Text by Jim Lynch, Photography by Joseph Xu
It wasn’t supposed to be like this, but here we are.
The work week that started March 16 turned into a turbulent ride for the University of Michigan community on North Campus.
Classes had previously been moved online and commencement cancelled. But each day last week seemed to bring changes that further eroded whatever sense of normalcy remained.
Students gathered their belongings, leaving campus living spaces for hastily-arranged journeys home and elsewhere. Professors carried boxes of materials from their offices to their cars, preparing to teach from home offices, kitchens or living rooms.
On Monday, Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer halted eat-in dining at restaurants and bars. The following day, indoor gatherings of more than 50 people were banned.
“I can’t believe this is it,” said Jett Li, a freshman engineering student, who cleared out his dorm room in Burlsey Hall early evening of Tuesday, March 17. He and two other students from their hometown of Troy, Mich., had organized their move out of separate dorm rooms together. For Li and his friends, it was a premature end to a year full of formative memories and relationships.
Wednesday, University of Michigan continued their own steps – announcing all non-critical laboratory research would shut down by Friday.
“Details will vary by unit, but our overall goal is to continue operations that are critical to our mission, while protecting health and safety, diminishing the spread of the virus and, to every degree possible, minimizing disruptions to employees’ lives,” wrote U-M President Mark Schlissel.
For many, it was a step that brought one more layer of uncertainty. But for Ashley Cornett, a Research Lab Tech, Schlissel’s earlier announcements about providing up to 80 hours of paid time off for university employees helped lessen the concern.
“I love research, but being a mother is my primary job,” she said Thursday while helping store research samples at the North Campus Research Complex. “So I’m glad to see (Schlissel) announced the 80 hours of time for this situation.”
By Friday afternoon and evening, North Campus was largely deserted. Few people remained in their offices and, for many that did, they worked with doors closed. Labs were largely empty of personnel and often-prized parking spaces were ripe for the taking.