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Fall 2020: semester in review

December 8, 2020
<p>The Michigan State Spartan logo on a building, photographed Aug. 31, 2020.</p>

The Michigan State Spartan logo on a building, photographed Aug. 31, 2020.

Photo by Annie Barker | The State News

This semester at Michigan State University was different than any other. Despite only housing a fraction of its total student population, MSU was home to plenty of news this fall.

Here's what happened.

Welcoming students virtually


MSU’s fall semester looked different this year.

With an almost entirely remote semester announced 10 days before move-in, only 2,500 students moved onto campus during welcome weekend.

Traditional welcome week events like fall convocation and Sparticipation were held remotely with low turn-outs and technical difficulties defining the events.

MSU finds 40 people might have known about Nassar’s abuse

On Sept. 1, MSU released an update pertaining to institutional reforms required by an agreement with MSU and the U.S. Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights last year, which found more than 40 individuals might have received notice of complaints regarding ex-MSU doctor Larry Nassar's decades of sexual abuse and the misconduct of Nassar's boss, ex-College of Osteopathic Medicine Dean William Strampel.

Former and current MSU staff that could have potentially had notice of complaint or concern involving Strampel that are being further investigated include:

  • Former MSU President Lou Anna K. Simon, who resigned in January 2018. Her charges were dropped over the summer.

  • Former Provost June Youatt, who resigned from her role in September 2019 and now serves as a consultant for MSU's international studies and programs. Youatt will retire from MSU effective Dec. 31, 2021.

  • Former Associate Provost and Associate Vice President for Academic Human Resources Terry Curry, who remains a tenured faculty member.

  • Former Associate Dean Kari Hortos, who currently has an unpaid volunteer clinical appointment with MSU College of Osteopathic Medicine.

  • Former Assistant Professor and Associate Director Elizabeth Petsche, who resigned from MSU on Feb. 2, 2019.

  • Former Associate Chairperson, Radiology, Thomas Cooper, retired from MSU Aug. 31, 2018. Cooper is currently employed as a consultant in MSU’s Office of Planning and Budget.

The report on Nassar states that two more former or current employees of MSU are being further investigated as a part of the review include:

  • Dr. Gary Stollak, former MSU professor who retired in 2010.

  • Strampel, who was convicted of two counts of willful neglect of duty and felony misconduct of a public official for allowing Nassar to continue to see patients while an investigation during 2014 was pending. He was also convicted because he did not enforce protocols resulting from a 2014 investigation. In February 2018, MSU didn't allow Strampel to return from medical leave while also revoking his right to receive benefits typically received upon retirement.

Dairy store, Wilson dining hall permanently close


On Sept. 2, Michigan State announced the MSU Dairy Store would be pausing operations until further notice, and it remains unclear when they will reopen.

Similarly, over the summer Wilson dining hall announced it will be permanently closing due to COVID-19's financial impact and budgetary restrictions, as well as anticipated staffing levels.

Other local East Lansing businesses, like Espresso Royale, Blaze Pizza and Quality Donuts, closed as a result of the pandemic.

Board of Trustees removes KKK member’s name from campus building

At their Sept. 11 meeting, the MSU Board of Trustees unanimously voted to remove Stephen Nisbet’s name from the human resources building, due to his discovered involvement with the Ku Klux Klan.

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The board received pushback from Nisbet’s family since they claimed the university did not complete the investigation fully.

MSU vice president Denise Maybank leaves MSU, accepts role at CUNY

Associate Provost Denise Maybank accepted a new position at the City University of New York as interim vice chancellor for student affairs and enrollment management, returning to her alma mater after 15 years at Michigan State. 

Maybank’s duties went to Vice President for Auxiliary Affairs Vennie Gore.

East Lansing issues mandatory quarantine on Greek life and other large properties


In September, 11 MSU fraternities voted against a temporary prohibition, or moratorium, of certain social events during the COVID-19 pandemic. The moratorium required a two-thirds majority and did not pass.

A week later, 30 large houses in East Lansing with known exposure to COVID-19 were issued a mandatory quarantine for two weeks, including 23 fraternity and sorority houses. Eleven more were later added.

President of the MSU Beta Zeta chapter of Theta Chi Ryan Welch said he and other fraternity presidents were “blindsided” by the health department’s order to quarantine, as they were only notified by an email from Ingham County Health Officer Linda Vail.

The Interfraternity Council reinstituted a re-vote on Sept. 20, where the moratorium later passed unanimously.

Big Ten Football returns; Mel Tucker begins first season

On Sept. 16, the Big Ten Conference announced it would be bringing back football for the 2020 season, allowing newly hired MSU head coach Mel Tucker to begin his first season with the Spartans.

The Big Ten decided to postpone the season back in August. MSU President Samuel L. Stanley Jr. was among the presidents who unanimously voted for the return after they were told of the availability of rapid testing.

RHS furloughs 700 students employees 


Residential and Hospitality Services (RHS) furloughed 700 MSU student employees at the end of September.

RHS justified the leaves because they did not have enough work or income to maintain all student positions.

The announcement was made only 13 days before the leave began. 

Many members of the community including the James Madison Student Senate (JMSS) and Spartan Solidarity Network condemned the furloughs, which left student workers with minimal options.  

JMSS also released a statement demanding rehires and apologies to the students.

COVID-19 surges in East Lansing 

Although COVID-19 case numbers lowered in the area, cases began rising with the return of students to East Lansing. Cases of COVID-19 reached more than 9,100 in Ingham County by Dec. 1. 

Ingham County residents have spent nearly all of 2020 under restrictive orders from high-level health officials. 

Michigan State selects Jabbar Bennett as first chief diversity officer

Associate Provost, Inclusion and Chief Diversity Officer at Northwestern University Jabbar Bennett was selected as MSU’s inaugural vice president and chief diversity officer (CDO) on Oct. 6.

The CDO will be at the level of vice president for the first time in the university’s history and will report directly to Stanley.

Group plots to kidnap Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer

On Oct. 8, seven individuals were charged by the Attorney General’s office for acts of terrorism under Michigan state law, including a discovered plot to kidnap Whitmer. An eighth individual was later charged as well.

Whitmer received support from groups at the Capitol later that day.

MSU implements satisfactory/non-satisfactory grade system for fall and spring 

The Office of the Provost announced a satisfactory/non-satisfactory grading system for fall 2020 and spring 2021. 

The threshold between S and NS will be 1.0. Grades of 0.0 will automatically be converted to NS.

The Associated Students of Michigan State University introduced the system in response to a previous credit/no credit option where students who earn below a 2.0 have the option to have their grade converted to NR-C. 

Spring break canceled; MSU offering scattered rest days 

MSU announced their plan to hold around 400 in-person classes for spring 2021, allowing more students to live on campus, and no spring break

To make up for the days off, the university later announced four days without classes during the spring semester, on Tuesday and Wednesday, March 2-3 and Thursday and Friday, April 22–23. April 22 and 23 are the last days of the spring semester.

Michigan State discontinues men’s and women’s swim and dive program


On Oct. 22, MSU athletics announced that the university will no longer sponsor men's and women's swimming and diving as varsity sports after the 2020-21 season.

Athletic Director Bill Beekman and Stanley said the department projected a best-case scenario shortfall of more than $30 million in revenue this school year.

All scholarships for student-athletes will be honored beyond this season for any student-athletes who choose to finish their undergraduate degree at MSU.

MSU football upsets Michigan on Halloween; students take to the streets to celebrate

Tucker became the first head coach in MSU history to win over the University of Michigan in his first season, 27-24 on Halloween.

Prior to the game, certain parts of East Lansing were limited to 10 people for outdoor gatherings.

After the game, hundreds of students gathered throughout the city to celebrate the victory with couch burnings. The city totaled 11 gathering fines, 24 fires and two arrests.

Joe Biden wins Michigan; Vassar, O’Keefe fill MSU Trustee seats 


After days of voter verification, Biden formally won Michigan’s 16 electoral votes, further securing his victory over President Donald Trump.

In the Michigan and East Lansing area, Sen. Gary Peters kept his U.S. Senate seat. He carried a majority in Ingham County.

Rep. Elissa Slotkin won  reelection in Michigan’s 8th Congressional District, which covers Ingham, Oakland and Livingston counties. 

Republican Pat O'Keefe and Democrat Rema Vassar secured the two open positions on the MSU Board of Trustees. The two surpassed incumbent Brian Mosallam and Republican Tonya Schuitmaker.

Spartans drafted to the NBA

Spartan basketball alumni Xavier Tillman and Cassius Winston were both awaiting their selection in the 2020 NBA Draft.

Tillman was drafted in the second round at No. 35 overall, a pick the Sacramento Kings agreed to trade to the Memphis Grizzlies. Winston was picked at No. 53 by Oklahoma City, who agreed to send the pick to Washington.

Basketball, hockey begin seasons 

After a semester of uncertainty, winter sports were finally able to begin their 2020-2021 seasons. 

MSU hockey began their season Nov. 13 against Arizona State, with a 1-1 tie.

Women’s basketball dominated St. Francis on Nov. 17, 77-44.

Men’s basketball opened their season against Eastern Michigan, winning 83-67. 

State orders three week ‘pause’  closing bars, indoor dining, high schools

After skyrocketing cases and hospitalization in the state, Whitmer announced new COVID-19 restrictions in the state, which included closing indoor dining at bars and restaurants, in-person learning for high schools, colleges and universities, and other indoor recreational activities starting Wednesday, Nov. 18 and lasting for three weeks, until Dec. 9.

This article is part of our Women in the Workplace print issue. Read the full issue here.


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