Message from the director of MSU Extension: March 13, 2020 (7:30 a.m.)

From: Jeff Dwyer, Director, MSU Extension
Sent: Friday, March 13, 2020
Subject: Message from the MSU Extension Director's Office

Colleagues,

I realize that the governor’s  decision to close all K-12 schools in Michigan will greatly impact many faculty and staff members’ lives. We are also aware that some county offices have closed all meeting spaces. This remains a fluid situation. Please look for additional guidance throughout the day. 

In the meantime, we have some new information about how we will conduct business over the next several weeks, including guidance for  programs with under 100 people. While this brings up new challenges, it also presents some significant opportunities. Use this as a chance to consider alternative delivery models that may include online learning, remote teaching, enhanced use of social media and other tools. Since joining MSU Extension four years ago, I have been impressed with the creativity and hard work exhibited by our faculty and staff members. We have the potential to come out of this with stronger, more inclusive programming. Thank you for your significant efforts to serve those who need us during this unique and challenging time.  

Please read carefully and consult your district director and institute leadership before making scheduling decisions.

Program modification

Until April 20, 2020, all previously scheduled face-to-face events that involve around 100 people or more in a shared space should be cancelled. No further events that will likely include more than 100 people in a confined space should be scheduled to take place in that time period.

For all events, regardless of size, the university is strongly recommending rescheduling, finding alternative delivery methods or limiting in-person attendance. Again, these decisions must be made in consultation with district and institute leadership. 

This meeting modification guidance above is aligned with President Stanley’s messages and Governor Whitmer’s guidance. 

Please continue planning for programs and events scheduled to take place AFTER April 20. However, we recommend that you do not put down deposits or purchase travel unless it can be fully refundable. (Note that several airlines are offering full refunds for those who book travel, but cannot complete the trip due to novel coronavirus.)

The following are the responsibility of the person or team who scheduled the program. In some cases, Event Services can help you.

  • Notify participants as soon as possible. You may consider using this language: “Out of an abundance of caution, we have opted to <cancel/postpone> this <program/event/etc.>.”
    • If it is a closed event (e.g. you must register to attend) that does not permit spectators, you are only required to notify those that are registered. If the event is open to the public, you may want to consider posting it on social media and, if time allows, notifying local media.
  • Offer full refunds of out-of-pocket expenses to all registered participants.
  • Note the cancellation or postponement in the MSU Extension calendar, where the event should already be posted.
  • If you have written an article about the program for MSU Extension news that needs to be modified, please immediately send an email to msue.news@msu.edu with a link to the story and your instructions for modification.

If you are NOT cancelling programs, but you have participants who can no longer attend, please offer a full refund of out-of-pocket registration fees. If you are unfamiliar with how to do that, reach out to Events Services.

Especially for 4-H program coordinators: If you have people (such as 4-H members and volunteers) who are affected by cancellations or postponement for events of which you are not the lead organizer , please wait until the event organizer has notified participants. It doesn’t serve us well to get information out ahead of the organizer who will be able to answer more questions.

University guidance also strongly recommends avoiding travel to events with more than 100 people. Several national Extension-related events have already been cancelled. If you are scheduled to attend an event with more than 100 people, please consult with your supervisors before proceeding.

Here is a template for notifying communities about canceled events.

Online programming and professional development

It is likely that your normal work patterns will be impacted by modified program schedules and delivery mechanisms. This is a good time to work with your supervisors and colleagues to develop new programming, identify creative new methods for providing existing programming, consider opportunities for scholarship and/or fund development,  and completing required online training or new professional development modules. In the coming days and weeks we will be assembling a series of recommended ElevateU resources that provide professional development learning opportunities. Unscheduled time is the perfect time to get your reports up to date, complete trainings, write content, consider new ways to deliver educational programming and identify new audiences or partnerships.

For inspiration and instruction on how to creatively present programming using alternative methods, visit the newly created online delivery tools. On this page you will find resources for programming via Zoom including daily drop-in sessions and online training. Note that all MSU faculty/staff have a Zoom meeting license for up to 300 participants, and a Zoom webinar license for up to 500 participants. This page also includes a guide for designing an online course and a request form which staff can complete to receive an MSU Extension course template in D2L, as well as assistance in course development.

Professional meetings and events

Make good choices when holding meetings within MSU Extension or with partner organizations. Consider using Zoom and other online and distance communication tools.

If face-to-face meetings are necessary or practical, consider maintaining a healthy distance from other participants and limit food sharing, etc. The World Health organization has some good guidance for these situations in Getting your workplace ready for COVID-19.

If you’re scheduled to attend a professional event or meeting that is not within MSU Extension’s purview of control, make responsible choices. Talk with your supervisor if you feel you should forgo an event or wish to offer alternative ways to participate, such as through distance learning technology. As always, give event organizers as much notice as possible.

Media

All media inquiries regarding university operations must be directed to Eileen Gianiodis, director of CANR Communications and Marketing, at gianiod1@msu.edu.

Media inquiries regarding MSU Extension programming, general hygiene and health issues, or other areas in which we have expertise can be routed to Mindy Tape at tape@msu.edu or 517-884-7093.

I’ve attached a sign that you may wish to print and post in your offices or near the door at programs and events to encourage people to maintain a healthy distance.

As always, put your own health and safety first. Be cautious and smart. Wash your hands and make reasonable decisions regarding your own health and safety. Here are some alternatives to handshaking. Stay home if you are sick. This is especially important if you have a fever or have been in contact with someone who has tested positive for novel coronavirus. And pay special attention to vulnerable people who are subjected to unfair bias because of the origins of this novel coronavirus.

Thank you for all you do.

Jeff Dwyer
Director, MSU Extension