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Michigan State University moves to remote-only instruction for fall semester

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Due to COVID-19 concerns, Michigan State University will conduct its fall 2020 semester entirely online (with a few exceptions), and eliminating face-to-face instruction in most courses. Michigan State President Dr. Samuel L. Stanley announced in a letter to students today.

Dear Spartans,

As president of Michigan State University, it is my ultimate responsibility to protect the health and safety of our students, faculty and staff. That has been my guiding principle since I arrived at this great university last year, and even more so since the coronavirus pandemic turned our lives upside down.

Our decision in March to transition to remote classes and have more employees work remotely was the right one. Since that time, we’ve worked diligently to create new approaches to educational and enrichment opportunities for our students, while always keeping health and safety foremost in mind. Our entire process stems from values-based decisions and constant evaluation and re-evaluation, as the nature of the pandemic changes.

But given the current status of the virus in our country — particularly what we are seeing at other institutions as they re-populate their campus communities — it has become evident to me that, despite our best efforts and strong planning, it is unlikely we can prevent widespread transmission of COVID-19 between students if our undergraduates return to campus.

So, effective immediately, we are asking undergraduate students who planned to live in our residence halls this fall to stay home and continue their education with MSU remotely. While a vast majority of our classes already were offered in remote formats, we will work the next two weeks to transition those that were in-person or hybrid to remote formats.

As Stanley — who has a background in studying infectious diseases — mentions above, the majority of classes were already set to be conducted remotely, but there were still plans to have in-person and hybrid (both online and in-person instruction) courses this fall.

There are exceptions for the colleges of Law, Human Medicine, Nursing, Osteopathic Medicine and Veterinary Medicine, as well as all graduate programs, with Stanley noting those programs/colleges will learn the details of that process soon. The letter also states that MSU will work with international students on their Visa status and campus needs.

Students living on campus were expected to move in during the week of Aug. 27 through Aug. 31. Many other students who live off-campus have already moved back into their East Lansing residences, but Stanley is also encouraging these students to consider moving back home if possible.

MSU will continue to support a small number of students who need to remain on campus for a safe place to stay or for employment. The letter also states that students who have already paid for the fall semester will be refunded or credited.

Through Residential and Hospitality Services, we will provide information to all students who are impacted by this decision. Refunds or credits will be issued to individuals who have already paid for the fall semester. We also realize that for some students, MSU is their home or they need to be on campus for employment. Just like we did this spring, we will continue to provide a safe place for a small number of students in our residence halls. We remain committed to our students, their success and their safety.

Michigan State is the first public university in the state of Michigan to announce such a decision. Yesterday, the University of North Carolina announced it would move to an online-only/remote learning environment following “a spate of COVID-19 infection clusters during the first week of classes” (yet still, somehow, plans to play football this fall — LOL). Following a big surge in positive tests, Notre Dame is also (temporarily — for now) making the switch to remote education for a two-week period. If I were a betting man, I would bet that MSU is not going to be the last school to make this transition.

As for student-athletes, the Spartan athletics department said athletes may remain on campus, via the Detroit Free Press:

“Michigan State student-athletes who are engaged in practices or workouts can return to (or stay on) campus this fall. Spartan athletics will continue to follow medical advice and local guidelines regarding the most current safety protocols and procedures for all team activities.”

While this was obviously a tough decision to make — there have been plenty of those around the Big Ten lately — Michigan State feels it was the right thing to do, making students’ safety and health the top priority.

“This was an extraordinarily difficult decision, but the safety of our campus community must be our paramount concern. Please know that we are making choices based on reliable public health data, updates from local and state officials and our understanding of the science and research available to us on the novel coronavirus.”

Classes are set to begin on Sept 2. This strange year that is 2020 just got a whole heck of a lot stranger for Michigan State undergraduate students. You can read Stanley’s full message here.