Updates on Commencement and University Housing

Dear Students, 

We understand the challenges and sacrifices you are facing during these extraordinary and unprecedented times. The spread of COVID-19 has compelled us to make difficult choices that put the safety of our students, their families, our employees and our communities first. This was not the semester anyone expected. 

At the same time, we are dedicated to helping our students progress. We are especially committed to assisting students meet the requirements for graduation this semester through alternative means of course delivery. As a reminder to all students, there will be no further in-person instruction this semester. Alternative delivery of instruction begins March 30. 

In-Person Commencement and Honors Ceremonies Canceled
Given the circumstances facing our university, our communities, the nation and the world, we have decided we cannot hold our in-person graduation ceremonies on May 17, nor Honors Commencement on May 11. These decisions are consistent with Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers’ executive order barring mass gatherings.   

We know how profoundly disappointing this is for those graduating, as well as your families, supporters and friends. These decisions are not made lightly, but with the best interests of our campus community and our students’ families and loved ones in mind, especially since many people would make travel plans to attend. We appreciate your understanding of this difficult decision. 

Eligible graduates should apply for graduation in the normal manner at https://uwm.edu/secu/com_cer/. Students who fulfill the requirements will still earn their degree and receive their diploma. The lack of an in-person ceremony does not change your significant accomplishment, and you deserve to celebrate that. We are exploring other ways to honor our graduates and will communicate when those plans are known. 

Refunds of Housing Fees and Updates on Tuition and Other Fees 
In response to the COVID-19 public health crisis and its impacts to UWM students and families, UWM will refund the prorated charges for housing and dining for the remainder of the spring semester for students who vacate their on-campus student housing (and do not receive a COVID Accommodation to remain on-campus).  

Prorated reimbursements will exclude the period of the originally scheduled spring break and shall be issued by the close of the spring academic semester, though efforts are being made to expedite the refund process. Crediting these funds toward future semesters in lieu of a refund is not an option because of rules related to the awarding of federal financial aid. There is a team working on other fee issues, and we will share updates as they become available. 

We also have extended the Spring 2020 payment deadline. UWM will not assess late payment fees or interest charges from March 20 to June 2. We are committed to working with our students and families to the best of our ability through these challenging times. Students who cannot make payments on time are encouraged to contact the Bursar’s office at bursar@uwm.edu 

University Housing to Close
We are closing University Housing with the exception of those individuals who do not have other options. All residents will receive a separate email from University Housing with details later today explaining how and when they can retrieve their belongings. 

We know how invested you are in your futures, and what a disruption has been placed on your lives and on your learning. Your continued patience and understanding are most appreciated. 

Additional important updates on campus operations and services are found below. 

Best regards, 

Mark A. Mone, PhD

Online or alternative delivery of instruction

As a reminder, UWM classes will be taught online or through an alternate mode of instruction following the extended break period, starting Monday, March 30 through the end of the semester. This allows you to continue your academic progress during the pandemic while promoting the health and safety of our campus community.  

Faculty and staff are using the extended spring break period to prepare for the transition. If they haven’t done so already, your instructors will be reaching out shortly with more details.  

Don’t forget that you can also reach your academic advisors by phone or email.  

Campus access

While academic buildings are locked for the rest of the semester, we understand that many graduate and undergraduate students may still need to access facilities for research, lab work or other activities related to their education. Please contact the faculty and staff you work with for details on building access.  

Students who need to access buildings to retrieve personal belongings should contact the dean of their school or college to coordinate. UWM Police will not be letting students into buildings. 

Libraries closing

While libraries at all three UWM campuses are closed, you can continue to access online databases, articles and e-books. Many publishers are also providing free, online access to their content during the coronavirus pandemic. Reference support is still available online.  

For students who need computer access, Campus Technology Services is developing a program to distribute about 200 repurposed laptops to students at no or little cost. Plans are also in the works to provide access to equipment such as cameras, audio recorders, special calculators and tripods. More information will be provided when available.  

UWM food pantry

The UWM Food Center and Pantry hopes to receive a delivery from their food bank partner, Feeding America, in time for the pantry’s next scheduled distribution on Thursday, March 26. About 200 bags of food totaling more than 2,000 pounds were handed out yesterday. Visit the food pantry’s website for more information. 

Campus practices regarding COVID-19 infections

The City of Milwaukee Health Department notified the University of one case of COVID-19 in a UWM employee early this week. Local health departments are following state and federal public health guidelines related to contact investigations. With the majority of students and employees not on campus individuals should follow the information related to COVID-19 of their local community and local health department.  

Student and employee health matters are confidential, and while UWM may have a count of employees taking COVID-19 leave, they may be doing so for reasons other than illness, such as child care.