Jan. 21, 2021: Celebrating MLK and the start of a new semester

Dear Spartans and Friends,

The calendar’s turn marked a new year and a new semester, with online undergraduate instruction pushed back to this week to comply with Michigan’s COVID-19 requirements. Our campus is welcoming 4,000 students back to residence halls this semester, and classes meeting in person will start next week.

Honoring Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
This week Michigan State University celebrates the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. We began the week with a day without classes to allow our community an opportunity to reflect and participate in campus and other activities. It was a pleasure to welcome viewers and participants in this year’s MSU Building Community and Celebrating Student Success program, which supports the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Endowed Scholarship Program

Some of the labor involved in more fully realizing MSU’s values of diversity, equity and inclusion can be discerned in the recommendations formulated by our Task Force on Racial Equity. I’ve contributed my thoughts in response to those, which you can read online. I’ll discuss those topics in more detail later this month with the co-chairs in a series of webcasts to be posted to the task force website.

Longer-range deliberations on important DEI issues have been ongoing among the members of the DEI Steering Committee since January 2020. I look forward to seeing their recommendations later this semester.

Another event to anticipate is a community engagement session scheduled by the steering and planning committees for the multicultural center feasibility study. The groups and architectural consultants have reached out to student, employee and alumni stakeholder groups over the past few months. Planners next will present options for a new campus multicultural center in a public Zoom session on Feb. 9, from 6-8 p.m.

Coronavirus updates
As Michigan and other states continue distributing COVID-19 vaccines according to prioritized schedules, I urge all Spartans to participate in these programs when it’s their turn. Vaccination is essential to protect you, your family and your community, and effective public health protection depends on broad participation. Even then, it’s crucial to maintain precautions such as wearing a mask and maintaining physical distance until there is widespread immunity. Our daily lives will not be able to return to normal until then.

In Michigan, at this point, vaccinations are administered by health departments and hospital systems. MSU supports the effort locally in partnership with the Ingham County Health Department by making the MSU Pavilion available for high-volume drive-through vaccinations for priority recipients such as first responders and health care workers.

As a physician and infectious disease researcher, I am concerned that doubts about vaccine safety inhibit some people from being vaccinated. I know there are different reasons for such reluctance, but there is no medical evidence supporting undue concern and every reason to get vaccinated for those who are physically able. I’ve seen how widespread vaccination crushed deadly diseases such as measles, polio and smallpox. 

Vaccination also is essential to keep influenza in check every year, and it isn’t too late to get the shot. It’s an easy and safe way to hold off another potentially dangerous illness and preserve precious and limited health system capacity.

RVSM improvements
Last weekend was the three-year anniversary of the impact statements made by more than 200 survivors who came forward. In the past three years, many improvements surrounding relationship violence and sexual misconduct (RVSM) prevention and response have been made at our university. On Friday, I sent a letter to students, faculty and staff outlining many of these changes

We all want a campus climate that is safe and inclusive and one of which we are proud — a climate that is vigilant in preventing sexual misconduct, one that better protects survivors and one that is inclusive of all people. We are building a climate in which all members of our campus feel emotionally and physically safe and respected. 

Campus and beyond
Last week, MSU proudly announced its partnership with Apple Inc. to launch an Apple Developer Academy in Detroit, which is part of the tech giant’s Racial Equity and Justice Initiative. The academy is the first of its kind in the country and will support Detroit’s growing technology community and empower young entrepreneurs, creators and coders with high-demand skills.

We’re excited about this partnership, and that’s not all we’re doing with our friends’ help to extend technology career opportunities across the state.

Software entrepreneur and MSU alumnus Larry D. Leinweber and his family’s foundation recently committed $2.5 million to MSU to endow the Leinweber Software Scholars Fund. The program will start with tuition support and other assistance to five computer science and engineering undergraduates and build to 15. Students will be selected from underserved areas in Michigan, especially more rural counties.

Finally, MSU leaders started the year by welcoming our newest Board of Trustees members, Dr. Rema Vassar and Pat O’Keefe. The Board also re-elected Dianne Byrum as chairperson and Dan Kelly as vice chairperson. The year ahead will continue to challenge us, and I look forward to working with the Board as we continue to support MSU’s mission and strive to keep our campus community safe.


Samuel L. Stanley Jr., M.D.