Feb. 27, 2020: Letter to the community

Dear MSU community,

Before students depart for next week’s spring break, I would like to provide an update on some current and pending items.

Coronavirus and an inclusive campus
Michigan State University continues to monitor the coronavirus, also known as COVID-19, to ensure the safety of our campus community.

Beyond public health considerations, we are concerned about the well-being of students affected by the impact of the outbreak, including worries about family members in quarantined areas as well as travel restrictions. A university committee is making contingency plans to accommodate the housing, educational and other needs of international students who might not be able to travel home this summer, as well as the needs of students expecting to arrive for fall semester.

Another dimension of concern is the impact on civility. Many of our affected community members live daily with anxiety and should not have to experience jokes, blame or other hurtful expressions. MSU is an inclusive and global university, and times like this call for an extra measure of understanding and awareness. Visit msu.edu/coronavirus to learn more about what MSU is doing and what you can do to stay healthy.

Starting this fall, ongoing education and professional development in the areas of diversity, equity and inclusion will be an expectation for all MSU students, faculty and staff, as it is for topics related to relationship violence and sexual misconduct. And, since my message to the Spartan community earlier this month regarding a bias incident at Wharton Center, you should know that new training for staff there has begun and that I will continue to monitor response efforts closely.

Initiatives and leadership searches
Planning initiatives are well underway in the areas of relationship violence and sexual misconduct; diversity, equity and inclusion; and the feasibility of a multicultural center on campus. These efforts complement an inclusive and comprehensive strategic planning process that is also in motion, and are establishing a variety of means for collecting public input.

Searches are also underway for our next provost and a new vice president/chief diversity officer. A position description for the diversity officer and a search timeline have been added to the search page, and public listening sessions are scheduled for university staff on March 6, for students on March 10 and for faculty and academic staff on March 16.

One search that promptly resulted in an outstanding outcome was for a new head football coach. It was led by Athletic Director Bill Beekman, whose primary direction from me was that the candidate pool be a diverse one, and that candidates be people of demonstrated integrity and character. Our selection, Mel Tucker, is not only a highly experienced and well-regarded coach, but also one who puts the welfare of his student-athletes first — with the emphasis on “student.” At the same time, I know Spartans join me in thanking Mark Dantonio for his 13 years of building excitement and success for MSU football.

Spartan engagement
Community engagement is a longtime Spartan virtue, and two important opportunities for civic involvement are fast approaching. Michigan’s presidential primary election is March 10, and we hope to see a strong turnout from the MSU community this year. Registration and voting are easier than ever. You can find out more at MSUvote, a nonpartisan information source made up of faculty, staff, students and community partners.

The other important event is the 2020 census. Taken every 10 years, the count influences everything from the level of federal support for local communities to the size of legislative districts. Starting April 1, individuals will be able to respond online, by phone or by mail. A reminder, also, that students should list where they are living on that date, and not where parents or guardians reside.

As the 50th anniversary of the first Earth Day approaches this spring, it was great to see MSU students’ activity in sustainability research and development supported by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. The EPA awarded a student team nearly $25,000 to develop a fluorine-free, oil-resistant coated paper for disposable plates and cups, paper straws, boxes and food wrappers. To get a sense of the scope of MSU’s environmental engagement, click to MSUToday.

Our campus sustainability efforts took a big step forward with the Board of Trustees’ approval this month of a new 100-acre solar energy farm on the south end of campus. This development will contribute substantially to MSU’s sustainable energy portfolio and, at peak capacity, could supply a third of the electrical demand of campus. MSU already operates North America’s largest solar carport array.

Items worth noting
Michigan State’s leadership in accommodating persons with disabilities added a couple of great examples recently, thanks to caring and innovative people. MSU head debate team coach Will Repko worked with IT Services to facilitate the inclusion of a team member with a hearing impairment in competitive experiences with students at other universities. In other efforts, Guillermo Delgado, an academic specialist in community and socially engaged arts in the Residential College in the Arts and Humanities, found creative ways to engage a student who is blind in the design of arts course activities and goals that are accessible and inclusive. What inspiring examples of connecting Spartan hearts and minds.

March brings to campus a wide variety of fun and informative events that celebrate our diverse community. Among them, the César E. Chávez and Dolores Huerta Commemorative Celebration observes its 10th anniversary on March 13. On March 29, MSU’s engagement with, and support for, Latino/a farmers in Michigan will be the focus of a La Cosecha Project celebration. And, now in its 37th year, the Pow Wow of Love will bring traditional Native American dancing and culture to the IM East on March 14.

All of us were saddened to learn of the death of former MSU President John DiBiaggio, especially faculty members, staff and alumni who remember his principled leadership and kindness. Photos and tributes are posted online.

If you are among those enjoying spring break next week, I hope it is relaxing and rewarding for you, and that you enjoy safe travels.


Samuel L. Stanley Jr., M.D.