July 28, 2020: Update on fall semester planning

Dear Spartans,

Many in our Spartan community saw the unfortunate news yesterday from our Athletics Department, which shared that 16 student-athletes and four staff members recently tested positive for COVID-19. Importantly, the department took swift and decisive action early to mitigate risk to others in our community with several preventative measures, including suspending all football practices for two weeks, and I have been informed that all members of the football team are completing a requested self-quarantine for 14 days.  

It is against this backdrop that faculty, staff and leaders across campus continue the monumental task of preparing for the fall semester under difficult and dynamic circumstances. My highest priority remains the safety and well-being of all members of our MSU community, and many decisions are being made with that foremost in mind. 

As we approach August, I also want to stress another tenet of our fall planning, which is providing as much information as possible so that each of you can make choices that best fit your personal priorities and preferences related to safety and your well-being. We are not compelling faculty to teach in person. At the same time, we respect faculty members’ judgment that some courses are better offered in person (e.g., music, arts, labs and much research), so options can be offered in various modalities. We also know that other tasks and responsibilities can continue to be accomplished remotely. 

In the coming days, HR will be providing guidance to units to also ensure staff are provided flexibility to continue to work remotely where possible. Just as there are some courses that will continue to be offered in person, some support staff have and will continue to work in person as well. I cannot thank you enough for your hard work and dedication to MSU.

I also understand that many students are going to have fully online class schedules for the fall. A number of those students will still live on campus. We recognize that for some students, MSU is their home and where they feel safest, and we are prepared to welcome them. Others may prefer to remain remote, and as the new policy explained below states, we are not requiring any student to live on campus this fall.

Expectations of the Spartan community
As a physician and infectious diseases researcher who has followed this pandemic closely, I know that simple actions such as wearing masks and maintaining physical distance greatly enhance the safety of all. As a fellow Spartan helps us understand in this short video, we’re asking all Spartans to take the personal responsibility necessary to protect themselves and others. Together, we believe this fall semester can be a success at MSU.

The MSU Community Compact, released last week, applies to students, faculty, staff, alumni when on campus, contractors, vendors and other visitors. It asks all of us to take personal responsibility and follow certain standards and procedures as part of the MSU community.

The compact, which will be included in all student care kits, can be viewed online and will be posted prominently across campus. It defines expectations for face coverings, physical distancing, personal hygiene, adherence to signage and health guidance, self-monitoring and what to do if faculty, staff or students are exposed to COVID-19. The compact also outlines the compliance measures put in place.

Inbound domestic and international travel
All MSU travelers — students and employees — coming or returning to any of MSU's campuses from outside the state of Michigan are asked to adhere to all appropriate MSU inbound travel protocols.

If you are traveling to campus from a U.S. state that has a risk level of “active or imminent outbreak” as defined by the COVID Act Now risk map, and have stayed there for at least 24 hours, it is strongly recommended that you self-quarantine for 14 days upon arrival to campus. This means you should stay home for at least 14 days, leaving your residence only to obtain medical care, practice physical distancing and monitor for symptoms of COVID-19. Similarly, if you are traveling to campus from outside the United States from a country with a COVID-19 outbreak status, you are strongly urged to self-quarantine for 14 days upon arrival to campus and follow these same measures.

Traveling Spartans’ participation in these risk mitigation measures is incredibly important to strengthening the health and safety of our entire Spartan community.

On-campus housing
Since my last update to the campus community, MSU has expanded its “Learn From Home” option to apply to residence hall students who have committed to the 2020-21 Housing Contract, regardless of their schedules — in-person, online, hybrid or a combination of all three. While the university traditionally requires freshmen to live in our residence halls, that requirement is being waived this year through the Learn from Home program. This expansion is part of MSU’s effort to provide students with options and information to make decisions based on what is best for themselves and their families. The deadline for students to be released from their fall housing contracts has been extended to Aug. 5. Students are asked to submit a Learn From Home Application in their My Housing Account before Aug 5. Once the Learn From Home Application is processed, students will be relieved from their obligations under the 2020-21 Housing Contract for the fall 2020 semester only.

I also mentioned in my last update that students would be able to complete a Thanksgiving housing credit form if they intend to leave their residence hall by Nov. 25 for the remainder of the fall semester. While the deadline to complete this form has been extended to Aug. 5, I want to make clear that RHS will continue to work with students whose circumstances may change during the semester. When they are ready to make that decision, the team at Live On will be available to help them. 

Fall classes
Earlier this summer, faculty were asked to consider their course loads and offer classes using a mix of instructional options based on the needs and makeup of the specific course. Below is a table that provides an outline of our course makeup and the percentage of students in those courses as of today. As is the case every year, faculty are still making small adjustments and changes. Our goal in sharing this information with you is to better understand how campus will look this fall.

Courses (percentage of courses offered)

 Online  Hybrid  In-person
Undergraduate  57%  17%  26%
Graduate  37%  9%  54%
Overall  49%  14%  37%

Seats (percentage of students in courses)

 Online  Hybrid  In-Person
Undergraduate  82%  13% 5%
Graduate  46%  15% 36%
Overall  75.4%  15.3% 10.3%

Students who wish to transition their courses to solely online or make other adjustments may do so. It is strongly recommended you make any changes to course schedules prior to the start of classes Sept. 2.

We are doing everything we can to be sure our campus is a safe environment for our students, faculty, staff and visitors. Our teams have been hard at work to transition classrooms for in-person instruction that allows for appropriate physical distancing, and faculty have worked diligently throughout the summer to improve our online course offerings. As another Spartan tells us in this short video, things will look different this fall — from technology improvements in classrooms that let students interact with professors during class, to offering in-person courses earlier and later in the day to allow for appropriate physical distancing — but students can count on the same world-class faculty and instruction they have come to expect from MSU.

Together we will
We are weeks away from our fall semester. As we move closer to the beginning of classes, please know that Michigan State University will continue to make health and safety our top priority and to provide information so you can make informed choices.

We know it is important that all Spartans do their part, too. We are all navigating these challenging and changing times together. I remain confident that if each of us will commit ourselves to the personal responsibility needed, we can have a successful fall semester.

These are complex and important decisions, so again, we want to provide as much detail as we can on what to expect and what’s expected this fall. This email provides a good deal of content, but please also explore our Together We Will website for additional details and updated information.


Samuel L. Stanley Jr., M.D.