Tuesday, May 18, 2021

Spring 2021: semester in review

April 20, 2021
<p>The Michigan State Spartan logo on a building, photographed August 31, 2020.</p>

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

Photo by Annie Barker | The State News

As Michigan State University continued to navigate remote learning for a third semester, the cycle of news did not slow.

Here’s a recap of the semester’s biggest stories.

More students return to campus

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While just under 2,000 students chose to live on campus in the fall semester, about 3,800 students returned to their homes on the banks of the Red Cedar River for the spring. 

The university offered in-person instruction for 400 classes, up from 40 in the fall. 

To reduce the risk of spreading COVID-19, all on-campus students were required to participate in the COVID-19 Early Detection Program as a part of the MSU Community Compact.

To discourage traveling during early spring, Michigan State University canceled spring break and instead offered four wellness days: March 2-3 and April 22-23. Following the first two wellness days, students agreed that they were ineffective and would have preferred a spring break.

The fight for swim and dive continues

On Jan. 15, 11 members of the women’s swimming and diving team filed a Title IX lawsuit against the university on behalf of the program, hoping to reverse the decision to cut it following the 2020-21 season. The final ruling of the lawsuit came against the injunction to reinstate the program immediately but will remain in consideration as the fight continues. 

The team’s final season began later that month with a 146-107 loss against the University of Michigan. 

In February, MSU said the decision to cut the program would be final, though the team has continued the battle to save it.

11 MSU employees still affiliated with the university found in violation of Office of Institutional Equity policy

An 18-month Lansing State Journal investigation found that 11 of the 49 MSU faculty and staff in violation of the university sexual misconduct policy since 2015 are still affiliated with the university.

At least 14 people were accused of sexual harassment or sexual assault by multiple people and five remained employed: marketing Professor Tomas Hult, criminal justice Professor David Foran, anatomic pathology Professor Matti Kiupel, communications Professor William Donohue and physiology Professor Robert Wiseman

The investigation reported that two retired professors had lost their emeritus title, two were under review and four others had been allowed to keep them.

Former College of Osteopathic Medicine Dean William Strampel and political science Professor William Jacoby had been allowed to retire prior to the completion of the investigation or before any punishment, allowing them to maintain retirement benefits such as health and life insurance.

In a 166-page Title IX lawsuit filed March 24, recent MSU OIE Director Melody Werner is listed as a defendant in a case alleging Eastern Michigan University covered up several instances of sexual assault and rape.

Werner hasn’t served as OIE director since October 2020 and is currently working on assignments in support of strategic operations initiatives in the Office for Civil Rights until June.

MSU issues period of enhanced social distancing

Following an increase in the COVID-19 positivity rate as students returned to campus, MSU ordered an “enhanced physical distancing” directive Jan. 30,  barring students from gathering with others on or off campus. 

The university met failures to comply with the order with the threat of removal from housing without refund, and/or suspension or expulsion from the university. While the directive was originally set to end on Feb. 13, it was lifted in phases and came to an end Feb. 28.

MSU Police Department appoints new police chief and vice president for public safety 

On Feb. 2, MSU President Samuel L. Stanley Jr. appointed Marlon C. Lynch as the sixth chief of the MSUPD and vice president for public safety. 

He began his role on April 1, following approval by the Board of Trustees. 

B.1.1.7. variant of COVID-19 ruins Michigan’s pandemic progress 

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The first case of the B.1.1.7. variant of COVID-19 was found in Eaton County Feb. 8, just west of Ingham County. Early findings show the variant is approximately 50% more transmissible than others and could be associated with a higher risk of death. 

This came following the first case of the variant identified in Michigan in January.

Michigan’s COVID-19 cases have been leading the nation since early March with about 469 cases per 100,000 residents in early April.

Additionally, there has been 3,688 hospitalizations, making this surge the highest Michigan has experienced since the pandemic began last year.

However, despite the rising cases, Gov. Gretchen Whiter hasn’t implemented any new statewide restrictions. Ingham County recently implemented guidelines to slow community spread.

Twistars owner, Nassar enablerJohn Geddert charged with human trafficking and sexual assault, dies by suicide the same day

Ex-MSU doctor and convicted sexual predator Larry Nassar had treated young gymnasts at Twistars for years. Former owner of the club, John Geddert, turned over ownership to his wife Kathryn Geddert in 2018 as he faced sanctions from USA Gymnastics for the gym’s response and handling of the Nassar scandal.

The club announced that they had been sold Feb. 4, beginning training sessions as Capital City Flips. 

Multiple Nassar survivors spoke out against Geddert in the past, stating he fostered an environment that encouraged abuse and accusing him of allowing Nassar one-on-one access to gymnasts in the back room of Twistars.

On Feb. 25, Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel charged Geddert with 20 counts of human trafficking and forced labor, one count of first-degree sexual assault, one count of second-degree sexual assault, racketeering and lying to a police officer. This came following a three-year investigation, beginning immediately following Nassar’s sentencing hearings.

Geddert's body was found at a rest stop at 3:24 p.m., where he died by suicide Feb. 25, the day he was scheduled to be arraigned at 2:15 p.m.

Students petition College of Education regarding problems with the fifth-year teaching internship

A petition asking the College of Education to acknowledge the negative impact of the internship program on students’ mental health and financial situation gained attention around campus, gaining over 670 signatures since Feb. 12.

The fifth-year internship is a part of a three-year program allowing students to complete their teaching certification in five years. The year-long unpaid internship comes in the final year, allowing students to gain in-classroom experience. At the same time, students must complete 24-credit hours of classes in the final year.

As the petition gained an increasing amount of attention, Associated Students for Michigan State University unanimously passed a bill in support of its demands, calling on MSU administration to examine the current state of the program and make the changes to better support their education students.

Outdoor gatherings limited in East Lansing following COVID-19 case spike

An emergency order by Ingham County Health Officer Linda Vail on March 4 restricted outdoor gatherings to a maximum of 15 people in parts of East Lansing. 

Those found in violation of the order could receive a misdemeanor, resulting in up to six months imprisonment and/or a $200 fine. A municipal civil infraction ticket, punishable by a $500 fine, was also implemented under a City of East Lansing ordinance.

MSU announces 75% of classes will be held in person for upcoming fall semester

On March 5, the university announced 75% of undergraduate classes would be offered in-person for fall 2021. According to the email that was sent out, classes will be held in hybrid, in-person and online formats, especially those typically held in large lecture halls. 

Residence halls will be open to first-year students and as many other students as possible. Spectators will once again be welcomed at sporting events to the extent allotted by state restrictions and guidelines in place.

Classes for the summer semester will still be largely online, though some labs may be held in-person.

Community unrest after anti-Asian violence

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On March 16, eight individuals — Soon Chung Park, Hyun Jung Grant, Suncha Kim, Yong Ae Yue, Delaina Ashley Yaun, Paul Andre Michels, Xiaojie Tan and Daoyou Feng — six of which were Asian American women, were murdered in Atlanta. 

This sparked nationwide and university-wide conversations addressing racism against Asian-Americans. MSU students cited racist comments from MSU alum Larry Gaynor, whose name is tied to The Larry and Teresa Gaynor Entrepreneurship Lab in the Eli Broad College of Business.

Many student organizations including the MSU Asian Pacific American Student Organization, the Asian, Pacific Islander, Desi American/Asian Faculty and Staff Association and the Office of Cultural and Academic Transitions demanded action from the university to support its APIDA student population.

Graduation changes

MSU announced they will hold more than 50 limited-attendance outdoor graduation ceremonies for the spring 2021 semester, though a university-wide convocation will not be held.

Due to COVID-19 concerns, summer graduates will instead be invited to participate in the fall 2021 commencement ceremonies, sparking criticism from students who anticipated walking the stage this semester.

Board of Trustees withholds 6,000 Nassar documents

As the Attorney General Office’s investigation into Nassar remained inconclusive with the MSU Board of Trustees withholding about 6,000 documents, AG Nessel sent a letter to the BOT urging them to be released. 

The investigation, requested by the Trustees, began in 2016 and would be forced to close without the release of the documents. The attorney general’s office had explored every legal avenue to obtain the documents but was unable to access them without the permission of the board.

In accordance with the attorney general’s letter, the East Lansing City Council passed a resolution March 23 honoring “Sister Survivors” of sexual abuse and calling for the immediate release of the 6,000 documents. 

On March 26, the Trustees responded to Nessel’s letter, stating they would be maintaining their privilege and not releasing the documents, resulting in the investigation coming to a close. 

The decision saw immediate community reactions, asking MSU to reconsider its decision not to waive its privilege.

MSU men’s basketball team falls out of NCAA tournament after season with highs and lows

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In the First Four of the NCAA Tournament, MSU fell 86-80 in overtime against UCLA. This marked the end of the team’s run at a 15-13 record overall but maintained Coach Tom Izzo’s NCAA Tournament appearance streak. 

 Tom Izzo and multiple players contracted COVID-19, causing the team to miss multiple games during the season. Tournament hopes were dwindling but the Spartans were able to beat three top-5 teams to maintain an NCAA appearance streak.

After two seasons with the team, sophomore guard Rocket Watts entered the NCAA transfer portal, citing his change from point guard to shooting guard and struggles to adjust due to the shortened off-season.

Assistant Coach Dan Fife will also be transferring, heading back to his home of Indiana to join their staff as an assistant coach for the 2021-22 season.

Spartan teams fall in Big Ten tournaments

The MSU hockey team faced defeat in the opening round of the Big Ten Tournament against the Minnesota Golden Gophers.

On April 10, the men’s soccer season ended with a 1-0 loss to the University of Michigan in the quarterfinals. The women’s team faced similar luck, ending on a 1-0 loss to Rutgers.

The baseball and softball seasons are currently ongoing. Spring football has begun and the spring game will be held on April 24.

Expanding vaccine availability

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MSU was approved to administer COVID-19 vaccines beginning April 9. This comes as state-vaccination regulations expanded allowing all residents aged 16 and above to receive their vaccination.

The vaccine clinic at the university will be open to students only and appointments are on a first-come-first-serve basis.

Originally, MSU planned to offer the Johnson & Johnson vaccine to students for free but following a Food and Drug Administration recommendation to pause the vaccine due to rare blood clots, students will receive either the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine.

For a full-year review, a recap of the fall semester can be found here.

This article is part of our Semester in Review issue. Read the full issue here.

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