With the fall semester approaching, Michigan State hosted a webinar Tuesday for admitted students and parents to receive answers from President Samuel L. Stanley Jr., Vice President and Associate Provost for Student Affairs and Services Denise Maybank and Vice President for Auxiliary Enterprises Vennie Gore on what the upcoming semester will look like.
MSU Professor of Strategic Communication Shawn Turner moderated the webcast.
Through its reopening task force, the university has been able to plan a safe return for the MSU community. Stanley began by highlighting the work that went into the decision to reopen.
"We've already taken a number of important steps to see what ... things will look like in the coming fall," Stanley said. "That includes increased cleaning standards, and providing guidelines for wearing face coverings, and physical distancing in dining facilities in classrooms."
Gore said that dining halls will be open at 50% capacity at normal times, 7 a.m. to 12 p.m., with two hours in the afternoon set aside for cleaning. Dining halls will also offer grab-and-go options for students, including an app for students to order their food ahead of time.
He also addressed contactless move in that will take place over the course of five days. Students will be receiving emails about their move- in time in the coming weeks.
The dorms will be configured to allow for six-feet physical distancing and open areas on campus will be regularly cleaned. Additionally, students whose classes are all online are now able to defer housing until the spring with no charge.
Residential housing staff will be receiving additional training to help students and their families adjust to the environment.
"Many of our programs that we do will be both virtually and in-person, but also again physically distant but socially engaged," Gore said.
Maybank introduced Student Affairs and Services' campaign "Physically Distanced, Socially Engaged," in which they plan to promote on-campus and online in the fall as a way for students to remember safety guidelines but remain actively involved with the university.
"When you hear the campaigns and the efforts to engage, you hear 'social distancing,' but that has led to a lot of social isolation for our students and for others," Maybank said. "We thought about what it is that would communicate what it needs to be, and that is that you are physically distanced, that you honor the six-feet between you and the next person but that you remain socially engaged."
They want students to know that they should still communicate and interact with one another in a safe manner.
She also said that, along with other fall campus activities, the annual Sparticipation fair will be held virtually.
On the topic of student life off-campus, Stanley discussed the challenge for them to be able to ensure those students remain safe.
"That's a significant challenge, and I think again the recent positive cases in the East Lansing bar are very concerning and speak to that issue exactly," Stanley said.
Stanley noted the importance of personal responsibility. In addition to taking care of oneself, students should make sure their peers and family are safe as well.
"I know Spartans can do this," he said. "I know Spartans are caring. I know they care about each other, and I really believe we can accomplish this, but it really requires everybody to think carefully and reflect on what you're doing."
If the pandemic causes the semester to be moved online again or if students prefer to keep their classes online, Stanley believes faculty is prepared to continue providing quality education for students remotely. The same quality faculty and curriculum will be offered regardless, he said.
"I think it will be more effective than it was last time because our faculty has been going to school themselves. We've had hundreds of faculty taking courses to help them do a better job or improve their online teaching, and I think that will make a positive difference," Stanley said. "We think the experience of being on campus, even with those new requirements, is a valuable one we want every student to make the best choice for them whether they want to do virtual or they want to be on campus."
Maybank said 7,400 applications were submitted from the COVID-19 SOS Funds. They were able to distribute $378,000 to 837 students. Grants were $500 or less.
Those who didn’t receive these grants may still receive financial help from their respective colleges.
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