Michigan State to students: With classes online, maybe you should stay home

Michigan State Beaumont tower

Michigan State University’s campus will be open, but the school is encouraging students to think long and hard before moving to East Lansing this fall amid the pandemic. (Bridge file photo)

Michigan State University is encouraging students to stay home this fall rather than return to campus.

The announcement, made in a letter to parents and students, is an about-face from late May, when MSU President Samuel Stanley said the school planned for the school’s 50,000 students to return to East Lansing when classes begin Sept. 2.

While the campus will be open this fall, the courses of most students will be completely online.

“If you can live safely and study successfully at home, we encourage you to consider that option for the fall semester,” Stanley wrote Monday.

“The vast majority of first-year students this fall will have course schedules that are completely online,” Stanley wrote. “Living away from campus may be the best choice for you and your family, particularly if you have family members at higher health risk.”

MSU is waiving a requirement that freshmen live in on-campus housing, and is allowing students to withdraw from on-campus housing contracts through Wednesday, according to the letter.

The letter, sent by email to students and families, is the strongest indication yet that colleges are wavering on earlier promises to bring students back to campuses this fall.

Michigan’s colleges and universities closed their buildings and switched to remote learning in mid-March, as the coronavirus began to spread across the state. By the time MSU announced on May 27 that it was reopening campus in the fall, the number of cases of the potentially deadly virus was plummeting and it appeared the state was on the road to recovery.

But the seven-day average of new daily cases, below 200 in early June, has increased to more than 700. Young revelers at a bar near the MSU campus in June led to an outbreak that eventually resulted in more than 170 COVID-19 cases – an incident that struck fear in college and community leaders about what could happen when students returned to campus in the fall.

On the same day MSU sent a letter encouraging students to stay home, the University of Michigan sent a letter to students telling them to spend 14 days in “enhanced social distancing” before coming to campus, including taking their temperatures twice daily.

MSU spokesperson Emily Guerrant said the university wasn’t discouraging students from living on campus, but was “encouraging them to make the best decision for themselves and their families. If that means living at home, we will support that.”

MSU faculty reached by Bridge Monday weren’t surprised by the letter. 

“We’ve been asked to choose modalities (online, hybrid, face-to-face) for our fall classes, but I have to think they will all be online, if not by the first day of school, then shortly thereafter,” said Mitchell Robinson, associate professor of music education.

In his letter to students, Stanley said, “You should make your choice based on what is the safest and best place for you to live and learn.

“In normal circumstances, living on campus is part of a very rich educational experience,” Stanley wrote. “We know that meeting people from other places and backgrounds is a fundamental and important part of college life, but these are not normal circumstances. In fact, many of the usual campus experiences are being completely rethought and will be offered in remote-access formats.”

Students will be required to wear face masks on campus, and gatherings in buildings will be limited to 10 people. Quarantines of students will be likely, according to the letter.

“The choice to live on campus should be based on safety and success,” Stanley wrote students.

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Tue, 08/04/2020 - 9:28am

That's the cost of tuition, not room and board. It's the cost of education when GOP has been pushing more of the costs on to parents over the years. These students don't get reasonably priced higher education like your generation did.

At the same time, we privatized prisons so corporations can make boatloads of money, sexually abusing inmates, feeding them food with maggots, etc. Sometimes these private corporations make boatloads of money caging frightened migrant children that don't speak English, separating them from their parents where they die or never see their parents again. These same corporations pay lobbyists who contribute to the campaigns of "law and order" politicians to INCREASE prison populations. Often it's easier to imprison Blacks/marginalized people, but now we imprison anyone who protests against the increasingly fascist state for things like graffiti.

On average we pay $31,000 per inmate. Sure it covers room and board, but for what purpose? Is education/rehabilitation a goal? No.
According to the Vera Institute of Justice, incarceration costs an average of more than $31,000 per inmate, per year, nationwide. In some states, it's as much as $60,000. Taxpayers foot the bill for feeding, housing and securing people in state and federal penitentiaries.May 19, 2017

Countries with the largest number of prisoners per 100,000 of the national population, as of June 2020

We're no. 1! Look how and with whom we compare! It's disgusting.

Math Sux
Tue, 08/04/2020 - 9:22pm

A reminder...those cages were NOT put in use by whom you believe. Also, if you are fine with people dragging their kids across harsh scrub land to come to the US, yet think we are a bass-ackward nation of xenophobes and racists, maybe you should support tighter border control to keep illegals from making a mistake and coming to this horrific nation.

Jennifer Johnston
Tue, 08/04/2020 - 10:32am

That's why people need to pay tuition, regardless of whether classes are online or in person. If people don't pay tuition, the universities can't survive.

Math Sux
Tue, 08/04/2020 - 1:58pm

Big coin to take a "class" on line from home. Hopefully some of these students will realize they are paying around $100/mo for their wireless, Amazon Prime, and Netflix accounts and through those platforms have access to innumerable data and educational sources. Why does a university education cost so much? Supposedly U of M was around $100/semester in the 60s. Inflation alone cannot explain the dramatic increase in expense.

Tue, 08/04/2020 - 4:04pm

See, compare/contrast. Then zip it.

Math Sux
Tue, 08/04/2020 - 9:19pm

Not happening; the expense of a high end state college is excessive and does not begin to translate to real world success (unless you the *name* is worth something).

Be realistic, and forget the left/right finger pointing, what are your kids getting from MSU or U of M ( or Illinois/Penn State/UCLA, etc) that is worth so much? What is truly valuable; a piece of paper with a University name, or an education that produces a well rounded individual with critical thinking skills and the discernment to realize BS when they see it?

Mon, 08/03/2020 - 8:16pm

Translation: We know what’s going to happen. There’s no way we’re going to be able to clean as much as the Twitter verse will demand. We’d much rather have less students on campus so when we shut campus by Sept 15 we don’t have so many people to move out.

Tue, 08/04/2020 - 9:29am

September 15? That's optimistic.

B Honest
Mon, 08/03/2020 - 9:09pm

It seems the best leadership on all these matters is coming out of Lansing, from the governor, to the local superintendent, to MSU. Close all the schools to inperson classes.

Tue, 08/04/2020 - 9:33am

Amen!!!! Until there is vaccine, no reasonable assurance of not contracting the disease can be given. Also, it is ProLife to wear a mask.

Trump/GOP Disaster
Tue, 08/04/2020 - 9:11am

U.S. Universities Worried As International Student Numbers Fall, While Canada’s Cohort Grows...

Canada’s can-do approach to immigration is seemingly attracting international students put off by U.S. President Donald Trump’s negativity, worrying U.S. colleges and universities.

A growing number of international students are coming to study in Canada.

The number of study permit holders in Canada jumped more than 56.4 percent in just four years, rising from roughly 411,000 at the end of 2016 to more than 642,000 by Dec. 31 last year.

Not so in the United States.

Read more:

The world faces the same crisis, but the US fails miserably in terms of leadership during this time and the fault lies EXCLUSIVELY with Trump and his GOP sycophants.

Tue, 08/04/2020 - 9:40am

Kevin, what is your solution, free tuition? You a Bernie Bro now?

Tue, 08/04/2020 - 9:46am

Buildings still need to be maintained whether there are students or not. Plus it will cost even more to implement CDC guidelines, smaller classes, increased sanitation costs, etc. for the students that do attend or are forced to attend because of lobbyists who want students in their bars. The wise and fair decision is for all classes to be online and discount the tuition or have the students taking in-person classes pay a substantial surcharge for both tuition and housing.

Tue, 08/04/2020 - 9:48am

College is for elites, the way it was in the gilded age and the way the GOP wants it again.

George Hagenauer
Tue, 08/04/2020 - 10:16am

The impact on the Lansing economy will be huge and mainly due to one bar having bad management . On the other hand the impact of hundreds of students getting sick would also be huge and the economy would be equally or maybe even more impacted. And as we are seeing from professional sports starting something and then closing or delaying things for 2 weeks is not the most efficient way to do things either (and we don't know if there will be enough games played to have a world series given we have two teams out the first week). Finally a big misconception is that online curse s and education systems are necessarily cheaper than in class ones. I am not sure that is true in terms of staff or tech costs.

Tue, 08/04/2020 - 4:10pm

There should still be Zoom-type class meetings and some one on one time. Plus work still needs to be corrected. It seems some people think online means, you teach yourself and take multiple choice tests without anyone delivering material or checking work.

John Connor
Sat, 08/08/2020 - 4:22pm

Your critical reasoning skills appear to be nonexistent - The impact on lansing's economy falls on one person only - And her name is Gretchen Whitmer.
Even a cave man could figure this out. Quit smoking so much of that legalized weed.

Tue, 08/04/2020 - 4:37pm

I call BS. That's more of the same old GOP nonsense we have been hearing from the beginning, when there was "just one case and maybe that case would just disappear." Now there are almost 160,000 dead in America. If you are right, why is Trump showing us a map with all the US hot spots where cases are increasing? Is it because the polls show he is losing in all those southern states given his poor job performance? Those were the states he used to praise for their "management" of the virus. LOL


Give it up, no one believes all the GOP BS anymore, not even "the base". You can't say it's patriotic to let old people die and then expect them to vote for you. When they see their families and friends dying with no sympathy from the president, they know firsthand, he just doesn't care about them. He only cares about enriching himself.

Keep in mind that while many of us are afraid to send our children back to school, many elderly Republican snowbirds are wondering where the hell they will live in the coming months. Go back to Florida, Arizona, and Georgia or stay in Michigan where WHITMER is in control??????

Right now, it seems like a no-brainer. Big Gretch is looking more and more level-headed and a lot less like the "tyrant" she was called throughout this crisis by dumb Republicans, online, at protests, and in the GOP legislature.

I only hope Biden seriously considers Whitmer as VP because while losing her will be our country's win, with Gilchrist as governor it will be a win win.