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.
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.
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.