April 6, 2020: Letter to the campus community

Dear Spartan community:

The novel coronavirus continues to impact our daily lives, personally and professionally. I know this is a hard time, but the strength I’m seeing from our community is inspiring. I want each of you to know that Michigan State University is doing everything it can to keep people safe and still continue our commitment to an excellent education for our students. 

Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer continues to make tough decisions to keep us, as state residents, safe. I cannot stress enough the importance of following the recommendations from state and federal government officials about social distancing. As many of you know, my education and research background is in infectious diseases. I know that staying home and away from other people, washing your hands frequently and minimizing touches to your face are the most important things you can do right now to stem the further spread of the virus. I implore you all to do your part.

The virus brings challenges in many forms — mentally, physically and also economically. A number of universities and colleges are making decisions and taking actions to address the already real and future financial impacts of the coronavirus on their campuses. MSU will not be immune to similar challenges. I am meeting daily with leadership to evaluate the impact on our university, and I know we have tough decisions ahead of us. My commitment to our students, employees and community is that we are doing our very best to advance our mission as a land grant institution and provide a 21st-century education to all of our students.

I plan to hold a series of town hall meetings in the coming weeks and months to allow me to engage more with our communities and hear your concerns. Please watch for additional information shortly on how to participate.

We must continue to be vigilant in safeguarding our campus community from random and intentional acts of xenophobia and racism that target individuals and groups, including Asian students, faculty and staff, on- and off-campus. We are aware that there have been instances of what is now referred to as “Zoom bombing,” where anonymous individuals are disrupting Zoom meetings with racist and misogynist messages. Not only should such behavior targeting individuals and groups by identity be strongly condemned, but it should also be reported to our Office of Institutional Equity. Our message has and continues to be that hate has no place at MSU.

Last week, MSU Human Resources began sharing information about the newly enacted Family First Coronavirus Response Act. Many of our employees need to explore leave options that work best for them and their families, and I encourage you to reach out to supervisors or appropriate HR representatives to understand your options.

The university also made the decision to offer summer classes in remote and distance learning formats. This applies to Summer Session One and Summer Full Session, which start May 11, and may apply to Summer Session Two, although we have not yet made that determination. Summer academic camps will be offered online or canceled, and summer sports camps also have been canceled. These are necessary precautions we need to take to protect our community further.

We all can be proud of all the ways our university community is stepping up to help battle the coronavirus. I hope that you saw some of those efforts last week:

  • Gathering and donating personal protective equipment and medical supplies to local health officials and first responders
  • Making available hundreds of MSU health care students to facilities around the state
  • Helping develop the National Convalescent Plasma Project for the study of the use of convalescent plasma in COVID-19 treatment and prevention
  • Setting up a drive-through testing facility on MSU’s campus for the general public
  • Partnering with Sparrow Health System to heat-treat and reuse N95 masks to protect health care workers

So many different areas and units are finding unique ways to help out, show our Spartan determination and make a difference in this global pandemic. I couldn’t be prouder of these efforts. 

Like many of you, I miss our old routines such as seeing friendly and familiar faces all around campus as it starts to come alive again with the spring weather. I have confidence that we will all be together again, but for now we need to be patient and vigilant. Be safe until then.


Samuel L. Stanley Jr., M.D.