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Supporting Black Student Success

This page will be updated as more information becomes available.

MSU acknowledges Black student experiences

Michigan State University acknowledges and values the concerns raised by the Black Students’ Alliance, or BSA, regarding increasing representation and accountability on campus for historically underrepresented racial groups. MSU unequivocally condemns racialized speech and is committed to the safety and wellness of all students. Building a culture of inclusion is incumbent upon all Spartans and racialized acts are not welcome here. Although much must be done, MSU strives to foster a community where Black students are heard, seen and respected. Below are summaries of actions the university has taken to address these concerns.

How has MSU addressed the concerns raised?

  • Listen to students: Senior leaders have met with BSA students and Black community members to recognize and understand the racialized incidents that have occurred in the summer and fall.
  • Racialized speech and safety Reports have been filed and documented regarding these incidents with the Office for Civil Rights and Title IX Education and Compliance. The MSU Department of Police and Public Safety is actively following up on reports of safety concerns from individuals.
  • Enrollment and culture efforts:
    • MSU has worked to reduce barriers to the admissions process that impact underrepresented groups, including making standardized tests optional and, through the Spartan Tuition Advantage, expanding full tuition coverage for all Pell Grant-eligible, in-state high school graduates who meet the financial requirement.
    • MSU offers many precollege programs that help support college recruitment, transition, graduation and career development for underrepresented students, including Detroit M.A.D.E. and College Access. In addition, MSU recruits through our Detroit Center Outreach Admissions Office, on-site representation at Detroit College Day and through MSU’s on-campus College Day, among many other early opportunity and partnership initiatives.
    • Time-to-degree for Black undergraduate students has improved with students graduating two semesters faster than two years ago.
    • According to 2021 comparative data, MSU ranks in the top 10 for African American undergraduate enrollment in the Association of American Universities, Big Ten and Michigan public universities. MSU is in the top 3 for fall Pell Grant-enrollment in the Big Ten and is in the top 2 for Black undergraduate matriculation rates among Michigan public universities.
    • MSU has invested in several academic programs and commemorative celebrations which honor Black history and culture, including:
    • Still, MSU recognizes that more needs to be done to increase enrollment and is actively engaged in various partnerships with Historically Black Colleges and Universities.
  • Multicultural center space: CORES and COPS leaders were actively engaged as student representatives and liaisons to provide multiple contact points throughout the building project, including the feasibility study and design process during 2021-23. The design firm SmithGroup has hosted eight engagement sessions with stakeholders to inform the design. Dialogue is continuing on space allocation and operations.
  • Educational efforts: We strive to foster a more inclusive community through education and leadership, utilizing various expectation-setting programs such as the new student orientation or DEI Foundations, the required DEI training program. The program is  being revised to reflect the values of MSU better and the updated version will be released in spring 2024. The Office for Institutional Diversity and Inclusion will invite members of the BSA executive board to participate in piloting the educational module.
  • Prioritize mental health: MSU recognizes that racialized incidents are antithetical to an environment that supports well-being, and we are striving to provide resources for culturally appropriate support services. Our staff is actively exploring ways to provide greater mental health services across campus (see below for support services).
  • Accountability and culture: MSU follows laws designed to address acts of discrimination and hate crimes. While many experiences of speech are harmful, they may not constitute a violation of the Anti-Discrimination Policy due to the First Amendment. MSU is actively engaging stakeholders in gathering feedback on the policy and further efforts to help build a culture of accountability. Go to the frequently asked questions section below for more information on what constitutes unprotected hate speech and the investigation process.
  • Preparing the next president: As part of onboarding, MSU’s incoming president will be engaged in: discussions of transparency and accountability; engagement with minority groups and DEI efforts; cultural awareness and sensitivity training; recruitment and retention; mentorship and support programs; access and affordability; data collection and analysis; cultural celebrations; and crisis management.

What can the community do to help?

File a report.

The physical safety of our university community is our priority, and anyone receiving any targeted or personal threat, as distinct from free speech, or has information to assist with an investigation should immediately contact the MSU Department of Police and Public Safety at 517-355-2221. In an emergency, call or text 911. Additionally, the community is encouraged to download the SafeMSU App to access valuable safety resources. MSU DPPS is collaborating with impacted groups to understand community needs and take appropriate action and is prepared to provide additional security on campus as requested. The department is ready to investigate any criminal activity or hate crime.

If you or someone you know has experienced conduct that may violate MSU’s Anti-Discrimination Policy or Relationship Violence and Sexual Misconduct and Title IX Policy, report it to the Office for Civil Rights and Title IX Education and Compliance. Go to the frequently asked questions section below to learn about freedom of speech and the Anti-Discrimination Policy investigation process.

Access support services.

Groups across campus are poised to gather resources, including providing dialogue guides and offering opportunities to join listening circles to help our community process recent events, find the care they need and engage in conversation. Students who are impacted can visit the Office of Cultural and Academic Transitions and the Inclusive Campus Initiative.

If students are experiencing a mental health issue, contact Counseling and Psychiatric Services for culturally informed support or call the 24/7 crisis hotline at 517- 355-8270 and press “1” at the prompt. Staff and faculty seeking support are encouraged to visit the Employee Assistance Program. All community members can also contact the MSU Health Care Psychiatry clinic.

In addition, the Office of Student Support and Accountability regularly assists students who are experiencing situations that may interrupt their academic and campus life. The office can be reached by email  or phone 517- 884-0789.

Seek educational resources.

The Office for Institutional Diversity and Inclusion offers educational opportunities that allow people to explore complex topics around diversity, equity and inclusion through dialogues, workshops, seminars and innovative programs.

Learn about available accommodations.

Academic advisors have tools to help support any student, and students are encouraged to work closely with an advisor to make their needs known. These tools include credit/no credit, which may be available for some classes taken as electives. For the fall 2023 semester, the deadline for choosing credit/no credit has been extended to Dec. 8, and students must work with an advisor to request a class be recorded as credit/no credit. 

Advisors can also help students apply for a grief absence, which allows for up to two weeks of excused absences from classes, as well as incompletes that will provide a student with additional time to complete a course. Even though the drop deadline for a class has passed, academic advisors can still request that class be dropped from a student’s schedule.

For persons who may be affected by discrimination and/or harassment based on a protected category, supportive and interim measures are available. Such measures include support services, non-disability related accommodations and other forms of assistance. These may be available to anyone, even if an individual chooses not to report to law enforcement or participate in an investigation through the Office for Civil Rights. (See above for how to file a report.)

Frequently Asked Questions

Is speech protected if the Rock is painted over with offensive language?

The Rock is a forum where students have painted messages since the 1960s. Speech is protected unless it is a “true threat” or constitutes another form of unprotected speech. In the next question, learn more about the difference between protected vs. unprotected speech.

What is meant by freedom of speech and hate speech?

Freedom of speech is a fundamental right, protected under the First Amendment, that allows individuals to express their opinions, beliefs and ideas without government censorship. It is a cornerstone of democratic societies, fostering open dialogue and the exchange of diverse perspectives. However, hate speech does not have a legal definition and is protected unless it constitutes a form of unprotected speech, including discriminatory harassment.

While the university firmly condemns hate speech, it is vital to understand that it is generally protected under the First Amendment. Speech that is considered offensive, including biased messages and even hateful comments, is likely protected speech. Speech is not constitutionally protected when it constitutes a “true threat,” “discriminatory harassment,” or falls into another category of unprotected speech. When speech is not protected by the First Amendment, it may breach MSU's Anti-Discrimination Policy or other conduct policies. We encourage anyone who has encountered or witnessed harassment on campus or is unsure if the speech or conduct is prohibited under our policies to contact the Office for Civil Rights for information on filing a report.

What is the Anti-Discrimination Policy investigation process?

  1. Support and intake. The Office for Civil Rights, or OCR, reviews all reports for potential policy violation(s) and provides outreach to the impacted person(s). If there are immediate safety concerns or additional reporting obligations, OCR coordinates with appropriate partners to address them.
  2. Claimant options. Options for supportive and/or interim measures and resolution are offered to the impacted person (claimant). Examples of supportive measures include no contact directives, deadline extensions, housing changes and work schedule adjustments.
  3. Initial assessment. Upon receiving a report, OCR will conduct an initial assessment to determine if the reported conduct is covered under the Anti-Discrimination Policy, or ADP, and to provide the claimant(s) or impacted person(s) with information about resources and other applicable processes. OCR may refer the report to the unit and human resources for follow up under other HR-related policies.
  4. Investigation and decision. During the investigation, the claimant(s) and respondent(s) have an opportunity to present their information in separate interviews with an investigator. Investigations can be expected to be completed within 90 days. At the conclusion of the investigation, the Investigator will release a Preliminary Investigative Report and evidence to the parties for review and feedback. After the parties have provided feedback, the Investigator will issue a Final Investigative Report, which will include findings of fact and a determination of whether the policy has been violated. If an employee is found to have violated ADP, the employee’s supervisor and HR will coordinate and determine appropriate discipline and follow up. If a student is found to have violated the ADP, the Office of Student Support and Accountability will determine an appropriate sanction.
  5. Both claimant(s) and respondent(s) have an opportunity to submit an appeal to the Equity Review Officer. Appeals must be submitted within 10 days of the written notice of findings, except where a student respondent is found to have violated the ADP, in which case appeals must be submitted within 10 days of the written notice of the sanction decision. The ERO will issue a written response to the appeal within 18 days of receiving any responses to the appeal. If no appeal is filed, the decision in the Final Investigation Report is final.
ADP Process