Feb. 27, 2023: Spartan Community Letter

NOTE: This message refers to sensitive details that may be triggering regarding the violence our community experienced. Resources and assistance are available through multiple campus programs. FAQs, messages from campus leaders and other important updates, as well as mental health and supportive resources, are available at msu.edu/emergency.

Dear Spartans and friends,

Four months ago, I asked you to look upward to see the possibility of a shared future. And then, on Feb. 13, our present was senselessly shattered by acts of violence. And tears have since veiled our sight. 

As I think about each of you today, I think about the fabric that is woven by each of you, and I think of the students we have lost. The MSU Museum’s textile collection includes South African memory cloths, Indigenous North American pictorial quilts and a signature quilt from the Detroit Zion Congregational Church of God in Christ. Each of these quilts preserves memories and gives voice to lived experiences.

In much the same way that memory and signature quilts tell stories, each of you appears as a stitch woven into the life tapestries of the students we remember. Some of you are the foundational, golden threads of childhood and family. Some, the strengthening threads of growth and learning, from pre-K to your time here at MSU. And others, the diverse and vivid threads of MSU faculty, staff and roommates. Collectively, these threads provide the many colors, textures and dimensions to each student’s life tapestry just as the collective Spartan experience is a part of you. 

It has been said, “What [they] leave behind is not what is engraved in stone monuments, but what is woven into the lives of others.” Arielle, Alexandria and Brian are stitched forever on our hearts. And the five injured students, together with those in our midst bearing unseen wounds, are part of our fabric of care and community.

We have not shared these experiences alone. Indeed, the world beyond our campus has embraced your resilience, strength and concern for one another. On your behalf, I have expressed our gratitude for the outpouring of care and support from alums; retirees and parents; community and government leaders; and colleges and universities across the state, the country and the world. My thanks to the graduate students who organized Spartan Sunday and the tens of thousands of community members, faculty, staff and parents who offered supplies, activities, hugs and dogs to pet as students prepared their return to campus and classes. And a huge thank you to everyone supporting students and campus through the Support Our Spartans Fund and Spartan Strong Fund.

I also thank administrative leaders, support staff, faculty and academic staff and volunteers who worked tirelessly during the last two weeks to ensure that we could provide educational and research continuity. Everyone contributed in their own way, and for that, I say thank you. 

Academic continuity and safety
While our eyes may not dry for some time, we must continue to stitch the fabric of life into our daily education, work and routines. We resumed spring semester classes on Feb. 20 with accommodations to support our academic journeys. Interim Provost Thomas Jeitschko outlined these accommodations in campus messages to students, faculty and academic staff. And in consultation with student-athletes as well as mental health professionals, Spartan Athletics resumed its competition schedule on Feb. 18. Several events celebrating Black History Month also moved forward last week, and I extend my thanks to the organizers of those important programs.

As we focus on the safety and well-being of our campus community, university leaders are working to balance safety considerations with remaining an open campus that regularly hosts visitors from the wider community and beyond. This was among the topics of discussion at a student-led town hall meeting last week. Chief of Police and Vice President for Public Safety Marlon Lynch is working with our chief audit, risk and compliance officer, Marilyn Tarrant, to assess campus risks and future enhancement opportunities. We anticipate updating the university community on our progress shortly.

Our campus police department earned wide praise for its response to the emergency, reflecting the thorough planning and training it routinely conducts. The department recently earned a second accreditation term from the Emergency Management Accreditation Program. MSU is the only university in Michigan and the Big Ten Conference to receive accreditation.

I am so proud of how our students, faculty, academic and support staff have borne the burdens of the past two weeks with such exceptional grace and dignity. I am proud of the way our wider Spartan family has rallied around us and thankful for the care and support so many others have shown us.

Board actions and faculty, staff and student excellence
On Feb. 10, the MSU Board of Trustees moved two building projects forward, one on our campus and one located on the Detroit campus of Henry Ford Health, with which we have a 30-year partnership agreement. The joint research facility planned for Detroit is part of a $2.5 billion expansion announced by HFH as we combine our organizations’ clinical, research and education experience to advance health care in Detroit and across Michigan.

The board also green-lighted construction of our planned $38 million free-standing multicultural center at the corner of North Shaw and Farm lanes. Students and others have called for such a facility for decades. This action furthers our commitment to welcoming and supporting our increasingly diverse student body. We plan to break ground on this project in the spring.

The excellence of our faculty, academic staff and students was again recognized by the National Science Foundation in renewing its support for the W.K. Kellogg Biological Station’s Long-Term Ecological Research Program, reaffirming its status as one of the country’s premier research sites. This 34-year-old research program, which studies how agriculture can be environmentally friendly while sustaining crop yields, will continue its important work through NSF’s new $7.65 million grant for the next six years.

And congratulations to the five faculty members recognized as fellows of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. AAAS is the world’s largest general scientific society and among the most prestigious. Researchers Evangelyn Alocilja, Andrea Case, James Fairweather, William Lovis and Shin-Han Shiu represent five MSU colleges. They are working to expand knowledge in education, plant biology, evolutionary ecology, anthropological archaeology and low-cost sensing technology for health care and food safety, among other areas.

In addition, MSU was recognized as a top producer of Fulbright U.S. Scholars for the ninth consecutive year. The Fulbright Program is the U.S. government’s flagship international educational exchange program and will offer MSU’s 2022-2023 scholars professional opportunities in nine countries on five continents. Nine faculty members from six colleges earned Fulbright awards for international academic exchange.

Moving forward
As we have done for 168 years of change and challenge, we will strive to maintain our institutional momentum across our mission of advancing knowledge and transforming lives through learning, discovery and outreach in this present moment. And to do this, we again must look upward. Not away from our past, but with our past woven into our shared future. And our memory of those lost will linger here, where light and shadow played.   

My best, 

Teresa K. Woodruff, Ph.D. (she/her/hers) 
Interim President 
MSU Research Foundation Professor