing safety. Here are but a few examples:

  • Jim Benak has spent countless hours supporting other faculty members as they transition to an on-line format.
  • The Residential Student Food Task Force team was able to distribute 136 care packages to students in Residence Life.
  • The Testing Center staff and faculty have worked closely to find alternative assessment methods to reduce the physical traffic in the Testing Center.

I realize that you are overwhelmed by the constantly changing information and anxious about what might occur in the coming days. Many of you are balancing the responsibilities of home and work. Thank you.

State and federal guidelines in combating this virus emphasize social distancing. We are now encouraging temporary telecommuting arrangements for employees whose job duties are conducive to working from home but who do not regularly telecommute.

Essential personnel are expected to report to work as scheduled unless otherwise notified. Human Resources has sent specific guidance to managers. We are trying to balance the need to continue to serve students with the safety of faculty and staff.

Temporary work-from-home arrangements are expected to be short-term, and we will continue to monitor guidance from health officials and the need for remote work arrangements. Our current plan is to permit temporary work-from-home arrangements to continue until April 13, 2020.

As I have iterated many times during this crisis, I believe (because of your commitment) our College will emerge stronger as a result of this unprecedented situation.

Onward together,

Dr. Joe


March 16 Update

Published on 03/16/2020

Effective immediately, all buildings on both campuses of Southwestern Michigan College are open only to students, faculty and staff. The Fred L. Mathews Library, Zollar Café and Student Activity Center are now closed until further notice. We appreciate the understanding of the broader community as we look to preserve safety and student success during this unprecedented challenge.

Classes will continue via the Moodle online platform. All students, including dual-enrolled high school students, will be responsible for monitoring their online courses, submitting coursework on time and adhering to any directions or deadlines from professors.

All three residence halls and college offices on both campuses will remain open during typical business hours. At this time, The Birdfeeder will be open during usual hours offering "to-go" meals only.

The College is working to provide additional remote tutoring options. In addition, campus internet bandwidth has been boosted to handle the expected increase in usage.

Our student counselor will be moving appointments to online and telephone options only. Several different platforms (Gmail, Google Hangouts, Skype, Zoom, FaceTime, Duo or voice call) will be available. Students who are struggling with anxiety and fear during this difficult time are encouraged to keep their existing appointments through one of these methods.Those wishing to make new appointments or to refer others may do so through swmich.edu/counseling.


March 12 Update

Published on 03/12/2020

Dear SMC Community:

As an institution, we value safety and student academic success above all else. At this time, concern for safety requires that we change the delivery of courses to an online format for the next few weeks.

  • Beginning on Monday, March 16, face-to-face class meetings on the SMC Dowagiac and Niles campuses will be suspended. Class content will be delivered primarily via the Moodle online learning environment.
  • Students should expect to hear shortly from their professors or academic deans regarding individual course specifics. Please be aware that courses run by Michigan State University and Ferris State University on an SMC campus may have different requirements or schedules.
  • At this time, we expect face-to-face classes to resume on Monday, April 13 (after Spring Break), but this may change as circumstances require.
  • During this time, SMC residence halls will remain open. However, visitors to the residence halls will not be permitted starting on Friday, March 13, until face-to-face classes resume. The Birdfeeder and Zollar Café will remain open during regular hours.
  • Student Activity Center facilities (other than the Zollar Café) will be closed effective Friday, March 13, until further notice.
  • Both the Dowagiac and Niles campuses will otherwise remain open for business, and all employees are to report as usual. Individual requests for telecommuting will be reviewed on a case-by-case basis. Additional information for employees will be forthcoming from Human Resources.
  • As referenced last evening, on-campus gatherings with expected attendance of 100 people or more will be cancelled through the end of Spring semester. A decision on Commencement ceremonies will be made in the next few weeks.
  • We will continue our surface disinfection efforts around our two campuses and will be limiting temporarily the scope of any group meals.

I have the utmost confidence that by all working together, we can ensure safety and student success. I challenge our students to persevere in their studies, to utilize our extensive campus resources, to stay in contact with their professors and to “finish strong.” I know our dedicated faculty and staff will give their very best effort to serve our students at this time.

In spite of the unprecedented nature of this situation, I believe we will look back and see this period as one of great success for our College.

Onward together,

Dr. Joe, President


March 11 Update

Published on 03/11/2020

Dear SMC Community:

As you know, the coronavirus outbreak is a rapidly-changing event. The safety of our students, faculty and staff is our top priority, and we are working to consider all factors in a balanced and measured approach to this crisis. We appreciate your patience as we communicate these difficult decisions.

As of this writing, there are still no confirmed nor suspected cases of COVID-19 on either campus of SMC or the immediate surrounding area. Several members of the SMC administration and Board of Trustees participated in a conference call this afternoon with Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer, during which she provided guidelines for colleges and universities to consider in the context of their local situations. In fact, SMC has already been following many of these guidelines.

New Information

To further align with State guidance, SMC will be taking the following steps, effective immediately:

  • All non-essential business travel by SMC employees will be suspended through the end of Spring semester. Waivers will be available, and each situation will be reviewed on a case-by-case basis by each dean or department manager.
  • Employees and students should consult CDC guidelines and make informed choices regarding personal travel (for example, during Spring Break week). Employees who display symptoms common to COVID-19 upon their return may be asked to stay off campus and/or work from home for up to 14 days.
  • On-campus gatherings with expected attendance of 100 people or more will be cancelled through the end of Spring semester. This includes the Outstanding Graduate Reception scheduled for April 15.
  • A decision on performances of the musical “Grease” (March 26-29) will be made in the next few days.
  • A decision on Commencement ceremonies (May 2) will be made in the next few weeks.

At this point, all other College activities will be conducted as usual. Classes will meet as scheduled in the typical location and modality, and both campuses remain open and operational with regular hours.

Reminders

We ask that students or employees who have recently traveled to the countries designated with a Level 3 Travel Health Notice (currently China, Iran, Italy and South Korea, see updates here) or have had close contact with anyone who has recently traveled to those countries or who has a confirmed case of COVID-19 to please notify SMC administration.

  • Employees should notify Human Resources at 269-782-1365.
  • On-campus residents should notify Jeff Hooks at jhooks@swmich.edu or 269-783-2159.
  • All other students should notify Katie Hannah at khannah@swmich.edu or 269-783-2185.

As always, if you are feeling sick and unable to participate normal activities, please stay home to rest and avoid infecting others. The generally-accepted guideline is to remain home until fever-free for at least 24 hours. All students will be expected to monitor their online course sites on Moodle and adhere to any deadlines set by their instructors.

In the meantime, you can reduce your risk of illness by washing your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, using an alcohol-based hand sanitizer frequently, covering a cough or sneeze with your arm, avoiding touching your eyes, nose, or mouth with unwashed hands, minimizing air travel and not sharing food or drink items with others. Remember that wall-mounted hand sanitizer stations are present in all academic buildings on campus. Our custodial staff will continue to disinfect common areas on a regular basis, and disinfecting wipes will be distributed to each residence hall suite.

We will continue to take guidance from the Center for Disease Control (CDC), Michigan Department of Health and Human Services and the Van Buren Cass Health Department as to other actions they recommend regarding the coronavirus, flu or other illnesses, and we will advise the SMC community immediately should we need to further change our procedures.

For more information on COVID-19 symptoms and prevention, please visit cdc.gov/coronavirus.

Thanks for your help in keeping our community healthy.


March 10 Update

Published on 03/10/2020

In our continuing efforts to keep you informed, and with the safety of our students, faculty and staff our top priority, here is an update regarding seasonal influenza and the coronavirus outbreak.

As of today, there are still no confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Michigan, and only several in Indiana, though this is expected to change in the coming weeks. Members of the SMC administration have met and have begun reviewing policies to prepare as best we can for any impact to our operations. We will continue to take guidance from the Center for Disease Control (CDC), Michigan Department of Health and Human Services and the Van Buren Cass Health Department as to other actions they recommend regarding the coronavirus, flu or other illnesses, and we will keep the SMC community advised should we need to change procedures.

We ask that students and employees who have recently traveled to the countries designated with a Level 3 Travel Health Notice (currently China, Iran, Italy and South Korea, see updates at https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/travelers/index.html) or have had close contact with anyone who has recently traveled to those countries or has a confirmed case of COVID-19 to please notify SMC administrators immediately. On-campus residents should notify Jeff Hooks at jhooks@swmich.edu or 269-783-2159; all other students should notify Katie Hannah at khannah@swmich.edu or 269-783-2185. Employees should contact Human Resources at 269-782-1365.

In the meantime, you can reduce your risk of illness by washing your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, using an alcohol-based hand sanitizer frequently, covering a cough or sneeze with your arm, avoiding touching your eyes, nose, or mouth with unwashed hands, minimizing air travel and not sharing food or drink items with others. Remember that wall-mounted hand sanitizer stations are present in all academic buildings on campus. Our custodial staff will continue to disinfect common areas on a regular basis.

For more information on COVID-19 symptoms and prevention, please visit cdc.gov/coronavirus.

Thanks for your help in keeping our community healthy.

Additional Notes For Students

As always, if you are feeling sick and unable to participate in class, please stay home to rest and avoid infecting others. The generally-accepted guideline is to remain home until fever-free for at least 24 hours. All students will be expected to monitor their online course sites on Moodle and adhere to any deadlines set by their instructors.

Additional Notes For Employees

Employees should use their own discretion whether or not to travel for college business such as professional meetings or conferences. If you choose to cancel pre-arranged travel reservations, we ask that you request a refund (or voucher) from the hotel, airline or conference to the fullest extent possible.

As always, if you are feeling sick and unable to work, please stay home to rest and avoid infecting others. The generally-accepted guideline is to remain home until fever-free for at least 24 hours. Please review our current sick policies as detailed below – note that Aetna has waived some fees for those employees covered by their insurance policies.


March 2 Update

Published on 03/02/2020

As you may know, a respiratory disease caused by coronavirus (COVID-19) is now present in multiple countries, including the United States. Although no cases have been confirmed in Michigan or Indiana at this time, it is reasonable to expect that may change at some point in the future.

The SMC administration is monitoring the developing situation. Our custodial team has already increased surface disinfection protocols for influenza season, and these precautions will continue daily through the end of the spring semester across both campuses. We will take guidance from the Center for Disease Control (CDC), Michigan Department of Health and Human Services and the Van Buren Cass Health Department as to other actions they recommend regarding the coronavirus, flu or other illnesses, and we will keep the SMC community advised should we need to change procedures.

In the meantime, you can reduce your risk of illness by washing your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, using an alcohol-based hand sanitizer frequently, covering a cough or sneeze with your arm, avoiding touching your eyes, nose, or mouth with unwashed hands, minimizing air travel and not sharing food or drink items with others.
For more information on COVID-19 symptoms and prevention, please visit cdc.gov/coronavirus.
Thanks for your help in keeping our community healthy.