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Michigan State University transitions undergrads to remote learning for fall semester

michigan state university sign in front of a blue sky

In a message to the campus community Tuesday, Michigan State University President Dr. Samuel Stanley Jr. asked students planning to live on campus for the fall semester to stay home and continue their education remotely. 

While many of MSU's classes were offered in remote formats, the university will work to transition remaining hybrid or in-person classes online over the next few weeks.

"Given the current status of the virus in our country — particularly what we are seeing at other institutions as they re-populate their campus communities — it has become evident to me that, despite our best efforts and strong planning, it is unlikely we can prevent widespread transmission of COVID-19 between students if our undergraduates return to campus," Stanley said in the statement.

According to the college's newspaper, The State News, plans for the fall had originally included a hybrid learning plan with "reduced seating capacity for in-person classes." The university was expecting around 11,000 students to return to campus for the fall semester, with move-in happening between August 27 and 31.

Exceptions will be made for the colleges of Law, Human Medicine, Nursing, Osteopathic Medicine, and Veterinary Medicine, as well as all graduate programs. Additionally, research initiatives will continue. Those plans will be rolled out over the next few weeks.

Rebecca Jacobsen, an associate professor of education, politics, and policy at MSU, told Stateside on Wednesday that she thinks the university’s pivot to remote learning was “the right call.”

“I think many faculty across the entire campus are really disappointed and saddened that we’re not going to be able to have the same kind of interactions with students that we really enjoy and think really leads to some excellent learning,” Jacobsen said. “But I really support the decision, because first, we have to make sure our students are safe and healthy.”

Plans for refunding or crediting students in university housing are still being worked out: 

Through Residential and Hospitality Services, we will provide information to all students who are impacted by this decision. Refunds or credits will be issued to individuals who have already paid for the fall semester. We also realize that for some students, MSU is their home or they need to be on campus for employment. Just like we did this spring, we will continue to provide a safe place for a small number of students in our residence halls. We remain committed to our students, their success and their safety.

Additionally, employees who are able to work remotely are encouraged to continue.

"This was an extraordinarily difficult decision, but the safety of our campus community must be our paramount concern," Stanley said in the statement. "Please know that we are making choices based on reliable public health data, updates from local and state officials and our understanding of the science and research available to us on the novel coronavirus."

Other universities which have reopened have seen a spike in COVID-19 cases. The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill moved all classes to remote instruction and planned to reduce residence hall occupancy after seeing a spike in "infection clusters" after the first week of classes. Earlier Tuesday, The University of Notre Dame, which reopened last week, announced it was suspending in-person classes for undergraduate students until September 2, and graduate and professional students until August 24.

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Jodi is Michigan Public's Director of Digital Audiences, leading and developing the station’s overall digital strategy.
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