Messages

Fall 2021

October 15, 2021

Dear Campus Community,

It is with great sadness that I inform you that one of our students died overnight. Taleah Lowe was a first-year student who had already made an impact on campus. We wish to respect her family by honoring their privacy, while at the same time acknowledging how difficult this news is, especially for those who knew Taleah. I want to offer my deepest sympathies to her family, friends and faculty.

The death of one of our students is painful and distressing. We are offering support from staff members of Housing and Residential Life, and the University Counseling Center has staff members available to assist those who are grieving or who need any type of counseling. I want to especially encourage those who might feel discomfort to take advantage of the many programs we have available.

Our thoughts and prayers continue to be with family and friends now and in the weeks to come.

Sincerely,

Philomena V. Mantella, President


October 15, 2021

Dear Faculty and Staff colleagues,

Since I arrived in 2019, I have had hundreds of valued conversations with faculty, staff, students and community members exploring the essence, vibrance and strengths of our university. Areas of opportunity and improvement were also offered and explored openly. I am grateful to so many of you who are excited to engage around our future. I appreciate our University Academic Senate, the Student Senate, the Graduate Student Association leadership, Network of Advisors for Racial Justice, Alumni Board, our AP Committee, and others for your thoughtful discussions throughout the Reach Higher 2025 planning process. I am proud of our work together through the most tumultuous time in our history, and I remain fiercely optimistic about our future.

A time for deeper engagement

This year the RH2025 steering committee led a community engagement process to refine our mission, vision, values and strategic priorities for the next four years. The approach to this plan is a simple but profound framework allowing plenty of room for faculty, staff, colleges, and units to determine how they best embody its direction.

I want to thank the steering committee for their tireless work and all who contributed to sharpening the plan, which has become stronger with each iteration. I recognize it has been challenging to fit this into our busy COVID-disrupted lives but am heartened we chose to proceed given the reality of a completed plan and a disrupted higher education landscape. Thousands of community members have engaged in the planning process to date. That said, some still have questions on the plan and the intentions of the administration. Thus, it is incumbent on us to clarify the questions, seek shared meaning, and invite full participation in our future. To that end we will extend the time for further discussion another three months, delaying RH2025 presentation to our Board of Trustees from November to February.   

I will establish conversation opportunities throughout the remaining academic year with me and members of the senior leadership team. You are invited to sign up for a Leadership Conversation particularly, if you have questions and concerns. There will be no presentations just listening and exploring. If the times offered fill quickly, I will be pleased to add more dates. In addition to these conversations, the steering committee is contemplating how best to use our extension of time to complete the work of RH2025. Please watch for those opportunities as well.

To guide our path forward

I would like to offer my own views regarding our future and as always, I will continue to shape them with deep listening and continued conversations. From its founding, Grand Valley State University has differentiated itself as an institution that is rooted in its tradition but agile and evolving with the times. This chapter of GVSU is no different, albeit the challenges of today are among the greatest of our time. We have experienced massive disruptions in our lives, the economy and our education systems. In addition, we are facing a tsunami of shifts in demographics, technology, political and social context. We hear and understand a public call for relevance, affordability, and access for those excluded or underserved by the U.S. system of education. There is also a call for education to serve with a level of flexibility commensurate to the complexity of our lives.

Colleagues, through RH2025 we reinforce our belief that liberal education is fundamental to navigating the world around us. We embrace an opportunity to invite students to have a stronger place in our education, going beyond the student-centered language used at so many other universities. We acknowledge and celebrate the breadth of our professional education and the power of integrating liberal education and experiential learning within it to ready students for life and career. We celebrate our work as a catalyst for economic development of our region and enterprises around us. 

RH2025 remains grounded in liberal education, our residential experience and our student-centered ethos, while also acknowledging professional education and lifelong learning are integral to who we are and for the needs of our times. I have heard on numerous occasions people represent my interest as evolving GVSU to a fully online university. Frankly, I have never expressed this, and it is not my expressed or implied intention. I embrace with great excitement new approaches to high-impact learning, new modalities, and new audiences but to supplement not supplant the GVSU we know and love.   

Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, we must end the practice of higher education as an exclusionary pursuit. As a public institution, GVSU through its RH 2025 commitments must welcome those with aptitude, interest, readiness, and willingness to receive postsecondary education. It calls us to ensure we have the supports in place that bridge the profoundly disturbing equity gaps in college success. 

Again, my views are continuously informed and shaped by you. Join a Leadership Conversation to continue the dialogue or engage with the RH2025 team. I value the collaborative working relationship between faculty, staff, students, and administration, which is key to our shared governance. I’m grateful for your passion and care as we steward the university through the challenges of today and the promises of tomorrow. Thank you for all you do for Grand Valley. I look forward to many more rich conversations with you as we shape, launch, and empower RH2025.  

Sincerely,

Philomena V. Mantella, President


September 29, 2021

Dear Campus Community,

We are pleased to report the Laker health and safety plan for Fall semester continues to be successful. More than 90 percent of our faculty and staff and nearly 87 percent of students are in compliance with our vaccination policy. This means they are vaccinated, have a religious or medical exemption or a postponement. This wide acceptance has been key in mitigating the spread of COVID-19 and keeping the number of cases low on our campuses. All of us must continue to be vigilant in maintaining healthy practices and wear face coverings while indoors, so we can keep each other safe. We should all be pleased that GVSU’s positivity rate is significantly lower than that of the communities that surround our campuses.

As our September 30 vaccine requirement deadline approaches, we continue to evaluate and record compliances; process remaining requests for exemptions, appeals or postponements; and review recent state legislation. If you have not reported your vaccination status on your self-assessment or applied for an exemption or postponement, you must do so in the next few days to be in compliance with the vaccination requirement for faculty, staff and students. Please avoid disruptions and act now.  

We will provide a status report to the campus community next week, along with any updates to our policies, deadlines and enforcement plans. Please keep up to date by checking the FAQ’s on Lakers Together

We have made enormous progress, and I am grateful to each of you for your care for each other. Let’s continue working together as Lakers.

Sincerely,
Philomena V. Mantella, President

Spring/Summer 2021

August 6, 2021

Dear GVSU Community,
 
Since the start of the pandemic, we have been vigilant in taking the necessary steps to protect our campus community. As I’m sure you are aware, the national picture today for the spread of COVID-19 is dynamic and worrisome. The Centers for Disease Control increasingly reports upward trends in positivity from the variants. It has become clear that in order to successfully manage the shifting conditions of COVID, we need to implement additional safety measures for the Fall semester, while continuing to follow local and federal public health guidance. We ask for your attention, understanding, and action.
 
Lakers required to Vax-Up!
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is expected to give full approval to the vaccine in early September. In anticipation of FDA action, GVSU will require all faculty, staff and students to be vaccinated by September 30. We urge you to get your vaccination now. There will be limited exceptions for medical or religious reasons. 

 
We will have numerous free GVSU vaccine clinics available on campus, including during move-in week August 24-26 and during the first week of classes for arriving students and any accompanying family members to assure information, access and cost are not barriers to this important protection. Vaccines are available now from health care providers, pharmacies, and local health departments.  Coronavirus - COVID-19 Vaccine (michigan.gov)
 
This decision was made after extensive discussion with health and medical experts. Top health organizations, including the Centers for Disease Control and Johns Hopkins Medicine, report Covid vaccines have been thoroughly tested and found to be safe and effective in preventing severe COVID-19. We are aligning the requirement at GVSU with FDA approval to acknowledge those who are waiting for additional confirmation of the vaccines’ efficacy and safety. We recognize education is the best way to increase participation. We want to be a resource for information and access to our students and families, particularly those who need additional support. 
 
As a community, we must lead with our values and care for one another by increasing our vaccination rates. Today, nearly 80 percent of faculty and staff have reported being vaccinated, and of the students who completed a self-assessment in 2021, nearly 60 percent report being vaccinated. 
 
Daily Data Collection/Online Self-Assessment
The online self-assessment continues to be required. It has proven to be highly successful in mitigating the virus on campus and helps guide any necessary revisions to policies and practices. We require students, faculty and staff to complete the self-assessment each day before coming to campus. Visitors must also fill it out before coming to campus. Faculty, staff and students are required to record their vaccination status on their online self-assessment. Please do so at your earliest opportunity.
 
Testing Program
Students, faculty and staff who are unvaccinated are required to be tested weekly.
 Our robust testing of the GVSU community has been highly successful in controlling the spread of COVID-19 on campus. We will use information from the self-assessment to send notices for weekly testing.
 
Face Coverings
Beginning August 9, face coverings will be required in all indoor spaces for all faculty, staff, students and visitors on our campuses.
 The new university alert level system will incorporate face covering requirements based on the overall rate of spread and mitigation measures. We will start the Fall Semester at Alert Level 2 as a precautionary measure. This alert level can change as we learn more about our overall vaccination rate.
 
Town Hall
A Fall 2021 Virtual Town Hall will be held August 19 at 2 p.m. to answer your questions. You can register and submit questions at this link: gvsu.edu/rsvp/townhall. We have also set up the Lakers Together Call Center at (616) 331-INFO (4636).
 
We are excited to be returning to our full campus experience and will continue to keep community safety, coupled with preservation of the full student experience, our first priority. We are confident this set of changes, taken together – vaccinations, face covering, testing and regular self-assessments – will keep us safe, learning and help to preserve the fullness of our campus experience. We will be prepared to pivot as CDC, federal and state guidelines change. Watching the alert levels and action matrix will be important for each of us. Up-to-date information can be found on our Lakers Together website.
 
Let’s remember the pandemic has been stressful for all, and Lakers Together means showing compassion and care as we navigate uncharted waters. My thanks to members of the GVSU Virus Action Team (VAT), who have not missed a day acting in service to each of us, and also to members of the community who continue to care for one another.
 
I’m looking forward to seeing all of you and engaging in campus activities and events during the coming academic year. GVSU is a vibrant learning institution and supportive community because of you. 
 
Sincerely,
Philomena V. Mantella, President


July 14, 2021

Dear Colleagues,

The Grand Valley State University community must always examine what keeps us true to our strong and vibrant student experience, both inside and outside the classroom. It is fundamental to who we are. This examination is particularly critical at this moment when we are processing the lessons from the COVD-19 pandemic, returning to more in-person experiences, and doubling down on our learner-centered ethos in Reach Higher 2025.

To fully understand our practices and structures within Grand Valley and at peer institutions, earlier this year Provost Maria Cimitile and I commissioned an external review of student affairs led by a seasoned student affairs professional and current president of York College (CUNY) Berenecea Johnson Eanes. This due diligence was undertaken to provide an accurate picture of how our divisional structure meets current challenges and how well we are positioned for the future.

This past year certainly has highlighted the importance of exceptional student life programs, particularly in areas of wellness and prevention, health and counseling services, inclusion and equity, new living learning environments and the delivery of student services on all of our campuses to all students at the undergraduate and graduate levels. We also have the transition of two leadership positions – the executive vice president and provost and the vice provost/dean of student affairs – making it a critical moment to consider how all these factors of growth, complexity and increasing student needs impact both structure and leadership. 

I have concluded from all of the above to elevate the vice provost of Student Affairs to the vice president of Student Affairs. This move will create the Division of Student Affairs and will enable our Division of Academic Affairs, overseen by our next provost and executive vice president, to focus on the work of our faculty, colleges, libraries and other academic service units. This structure is the most common for institutions of our size and complexity, and elevating student voices and meeting their diverse needs is perfectly aligned with our proposed mission, vision, and values in Reach Higher 2025. Consistent with my general view of leadership, these structures enable us to identify the best people, expertise and diversity of perspectives to fuel an integrated and high-quality university life for all of us.

I will begin the search for our inaugural vice president for Student Affairs immediately and have asked student affairs expert, Dr. Karyn Rabourn, associate professor and director of the Master of Education in Higher Education program, and Kate Harmon, acting associate dean of students and director of Recreation & Wellness, to chair the search. Vice President Greg Sanial will be the executive liaison and Dean Annie Belanger will be the inclusion advocate. Storbeck Search is assisting in this search as well as the one for our next provost. Student Affairs will continue to report to Interim Provost Chris Plouff, under the transitional leadership of Acting Dean of Students Aaron Haight, until a successful candidate is named.

Your insights are welcome as we consider additional opportunities to reflect best practices. There will be opportunities for key stakeholders and the university community to meet finalists as we conduct the search.

Many thanks to all who work tirelessly to support students, particularly during COVID. We have exciting opportunities in front of us as we continue to Reach Higher Together.

Sincerely,

Philomena V. Mantella

President


July 1, 2021

Dear GVSU Colleagues,
 
The mood has shifted and the energy is growing. The state of Michigan joins the rest of the country in easing restrictions as the COVID vaccine allows our day-to-day lives to feel more normal. The cases on campus are nearly non-existent, and we are more than ready for a full and robust Fall semester. Our classrooms will be at normal capacity, and the campus will again be filled with students reaching their goals and faculty and staff serving our mission. Our message to students and their families is clear – We’re Ready for You. We want our students to understand that Grand Valley State University stands ready to welcome them back to a community that is together again and dedicated to their success.
 
Returning to Community
 
As we prepare for our Fall semester, we are actively transitioning to more people working on campus from now until the start of the academic year, August 6. That date is when the COVID-19 remote work requests will end. Faculty are expected to be available for activities associated with the start of the semester, and staff, who have been working remotely, are encouraged to gradually increase their time working on campus prior to August 6. Employees should consult with their supervisor or department head for specific directions on the transition back to campus. We understand individuals may have concerns about coming back to campus, and the Human Resources office stands ready to provide additional support as needed. More details are available in the Return to Community document. 
 
Successful Fall
 
The key to a successful fall requires us to follow health guidance. The university’s current policies are updated on our Lakers Together site. Vaccines are an integral part of our plan. Nearly 80 percent of our faculty and staff are vaccinated, and a growing number of students have reported at least one dose on their daily self-assessment. In order to encourage even more students to get vaccinated, the Virus Action Team this week notified them of an incentive program to get vaccinated by the end of July. We will continue to monitor all factors to keep our campus community as safe as possible, while we enjoy the opportunities available to us this year, that we missed so much last year.
 
Let me close by saying how grateful I am for the success we share in facing challenges together and the promise of what is now available for us to achieve! We have shown what it means to be Lakers Together.

Sincerely,
Philomena V. Mantella, President


May 5, 2021

Dear Colleagues,

It is with great concern and sadness that I write to acknowledge and bring attention to the devastating and dire circumstances India faces due to the COVID-19 pandemic. According to conservative estimates, over 3,600 people a day are dying and healthcare essentials are not available to most.

Grand Valley is home to many Indian and Indian American students, faculty, and staff. Our colleagues and students are not only facing personal and local stress and fatigue in the United States, but also managing the impact on families and loss abroad. Our thoughts and support are with all those impacted.

This must be another moment of reflection for our community. Not only must we recognize the privileges and opportunities we have with vaccination and healthcare access, but we must also be mindful of the exponential impact of the pandemic on our diverse communities. Learn more about how you can do your part at www.gvsu.edu/lakerstogether.

As always, we are committed to each member of our community and their well-being. The University Counseling Center offers support for students and the Human Resources Office provides a number of resources for employees. TheAsian Faculty and Staff Association is also a resource for community support.

Please continue to care for one another in these trying circumstances. We will get through this together.

Sincerely,

Philomena V. Mantella, President


Winter 2021

Dear Campus Community,

The jury in the murder trial of George Floyd has rendered its verdict and found former police officer Derek Chauvin guilty of murder and manslaughter. A step towards justice has been made today, but it does not discount the continuing reality that people of color face in our country and the work we have ahead. Our hearts remain with the family of and all those close to Mr. Floyd.

Since Mr. Floyd’s death, Minnesota and America have grappled with actions against people of color by some police officers that have ripped at our hearts and undermined our belief in equal justice under the law. We will continue to use education and advocacy to create change locally and systemically, while we continue to prioritize criminal justice reform where everyone can be offered equal protection under the law. Systemic reform will not happen overnight and so we must remain vigilant to hold those who abuse power responsible wherever and whenever we see it.

At my request, Grand Valley’s School of Criminal Justice and Police Academy and Grand Valley Police Department are at work on solutions. Following the killing of Mr. Floyd, I asked the Police Academy to lead the way in enhancing public safety education with more robust requirements for diversity, inclusion, and de-escalation for future law enforcement personnel. In addition, I called for a convening of a Campus Safety Task Force to review current policy and practices and recommend change related to our own campus safety. GVPD Chief Brandon DeHaan led a listening tour over the last academic year and we will now move on convening an independent task force to review our own community safety practices and provide any appropriate recommendations. More details are available at www.gvsu.edu/inclusion/charge.

We are working to schedule a community discussion for any who would like to contribute to our campus efforts or provide feedback. In addition, campus resources continue to be available for any who may need support. The University Counseling Center offers support for students experiencing overwhelming emotions and the Human Resources Office provides a number of resources for employees. The Division of Inclusion and Equity is also available for support by email at inclusion@gvsu.edu.

In the meantime, I ask all members of our community to support each other in whatever ways you can and to unite as a community in our commitment to racial equity and inclusion. Together, we will create not only a stronger Grand Valley community, but also recommit to our responsibility to impact broader systemic change.

Sincerely,

Philomena V. Mantella, President

Dear Campus Community:
 
We’re almost at the end of the semester! We have much to celebrate as we round the corner to exams, commencement and a welcome break. But we must finish strong in our fight against COVID-19. As you likely know, the state of Michigan has the highest rate of daily infections of any state in the nation over the last week. Cases connected to our community are on the rise as well. See our dashboard here.
 
We know what to do, and we need to do it. Follow the health guidance. We have just 10 days to go until exams start. No one wants to be sick, or in isolation or quarantine during this time. And we know students don’t want to bring the virus home to family members.
 
I want to congratulate you on your perseverance while acknowledging the virus is among us, and we have an ongoing obligation to try to stop the spread.
 
We can do it! Finish strong, Lakers.
 
Sincerely,
Philomena V. Mantella, President

Dear Campus Community,

In the midst of the murder trial of George Floyd, the tragic killing of Daunte Wright compounds the trauma and heartbreak that has been an ongoing reality for the Black community. Sadly, these tragedies revive deep wounds.

As a university and a country, we must continue to do the critical work of ending systemic racism. At Grand Valley State University, our anti-racism work is ongoing through the Network of Advisors for Racial Equity (www.gvsu.edu/inclusion/action) and through our intentional examination of our own campus safety and law enforcement practices.

Change is needed, and we must do our part through education and action. The impact of collective trauma in our communities of color is devastating for all of us.

We are committed to each member of our community and their well-being. We care deeply about our students, faculty, and staff who are especially hurting. The University Counseling Center offers support for students experiencing overwhelming emotions and the Human Resources Office provides a number of resources for employees. The Division of Inclusion and Equity is also available for support by email at inclusion@gvsu.edu.

Sincerely,

Philomena V. Mantella, President

Dear Friends and Colleagues,

Grand Valley has been working on collaborative agreements with Historically Black Colleges/Universities (HBCUs) to support students through combined degree programs. Building upon GVSU's successes with combined BS/MS programs, we have offered to extend our approach to students at partnering institutions, allowing us to support additional learners, help broaden our student population, and respond to the needs of our partnering employers.

Thanks to the work of Vice President B. Donta Truss and Dean Paul Plotkowski, this week we celebrate the first such agreement with Fort Valley State University in Georgia. This agreement provides an opportunity for students to begin their education at FVSU and transfer to GVSU for completion of their computing or engineering degrees. I invite you to join me to commemorate this historic signing.


Virtual Signing Ceremony
for the articulation agreement between
Grand Valley State University
and
Fort Valley State University

Thursday, April 8
1:00 – 2:00 p.m. EST
Link to join the Zoom meeting:
https://fvsuag.zoom.us/j/92600889934


I would like to thank all the faculty and staff who have worked to craft the curricular and support elements of this agreement under the leadership of VP Truss and Dean Plotkowski. I look forward to celebrating this exciting moment with you.

Sincerely, 

Philomena V. Mantella
President 

Dear Campus Community,

You most likely are aware that COVID-19 cases in Michigan are on the rise, and if you track our own dashboard, you know that cases within our community are rising as well. And as the Virus Action Team just shared with us, the U.K. variant is circulating in the community.

In contrast to this disturbing news, we can look at the positive climb in vaccination rates, but we must not let down our guard. Let’s all continue to follow the best public health guidance to fight this pandemic!

Transmission in our academic space has been low to nonexistent, indicating that preventive measures, such as wearing face coverings and social distancing, are effective in stopping the spread. Continue to use these effective mitigation strategies around family and friends.

Preventing the spread

  • You’ve done your part, now it’s your turn to get vaccinated. Register for the vaccine and make an appointment as soon as you can. Complete information on the vaccines is here. If you have personal concerns about receiving a vaccine, you can talk to your health care provider or call the State of Michigan COVID Hotline at 888-535-6136.   
  • The West Michigan Vaccine Clinic at DeVos Place in Grand Rapids has expanded vaccine availability to those 16 and older. Most can now self-schedule online. To set up an appointment for those who are 16 or 17 years old, or those needing special assistance, call 833-755-0696.
  • Wear a mask when with friends or family, even when outdoors.
  • If you travel, get tested quickly upon returning to campus and follow these travel guidelines

 

It’s expected that a large segment of the community will be vaccinated in the next two to three months, but vaccinations alone are unlikely to change the trajectory we are currently seeing. We need to be vigilant and keep up the same good habits that have allowed us to have a successful year, despite the pandemic.

The Winter semester is coming to a close and final projects and exams are looming, but we also have the promise of longer, warmer days. Make sure to finish strong, Lakers! There’s much to look forward to.

Sincerely,

Philomena V. Mantella, President

Dear Laker Community,

Yesterday, shootings in the Atlanta-area led to the murder of eight people, including six women of Asian descent. Grand Valley State University mourns the loss of life and stands with our Asian, Asian American, and Pacific Islander communities during this unsettling time.

While the man charged with the murder denies racial motivation, the AAPI communities have been increasingly impacted by threats, intimidation, assaults, injuries and death over the past year. According to Stop AAPI Hate, more than 2,800 incidents of racism and discrimination against AAPI community members across the country were reported between March and December 2020.

Anti-Asian violence and acts of racism in all of its forms must stop. We condemn these acts as reprehensible and contrary to the values of our university and society. Each member of our community has a responsibility to interrupt intolerance and address hate when it shows up as acts of intimidation and violence.

We are committed to each member of our community and their well-being. The University Counseling Center offers support for students experiencing overwhelming emotions following a tragic event and the Human Resources Office provides a number of resources for employees. The Division of Inclusion and Equity is also available for support – call (616) 331-3296 or email inclusion@gvsu.edu.

As a Laker community, please continue to care for each other in tragic moments like these and at all times.

Sincerely,

Philomena V. Mantella
President

Dear Laker community:
 
We are now at the halfway point in the winter semester, and I want to again commend the campus community for the careful and focused way our collective adjustment to Covid allowed us to continue our journey together. Thank you! This has been a year like no other, and I suspect we will all be glad when it is behind us. 
 
The success of the scientific community in developing and deploying vaccines raises the expectation that we will be able to have typical campus operations for the Fall semester. With that in mind, I know you welcome the news that we are planning for full campus operations for Fall, including regular campus housing, student services, and student life activities. We will take stock of events and lessons learned to continuously improve the Grand Valley experience, and we will operate consistent with any public health guidelines that may be in effect at that time. And, we know that if we need to adjust, we will be ready. We have already proven we have the agility to learn and grow no matter our circumstances.
  
Please continue to follow the health guidelines and take advantage of the vaccine when you have opportunity. Be safe and be well.
 
Sincerely,

Philomena V. Mantella, President

Dear Campus Community,
 
We now have answers in the death last month of our student, Taylor DeRosa. The medical examiner has ruled her death accidental. Police Chief Brandon DeHaan has reinforced his earlier statements that there was never, and is not now, any safety risk to the campus associated with this sad event.
 
Taylor’s death is a terrible tragedy for her family and all those close to her. We know her fellow students, as well as our faculty and staff, have been affected. We are a caring community and our hearts go out to all who knew and loved Taylor. We respect their need to grieve and honor Taylor’s memory.
 
Our routines during COVID have put physical space between us, but we should work to stay emotionally connected, especially as we grieve the loss of a promising young woman who was part of our campus community. If professional assistance is needed, the university offers support services to students, and employees in need of counseling services may use the employee assistance program.
 
Take care of yourselves and each other.
 
Sincerely,
Philomena V. Mantella, President

Dear Campus Community,
 
Welcome to Winter Semester 2021! This semester is filled with promise, and I am filled with excitement. I invite you to join me with renewed optimism, energy and confidence as the end of the global pandemic is in sight. We are experienced now in how to keep ourselves and others safe, and we are committed to staying the course in the fight against COVID. Hundreds of thousands of Michigan residents have already been vaccinated and more vaccines are on the way. We are hopeful that soon we can return to our pre-COVID way of life. I have commissioned a team to plan the “ramp-up” prior to our Spring/Summer semester, so we’re ready for a great summer and fall on campus.
 
Part of caring for ourselves and others is being mindful of our emotional well-being and keeping an eye out for signs of distress in those around us. Technology is a wonderful gift, but it can also isolate us. Don’t let it. We need to make sure we really connect with each other. If you find you need some professional guidance, we have the resources: the University Counseling Center for students and the Encompass Program for faculty and staff. 
 
Keeping active is a great way to stay connected. We opened the semester yesterday with more than 1,300 people joining a community-wide tribute to Martin Luther King, Jr, and we have more substantive events scheduled.

  • Provost Maria Cimitile and I are hosting a Fireside Chat on February 2, discussing the future of learning with Sanjay Sarma, the vice president of Open Learning at MIT.
  • Watch for details on our new Presidential Roundtable Series during which my three predecessors at Grand Valley and I tackle the pressing issues of our day with noted experts. 
  • Find out about student organizations and take part in giveaways at the virtual Campus Life Night January 31. 
  • We have nine days of celebrating with Winterfest, beginning February 5, with everything from snowballs to ice carvings to bonfire pits to hot chocolate. I’m also expecting great Laker creativity during the snowman building contest!

As always, we continue the good work of our university. I appreciate the creativity I see from all segments of the community to keep teaching and learning thriving, our operations humming and to provide ways to have fun and enjoy each other. I have deep gratitude for what we’ve been able to accomplish, all the while following health guidelines and planning for our future. We need your voice in that future: Reach Higher 2025.  Our next series of huddles will launch during this semester, and you will see details soon. You can also share feedback online.
 
The future at GVSU is bright! Help us spread the excitement and recruit the best and brightest to our community. Find out how to Be a Laker, Bring a Laker. And wear your GVSU swag! Every Friday, beginning January 22, the Swag Team will be on the lookout for those wearing their Laker gear – virtual meetings count! There will be prizes for offices, classes and people showing off their Laker pride. Look for more information on GVSU social media channels. 
 
There is much to do and much to learn. Thank you for enriching our community in many ways. Let’s have a great semester!
 
Sincerely,
Philomena V. Mantella, President

Dear Campus Community,

Last week’s events in our nation’s capital remain front and center in national and international discourse. The storming of the Capitol Building, the iconic symbol of our democracy, was shattering to our perspective of our nation. I am reminded of a different day in Washington, in 1974, when the favorite son of Grand Rapids, Gerald Ford, assumed the presidency under extraordinary circumstances. “This is an hour of history that troubles our minds and hurts our hearts,” said Mr. Ford to a nation that was living through events once thought unimaginable. Those words seem just as applicable today.
  
President Ford told us that the guardrails of democracy had held firm through the Watergate scandal when he said: “Our Constitution works; our great Republic is a government of laws and not of men. Here the people rule.” Mr. Ford’s unshakeable belief in democratic institutions was rooted in that of the Founders. It was Thomas Jefferson who told us, “The people are the only sure reliance for the preservation of our liberty.” 
 
An important question arises: where do we go from here? We must strengthen our commitment to principled leadership, civility and democracy, no matter the difference in our views and politics. We must work together, as we move forward from chapters already written in history, through today’s defining moments into a future of greater promise.
 
Our GVSU community is fortunate to have generations of faculty and institutional leadership working together to advance our mission. Emblematic of this distinctive Grand Valley ethos, my esteemed predecessors — Thomas Haas, Mark Murray and Arend Lubbers — join me today in condemning the assault on the nation’s capital and spurious attempts to void the results of a fair and free election.

In further response, we are creating and will jointly host a Presidential roundtable series, called “The Constitution, Elections and Democracy,” with support from the Hauenstein Center for Presidential Studies, the College of Liberal Arts & Sciences, Brooks College of Interdisciplinary Studies, the Padnos/Sarosik Civil Discourse Program in the Meijer Honors College, the Office of Student Life, and the Gerald R. Ford Foundation. We will, as members of an academic community, seize this moment to explore the divisions straining our civil discourse. Grand Valley is defined by fair, rigorous and open intellectual exchange offered with respect for the rule of law, democracy and the inclusion of people of all backgrounds. Profound pain delivers to us the opportunity to strengthen ourselves, our community, and our nation. Careful examination of the Constitution, voting rights and procedures, journalism, social media, and other related subjects will bring focus to this undertaking. 
 
We know our campus community can pull together during this ongoing time of unique trial to be a model of the best humanity has to offer. This series is one such way. We invite you to join us at our roundtable, and also to pursue your own engagements and strengthen the national conversation to build a stronger America through constructive dialogue and by embracing personal responsibility to each other.
  
Sincerely,


Philomena V. Mantella, GVSU President
Thomas J. Haas, President 2006-2019
Mark A. Murray, President 2001-2006 
Arend D. Lubbers, President 1969-2001

A message from President Philomena V. Mantella in reaction to the violence in Washington, D.C.

I write today with a heavy heart. No matter where we as Americans fall on the political spectrum, we must condemn the violence that shook our nation’s capital and our personal psyches yesterday. The images of breaking glass and acts of violence, and the knowledge four people died, must propel more of us to return to a nation that reveres intellectual argument and the rule of law. Those who have the benefit of advanced education must take the lead in elevating civility and respect.

We hoped the turn of the calendar to 2021 would move us from a difficult year to one with promise of brighter days. The first week has not given us proof, but it will not take away my hope. I know that our campus community can pull together during this ongoing time of unique trials to be a model of the best humanity has to offer.

Thank you for all you do to make Grand Valley a community that holds itself to the highest ideals.

Sincerely,

Philomena V. Mantella, President

Fall 2020

Dear Campus Community,

Our Laker community continues to mourn one of our own, while authorities continue to investigate the suspicious death. The family of Taylor DeRosa is aware of the outpouring of concern for their loss. Taylor became part of our on-campus community as a first-year student this Fall semester. Our thoughts and prayers surround the DeRosa family during this tragic time.

There is much we do not know about the cause of her death, and the investigation is ongoing. Grand Valley Director of Public Safety and Chief of Police Brandon DeHaan assures us, at this time, it appears the general public and the campus community are not in danger. He is urging all of us to be patient while GVPD and other law enforcement agencies continue their investigation. We have a moral obligation not to spread misinformation that fuels unhelpful suppositions and may hamper the investigation. 

We must support and care for each member of our Laker community. GVSU Counseling Center staff are ready to provide service to anyone who needs it, (616) 331-3266. The Dean of Students Office also has additional services available and can be reached at (616) 331-3585 or dos@gvsu.edu.

Tragedies have a way of focusing our attention to what matters most – the people around us. Keep the student’s family in your thoughts and offer your help and support to those who need it.

Sincerely,
Philomena V. Mantella, President

Dear Lakers:
 
Fall semester is coming to a close and I want to thank everyone who has worked so hard to adjust to the changes made necessary by the Covid-19 pandemic. I congratulate those who graduate this weekend and extend to the Class of 2020 every good wish as they move to the next stage of their lives with a Grand Valley diploma in hand. Remember that our Laker Lifetime Learning Commitment stays with you throughout your career, ready to help whenever you need new skills or knowledge in our rapidly changing world.
 
This is also a good time to speak to next semester, spring/summer terms, and the coming academic year. For now, it is difficult to speculate whether there will be any restrictions from the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services that may impact Winter semester 2021 which starts in mid-January, or spring/summer terms, which begin in May. However, we plan to continue our hybrid model, if safe and allowable to do so, and we are prepared to accommodate the needs of our students, their professors, and those who support them whatever happens. We will offer additional classes and programs in the spring/summer schedule to support the academic progress of students wishing to catch up or work ahead.

Our plans for the Fall 2021 semester, beginning in August, are well underway and you’ll be able to register as usual beginning in early March. We anticipate a more robust on-campus experience in Fall 2021. Our plan is to offer classes on campus with face to face delivery at more normal availability, along with hybrid and online formats. We are also planning for co-curricular activities to be offered in person. We will of course put the health and safety of our community first, follow CDC and state health guidance, and if the situation warrants we will shift to socially distanced educational opportunities. 
 
As this is written, the deployment of a Covid vaccine appears imminent. I am ready to receive an inoculation as soon as I am allowed and I urge each and every one of you to do the same when your turn comes. Widespread vaccination is the one sure pathway to resumption of a full campus life. We are working with health care providers and will do everything in our power to assist them in making vaccines available to the Laker community.
 
As the semester concludes and the holidays arrive, please follow CDC guidelines, stay safe, stay healthy, and follow the protocols that guide the resumption of study next month. I will communicate with you whenever I have new information. Have a safe and happy holiday season.
 
Sincerely,
 
Philomena V. Mantella, President

Dear Grand Valley Community,

This has been a year unlike any other. I know how hard each of you has been working to ensure we continue to carry out our mission, serve our students in every way possible, and remain healthy. You have been flexible, agile, and adaptive. I also know how exhausting the prolonged period of rapidly changing situations is for everyone. Nevertheless, we press on to maintain our commitments to our students, our university and each other. Please know this extra dedication and your contributions have not gone unnoticed.

It’s in this light I am announcing two measures I hope will recognize, in a small way, how much I value your extraordinary efforts during this past year.

  • VACATION CARRYOVER: COVID has disrupted many things, including the ability of many to take vacation time. Vacation time above a certain number of hours is considered excess and is normally lost at the end of the calendar year. I have approved a one-time modification to policy that will allow employees to carry over to 2021 what would normally be considered excess, unused vacation time. I hope that next year you will be able to take advantage of this carryover vacation time, along with your regularly accrued vacation. If COVID continues to cause disruptions through next year, the university will revisit carryover limits from 2021 to 2022.
  • EXTENDED BREAKS: I have also approved a one-time extension of Thanksgiving and Winter breaks. We are adding Wednesday, November 25, to our Thanksgiving break. We will also close campus December 23 through January 4, providing an additional day on each side of the scheduled break. All university buildings will be closed during this time, and employees will be paid without impacting any leave accruals. Employees who must work December 23 or January 4 will be compensated using university holiday pay policies. Ideally, this will provide some additional time for each of you to rest, rejuvenate, and connect with family and friends.

     

    I hope the additional time off will provide some relief to our great GVSU family under these trying circumstances. Please direct any questions to your appointing officer or Human Resources at hro@gvsu.edu.

    Sincerely,

    Philomena V. Mantella, President

    The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) issued a statewide public health order November 15, due to the acceleration of COVID-19 in Michigan. The order takes effect Wednesday, November 18, and it affects higher education and the operations of our university, as well as a variety of other activities.

    On Monday and Tuesday, campus operations will continue as usual.

    • Beginning Wednesday, all face-to-face classes will convert to remote delivery. 
    • Students in the health care professions are in different circumstances. Students enrolled in nursing and health professions courses will receive additional information directly from faculty or advisors.
    • Students in education will get information about student teaching placements from professors or advisors.
    • Research activities, both undergraduate and graduate, will continue with proper safety protocols.
    • Student work remains possible. Students should work directly with supervisors.  
    • Anyone needing IT assistance can call the IT Help Desk. (616) 331-2101. 
    • The university will remain open. Efforts by appointing officers to further reduce workspace density and shift to remote work will continue where possible, consistent with current guidelines.

    Testing information

    Free testing: COVID-19 surveillance testing is available for those who come to campus at least one day per week. Testing will take place through November 19. The university will pay for one test per person. Testing for people who do NOT have symptoms or who have not had direct exposure to someone with COVID will take place on the Allendale and Pew Grand Rapids campuses. Those eligible received an email with a link to schedule an appointment.

    GVSU also hosts a Spectrum Health testing site at the Commons on the Allendale Campus for people who have symptoms or who have been exposed to someone with COVID-19. Appointments can be scheduled through MyChart or by calling the GVSU Spectrum Health COVID Resource Line at (833) 734-0020.

    Questions and concerns
    The GVSU COVID call center (616) 331-4636 remains in operation weekdays from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. Personal health concerns should be directed to the GVSU/Spectrum Health 24-hour call center (833) 734-0020.

    The word of the semester has been “flexible.” Thank you for all you are doing to make campus the best and safest it can be.

    Sincerely,

    Philomena V. Mantella, President

    Dear Lakers,

    The COVID-19 pandemic is taking a new and serious turn across the nation and here in Michigan. Earlier today, the heads of our state’s largest health care organizations warned that hospitals are running out of beds, some as soon as next week. Despite the very best efforts of everyone in our community to limit exposures, we have seen an uptick in positive diagnoses. This can create long waits to see a health care provider. This cannot continue without serious consequences to all of us, including our families and loved ones.

    I write today to ask that you take precautions, in addition to the ones we are practicing, such as wearing a mask, social distancing, and hand washing. We know that exposure can come from even small gatherings, so I ask that you reduce your face-to-face engagements to only those critical to your learning and well-being, and while doing so, follow all public health recommendations. 

    Consider leaving your residence only to get food or medicine, attend classes, go to work or exercise, and wear a mask while around others. Avoid any unnecessary activity that might bring you into contact with others, because even those who show no signs of illness can transmit COVID.

    You’ve received earlier communications from the university to help you plan for a safe return to your permanent residence at Thanksgiving break. It is essential that you follow that guidance to reduce the risk of spreading the virus to your family and friends. Please review and be fully familiar with the actions we need you to follow. We are ready to provide the testing necessary and to support you if you have questions or concerns. Please call (616) 331-4636 or email virusactionteam@gvsu.edu so we can assist in these challenging times. 

    I know these are difficult things to ask, and I realize we would all like our lives to return to normal, but we are still fighting the virus. So I ask for your support and leadership as responsible Lakers for the well-being of our entire community. Please do your part. Lakers Standing Together can always succeed. That time is now.

    Sincerely,

    Philomena V. Mantella, President

    Dear Campus Community,
     
    The number of positive test results of COVID-19 in our community has shown a steady decline for the last two weeks. This encouraging trend comes as the “Staying in Place” order issued by the Ottawa County Department of Public Health (OCDPH) is scheduled to expire at 11:59 p.m. tonight, October 1. To continue this trend, we have worked with OCDPH to seamlessly move from this order to a new “Staying Safe” order, which lightens county regulations on our students living and studying in Allendale Township.
     
    Our students’ adherence to the public health advice and regulations is to be commended and recognized as we move into this new phase of keeping our campus safe. The new “Staying Safe” order acknowledges our progress and allows for some flexibility on campus.
     
    Staying Safe Order
     
    Beginning October 2, 2020 and continuing through October 16, 2020:

    • Up to four guests may visit student living units and residences, while observing strict preventive measures, including social distancing and wearing face coverings. Students living in on-campus housing also must abide by the Housing and Residence Life Guest Policy and Community Living Standards.
    • For all indoor common areas on the Allendale Campus, students may not gather in groups greater than four people. This does not include classes or university-organized academic activities.
    • All outdoor gatherings should not exceed 10 people. All should have face coverings except when eating or drinking. This 10-person-limit does not include gatherings organized by the university.
    • Face coverings continue to be required indoors and outdoors. Students who are alone outside may choose not to wear a face covering, but should be prepared to immediately use it when encountering another person.

    The full order can be found here. Your cooperation on testing and contact tracing, along with following the requirements of the order, is critical in our goal to mitigate the spread of this very contagious virus.
     
    The university has support systems in place to help students with a variety of circumstances, including technology, food, and mental health issues. Resources for employees are available through Human Resources on the Benefits and Wellness site. The university’s Call Center is available at (616) 331-INFO (4636). Personal health-related questions can be directed to the GVSU/Spectrum Health 24-hour call center at (833) 734-0020. You can also direct questions to virusactionteam@gvsu.edu.
     
    I remain grateful for the way our community has committed to a journey that might be difficult, but is definitely worth it. Thank you for showing how Lakers join together in challenging times.
     
    Sincerely,
    Philomena V. Mantella

    Dear Campus Community,
     
    I want to share with you that thanks to the great work by the Grand Valley Police Department and our IT department, it has been determined the reprehensible racial incident reported during a Zoom meeting of our Black Male Scholars group last night did not come from people within our university community. That fact in no way diminishes our resolve to fight racism at every turn. The values of Grand Valley State University call us to be a model of an inclusive and affirming community.
     
    The seriousness of this incident, which included racist language and images, prompted our IT department to immediately and successfully be able to turn over suspect leads to GVPD, and the investigators are pursuing this as a criminal case. We are following up with those who attended the meeting to offer any support we can as a community.

    During the evening, it was reported that three other GVSU student groups also experienced “Zoom bombings.” These disturbing events are also being investigated. Vice President for IT Milos Topic is already working on additional protocols and training to improve security.  

    We will not tolerate any behavior of this nature. We are committed to each member of our community and their well-being. If people need additional support, please contact inclusion@gvsu.edu

    Sincerely,
    Philomena V. Mantella, President  

    Dear Campus Community,
     
    I write you tonight with a heavy heart. We have an amazing group called the “Black Male Scholars.” At the group’s kick-off meeting on Zoom, our peace was shattered when someone interfered with the meeting with racist language and images. It was both shocking and deplorable, and this will not be allowed to stand in the Grand Valley community. I assure everyone involved that this behavior is condemned, and a full investigation by the Grand Valley Police Department and our IT department is already underway.
     
    Anyone with any information about this event, should call GVPD at (616) 331-3255 or contact Ottawa County Silent Observer.
     
    I want to express my profound sorrow to the students and employees who witnessed these reprehensible acts. We must condemn hate and bigotry and end ignorant behaviors that impact our underrepresented communities in disproportionate ways. This is a time for us to come together and care for one another.
     
    Sincerely,
    Philomena V. Mantella, President

    Dear Grand Valley Community,

    I want to update you on our action plan and progress toward racial equity. You will recall that in June I announced a framework for action and a Network of Advisors to guide our commitment to racial equity and social justice, following the killing of George Floyd. I make this update today, acknowledging the weight that so many of us carry, in particular our Black students, faculty and staff as the decisions are released by a Kentucky grand jury on charges for the fatal shooting of Breonna Taylor.

    I am grateful to and excited by the progress of the Network of 36 faculty, staff, students, and alumni which has been building our 15-point plan for racial equity. They have been working continuously since June having defined five strategic pillars that serve as waypoints guiding us on efforts:

    • We must elevate the voices and experiences of our Black faculty, staff, and students.

    • We must listen carefully, valuing each member of our community.

    • We must fulfill our goals for inclusion and equity.

    • We must all deepen our understanding and knowledge through education.

    • We must then use this knowledge as the basis for understanding and addressing institutional and systemic racism and oppression to make meaningful change.

    A list of network members, our 15-point plan, and updates on each of the charges are posted at our Partners in Action Against Racism website. It’s important to also emphasize that this work joins the long history of efforts at Grand Valley to create an environment where barriers are eliminated, all members of our community can be their full authentic selves, and everyone is provided the support and care needed to thrive. Come back often to the website for regular updates as progress continues and as new efforts emerge that advance equity and inclusion for all members of our community.

    Caring for our community is especially important during this time. I ask each of you to consider how to peacefully add your voice to the call for social justice and to model the care we seek for all. I ask each of you to look for opportunities to empower our plan of action and engage with our Network colleagues to fuel and enrich the plan. I ask each of you to care for yourselves. The  University Counseling Center offers students support virtually or face to face. The Encompass Employee Assistance Program provides a number of resources for employees. Any member of the Grand Valley family who needs support or information on resources can also contact the Division of Inclusion and Equity at inclusion@gvsu.edu.

    We will continue to learn, lead, and, most importantly, act, as we know more than words are expected of us.

    With gratitude and hope,

    Philomena V. Mantella
    President

    To the Campus Community:
     
    The nation continues to grapple with the complication of the COVID-19 pandemic. Positive diagnoses across the country, in Michigan, and at Grand Valley State University continue to increase. When GVSU made plans for the resumption of campus learning and residency, I said we would make adjustments to ensure the continued health and safety of our Laker community. That time has come, and I ask for your understanding and support.
     
    Today, the Ottawa County Department of Public Health (OCDPH), in cooperation with the university, will issue a ‘Staying in Place’ order impacting GVSU students living and studying in Allendale Township. It is important to note, students are expected to attend in-person classes on their schedules, campus operations will continue, and offices will be open. The order directs students in Allendale Township to remain in their on-campus or off-campus housing except to attend class, utilize food services, obtain groceries or medicine and medical care, for worship and religious practices, intercollegiate medically supervised athletic practices, or for employment. 
     
    This order – which is issued under the law and is enforceable – begins tomorrow, September 17, and lasts until October 1. You can view the order here.
     
    In addition, we must all understand and accept the highly contagious nature of the virus. Strict adherence to preventive measures is required, so take careful note of the new requirements for face coverings to be worn outdoors, distancing, and contract tracing. Fully disclosing contacts is strictly for the purpose of keeping our community healthy. Please comply to keep friends and colleagues out of harm’s way.
     
    I know you will have questions about how the order affects you, your academic journey, and daily life. We have additional FAQs related to the order on the Lakers Together website, so please check it regularly for the latest information.  
     
    The university’s Virus Action Team has recommended to the university’s senior leadership that a step to Alert Level 3 is warranted, and I concur. This means extra vigilance is required of us all. Face coverings, social distancing, good hygiene, avoidance of crowds, and until October 1, remaining in your residence except under the circumstances identified in the order. Your adherence to the order will help us reduce the positive diagnoses, especially in off-campus housing areas, and make sure the order is lifted in 14 days.
     
    The university has support systems in place to help students with a variety of circumstances, including technology, food, and mental health issues. Resources for employees are available through Human Resources on the Benefits and Wellness site. The university’s Call Center is available at (616) 331-INFO (4636). Personal health-related questions can be directed to the GVSU/Spectrum 24-hour call center at (833) 734-0020. You can also direct questions to virusactionteam@gvsu.edu.
     
    I want to thank everyone who has been following the guidelines and doing their best to stay healthy and prevent others from becoming exposed. This is a journey of a thousand steps. Walking together – but separately – will serve the common good.  Please keep doing your part. 
     
    Sincerely,
     
    Philomena V. Mantella, President

    Statement from President Mantella: The Road to Justice is Ahead

    Dear Grand Valley Community,

    As many work to safely return to campus, we must also be mindful of the social unrest that continues to impact our nation as it grapples with a painful history of systemic racism and oppression. The shooting of Jacob Blake and continued demonstrations in Wisconsin and across the country in reaction are reminders of how much work we have ahead of us. It reminds us to stay true to the commitments we made in June to learn, understand, act, and lead as partners in action against racism. The progress we have made is encouraging, but our work must continue vigorously as much of the road to justice is ahead.

    While we must press forward with urgency, we know the anxiety and emotions of many are heightened. In particular, we acknowledge the continued hurt and fear felt by many of our Black community members.The well-being of each of you and all in our community is our top priority. The University Counseling Center offers support for students experiencing overwhelming emotions following a tragic event, and the Encompass Employee Assistance Program provides a number of resources for employees. Any member of the Grand Valley family who needs support or information on resources can also contact the Division of Inclusion and Equity at inclusion@gvsu.edu.

    We must continue to work peacefully and vigilantly against bigotry and oppression in all of its forms. As Lakers, we must exercise great care of each other against both the virus of COVID and racism.  

    Sincerely,

    Philomena V. Mantella
    President

    Dear Grand Valley Community,

    Move-in for our students living on campus begins Sunday. All our preparations for the Fall semester have brought us to this moment – a moment that is full of excitement for students and their families. This week’s Lakers Together update is a reminder about critical information for the campus move-in process, which is different this year. President Mantella and Director of Housing and Residence Life Kyle Boone focus on key points for students to think about as they come back onto campus.

    Dear Colleagues,
     
    Please accept my thanks for all you have done to get the university and campus ready for the start of this unprecedented Fall semester. I am grateful for your dedication to our students and our mission. Each day, the Senior Leadership and the Virus Action teams work to keep our community safe by examining the conditions in the state and region with our local county health authorities, state officials and Spectrum Health. Spectrum Health leaders continue to express confidence in our operating plans. Provost Cimitile, Vice President Sanial, and I are in regular contact with faculty governance, the AP Committee and representatives from the bargaining units. In addition, we can now add the experiences at other institutions that have resumed operations as well as those that suspended or decreased their face-to-face activity. We have listened carefully to our community and although there is no guaranteed way to approach the challenges we face, we have and will continue to adjust our operations as necessary. 
     
    As of today, working together, campus density this fall is significantly reduced. Based on student interest and demand, nearly 90 percent of courses are fully online or hybrid, students living on campus have been reduced by nearly a quarter compared to last fall and living centers have fully shifted to small living groups or singles. Co-curricular and other campus activities will be mostly virtual. While ensuring continuation of a high level of service and student-centered support, our workforce is either fully remote or using rotation and limited staffing schedules. Only essential visitors, vendors and contractors are allowed on campus. We have also instituted prevention and containment structures physically, through policy and modes of instruction. With all of these measures, campus overall density has been reduced by at least 50 percent.
     
    I am announcing the following additional adjustments as we make every effort to keep our community safe:
     
    Student Responsibility and Accountability 
    It will take all of us caring for each other and following the guidance to keep our campus safe. Being on our campus is a privilege that comes with compliance with all public health guidelines. I have sent a letter to students and their parents and other supporters further underscoring their responsibility in keeping all of us safe. I will ask the students to join with me in pledging their commitment to the health and safety of Grand Valley and we will hold them accountable to that promise. Committing to being a Laker means more now than ever before. The Student Code has been updated to include language specific to the health and safety of our community, with specific measures regarding off-campus events and activities. Just like faculty and staff members, students are required to wear face coverings, practice social distancing, and fill out the health assessment every day. Student Affairs has been and will continue to maintain regular communication with off-campus landlords to inform them of our protocols and policies and seek their assistance in restricting group and social gatherings. We will add peer community ambassadors to encourage compliance at off-campus activities. The success of our in-person Fall semester is dependent on shared responsibility and compliance with the university’s health and safety rules.
     
    Calendar Adjustments 
    The Provost, in consultation with the Deans and the Chair of the Faculty Senate, has determined that we will cancel fall break. Classes will instead continue during fall break (October 26 and 27). In addition, we will ask that after Thanksgiving break, any class that can be delivered remotely do so. The reason for this is to minimize student travel. We realize that some classes will need to continue with face-to-face delivery after Thanksgiving break because of experiential learning activities. Our housing staff will be prepared to help students move off-campus at this time. Final examinations will be conducted remotely.
     
    Flexibility 
    Students are aware that remote learning, in-person classes, and hybrid models are available, and those who have all remote classes need not come to campus. Students currently in our housing who decide to go fully remote and leave our housing can do so without financial penalty. Faculty and staff who have concerns about face-to-face engagement are encouraged to speak with their unit head, dean, supervisor or appointing officer to discuss options. We are fully committed to working with you.
     
    I know that people are concerned and I understand the apprehension we are all feeling. No one likes what the pandemic has done to the educational experience. I am taking into consideration all of these perspectives. We will continue to monitor daily and do what is best for our community. I can assure you there will be no hesitation on my part to make further adjustments as necessary. We are all in this journey together and I am proud to be at your side.
     
    Sincerely,
     
    Philomena V. Mantella, President

    Dear Grand Valley Community,

    Here's your Lakers Together weekly update with critical information regarding our preparation for the Fall semester. We know we have shared so much information with you regarding recommendations and requirements for this unprecedented year. In this edition, President Mantella and Associate Vice Provost for Student Affairs and Dean of Students Loren Rullman focus on the key points for students to remember as we get closer to the opening of the academic year.

    Dear Grand Valley community,

    We are fast-approaching the start of the new academic year, with all the positive energy that ignites. We have safely brought back many of our faculty, staff and student employees over the last month, and we are excited to bring many more of you safely back to campus this month. The global pandemic has required all of us to exercise more care and compassion for one another. This national crisis has required enormous effort, vigilance and more detailed campus planning than ever before. I am grateful for the hundreds in our university community who have joined me in this journey. I can assure you that health and safety are paramount in our minds, and that through all the challenges, we remain true to our mission to educate students and provide them with rich experiences.

    The world has moved from reacting to a sudden incident to living with the presence of the virus, and so we are making changes in our response. These changes will enable us to continue to effectively manage campus life, while doing our best to mitigate the effects of COVID-19 and care for our community members.

     

    Virus Action Team

    A newly named Virus Action Team (VAT) will be replacing the daily work done to date by the Incident Management Team (IMT). The IMT began its work with COVID-19 management in late January and since the first of March has met almost daily planning the ramp-down and ramp-up of campus operations. I want to extend my sincere thanks to this team and announce members of the VAT who will lead us through the health and safety monitoring phase we have entered.

    Vice President for Finance and Administration Greg Sanial will direct the team that includes project manager Lisa Haynes; faculty liaisons: professor of biomedical sciences Doug Graham, associate professor of physics Ben Holder, and program director and associate professor of occupational safety and health Dave Huizen; tracking and tracing leads: Jean Nagelkerk and Tina Barnikow; academic affairs lead, Ed Aboufadel; student affairs and experience leads: Lynn (Chick) Blue, Nykia Gaines and Kate Harmon. Three members will devote all their energies to this team, while the remaining members will dedicate significant time working daily with the team. The VAT will be monitoring the health and safety in the Grand Valley community as well as the surrounding region, and will report to the Senior Leadership Team.

    Any health monitoring questions or concerns should be sent to: virusactionteam@gvsu.edu

     

    Partnership with Spectrum Health

    I am pleased to announce our partnership with Spectrum Health to assist us in monitoring and managing the virus. This development is significant as we repopulate our campuses.

    • Infectious disease specialist Habiba Hassouna, M.D. will serve as our consultant.

    • BeginningAugust 17, Spectrum Health will operate a 24/7 COVID call center for GVSU. The phone number will be available on that date.

    • SpectrumHealth staff will follow-up on self-assessment flags, including testing for individuals with symptoms or exposure.

    • The partnership will increase our testing capacity with results in 24-48hours.

    • SpectrumHealth will provide daily check-ins following positive tests.

     

    Campus Repopulation Plan – pre-arrival requirements

    Critical to the success of our 2020 plans is our behavior. As we return to campus, it is the responsibility of every member of our community to always follow the best practices outlined by public health professionals and part of our “Lakers Together Protecting Each Other” campaign.

    We need to do our part in safeguarding others and ourselves. 

     

    Self-assessment
    Beginning August 17, 2020, all students, faculty and staff are required to complete the daily COVID-19 risk self-assessment. This is required seven days a week whether you are coming to campus or not to more completely track the virus, and your compliance will be monitored. The self-assessment should be completed each day before noon. Just as with face coverings, we will start with care and reminders, move to educate, then look for a remedy, which could include a failure to comply report to Office of Student Conduct and Conflict Resolution or Human Resources. Not completing the self-assessment would be considered a violation of university policy and would be actionable.

     

    Test prior to coming to campus
    The university is encouraging everyone to be tested for COVID-19 before returning to campus. While these test results will be a snapshot in time, any positive results will be caught before arriving on campus. Testing can be arranged through your health care provider or you can consult the State of Michigan testing site finder with a “no cost” filter.

    Details on a new protocol for expanded on-campus testing will be announced prior to move-in August 23. Currently, students who have symptoms or who have been exposed to someone who tests positive can be tested at two university sites:

    Allendale:  GVSU Campus Health Center, 42nd & Pierce
    Grand Rapids:  GVSU Family Health Center

     

    Lakers Together on campus

    Ongoing testing 
    We have the agreement with Spectrum Health in place, and we are finalizing an agreement with another lab for additional testing capabilities. We will be able to facilitate thousands of tests with quick turnarounds to help track the virus. Expect that announcement soon.

    We will be conducting regular testing on high-risk groups such as athletes, resident assistants and critical personnel.

     

    Randomized testing
    Randomized testing of 1,500 people on campus will begin two weeks after the start of classes and continue throughout the semester. Students, faculty and staff will be selected at random to be tested. This will give us a sense of the presence of the virus within our community and the data will be used to identify any “hot spots” and to make decisions regarding campus operations.

    Cost for testing facilitated through Spectrum Health as part of the university’s self-assessment process will be billed first to insurance with any balance billed to the university. Cost for the randomized testing will be covered by the university.

     

    Tracking and Tracing
    All positive tests are reported to county health departments. Grand Valley has a close working relationship with Ottawa and Kent county health departments and will work with them to support their tracking and tracing efforts within our community. Spectrum Health will assist in providing follow-up with all students who are in quarantine (been exposed to someone positive) or in isolation following a positive test. Nearly 20 of our students will be hired to work as contact tracers with the county health departments through the GVSU Student Employment + program.

    We are also investigating the possibility of using technology to assist with tracking and tracing, and hope to enter a pilot with two companies offering this service in the coming weeks.

    We do have plans to care for students who are quarantined or in isolation, and they will receive more detailed information from Housing and Residence Life and the Dean of Students Office by August 17.                                                                        

    Faculty and staff who need to be quarantined or isolated should work with their appointing officer to determine the best course of action, as each case will need individual attention.

    The best source for up-to-date information on the Fall Semester is Lakers Together Fall 2020.

     

    Ability to switch to all remote education

    This virus has underscored the need for flexibility. Just as we are planning to welcome everyone back safely to campus, the truth is, the virus is unpredictable, and we must be able to react to any significant spread within our community. We are planning under the current Phase 4 designation by the State of Michigan, meaning we can be on-campus with heavy restrictions. We will continue to follow state and federal regulations.

    Our faculty have been making plans for resilient teaching to be able to shift courses quickly to remote if the need arises. Our health experts are devising a dashboard to monitor data and to identify triggers that would indicate we should move to remote education. The dashboard will be vital in our decision making and will be made public when it is operational. It will track testing of faculty, staff and students at Grand Valley and the rate of positive results. It will also monitor Kent and Ottawa counties as well as students’ home counties.

     

    Fall 2020

    We all understand this year will be different, but what makes the Laker community special will never change. We are committed to caring for each other, and we are committed to intellectual growth and endless opportunities.

     

    Sincerely,

    Philomena V. Mantella, President


    Spring/Summer 2020

    Dear Grand Valley Community:
     
    The words of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. are a clarion call as we reflect on our individual and collective responsibility to our Black community, following the reprehensible killing of George Floyd and the ongoing racial and social injustice that exists in our society. “If you wait for the right time, chances are that you might never find it,” Dr. King said. “You must do it now, it is now or it is never, and for the right thing, delay is its worst enemy.” For Grand Valley State University, and for me, that time is now.
     
    As an institution that educates the next generation of leaders, we will fail them, our communities and ourselves if we do not act when we know that more than words are expected of us. Learn. Understand. Act. Lead. These are the standards against which we must be measured.
     
    During the past several weeks, the university’s senior leadership team and I have been working to assess where we are and where we need to go. We are facing two viruses: COVID-19, where racialized health outcomes have become even more apparent, and systemic racism, which underscores for Black members of our community that equal justice under law is all too often not equal. We acknowledge the hurt, anger, fear, and distrust that many of our Black faculty, staff, students, and administrators must feel. We also acknowledge that the well-being of our entire community rests on fulfilling the elemental promise that every member of our campus community is welcomed, supported, respected, and valued.
     


    Our Charge

    • We must elevate the voices and experiences of our Black faculty, staff, and students.
    • We must listen carefully, valuing each member of our community.
    • We must fulfill our goals for inclusion and equity.
    • We must all deepen our understanding and knowledge through education.  
    • We must then use this knowledge as the basis for understanding and addressing institutional and systemic racism and oppression to make meaningful change.

     

    To that end, I am today announcing the first of several action steps that will support this charge for social and racial justice, ensure that our own house is in order, and assist the greater community with its undertakings. I realize some actions will take time, but I expect all to act with thoughtfulness and urgency. Each action identifies someone to hold us accountable to ensure progress toward implementation, improvements, and/or changes. 

    • I am appointing a campus-wide network of advisors to allow broad input and commitment and ensures Black faculty, staff, students, and alumni voices are elevated to the highest level of engagement with me and all university senior leaders leading the work outlined below. I have asked George Grant, Dean of the College of Community and Public Service, to convene and facilitate this network along with Vice President for Inclusion, Equity, and Presidential Initiatives Jesse Bernal. The network will examine previous institutional recommendations as well as consider new opportunities for improving campus climate and equity for Black members of our community and other underrepresented communities. 
    • I am appointing a Grand Valley Campus Safety task force to review current policing practices and recommend any needed change. I have asked Vice President for Finance and Administration Greg Sanial, Vice President Bernal, Dean Grant, and GVPD Chief Brandon DeHaan to identify and work with a diverse group of scholars and community members to advance this important action-focused review that will include interagency agreements.
    • Associate Vice President for Human Resources Maureen Walsh is charged to identify opportunities and look to implement the formation of greater and clearer promotional, developmental, and recruitment pathways for employees of color.
    • Vice President Bernal is charged with identifying structural changes and opportunities that strengthen accountability across the organization for leadership and supervisors in advancing inclusion and equity, including in our recruitment, evaluation, and promotion processes, campus climate metrics, and their own education.
    • I am instituting a universal training for all members of our university community to enable each of us to build the necessary understanding, knowledge, and skills for social justice, power, privilege, and anti-racism. The Division of Inclusion and Equity, Human Resources, and the Pew Faculty Teaching and Learning Center will be responsible for the program and our network of advisors will assist us in shaping the most meaningful experiences. All appointing officers, including the deans, vice presidents, and I, will fully participate.
    • Because of COVID-19, three important actions have been slowed. As all demonstrate direct impact for our underrepresented communities, we will move forward swiftly as the fall approaches. This includes: hiring a university ombuds, finalizing a salary equity study, and issuing final recommendations for the 2019 campus climate study with plans to reassess next year.

     

    Academic Enhancements

    • Executive Vice President for Academic and Student Affairs and Provost Maria Cimitile is committed to leading work together with the University Academic Senate Chair Professor Felix Ngassa, and Vice Chair Shawn Bultsma, to explore ways we can expand education for our students and one another on the forces of systemic racism, with an eye to ensuring every graduate deepens their understanding of social justice and racial equity through a Grand Valley experience.
    • Provost Cimitile and Dean Grant, along with the university’s Criminal Justice and Social Work programs, will embrace the opportunity for theGVSU Police Academy to lead the way in enhancing public safety education with more robust requirements for diversity, inclusion, and de-escalation.  

     

    Student Support

    • Vice Provost for Student Affairs and Dean of Students Loren Rullman and Associate Vice President for Inclusion and Student Support Marlene Kowalski-Braun are charged with supporting Student Senate in its development of peer-to-peer learning and other initiatives.
    • Upon his arrival in July, Vice President for Enrollment Development B. Donta Truss will be charged with developing an even more aggressive program for the recruitment and retention of students of color that will be undergirded by policies that remove barriers to access. A new strategic enrollment management plan will be developed with strategies and initiatives with the bold goal of removing all equity gaps.
    • Under the leadership of Associate Vice President Michelle Rhodes and Vice President for University Development Karen Loth, the university’s financial aid program will be expanded to include a racial equity scholarship in honor of the Black lives that have been lost due to racialized violence. Students who demonstrate a commitment to social justice and racial equity may be eligible.  

     

    Leading a National Dialogue

    • When social distancing requirements allow it, Vice President Truss will bring his experience and passion to host a national conversation on the need for racial equity, the disproportionate impact on male-identified Black members of our community, and how it can be strengthened in an institution and community that is historically white through a Black Male Symposium on campus. This convening, and extensions from it, will confront other transformative institutional and systemic responsibilities we have for our diverse Black community, including female-identified and transgender members. This symposium will inform K-12 and postsecondary educators, education adjacent leaders and organizations, non-profits, business and community leaders on the necessary equitable ecosystem that must be created to best serve our Black community.

     

    Strengthening our Commitment to Grand Rapids

    • We also have a special obligation to the City of Grand Rapids which hosts nearly half of the university’s enrollment and many of our public service degree programs. We will commit university talent and resources to the City’s development of a new youth employment program – GRow1000 – a commitment to provide paid employment to at least 1,000 Grand Rapids youth ages 15-21 this summer with priority to those neighborhoods and zip codes which have been most heavily impacted by disproportionate outcomes, including from COVID-19.
    • I will waive all financial requirements for Pell-eligible students in the City’s high schools for enrollment in Grand Valley’s new Math Advantage Program for rising high school seniors and college-bound high school graduates. Success in this gateway program will help to improve college readiness and retention which disproportionately impacts our communities of color.

     

    Grand Valley has a long-history of work to advance inclusion and equity. Today, I am committing us to double down on our efforts to ensure our words are not rhetoric, but rather forces for institutional change. We have started a new website to keep the university apprised as efforts continue and additional actions are identified
     
    I welcome your input to this agenda of action, listening never stops.  We will be calling on you to help with many facets. When you hear from me and the other leaders identified in this email, say “yes.”
     
    With gratitude and hope,
     
    Philomena V. Mantella
    President

    Dear Grand Valley Community,

    Throughout this pandemic, we have been able to witness the best that people have to offer – and some of the worst. While our campus has pulled together to demonstrate tremendous care for one another and the larger community, the pandemic has magnified numerous acts of racism. Not only has xenophobia come to the forefront of our society, but we continue to witness racism through acts of violence directed at people of color.
     
    The tragic incidents that happened in Minneapolis, New York, Georgia, Tallahassee, and other places around the country are acts of violence against the Black community that cannot be tolerated. As we move forward, this and all forms of racialized violence must be stopped as we work to be a more just community.
     
    All forms of racism, from bias and micro-aggressions to racialized violence, create an undue weight on our faculty, staff and students of color. As such, there is a direct need to continue to educate and act on our values of inclusion and equity. We must speak up against bias and confront hatred. This work cannot fall only on the shoulders of our colleagues and students of color.
     
    As a historically white institution, we must teach what it means to be more than allies in thought but truly partners in action. For some this may mean holding accountable those who commit violence, peacefully working on cultural and institutional changes, engaging in self-education, sharing your knowledge with others, and above all, honoring the voices of those who are rightly aggrieved.
     
    The Grand Valley mission of shaping lives, professions and societies is a direct invitation for us to be engaged. We are steadfast in our commitment to making certain this work is embedded throughout the university and elevated as we forge ahead.
     
    Sincerely,
    Philomena V. Mantella, President

    Dear Faculty and Staff,
     
    As we continue to work remotely, we remain bound together by our commitment to our students and to the educational mission of the university. Grand Valley State University has weathered the disruption of COVID-19 to date because of our historically strong financial management and our community of collective action. We must continue to face present-day pressures and plan forward as this disruption continues. We must use this moment to make thoughtful, strategic and consultative decisions to ensure we make our community stronger on the other side. 
     
    Our approach to leading us forward
    As you know, our philosophy is simple. We work together for the best possible outcome, adjust as necessary and contingency plan for the unknown. We walk this path together.
     
    My May 4 email shared our plans to be solely online in the Summer semester, and to have face-to-face, hybrid and online instruction for the Fall semester, if state and health guidelines permit. I also outlined some initial cost-containment measures that have been implemented.
     
    Budgeting for FY21
    As we have said, we entered the pandemic on solid financial ground, better positioned than most institutions. Therefore, we were able to weather the initial losses from COVID-19 associated with refunds for student housing, dining, and parking and the cancelation of events. Now we are tackling the difficult work to protect ourselves against the unknowns as we plan for the next fiscal year. We are working with various scenarios regarding our enrollment, which remains stable yet vulnerable, and state appropriations, which will be carved from a state budget recording unprecedented shortfalls. We also must factor in the additional expenses to keep our campuses safe as we battle the virus. We are considering a mix of structural changes and temporary measures to prepare for the upcoming year. The structural changes must be designed to best position the university for long-term success. 
     
    We are in this challenging moment together. Each employee, each unit, each function and each expense at the university is being considered thoughtfully and strategically as we prepare to meet our financial goals and obligations.

    Here are the steps taken to date: 

    • forgoing salary increases for FY21 
    • limiting hiring and expenditures to only those that are essential 
    • moving nearly all print to digital 
    • ceasing all non-essential university travel 
    • distributing the first tranche of CARES act funding to students impacted by COVID-19 

    Here are the steps we are taking today:

    • As president, I am contributing 10 percent of my FY21 salary, and the Senior Leadership Team and the deans are contributing 5 percent of their FY21 salaries directly to the student hardship fund, in addition to any of our previous GVSU contributions.
    • Decreasing general operating expenses and administrative overhead 
    • Discontinuing new phased retirements 
    • Deferring non-essential construction and projects 
    • Reducing university events significantly

    Here are additional steps we are actively working on:

    • Implementing additional temporary measures to address the immediate FY21 budget needs 
    • Planning university-wide realignments due to redundancy or shifting needs and markets
    • Working on a voluntary early-retirement incentive program

    Return to campus
    Let me reiterate, we will act with regard to community safety first, do everything necessary to mitigate risk and uphold our shared commitment to high-quality learning. The work of returning to a public health conscious face-to-face experience is complex, multifaceted, and requires a multi-week ramp-up beginning mid-June to be ready for the Fall semester.  We are working in parallel today looking at our teaching modalities, our physical environment, work schedules, class schedules, PPE and expectations for individual responsibility in keeping others safe.
     
    Masks will be provided to faculty, staff and student employees. We are designing ways to reduce density in work areas and in classrooms to promote social distancing. You will see stickers on some floors indicating proper spacing and plexiglass in public-facing work areas. Facilities is following OSHA guidelines for sanitation and best practices regarding ventilation and air quality in our buildings.

    These threads of work must integrate over this ramp-up planning period into clear and fair guidelines for work and a high-value experience for our students, all in a safe and responsible environment. I am committing to personally communicate with you weekly through this period of planning and ramping-up.  You will also see regular weekly updates from the IMT on the university’s website. Human Resources will provide weekly briefings to appointing officers with specific guidelines on how to plan for employees to return to campus and options to provide flexibility moving forward. Employees with specific concerns or questions will be able to consult with their appointing officer for any necessary individual guidance.  
     
    Reach Higher Together
    Working together, we can mitigate risk, provide a quality student experience and support our community’s emotional needs during this unprecedented time.
     I can’t thank you enough for making truth of my words that Grand Valley State University is unique in its high-quality offerings, enveloped in meaningful relationships. Our shared values will see us through this unprecedented time to even stronger days. We will always Reach Higher Together.

    Sincerely,
    Philomena V. Mantella, President

    One quality that makes Grand Valley special is all faculty and staff see enrollment and retention as everyone’s job!

    A new initiative, tied to both of those goals, is Student Employment+.

    The + (plus) is important because it identifies student employment jobs that are experiential in nature — answering the current struggle students are having in finding employment and internship opportunities. They allow supervisors and students to work together to co-create meaningful work that relates to classroom learning and future career goals. 

    As current or potential student employment supervisors, I’m challenging you to think about how you can enrich student employment experiences through virtual, project-based work — like improving websites, designing virtual programming, and conducting research.

    A team from Student Employment and the Career Center came together to create all of the resources and tools necessary for students to LEARN and EARN. Visit Student Employment+ website for information, training dates, and support; call (616) 331-3238; or email studentjobs@gvsu.edu.

    Let’s create as many SE+ jobs as possible for summer — and into the fall.

    Sincerely, 

    Philomena V. Mantella, President


    Winter 2020

    Dear Faculty and Staff,
     
    First, thank you for all you have done to help our students finish the Winter semester successfully, albeit not in a way that we could have predicted. We made history with our first virtual commencement on April 24 and our first virtual Board of Trustees meeting held earlier the same day. We have worked to take away as much uncertainty and anxiety as possible during these unprecedented weeks, in which we’ve stayed home and stayed safe, by communicating often and consistently to our community – faculty, staff, students and their families and supporters.
     
    We have been teaching and serving students remotely, and providing for those who remain on campus. The administration and supporting units have been conducting our business virtually. The Senior Leadership Team and the Incident Management Team meet daily. Our faculty and staff have maintained employment and benefits during this uncertain time. All of you, and in particular the critical staff who have been reporting to our campuses each day, have my deep appreciation for your attention to our students, our operations and the safety of our facilities.
     
    We have secured our path to fulfill our promise of a high-quality student experience. We have taken measured actions to preserve flexibility as we come to understand the full impact of this public health crisis. We have a great opportunity to lessen that impact by using our creativity, energy and personalized approach to all we are currently doing.
     
    Our approach to leading in challenging times 

    While we would never choose this path, it chose us. Amidst these deeply challenging circumstances, lives an opportunity to elevate our approach to education at a time in which the characteristics at our core – safety, personalization and highly-engaged learning – is exactly what is on the minds of our students and citizens. We must lead with courage and our values, fighting for learning to continue in multiple modalities – face-to-face, online and hybrid. We are working to secure a robust on-campus experience in the fall, with the necessary modifications to assure public wellbeing. We are working hard on scenarios to protect us against the unknowns. We will approach any reductions, due to cost and revenue shifts, in measured, data-informed steps, and we will communicate with our valued community members at every step. Below are the decisions we have made to date. 
     
    Academic continuity

    • Spring / Summer 2020
      The Spring semester, beginning May 4, and the Summer semester, beginning June 22, will be solely online learning and teaching for our students and faculty. I want to underscore how much I appreciate the tremendous amount of work by all our faculty and staff to design and deliver high-quality courses in an online environment. Having made the decision to be online for Spring and Summer, we have the opportunity to use our experience and ongoing training to enrich our online course offerings even further.
    • Fall 2020
      We are doing all we can to ensure a strong Fall enrollment, and continue to invite your ideas and full participation. We are considering several scenarios that prioritize the health and safety of the community and allow a safe and robust on-campus experience, with necessary modifications. We will abide by all health guidelines, including optimal conditions for social distancing, sanitation and health check protocols. Because circumstances are dynamic, we will do our best to have a decision about course delivery for the Fall semester by mid-June, and we will keep you informed.

     

    University Finances and Budgets

    Our steadfast financial planning for many years has left us in a position to move through this difficult time and focus on our students’ successful finish in the Winter semester. We are now approaching the next fiscal year and budget, and it’s clear the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic will last for months – the possibilities of prolonged or reoccurring disruptions remain. Because of the unknowns surrounding COVID-19 and the economy, we must make cost-saving decisions now and review a variety of scenarios as we plan for the 2020/2021 budget cycle. As you know, our financial situation is dependent on multiple factors, including enrollment and state appropriations, neither of which is known at this moment. But we do know there will be many challenging decisions ahead. Some factors are out of our hands – the virus, the overall economy – but much is in our control, and we must embrace those actions we can take to ensure the best outcome for the university. We have identified cost-saving practices we must implement immediately. This coordinated effort throughout the campus community reflects prudent fiscal practices that will give us flexibility as the future unfolds.
     
    Employment 

    • Compensation 
      We have made the difficult determination that there will be no pay increases for the 2020/2021 academic year. Staff evaluations will continue.
    • Hiring
      Only positions approved by the appropriate executive officer and determined to be essential to the university’s operation may be posted and filled.  

    Other expenses

    • Expenditures
      Only essential expenditures approved by the appropriate executive officer should be made. Every effort should be made to limit or curtail expenses, including but not limited to, outside consultants, services and travel.
    • Printing costs
      You are encouraged to produce only digital communication and move items currently printed to digital. This includes promotions, flyers, newsletters, invitations and other similar items.
    • Travel
      No university-sponsored travel should be planned at this time. This includes fall 2020 conferences and trips.

     

    Personal considerations

    Your life circumstances may have changed during this time. If you are reconsidering your professional path, there are resources available to assist you in making decisions. If you would like to explore reduced working hours, a voluntary unpaid leave or retirement, please connect with your appointing officer or Human Resources.
      
    Return to campus

    The State of Michigan continues under the current Stay Home, Stay Safe executive order through May 15, 2020. Recent changes to the order allow students to move their belongings out of campus housing, which began May 1. The housing team is conducting the ten-day move-out in a scheduled, safe manner, using practices deemed appropriate by public health agencies.
     
    The majority of us will continue to work remotely through mid-June, with only critical staff on campus. There will be access for research activities directed by Dr. Robert Smart, vice provost for Research Administration, in coordination with the deans’ offices. For your personal planning, we have a multiple-week ramp-up plan for all faculty and staff to return to campus. Consult with your appointing officer for details. We are planning to be fully back on campus, should circumstances allow, by mid-July to finalize preparations for the Fall semester. The Incident Management Team is working diligently to determine the safest plan to reopen our campuses when allowable. There are several groups on campus planning for academic continuity that address a variety of scenarios. We will continue to share information and firm dates with you as the situation evolves. 
     
    Throughout, Grand Valley will maintain CDC and scientific safety protocols, including social distancing, staggered shifts and additional cleaning and sanitation measures. We will provide face masks and other protective equipment. We will require temperature checks and monitoring, and employees should not report to work sick or if they were in contact with someone who is sick.
     
    Reach Higher Together 

    One quality that makes Grand Valley special is all faculty and staff see enrollment and retention as everyone’s job. It matters. We all have a stake in the outcome, and our students and families are counting on us to deliver the high-quality, high-value education for which Grand Valley is known.  
     
    Thank you for your commitment to our students and your efforts on their behalf. Do not hesitate to contact me as we get through this together. We will be even stronger.
     
    Sincerely,
    Philomena V. Mantella, President 

    Dear Colleagues:
     
    Governor Whitmer this morning issued an executive order directing Michiganders to stay-at-home beginning at midnight tonight through April 13. The Governor estimates an unprecedented public health risk if we don’t flatten the curve of the spread of COVID-19 now. For this reason we must all adhere to her order and do our part. Let me reiterate again, your health and safety and that of our students, faculty, staff, and community is my highest priority. 

    In a separate message to students I reassured them that we will continue to support remote learning for as long as necessary. I advised them to alert their professors as to any circumstances impacting their academic participation. Of course, should a faculty or staff member become unwell, please be in touch with your immediate supervisor. Most services and support functions for employees also remain available – please call or email any office for assistance.
     
    The Governor’s executive order authorizes the university to designate functions necessary for the continuation of business, public safety, and related services. A limited number of employees in these areas will be exempted from the stay at home order but must practice social distancing and other healthy behavior. Appointing officers will communicate this information to affected departments.
     
    I am grateful for the many expressions of good will that I’ve encountered in my walks around campus. Grand Valley is a special place with an exceptional team. By working together, we will get through this challenging time.  
     
    Sincerely,

    Philomena V. Mantella, President

    Gov. Whitmer’s Executive Order

    Dear Students,
     
    Governor Whitmer this morning issued an executive order directing Michiganders to stay at home beginning at midnight tonight through April 13. The Governor estimates an unprecedented public health risk if we don’t flatten the curve of the spread of COVID-19 now. For this reason we must all adhere to her order and do our part. Let me reiterate again, your health and safety and that of our faculty, staff, and community is my highest priority.  
     
    I want to reassure you that although more staff will be working remotely in the days ahead, we are prepared for this and will continue to fully support remote learning, as planned. Students and faculty have risen to the occasion as only GVSU can do. We will remain connected and engaged through our virtual learning. University services are only a phone call or email away, in addition to many available online.
     
    Because the executive order takes effect tonight, move-out from campus housing will end at midnight and won’t resume until April 14 at the earliest. Belongings not removed can be left in your assigned room for the time being. Please consult the email that those living on campus received from Housing and Residence Life earlier today. In a university message you received last week, you were advised about refunds for housing and unused dining and parking services. We will be processing these transactions soon which will show up on your student account.
     
    This is a difficult time for all of us. If you have any personal circumstances causing disruption in your learning, reach out directly to your faculty members or advisor. If something arises that we have not anticipated, please reach out to the appropriate university office, or to me directly at president@gvsu.edu. You remain in my heart and prayers, as we weather together as one Laker community in these unprecedented and stressful times.   
     
    Sincerely,
     
    Philomena V. Mantella, President
     
    Gov. Whitmer’s Executive Order

    To the Grand Valley campus community:

    Over the past several weeks, the spread of the Covid-19 has required us to take numerous actions that I summarized in yesterday's message. Events of the past 24 hours now require additional steps to protect our community. Our highest priority remains everyone's health and safety.  This will be challenging, but I know that our diligent faculty and staff will lead our students and the university we love to a successful outcome.  

    President Trump and Governor Whitmer have issued recommendations and executive orders that, together with our own operational decisions, necessitate adjustments in our previously announced plans. Please take careful note:

    • Remote academic instruction for this semester will continue through April 25. 
    • Spring and Summer classes will start as scheduled May 4 and will begin with remote delivery. Registration for these classes began yesterday and I encourage those planning to enroll to do so soon while selections are widely available.
    • April commencement ceremonies will be postponed. We will honor our Class of 2020 and will be in touch later with graduates about other options.
    •  Residence halls and living centers will close except for highly exceptional student needs. Move-out instructions can be found on the housing website. Food Services will adjust to this development.
    • Faculty will continue to conduct remote learning and online delivery, supported by Grand Valley's talented professional staff who will assist in keeping the university operational.   
    • As of tomorrow, Wednesday, March 18, staff members who can fulfill their responsibilities by working remotely are expected to do so. Please be in touch with your appointing officer for approval and to discuss an efficient move to this new deployment. We are particularly sensitive to the needs of our colleagues with school-age children who, because of widespread K-12 closures, are at home.  
    • Individuals already identified as essential employees should expect to continue to perform their work on campus, practicing social distancing and healthy practices recommended by the Centers for Disease Control. Please consult with your appointing officer to determine if work schedules or shifts will be adjusted.
    • Employees in other critical functions may be asked to support a limited physical presence on campus in order to continue to provide essential student support functions. Affected departments may change as circumstances evolve. Please consult with your appointing officer.  
    • Employees with unique circumstances, health risks, or other issues not addressed above are invited to discuss this with their appointing officer. We will do everything we can to accommodate.

    The university's senior leadership, in consultation with the Incident Management Team, has reached these decisions because we believe them to be best for all concerned. We will need to work together to ensure that essential operations continue smoothly. We must also be ready to welcome our new freshman class in August, which undoubtedly means some adjustment to normal recruiting and orientation functions. Please assist us in this welcoming work whenever and wherever you can. 

    We have never before encountered such uncertainty and anxiety. Worry for our families and friends is entirely understandable; indeed, I share it. Know that I have your back. Do not hesitate to reach out directly to me. Take advantage of the counseling and other support services available through Human Resources. We will get through this together.

    Sincerely, 

    Philomena V. Mantella, President

    Dear Grand Valley Campus Community,
     
    We find ourselves in an unprecedented time, and I am mindful of the pressure it creates for each one of us.  I want to assure you that we are working continuously and responsibly for the safety of our community and with the best interest of our students, employees and visitors as our resolute focus. We are receiving continual direction from state public health officials and the Centers for Disease Control. Our Corona Visurs website remains the best source for you to find Grand Valley specific information as well as public health directives.
     
    Students 
    I walked through campus the last few days and know that while many students have relocated, some will remain. We have a system in place for students who need to stay in university housing. If you are in need of assistance for housing, please call (616) 331-2120 immediately.
     
    I have every confidence in the quality of instruction that is being converted to remote teaching and learning beginning Monday. The faculty and staff have shown their dedication to students once again by embracing the immediate task at hand so students get a quality experience, no matter how they access the materials and instruction. We all share an unrelenting commitment to student success as we finish this semester.
     
    We have worked hard to increase support on our phone lines so all questions get answered promptly. We recognize systems and infrastructures are under immense pressure nationwide so please understand, we will address problems that arise as quickly as we identify them. If you have technical challenges, call (616) 331-2101. 
     
    We will increase student communication as we convert to remote learning, so please be on the lookout for GVSU correspondence and check the website frequently. 
     
    University employees
    As you know education continues at GVSU although in the near term our learning crosses distance. Thus, business operations continue. I know this will cause challenges for some of our student employees, as well as our staff. We are here to support you and your well-being. If you face a challenge, we will work with you to provide options and flexibility in work schedules and locations. 
     
    If you are showing signs of an illness or need to take care of ill family members, we understand your need to stay at home. We understand the closure of K-12 schools will impact many in our campus community with younger children, and we are committed to flexibility in where, how and what work gets done. Please consult with your direct supervisor regarding your individual circumstances and needs. We will support you in navigating any challenges. 
     
    Human Resources is updating its website continually to give direction to employees and answer questions.
     
    Campus environment
    I want all our employees to have confidence in the cleanliness of our campuses. We have increased our already high standards in our buildings. While washing your hands remains the most effective means to combat the spread of any virus, the custodial staff and contractors have increased their focus on cleaning and disinfecting our spaces. They are paying special attention to door handles, restroom fixtures, desks, tables and all high-touch surfaces. Germicidal and virucidal disinfectants are being utilized in daily routines in all common locations. We need to thank them for their important work.
     
    Future decisions
    We have said we will conduct remote instruction through March 29. Many want to know when and if we will reopen classrooms. The decision to resume in-person classes will be based on clear signals that the spread of the COVID-19 virus has slowed. As we have all witnessed, events are unfolding rapidly. 
     
    We are communicating using a variety of platforms. Please read these emails carefully, check the websites shared in this email, check our homepage for news items, follow Grand Valley on social media, and please reach out to supervisors and appointing officers if you have unanswered questions or special circumstances. If you still have questions, email coronavirus@gvsu.edu, and we will answer as quickly as possible. We also have a phoneline for other questions: (616) 331-INFO (331-4636).
     
    It's inspiring to see faculty and staff putting students first and rising to this challenge. It is heartening to see the warmth and adaptability of our students as they strive to get the most from their Grand Valley experience. Please be flexible and give each other grace during this period. No one wishes for these trials, but when they arise, they define institutions. I remain grateful to all of you and grateful to be a Laker. 
     
    Sincerely,
    Philomena V. Mantella, President

    Dear campus community,
     
    Our top priority is the health and safety of the Grand Valley State University community. Because the COVID-19 virus has spread to Oakland and Wayne counties in Michigan, Grand Valley will cancel classes March 12 - 15. The university will convert to remote teaching beginning March 16, at least through March 29. We are taking this step for the well-being of our community, and have procedures in place to support students with their courses, and faculty and staff with their work. This virus demands we remain alert and make constant adjustments to our plans, and we will update our community as needed. 
     
    The university’s Incident Management Team is in close contact with local health officials and monitors the Centers for Disease Control directives. You will find updates on all COVID-19 information. I urge you to check it regularly. 
     
    Students – classes, housing and employment:
    Students are encouraged to return to their permanent place of residence as soon as possible. This allows for social distancing as instructed by the Centers for Disease Control. Housing and Residence Life will support students who do not have a permanent or alternative residence by providing housing and dining on campus during this period. If you are in need of assistance, please call (616) 331-2120.
     
    For those who will no longer be living in the residence halls or dining at the university, the fees already collected for those services will be adjusted as appropriate. For those who work on campus, discuss your individual situation with your direct supervisor.
     
    Faculty and Staff:
    At this time, the university will remain open and operating for employees. Faculty will continue receiving updates from Provost Maria Cimitile with specific instructions related to converting to remote teaching. Staff members will be expected to report to work unless they are ill or have made arrangements with their appointing officers.
     
    Human Resources has more information for employees on its site.
     
    Events:
    The university is canceling large events of more than 100 people, including events organized by outside groups. If you have questions on events scheduled between now and March 29, contact  (616) 331-6620 for events on the Pew Grand Rapids Campus, and (616) 331-2350 for events on the Allendale Campus.
     
    Travel:
    The university has suspended all Grand Valley-sponsored international travel at least through March 30, and we strongly discourage domestic travel for university business. 
     
    I realize the spread of the COVID-19 virus is concerning to all of us. Be assured, you will get the support you need to get through this pandemic that has found its way to our state. If you have questions that are not answered on our Corona Virus website, or on the Human Resources site, you can email: coronavirus@gvsu.edu
     
    We also have a phoneline to answer other questions: (616) 331-INFO (331-4636).
     
    I understand this is an uncertain time, but we are already seeing our community pull together to keep each other safe, healthy and calm. 
     
    Sincerely,
    Philomena V. Mantella, President

    Dear Grand Valley Campus Community,

    Welcome back. I hope you had a meaningful and restful Spring Break. I want to update you on what we as a university community are doing regarding COVID-19 (coronavirus). Safeguarding our community’s health and well-being is of paramount importance as is the provision of timely information on these rapidly evolving circumstances. There are no confirmed cases in Michigan or on campus, thus activities will begin as usual on Monday morning.

    MONITORING: The university’s Incident Management Team has been meeting regularly, communicating daily with federal, state, and local public health officials, and planning for a campus response in case circumstances change. A website has been created to share information and updates. This website is your best source of information and I urge you to consult it regularly.

    TRAVEL: If you have been traveling abroad, be aware that the Centers for Disease Control recommends anyone who has visited any of the four countries under a Warning Level 3 Health Notice (China, Iran, Italy and South Korea) practice social distancing for 14 days after returning to the U.S. Information on how to do this, as well as other health protocols, can be reviewed on GVSU’s coronavirus webpage.

    Students who have traveled to any of these affected areas should notify the Dean of Students Office at (616) 331-3585 and, if living on campus, Housing and Residence Life at (616) 331-2120. Faculty and staff members who have traveled to any of these affected areas should notify their direct supervisor as they would if reporting an illness.

    WELLNESS: During this period of uncertainty, I ask that we keep each other in mind. That means frequent hand washing, seeking medical attention if you develop a fever, and taking care to respect those around you by avoiding actions that might spread illness. Again, the best source of information on healthy behavior will be found on our webpage.

    Your health and our campus safety is my highest priority. We are taking prudent, evidenced-based steps in dealing with what we know now, while planning for adjustments in our activity if and when warranted.

    Sincerely,
    President Philomena V. Mantella

    Dear Faculty and Staff,

    Welcome to a new year, new decade and a new semester at Grand Valley State University! This is an exciting time for us to take flight on our new chapter. There is considerable activity moving from concepts to actions around our priorities. I want to share with you a number of personnel changes, strategic initiatives, and new opportunities to fund some of our most impactful innovative ideas. These moves were informed by the feedback you gave this fall during our engagements about our future and how to best support our many talented faculty and staff to fully contribute. 

    We spent the Fall Semester in huddles with faculty, staff, students and alumni and gathered thousands of inputs through multiple vehicles. This ongoing dialogue has and will continue to inform our direction, shape our planning and build our strategy. It was an extraordinary experience to participate with you, focusing on our essence and identifying challenges and opportunities, thank you to the nearly 5,000 who participated in person or online.

     

    Senior Leadership Changes

    First, I want to update you on changes at the senior leadership level. I have increased the scope of responsibilities of some of my direct reports; a search is well underway for a new vice president for Enrollment Development; and with retirements and restructuring, I am able to add a new role to the Senior Leadership Team.

    Following the June 2019 retirement of Executive Associate to the President and Secretary to the Board of Trustees Teri Losey, Vice President Matt McLogan took on additional duties as interim secretary to the Board of Trustees. Matt’s extension of duties is now permanent and his new title is vice president for University Relations and secretary to the Board of Trustees.

    Vice President Jesse Bernal has been working closely with me since my arrival on presidential initiatives focused around building networks of engagement. We began this work in earnest in the fall, including the huddles, acceleration teams, and the K12-to-College Summit during Inauguration week. This expansion of duties will now be permanent and Jesse’s new title will be vice president for Inclusion and Equity and executive associate for presidential initiatives. This change recognizes both an expansion of duties for Jesse, and is demonstrative of my personal commitment to assure inclusion and equity work brings diverse voices directly into the university strategic initiatives.

    Vice President Lynn "Chick" Blue announced her retirement last fall. A search for her replacement is well underway. While Chick is currently responsible for all aspects of enrollment development and information technology, the role we are hiring for her replacement will focus exclusively on recruiting and retaining students. Therefore, I am adding a new role to the Senior Leadership Team, vice president for Information Technology and chief digital officer. I am pleased to add this role as the position to concentrate solely on information technology and the digital experience for our learners. There was clear, strong voice from our community on the need to invest in this area to meet current and future learner demands. We will launch a search in January for this critical role.

     

    Ombudsperson: 

    Another clear message from our fall engagement, and from past years, was the need to provide multiple avenues for voices to be heard and the facilitation and resolution of concerns, whether individual or systemic. To that end, I am announcing the creation of a university ombudsperson position. This person will help employees navigate challenges and complex problems in the workplace. Prior to making the hire, we will streamline today’s defined pathways for raising issues to assure they are clear, accessible and effective. The position will be posted this spring. 

     

    Faculty Fellows: 

    As was announced by the provost, three faculty fellows have been selected from those who applied to work with me over the next calendar year. These individuals will add faculty voice and talents to our administrative work, while providing opportunities for their own development. Aaron Lowen, professor of economics, will work on identifying new enterprise partners for learning; Kate Remlinger, professor of English, will focus on elevating faculty excellence in our communication; and Chasity Bailey-Fakhoury, associate professor of education, will focus on integrating our innovation work into the university’s strategy and vision.

     

    Support for Innovation: 

    Finally, we will begin an Innovation Fund this semester as an incentive to support colleagues in the development of new directions that unlock opportunities in strategic areas for Grand Valley. The Innovation Fund application, along with a synthesis of Reaching Higher Together community input, will be available by January 15. You can begin thinking and exploring with your colleagues and thought partners, and look forward to more details on how this fund will work and support our ability to carry on with today’s activities, while looking to shape and support some selected well-defined experiments aligned with our future.

    Grand Valley truly is an amazing university. It was a busy and constructive fall. The new year will continue and intensify our efforts and as I have said many times, we need the entire community to be involved if we are to Reach Higher Together.

     

    Sincerely,

    Philomena V. Mantella, President