Michigan State University announced on Tuesday a move to remote learning, accompanied by the request that students stay home for the fall 2020 semester.
In the email, President Samuel L. Stanley Jr. emphasized the decision was made with health and safety as its guiding light. Stanley said that with the rise of COVID-19 cases in the country and the outcome of reopening on other college campuses, it is likely that MSU would be unable to prevent widespread transmission.
Students responded with mixed reactions, including support, confusion and frustration to the announcement.
Some students stand by MSU’s decision, citing health and safety as key factors, while others can’t fathom that MSU "pulled the plug," as Stanley foreshadowed on NBC last week. Many were in agreement that the timing of the announcement was unfavorable.
The decision has angered some students, who feel the switch to remote will hinder them educationally and financially.
“I believe we should have been told this awhile ago,” incoming freshman Tristin Gless said in a Facebook comment. “Telling us right before we were planning to move in is cruel. We had just put our registration deposits down and now we can’t live on campus first semester.”
Others are frustrated with their peers and support MSU’s decision, recognizing that being on campus during a pandemic could cause unmeasurable trauma.
“People are being stupid selfish," incoming freshman Reagan Hickox said. "They don't realize the trauma of watching people die or be hospitalized or of being hospitalized. People were planning to party as seen by here. (What) MSU did was right.”
The Associated Students of Michigan State University, the undergraduate student government, said in a statement they understand the setbacks caused by the decision, but recognized the safe step Stanley took for the university.
One of the biggest questions left after Stanley’s email was that of on-campus housing; who will be allowed to stay, and will there be refunds and is MSU forcing students out?
In the email, the fate of on-campus living was vague.
“Effective immediately, we are asking undergraduate students who planned to live in our residence halls this fall to stay home and continue their education with MSU remotely," the statement said.
Students have already called out the statement, saying that using the term “asking” is unclear as to whether they are being forced to leave the dorms.
Stanley said further in the email that those who call MSU home will have a place to stay and that Residential and Hospitality Services will provide more information for those impacted.
“Through Residential and Hospitality Services, we will provide information to all students who are impacted by this decision," Stanley said. "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.”
MSU Live On didn't specify much further. In a statement on social media Wednesday, the office said it is their expectation that those who can return or stay home this semester should do so.
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Residents in 1855 Place and University Village apartments are able to remain in their lease or leave campus, according to the statement.
Exceptions for staying on campus include students who "call MSU home," have degree-specific, on-campus employment or "other inflexible items, and a select group of students."
Furthermore, the Live On statement clarified that first-year students are required to live on campus and should plan for on campus housing for the spring, advising against leasing an off-campus apartment for the full year.
There will be a process to live on campus for fall 2020, but no details have been released at this time.
With MSU going remote, the call for lower tuition has returned, made its way through the Facebook class group chats and found its place as a petition.
Packaging junior Gabrielle Perez started a petition on Change.org due to COVID-19 for over a month and has started gaining traction again.
“The price of tuition has not been dropped despite the switch to remote learning,” Perez said in the petition. “The Board of Trustees demands students to pay the flat rate tuition for classes that were once in person. These online classes hold a far less value compared to those that were once in a classroom. The students and peers of Michigan State University presume the degree has now been devalued and deemed not equivalent to the tuition rates that the university is imposing.”
Perez said in the petition that the impact on international and out-of-state students who are now paying out-of-state and international tuition prices to take classes at home from their computer is greater.
“According to MSU’s student demographics of the 2019-2020 academic year, twenty-three percent of students reside outside the state of Michigan," Perez said. "The costs of the tuition for these students vary from $50,000-$60,000. Since switching to remote learning, these students can learn from home. This means out-of-state and international students are paying an extra $25,000-$27,000 for an online education. Many out-of-state students feel that they can get a degree of the same value of MSU from other varying online colleges.”
As of Wednesday, the petition gathered more than 1,868 signatures.
Perez’s petition mirrors a lawsuit by MSU students that demanded tuition and room and board fee refunds.
MSU’s first tuition payment was due last week, meaning many students are already tied into classes or have committed financially to attending, or have taken a $50 late fee for waiting to pay tuition.
“I just wish that MSU had made this announcement earlier," incoming freshman Elizabeth Kooistra said on Facebook. "I would have chosen to go to a cheaper school, even one with some in-person classes, but they pulled this at the last minute and I now have to pay way more tuition when, for the same classes, I could’ve gone somewhere far cheaper. I only went to MSU for the college life: if I cared about the classes I could’ve gone about anywhere. They waited way too long to make this announcement, and that’s what I’m most mad about. They literally scammed us. It’s such a bummer.”
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