Michigan State University will conduct the fall semester as online-only instruction, its president announced Tuesday afternoon,
Days before students were set to move in for the fall.
“Given the current status of the virus in our country — particularly what we are seeing at other institutions as they repopulate 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,” President Samuel Stanley said in a letter to students.
“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.”
Some exceptions will be made, including colleges of law, human medicine, nursing, osteopathic medicine and veterinary medicine, the letter said. Some in-person graduate programs will also continue.
MSU’s athletic department said its athletes can stay.
“Michigan State student-athletes who are engaged in practices or workouts can return to (or stay on) campus this fall,” it said in a statement. “Spartan athletics will continue to follow medical advice and local guidelines regarding the most current safety protocols and procedures for all team activities.”
Students were scheduled to move into on-campus housing between Aug. 27 and Aug. 31. Many students have already moved back into off-campus apartments in the East Lansing area. Classes are scheduled to start Sept. 2.
The news comes the same day as the University of Notre Dame said it would pull the plug on face-to-face instruction for two weeks after it had clusters of COVID-19 on campus. The University of North Carolina also switched from face-to-face to online-only after starting with in-person classes only to see several clusters of COVID-19. MSU is the first Michigan public university to make the move.
Students who have already paid MSU for living in residence halls will be issued a refund or credit, the letter from Stanley said.
“We also realize that for some students, MSU is their home or they need to be on campus for employment,” he said. “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.”
Earlier this month, Stanley urged students to stay home, but stopped short of closing the school.
“If you can live safely and study successfully at home, we encourage you to consider that option for the fall semester,” Stanley wrote in an email sent to students. “The vast majority of first-year students this fall will have course schedules that are completely online. Living away from campus may be the best choice for you and your family, particularly if you have family members at higher health risk.”
Stanley, who is a medical doctor, said Tuesday’s move was tough, but necessary.
“We have seen that it is difficult for colleges and universities, and other areas of education such as K-12, to be open successfully right now given the prevalence of the virus. While I have faith in our students and all of the members of the campus community, we know that this virus is relentless and is easily spread. We’re seeing on our campus and in other areas of the country that a few mistakes by some are having large impacts on many.
“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.”
MSU’s Graduate Employee Union tweeted it was happy with the news.
“We’re relieved MSU has prioritized safety & shifted undergraduate courses to remote learning,” the group, which represents 1,200 graduate employees said. “It’s the right decision for our campus & for the E Lansing community. We urge graduate programs to likewise prioritize health & well-being & offer coursework online wherever possible.”
Earlier in the day, a group of faculty members at the University of Michigan rallied outside of the Fleming Administration Building to protest classes being offered with face-to-face instruction.
This news was originally published at freep.com