Dear MSU Community,
Since my first days at MSU last August, I have emphasized our shared mission of creating a safer, more diverse, more inclusive and welcoming campus. Events in recent months tragically and powerfully have driven home the importance of that goal, not only for our campus but also for our country.
Our national challenges are concerning and complex, with recurring violence against Black individuals; a devastatingly disproportionate health and economic impact of COVID-19 on communities of color; and new challenges to those who would immigrate, secure citizenship or bring their skills and knowledge to work or study in our country.
I have discussed all those things in recent messages and statements, and I believe the MSU community is among those galvanized by the imperative to change.
Addressing diversity, equity and inclusion
A number of new measures are already in progress at MSU to identify and address issues that present barriers to the success and well-being of students and employees. Among those is new anti-bias online training that will be required for all students, faculty and staff this fall.
I recently asked our Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Steering Committee to create a focused task force to identify areas that require immediate attention and to call on any additional campus experts who might be helpful.
In addition, the Office of the Provost is working to identify and eradicate policies, practices and behaviors rooted in systemic racism that create barriers to success for students of color. These could include financial aid and general education reforms, curricular analysis and expansion of the first-year seminars program.
Earlier this year, Paulette Granberry Russell, senior adviser to the president for diversity and director of the Office for Inclusion and Intercultural Initiatives, announced she will be transitioning away from MSU. Her last working day is July 10, and we wish her well in her new endeavors. She has spent more than 20 years building a foundation for many of our inclusion programs and educational trainings. With her departure, our search for a chief diversity officer continues, and we will conduct interviews with seven highly qualified semifinalists later this month.
Amid deep health care access issues highlighted by this pandemic, we were pleased to announce a letter of intent for an expanded relationship with Henry Ford Health System. It will focus on access, affordability and outcomes, and address disparities in health care. The agreement also will create a larger community of researchers and will foster innovation and expand learning and research opportunities for MSU students. It’s a particularly timely development that will advance our commitment to translational research programs that have a tangible and real-time impact in our communities.
We have more good news in a program MSU has hosted for two decades. The College Assistance Migrant Program Scholars Initiative has won its fifth consecutive five-year federal grant. CAMP recruits and supports students who are children of migrant farmworkers. It provides these students with academic, social and financial support to help them complete their first year of college.
Fall semester update
The surge in new COVID-19 cases around the country illustrates the importance of stay-at-home measures and the effectiveness of Michigan’s approach. Outbreaks such as the one originating at an East Lansing bar underscore the importance of staying vigilant, taking personal responsibility and following all the necessary steps to protect ourselves and others.
Safety remains the prime consideration for any return to in-person activities this fall, and if that requirement is met, the semester will look different from any previous semester at MSU. There are 21 subcommittees of the COVID-19 Reopening Campus Task Force that are actively working on the return-to-campus plan. New and enhanced processes to promote safety and prepare for online, hybrid and in-person classes are being finalized. For students, employees, visitors and all guests on campus, we’ll require face coverings indoors and outdoors and will use signage and other methods to promote and ensure physical distancing.
As it stands now, our fall enrollment looks promising, and we are currently seeing an increase in the number of Michigan residents planning to attend. It will be challenging for our international students, and some out-of-state students may choose to stay home instead of travel to MSU if we are able to open for in-person classes as currently planned. We are communicating with students so they know what to expect when they come to campus, as well as what’s expected of them.
As student-athletes have started returning to campus, plans for our fall sports seasons continue, despite lingering questions, as Athletic Director Bill Beekman said in a recent message. We will likely see reduced capacity at Spartan Stadium, and we are presenting season ticket holders several options, including refunds. I am proud that the Big Ten Conference continues to approach the issue of a return to fall sports in a student-athlete-centered way.
A webcast for faculty and staff featuring task force co-chair and Executive Vice President for Health Sciences Dr. Norman J. Beauchamp Jr. and me is now available. For another update webcast focused on students’ fall semester questions, I’m joined by Vice President and Associate Provost for Student Affairs and Services Denise Maybank and Vice President for Auxiliary Enterprises Vennie Gore. As always, the latest information on our plans can be found on the MSU coronavirus website.
As we enter fiscal 2021, our financial challenges are significant, and we are addressing nearly $300 million of impact to the university’s general fund and various auxiliary units due largely to the pandemic. We have instituted both university-wide and unit-specific reductions while working diligently to advance MSU’s mission and continue our world-class education and research. The nature and depth of the challenge has required furloughing some employees and reducing wages and retirement contributions for others. The Board of Trustees on June 26 approved budget development guidelines for the fiscal year that began July 1, estimating revenue and expenditure reductions of $52.6 million from fiscal 2020.
We were pleased to receive external validation of Michigan State’s quality when we were ranked in the top 8% of higher education institutions in the nation by the publisher of the QS World University Rankings. Institutions’ commitment to diversity, employability and internationalization were big drivers of those results.
I’m pleased to note recognition of the work being done to address relationship violence and sexual misconduct (RVSM). Professor of Psychology Rebecca Campbell, chairperson of MSU’s RVSM Expert Advisory Workgroup and one of my special advisers, was named recipient of a Distinguished Woman in Higher Education Leadership Award by the American Council on Education’s Michigan Women’s Network for her groundbreaking work. MSU’s Prevention, Outreach and Education Department also was honored with the 2020 Impact Award at the Campus Prevention Network Summit for outstanding achievements in sexual assault prevention.
Finally, I want to express thanks to Teresa Sullivan for her willingness to serve as interim provost since last October. Terry, an MSU alumna, has served the university as she served other distinguished institutions — with intelligence, decisiveness, expertise, empathy and a true commitment to the success of each member of our community. It has been a privilege to work with her, and we wish her all the best as she returns to the University of Virginia to resume her post-presidential sabbatical.
I also want to extend my thanks to Thomas Jeitschko, dean of the Graduate School and associate provost for graduate education, who is serving as acting provost until the arrival of incoming Provost Teresa Woodruff on Aug. 1.
Samuel L. Stanley Jr., M.D.