Oct. 30, 2020: Remarks to Board of Trustees

I want to thank our speakers this morning.

Swimming and diving
Ending programs is one of most difficult decisions we make, and it’s only done with a great deal of thought and concern. I know that was the case here with swimming and diving.

This decision was prompted by our athletic department's past and present financial circumstances, which have resulted in our inability to provide the facilities and additional resources to give our swimmers a chance to be truly competitive in their sport.

Just to give you an example, with the closure of the outdoor pool, MSU became the only Big Ten school without a 50-meter pool to train for Olympic events, something which significantly hampered recruitment.

These 67 outstanding student-athletes will have the opportunity to swim this season. And, after the season is over, we will continue to support the swimmers and their coaches, including honoring their scholarships and contracts, and we will provide every assistance to everyone wishing to transfer and swim elsewhere.

I now want to update you on two issues related to diversity, equity and inclusion, or DEI.

DEI Foundations and chief diversity officer
Earlier this year, we announced our commitment to introduce a DEI educational requirement for everyone at Michigan State University — faculty, students and staff. 

DEI Foundations, as we’re calling this course at MSU, introduces core DEI principles to help develop a common understanding of how we all can work together for a safe, welcoming, respectful and inclusive university.

I want to thank all the Board of Trustees members who are setting a great example by agreeing that they, too, will take this course.

The Office for Inclusion and Intercultural Initiatives is now starting to offer the course through the campus, so please pay attention to your email boxes as we roll this out.

Earlier this month, I announced Dr. Jabbar R. Bennett as MSU’s inaugural vice president and chief diversity officer after a national search. Pending approval by the Board, he will start Dec. 1.

The search committee, including faculty, staff and students, worked incredibly hard to make every step of the search process as open and inclusive as possible.

I want to give special thanks to Dean Chris Long of the College of Arts and Letters and Dr. Melissa Woo, the executive vice president for administration and chief information officer at MSU, for leading the search. 

I’m certain Dr. Bennett will help us transform equity and inclusion across our university.

Spring semester
We have been learning much about how to educate safely amid the pandemic, both on and off campus during this fall semester. Our protocols for safe on-campus housing and classes, like the protocols that drove our return to full on-campus research, have proved effective to date and we believe we can return more students to campus in the spring semester.

In the fall, we held only about 40 in-person classes. This spring, we hope to offer about 400.

We are prioritizing classes like laboratories and studio courses that need to be taught in person and are often required courses for graduation.

One thing that will not change in the spring — the very large lecture classes that do not allow for social distancing will still be offered only online or as hybrids.

As part of this expansion, approximately 2,500 more residence hall spaces will be available to students who want or need to live on campus. These will remain single rooms only for the spring.

We will require participation in the COVID-19 Early Detection Program for students living on campus and undergraduates coming to campus for work or classes during the spring semester.

Undergraduate classes will start as scheduled Jan. 11. We will join most other universities around the nation in not having spring break to mitigate the recognized risk associated with large numbers of students leaving and returning to campus in the middle of the semester.

However, we are featuring four new days off during the semester to provide a very much-needed break to students by including two consecutive days without classes in the first week of March and two consecutive days without classes before finals.

Undergraduate instruction will end April 23, finals will be held one week earlier than normal and will be followed by a weeklong period for graduation ceremonies, providing for a shortened semester.

Graduate and professional students may have different schedules, and I urge them to check with their colleges.

FRIB milestone
We experienced a milestone for the Facility for Rare Isotope Beams last month when U.S. Secretary of Energy Dan Brouillette visited to announce designation of FRIB as a DOE Office of Science user facility.

The FRIB project started in 2009, and completion set for early 2022, and remains ahead of schedule and ahead of budget. More than 1,400 scientific users are expected to conduct research at FRIB at MSU.

Michigan State University has the nation’s top-ranked graduate nuclear physics program, and FRIB will help keep the university at the forefront of nuclear science research and education. It will also help us attract some of the most talented scientists and students to Michigan State University.

My congratulations to Thomas Glasmacher and his team for their outstanding efforts.

U.S. News & World Report recently ranked MSU among top 100 institutions worldwide and top 50 public universities in the United States. Twenty-seven of our programs also ranked globally — up from 21 in the previous ranking.

Plant and Animal Science improved one spot to No. 7. Economics and Business improved seven spots to No. 29.

And earlier this year, several MSU programs were ranked by U.S. News among best in the nation. Our undergraduate supply chain management was No. 1 among public and private universities for the 10th consecutive time. And MSU’s graduate supply chain program has been nation’s top program since surpassing MIT four years ago. 

Debate honors
I want to congratulate MSU Debate for its top finish at Wayne State’s online invitational tournament last weekend.

MSU Debate has not only seen success in debating but has been developing online capabilities since before the pandemic to expand access and cut travel costs for debate teams.

They’re now partnering with the National Association of Urban Debate Leagues to expand access to competitive debate to traditionally underserved communities.

Remembering Foglio and Secchia
Since we last met, MSU has lost some dear friends. 

Many knew Father Jake Foglio, an alumnus, former faculty member and mentor to MSU student-athletes and coaches, who passed away Oct. 5 at age 91. 

The first chair in spirituality at a U.S. public university was created by the College of Arts and Letters in his name.

More recently we learned of the passing of Peter Secchia, an MSU business school graduate, philanthropist, Grand Rapids community leader and stalwart supporter of MSU.

He helped drive the expansion of the College of Human Medicine in Grand Rapids — the college’s Secchia Center, which includes classrooms and a conference center, observes its tenth anniversary on the Medical Mile this year.

Other named MSU facilities include the Secchia Stadium for MSU Softball and Piazza Secchia, the entrance plaza southeast of the Breslin Center. He also an endowed staff position in athletics: the Secchia Family Defensive Coordinator 

Peter and Father Foglio will be missed.

Football and gatherings
We’re looking forward to the resumption of our football rivalry with the University of Michigan tomorrow.

It’s also Halloween, so we’re making special efforts to urge people to avoid large gatherings.

Last weekend, there were eight large parties in East Lansing that each resulted in a $500 penalty for disobeying the county health department’s emergency order limiting gathering size. There have been 38 such violations issued to MSU students to date.

All those violations have been entered into Dean of Students’ disciplinary system, which has 52 cases pending now, and a number of students have been suspended.

The health department this week tightened its order from prohibiting outdoor gatherings over 25 people in parts of East Lansing to 10 people, and we expect that Michigan State University will comply with these very important public health protocols.

I want to thank all those students, faculty and staff at MSU who are following the safety guidance by wearing masks, limiting gatherings and following other precautions. I encourage everyone at MSU, East Lansing and in Ann Arbor this weekend to follow those same precautions.

I want to conclude with two things I want to encourage you to do.

Flu shots
I’m encouraging everyone this season to protect themselves, their families and community by getting a flu shot.

As COVID cases rise, suppressing influenza is especially critical to preserve vital health resources and avoid the possibility of being infected with two potentially lethal diseases at the same time.

And finally, Tuesday is election day. I’m encouraging all Spartans to vote. It is both a right and a responsibility.

Thank you, and that concludes my report.