Mar. 5, 2021: MSU plans for more typical fall semester

Dear Faculty, Staff and Students,

Like many of you, I am eager to get back to working and learning together on campus later this year. While we continue to prioritize the health and safety of our community, we also realize the need to plan for summer and fall on and off MSU’s campus.

Making decisions now about the future of our university is not an easy task, as the pandemic has shown us. However, with vaccinations continuing to progress, we are optimistic that we can begin to safely transition during the summer and move toward more in-person experiences in the fall — all while continuing to prioritize the health and well-being of our students, faculty and staff.

Fall 2021 semester
I am pleased to share that the university is planning for a more typical fall semester, with 75% of undergraduate classes offered in person. Classes will be offered in multiple scenarios — in person, hybrid and some still online, especially those that would traditionally fill large lecture halls. We expect that routine mitigation testing and other public health policies will continue at some level in the fall, and all of us will need to adhere to these policies and engage in the actions and behaviors that have kept us safe and healthy.

  • We will offer a residence hall experience to first-year students and as many other students as possible while still providing a safe living space.
  • MSU Athletics is planning for fall events with spectators again, although we’ll be following state requirements and guidelines that will be in place at that time regarding attendance.
  • The Wharton Center and Broad Art Museum are planning events this fall.
  • Community-based activities will be permitted in alignment with local and state requirements and guidelines.
  • Our current university-related travel restrictions will be adapted to location-based guidance.
  • As we prepare for more students to be back on campus in the fall, we also will have more employees returning to in-person positions as well. More information will be coming from unit supervisors and leaders in the coming months.

Summer 2021 semester
We’ve learned a lot over the course of the pandemic, and we’ve adapted our safety protocols and policies accordingly to ensure the health, safety and well-being of each of you. This spring, we increased our in-person offerings and nearly doubled the number of students living on campus. As vaccination rates continue to rise and the pandemic recedes, we will take every opportunity to add additional in-person courses to the schedule this summer.

  • Most summer classes will be online, which is MSU’s standard practice for summer sessions. Classes for labs and programs that require in-person interaction will continue.
  • There will be no large summer camps or events on campus. Nearly all of the conferences usually planned for MSU’s campus have chosen not to hold their events.
  • Limited day camps may occur, such as those that are primarily outdoors and are able to adhere to safety protocols.
  • We will have students living on campus this summer who are participating in classes, labs or who call MSU their home.
  • We are restarting in-person campus tours this month, and those will continue throughout the summer.

As of today, more than 2.4 million doses of a COVID-19 vaccine have been administered to Michigan residents — 1.5 million residents have received their first dose, and 880,000 are fully vaccinated. The number of students, faculty and staff who have received the vaccine is another critical factor in our ability to return to a more normal fall semester. I encourage each of you to get the vaccine when it is available to you. The state of Michigan has a vaccine-finder application on its website that you can use when searching for locations to get the vaccine. Starting March 22, Michigan residents 50 and older are eligible to receive it. While the state is not yet prioritizing higher education employees in the 1B “education” group, I continue to advocate for a change in that approach.

All of this is encouraging news for many, but I want to remind you that the university will continue to make important decisions about the fall based on all current science and data about the pandemic and in coordination with our partners at the state and local level. As we have learned from the outset of this pandemic, we must stand ready to adjust to protect our campus and our greater community. We will constantly be reviewing our plans for the fall and keeping you informed along the way.

I’d be remiss if I didn’t acknowledge that this pandemic has taken a toll on our physical and mental well-being, and it has put financial strain on many. The economic impact has yet to be fully realized, but I am encouraged by the fact that we will be able to award approximately $15 million in student financial aid grants from funding made available to us under the Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations Act, which was signed into law in late December 2020. We will share more information on that in the coming weeks.

I am excited at the prospect of coming back together again, and I am greatly looking forward to seeing our vibrant community of students, faculty and staff fully engaged in on-campus life. Optimism is a good feeling, but let’s not let our guard down. Continue to keep yourself safe, follow safety protocols and be empathetic to each other as we move toward the summer and fall semesters.


Samuel L. Stanley Jr., M.D.

Listen to my conversation with MSU Today podcast host Russ White about our plans for the fall semester.