Monday, January 25, 2021

What you missed at MSU this summer

August 31, 2020
A crowd of mostly students walks to ELPD from MSU for a die-in protest June 12, 2020.
A crowd of mostly students walks to ELPD from MSU for a die-in protest June 12, 2020. —
Photo by Matt Schmucker | The State News

A vast majority of the Michigan State University community has been physically away from campus since mid-March, but the lack of bodies on campus hasn’t stopped news from developing in East Lansing.

For those that have been out of the loop and those who like to reminisce, here is what you missed at MSU this summer:

Charges against ex-President Lou Anna K. Simon dropped; Kathie Klages sentenced for knowledge of Larry Nassar’s sexual abuse  

An Eaton County judge dismissed the charges against Simon on May 13 for alleged knowledge of Nassar's decades of sexual abuse.

After a lengthy preliminary hearing last summer, Simon was charged with two misdemeanors and two felonies, accused of lying to Michigan State Police during a 2018 investigation about her knowledge of a 2014 Title IX complaint concerning Nassar's abuse. 

The judge dismissed the charges due to lack of evidence.

Ex-MSU gymnastics coach Klages was sentenced to 90 days in jail and 18 months probation Aug. 4. Klages' charges also stemmed from the investigation into MSU's handling of Nassar’s abuse. At her sentencing, the defense argued grounds for appeal, mentioning the dismissal of Simon's case. However, the judge explained she did not believe Klages' case has grounds for appeal.

MSU resumes CDO search; former diversity director Paulette Granberry Russell rescinds offer from Cal Poly

Michigan State is implementing the vice president and chief diversity officer, or CDO, position, to replace the Senior Adviser to the President for Diversity position, previously held by Russell. The CDO position will be at the level of vice president for the first time in the university’s history, and all the responsibilities that fell under Russell will now fall under the CDO.

The search was announced in January after it was announced Russell would be shifting administrative roles; however, it was paused when MSU moved online. At the May 15 Board of Trustees meeting, President Samuel L. Stanley Jr. announced the search was resuming

The four CDO finalists are visiting MSU between Aug. 28 and Sept. 9. Their names and curriculum vitae will be announced prior to each visit.

Russell left MSU in July after being offered the position of vice president for diversity and inclusion at California Polytechnic University but later rescinded the offer after backlash from the Cal Poly community.

MSU target of ransomware attack

On May 28, Michigan State was the target of a ransomware attack by a group called NetWalker that claimed to have stolen files from the university, including financial and student information. The attackers’ blog post included a week-long timer that then automatically released files if the university did not pay off a bounty.  

The attack was isolated to the Department of Physics and Astronomy. MSU IT worked with the Michigan State Police Department, who recommended they not pay the bounty. 

Protests against police brutality in East Lansing 

Just next door to campus, a number of protests were held between May and June at the Michigan State Capitol and in East Lansing amid widespread protests against police brutality across the country.

The first protest took place June 1 at the state Capitol. The protest escalated to the point where police had to become involved. Multiple people were arrested, and thousands of dollars in damages resulted from that night.

This protest also resulted in a 9 p.m. to 5 a.m. curfew for the city. The following day members of the community gathered to clean up what was left.

On June 3, Paul Birdsong began organizing larger protests in East Lansing. Birdsong and his followers took their calls to action to the doorsteps of Lansing Mayor Andy Schor’s house, demanding for changes or his resignation. Schor was not home.

A few days later Lansing created a racial equity ant-racism fund.

Australyah Coleman, president of the Central Michigan University chapter of the NAACP and vice president of the Michigan State Conference Youth and College Division of the NAACP led a group of protesters to the steps of the Capitol to list the organization's demands.

Black Lives Matter sponsored protests in the area June 22 and 29.

Schor announced plans for Racial Justice and Equity Plan webinars to encourage dialogue in the community.

Vice president of research Stephen Hsu resigns

After a Twitter thread was shared by the Graduate Employees Union, or GEU, and multiple calls for his removal, Hsu resigned from his position as MSU’s vice president for research and innovation.

The thread denounced Hsu's scientific racism, sexism and eugenicist research through blog posts and podcasts he was involved in.

Calls for his removal came from members of the community including hundreds of faculty and the undergraduate student government, The Associated Students of MSU. There was also a petition for Hsu to remain in his post, which reached equal attention, with signatures from professionals across the country and some abroad.

Following the backlash, Stanley ultimately asked Hsu to resign on June 19.

Stanley recommended Assistant Vice President for Research and Innovation Doug Gage as interim vice president for research and innovation. His appointment was approved at the June 26 Board of Trustees meeting. A search for the vice president has not yet been formally announced.

Tom Izzo named Big Ten coach of the decade, secures five-star commits

Michigan State’s men’s basketball coach Izzo was named Big Ten basketball coach of the decade.

Izzo was given the honor June 25 by a voting panel of 24 members, who highlighted the Spartans’ consistent high-level play and success, going a total of 264-95 in the decade.

Just five days later, Izzo managed to secure the top prospect from the 2022 high school graduating class, Emoni Bates. The 6-foot-8 small forward from Ypsilanti, Michigan is one of just seven players to ever receive a perfect rating by 247Sports and has already been compared to players of the likes of LeBron James.

Following Bates, Izzo landed another top recruit with 2021 five-star shooting guard Max Christie. 247Sports ranks Christie as the No. 1 shooting guard in the 2021 class and the 13th best player overall.

Izzo then secured a third five-star, center Enoch Boakye, joining Bates in the 2022 recruiting class. Boakye is considered to be the highest-rated prospect from Canada for the 2022 recruiting class by 247Sports.

COVID-19 cases linked to Harper’s Restaurant and Brewpub

On June 8, bars across Michigan were able to reopen their doors at 50% capacity. Crowds gathered at East Lansing bars on opening night, including Harper’s Restaurant and Brewpub. 

Two weeks after opening, 14 positive cases of COVID-19 were linked to the bar, causing them to temporarily close their doors June 20. Eventually, this amounted to 185 cases in connection to Harper’s.

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer then signed an executive order for Michigan bars to close their indoor seating again. 

Harper’s owners Trisha and Patrick Riley were subject to a show cause hearing by the Michigan Liquor License Commission, or MLCC, on July 23 regarding the COVID-19 outbreak that occurred from their reopening on June 8. At the hearing, the owners were asked questions regarding their protocols in reopening their establishment in compliance with the original executive order for reopening bars and restaurants and to demonstrate how their plans for reopening will prioritize the safety of staff and patrons.

Teresa Woodruff begins as new provost

Woodruff officially began her tenure as Michigan State University's provost and executive vice president of academic affairs Aug.1. The former dean of The Graduate School at Northwestern University is succeeding interim provosts Teresa Sullivan and Thomas Jeitschko, following the resignation of June Youatt last September.

Her selection for the role was announced on April 27, after an open search began in October. She was one of three finalists, who were publicly interviewed via Zoom in early April.

Following her selection and approval at the May 15 Board of Trustees meeting, the appointment received backlash from the Michigan State Black Faculty, Staff and Administrators Association, or BFSAA. 

In beginning her role, Woodruff sent an introductory email to the community with a road map on her goals for students’ education amidst coronavirus and promoting diversity at MSU.

Fall sports canceled; athletes and staff test positive for COVID-19

The Big Ten formally announced on Aug. 11 that they were canceling the fall 2020 sports season, following a summer of practices and COVID outbreaks among players.

Days before there were speculations from multiple media outlets that the conference would cancel following a 12-2 vote from Big Ten presidents. Stanley was among those who voted not to play in the upcoming season.

Student-athletes were permitted to return to MSU's campus in June.

The football, men’s and women’s basketball, and volleyball teams were the first to undergo testing, with one student-athlete testing positive in the first round. In the second round of testing, two athletes tested positive out of 114 tested. 

Voluntary football workouts were paused in July after a staff member tested positive for COVID-19 during surveillance testing. Before the sudden pause, the Spartans were preparing to begin their first 20-hour practice week following a mid-June NCAA plan that allowed Division I football teams to conduct up to eight hours per week for weight lifting and conditioning, six hours per week for walk-through practices with no pads or helmets, play with a ball allowed, and up to six hours for team meetings including film study and meetings with coaches.

The football team was asked to quarantine for two weeks after a second staff member tested positive at the end of July. In addition, 16 student-athletes and four staff members in total tested positive at the end of July.

In the midst of the pandemic, the Big Ten pieced together a conference-only football schedule, which was set to start on Sept. 5.

Prior to the cancellation, some football players including starting defensive tackle Jacub Panasiuk and starting right tackle Jordan Reid had opted out of the season.

Michigan State goes remote for fall semester

The news most of the community was likely looking out for was MSU formally announcing their plans for the fall 2020 semester. 

Following the work of the committees within the Reopening Campus Task Force, on May 27, the university announced they planned to open campus for a mixture of in-person and online instruction for students and cancel the pilot fall break that they originally planned.

However, following the reopening of schools all over the country causing outbreaks across student bodies and cancellation of classes, MSU announced, on Aug. 18, undergraduate courses would be held remotely. University administration said all students planning to live in residence halls should remain in their permanent home, and a small amount of housing would still be available to those who absolutely need it.

This semester was planning to hold 75% of courses at least partially online, with all courses moving entirely remote for the last three weeks. Students living in dorms were able to opt out of their fall housing contract throughout the summer through the Learn From Home program, where they were to continue their studies while residing with their parents or guardians.

This article is part of our Welcome Week print edition. Read the full issue here.

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