MSU President Stanley moves undergrad instruction online only for fall semester

Mark Johnson
Lansing State Journal

LANSING — Michigan State University will move all undergraduate instruction online for the fall semester amid the COVID-19 pandemic, dropping initial plans to offer some in-person classes. 

MSU President Samuel Stanley Jr. released a letter Tuesday announcing that any undergraduate courses scheduled to be offered in-person will be moved online. Officials had worked to transition to a hybrid model, offering students in-person, online and hybrid courses featuring both experiences.

"But 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. 

From 'outrageous to an overreaction':MSU students respond to fall move to online 

The Sparty inside the MSU Union is equipped with a mask photographed on Monday, Aug. 17, 2020, in East Lansing.

Classes are set to start Sept. 2 and on-campus students were scheduled to begin moving into residence halls on Aug. 27. Undergraduate students who planned to live on-campus and have already paid for the fall semester will receive refunds or credits. 

Some exceptions to online instruction will be made, including the Colleges of Law, Human Medicine, Nursing, Osteopathic Medicine and Veterinary Medicine. And some graduate programs will have in-person requirements, according to spokesperson Dan Olsen. 

MSU also will work with international students to help them maintain their immigration status.

And officials will work with students who consider MSU home, their only safe place to live or who require on-campus housing for employment.

It's not clear what the change means for undergraduate students living off-campus. In the letter, Stanley encouraged off-campus students to go to their home communities if it is safer there, but no options were provided for students who already signed leases with off-campus landlords. 

MSU's move comes after the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill resumed in-person classes on Aug. 10 and announced they would be moving courses back online after reporting 135 cases of COVID-19 in a week.

"While I have faith in our students and all of the members of the campus community, we know that this virus is relentless and is easily spread," Stanley said, in the statement. "We’re seeing on our campus and in other areas of the country that a few mistakes by some are having large impacts on many."

Abii-Tah Bih, president of Associated Students of MSU and a senior from Cameroon joined MSU leaders in watching case numbers jump at UNC and other schools. She worked with officials in trying to find ways to keep students safe and healthy. Moving undergraduate courses online was the best way to do that. 

"This is the best decision we could have made," Bih said. 

The MSU Graduate Employees Union had been calling on MSU leaders to move classes online and praised Stanley's decision.

But they hope changes can be made to let graduate students complete their requirements remotely. 

"We are relieved that MSU has prioritized Spartan safety and transitioned undergraduate courses, with some exceptions, to remote learning. It is the right decision for our campus community and for the East Lansing community," according to a statement posted on the Graduate Employees Union Facebook page.

"We urge graduate programs to likewise prioritize the health and well-being of students, faculty, and staff and offer graduate coursework online wherever possible."

This story will be updated. 

Contact Mark Johnson at 517-377-1026 or at Follow him on Twitter at @ByMarkJohnson.