July 16, 2020: The latest information on campus reopening plans

Dear Spartans:

During the past few weeks, our community has been reminded just how pervasive COVID-19 is, both locally and across the nation. The rise in cases is concerning, and we are counting on all Spartans to embrace the personal responsibility and resolve that are vital to our progress toward returning to campus this fall. This includes wearing face coverings inside and outside while on campus, with limited exceptions, and practicing physical distancing. In addition, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer last week issued a new executive order requiring face coverings in all public indoor spaces and public outdoor spaces where social distancing cannot be practiced.    

Like almost any large institution across the country, the university has not been able to completely avoid cases of COVID-19 and cannot expect to completely avoid them going forward; however, we firmly believe we can work together to limit the amount of risk you and your fellow Spartans encounter. This applies to all members of the MSU community, both before and after they return to campus. We know decisions to wear masks and maintain physical distancing can have a positive impact on the health of our students, colleagues, instructors, loved ones and friends. It is against this backdrop that the university provides these updates and encourages all Spartans to commit to the safety and well-being of themselves and others.

Stay informed
As always, safety is our first priority as we consider our approach. We are carefully monitoring COVID-19 in Michigan and across the United States, as well as information from public health leaders. The next few weeks will be critical as we prepare for arrival on campus. We’ll be ready to adapt our plans, if needed, moving forward. You can learn more on our Together We Will website, recently redeveloped to make it easier for you to find the information and updates you need.

Students living on campus
MSU’s Residential and Hospitality Services continues to put plans in place for fall. They have developed an extensive FAQ guide, which includes several key decisions. Any students who test positive for COVID-19 will be asked to self-isolate in university housing or return to their homes off campus and/or permanent residences. Isolation rooms on campus have been set aside for this purpose. We are strongly discouraging guests and visitors in residence halls or apartments, and no overnight guests will be allowed for the fall 2020 semester.

Students can choose to remain on campus until Dec. 18 at the full room-and-board rate or receive a housing and dining credit if they move out by Nov. 25. We are asking students to select this option by completing the Thanksgiving Credit Form in their My Housing account by July 20, as that will assist with our planning.

In addition, students whose fall 2020 semester schedules consist solely of online courses and who intend to reside with a parent or legal guardian for the fall 2020 semester may apply to live off-campus for the fall 2020 semester by submitting a Learn from Home Application by Aug. 1. The Learn From Home option is only available for the fall 2020 semester. Information about the spring 2021 semester will be provided later this year.

More information on these decisions and others are answered in the FAQ guide.

COVID-19 testing
As we see an increase in cases in our area and across the nation, it is important to reiterate that any member of our community exhibiting signs of COVID-19 must seek immediate medical attention. If feeling ill, students should contact Olin Health Center’s 24-hour nurse line at (517) 353-5557 or contact their health care provider. Faculty and staff should contact their primary care physician. If you are ill, you should self-isolate and avoid close contact with others.

We know there are basic ways to reduce the transmission of the virus, including mask-wearing, physical distancing and good hygiene, such as frequent handwashing. We continue to work on a testing approach that will allow us to rapidly help individuals who have symptoms and work effectively with our local and state public health agencies to identify and test those who may have been exposed. MSU also will continue to work with local health departments on contact tracing for any potential cases, and we plan to hire additional staff to help with tracing related specifically to campus.

While details continue to evolve on testing, we can share the following plans:

  • Any students, faculty or staff presenting symptoms or identified through contact tracing will be tested.
  • Those who are asymptomatic but have concerns about exposure to COVID-19 will have access to testing.
  • Anyone testing positive will be required to self-isolate per CDC guidelines. For students who live on campus, space for isolation will be provided.
  • We are also working on broader procedures to help identify populations that need additional testing. We have developed a technique at MSU that involves the ongoing collection, analysis, and interpretation of health-related data (referred to by the CDC as “surveillance”) that enables us to identify the presence of the virus. The technique involves collecting salvia samples and determining if COVID-19 is present. If the virus is detected, individuals within the sample group would have the option to receive a formal diagnostic test as a follow-up.

As more details are finalized surrounding MSU’s testing plans, we will update our community.

Compliance and reporting
As I have said before, face coverings are required for everyone (faculty, staff, students, contractors, suppliers, vendors and visitors) while on campus, both indoors and outdoors.

In adjusting to this new reality, we recognize the need to have mechanisms in place to help our community members appropriately handle emerging situations. We believe those who come to campus will commit to the personal responsibility necessary for us to remain as safe as possible, and we recognize there may be times when action will be necessary to reinforce expectations. MSU will count on the processes already in place to respond to any issues of noncompliance with standards established for the health and safety of our community.

For faculty needing to handle disruptions in the classroom, the responses and processes that have been used previously remain the first line of action. If necessary, the student conduct system will be the avenue used to adjudicate student disciplinary situations. Similarly, supervisors will use the regular processes outlined by Human Resources for any situation involving an employee. Academic Human Resources should be contacted for situations involving faculty and academic staff.

MSU’s Misconduct Hotline is another avenue that members of the campus community can use to make reports regarding compliance with the new policies put in place in light of the pandemic. It is important that all reports include both the date and location of the incident. Confidential and anonymous reports can be made online or by calling 800-763-0764.

Last week, two webcasts focused on returning to campus were posted online. I was joined by Executive Vice President for Health Sciences Norman J. Beauchamp Jr. to answer questions from faculty and staff and by Vice President and Associate Provost for Student Affairs and Services Denise B. Maybank and Vice President for Auxiliary Enterprises Vennie Gore to answer questions from admitted students and parents

This week, Associate Provost for Teaching, Learning and Technology Jeff Grabill and Associate Provost for Undergraduate Education Mark Largent hosted three new episodes of Spartan Fireside. Their guests answered questions about the learning and campus experiences planned for this fall.

Expectations and updates
We cannot eliminate the virus from our community, as much as we would like to, and campus will feel different this fall than it has in the past. We are working tirelessly to create the best environment we can for people to learn, work and live. It is incumbent on all of us to keep ourselves and others safe when we’re all on campus together. You will continue to receive updates on our health and safety initiatives as they evolve over the summer.


Samuel L. Stanley Jr., M.D.