Spring 2023 was defined by loss, but it also held many other notable events and changes at MSU. The State News broke down the biggest headlines from this semester.
Vassar elected chair of Board of Trustees
Trustee Rema Vassar became the first Black woman to serve as chair in a 5-3 vote on Jan. 11. Board bylaws mandate the vice chair must come from a party other than that of the chair. Dan Kelly, the lone Republican, was re-appointed by unanimous vote.
Female swimmers reach settlement with MSU
Members of the now-dissolved women’s swim and dive team settled their lawsuit against MSU, agreeing to end the case in exchange for further review and revision of Title IX policies by the university's athletic department.
‘Nepo Babies’ spark debate
The internet began to question the ethics of ‘nepotism babies’ — a term used to describe the children of already successful parents — and whether or not they deserve their success. Students weighed in on how this influences the entertainment industry and some actors took to social media to express their distaste for the term.
First Roe v. Wade Day since its overturning
Jan. 22 marked the 50th anniversary of the landmark Roe v. Wade decision. This year was the first since Americans lost federal abortion protections. Despite Michigan passing Proposal 3, some students said they wouldn’t be celebrating this year because many states do not have a protected right to a safe abortion.
City of East Lansing addresses school safety
East Lansing Mayor Ron Bacon hosted a listening session in which he addressed questions and concerns about safety in EL public schools on Jan. 28. Emphasis was placed on students feeling uncomfortable in the bathrooms due to the presence of illegal substances and fights breaking out.
False reports of shootings reported at Okemos High School
Meridian Township Police said multiple area police and fire agencies responded to reports of shots fired at Okemos High School on Feb. 7. Similar calls were made to high schools in Portage, Huron High School and Saginaw. All police departments confirmed there were no shots fired.
The events of Feb. 13
On the night of Monday, Feb. 13, shots were reported in the MSU Union and Berkey Hall while police ordered students and East Lansing residents on and off-campus to shelter-in-place. The State News provided coverage of these events and the weeks following, giving students, staff and community members accurate updates and sharing the stories of this tragedy.
Alexandria Verner, a Clawson native, was a junior studying biology. Known as a leader, Verner is loved by her parents, sister, brother and the entire Clawson Public Schools community. She is remembered for her athleticism, leadership and academic drive.
Verner received praise from Clawson Public Schools Superintendent Billy Shellenbarger. In an email written to the district, Shellenbarger wrote, "If you knew her, you loved her, and we will forever remember the lasting impact she has had on all of us."
Arielle Anderson, a junior at MSU, was from Grosse Pointe. She was voted “most likely to succeed” in eighth grade and aspired to tend to the health and welfare of others as a surgeon, her family said in a statement.
"Arielle Diamond Anderson was a rare pure diamond, the most caring and influential young woman I have ever come in contact with," AnJesica Wilson, Anderson's aunt, said in a statement. “Arielle is now my beautiful rare pure Diamond in the sky, and we are all blessed to have Arielle in our family. We love and miss her dramatically."
Brian Fraser, from Grosse Pointe, was a sophomore studying business. Fraser was the Chapter President of the Phi Delta Theta fraternity at MSU. More than 50 members of MSU’s chapter of Phi Delta Theta shared their tributes to Fraser. “True brotherhood,” “welcoming,” “respect” and “kindness,” are only a few of the adjectives used to describe him.
"Brian was our leader, and we loved him," a Phi Delta Theta social media post read. "He cared deeply about his Phi Delta brothers, his family, Michigan State University and Phi Delta Theta.”
Those who were injured
Five students were hospitalized as a result of the shooting. Those who have been identified are Guadalupe Huapilla-Perez, John Hao, Nate Statly and Troy Forbush. As of March 22, four students have been discharged, with one, who was recently transferred from Sparrow Hospital to a different facility, still in critical condition.
Many of the injured survivors have organized GoFundMe fundraisers to help cover costs, while MSU announced it would be covering their hospital bills.
Sheltering-in-place was, for many students, a life-altering experience. Many were going about their daily lives when they received instruction to “Run. Hide. Fight.”
“We had just gotten our food and I remember all of our phones started blowing up and so we checked them,” elementary education freshman Lauren Ford said. “The girl right next to me started sobbing and my jaw just dropped, and I remember my mind was racing and I couldn’t process — I didn’t think it was real at first.”
After hours of waiting for updates, listening to police radars and barricading doorways, many students left campus to go back to their hometowns. Some shared that it felt “eerie” or that they didn’t feel safe on campus anymore.
Searching for a new scene of “normalcy” became the mission for many students and employees. While some did not want to return to campus or classes one week following the events, others said they needed to be back with their peers and not let the “strange environment,” on campus “linger.”
In the days and weeks following, many students participated in several rallies protesting gun violence and advocating for legislation that would regulate firearms. One of these occurred the afternoon of Feb. 20 outside of the Michigan Capitol Building.
Thousands of students gathered for the rally, called "Skip Class, Stand Up." During the protest, attendees sat in a commonly taught formation used during lock-down drills in schools.
As they left the capitol that day, embracing one another in hugs of "I'll see you soon," they signified the spirit of the Spartans: standing with one another in a time of grief.
The community comes together
The numerous ways that the Spartan community, and many others, came together happened in an instant. Immediately, local businesses, religious organizations, alumni and so many others found ways to support students and each other.
At sporting events such as the MSU-Michigan men’s basketball game just five days after the shooting, fans and coaches — regardless of their affiliation — wore “Spartan Strong” shirts and held a moment of silence for those lost.
On Feb. 19, thousands of volunteers lined the sidewalks of MSU’s campus to give out snacks, “free mom hugs” and plenty of opportunities to pet dogs in an effort to welcome students back to campus and let them know that they are loved.
Slotkin announces run for Senate
Democratic Rep. Elissa Slotkin announced the morning of Feb. 27 she would be running for the open U.S. Senate seat in 2024 following Sen. Debbie Stabenow's retirement.
MSU Hockey wins Big Ten Tournament game
First-year head coach Adam Nightingale and MSU beat Notre Dame to advance to the semifinals of the Big Ten Tournament, the first time in history MSU had won a game and series in the tournament. It was an important series win for the program where fans and players felt great pride within.
Suzy Merchant steps down
After spending 16 years as head coach of the MSU women’s basketball team, Suzy Merchant announced she would be stepping down. In a statement, Merchant said the decision was made due to health reasons. Merchant got into a car accident on Jan. 28 this year due to an undisclosed medical incident.
St. Patrick’s Day as a bar worker
While many students rush to bars in the early hours of St. Patty’s Day to get a head start on celebrations, employees of these establishments are on the other side of the bar. Workers shared their thoughts on working during the holiday and the fun — and sometimes gross — parts of their jobs.
MSU men’s basketball knocked out in Sweet 16
After a season that was given low expectations ahead of their first appearance on the court, the Spartans defied skepticism by making it to the Sweet 16 of the NCAA Tournament. Although Kansas State ultimately won, the Spartans were still proud of the season they had.
Pro-life advocates from local church speak out
St. John Church and Student Center works with a national program titled “Walking with Moms in Need” to increase the church’s outreach to pregnant and parenting women facing trouble. Members of the church were against Proposal 3 and are using this program to further their mission despite its passing.
MSU hosts Hippo Campus
In the annual spring concert organized by the UAB, ImpactFM and ASMSU, Hippo Campus performed at the Breslin Center on March 28.
MSU hires new women’s basketball head coach
Robyn Fralick was hired to take the place of long-time leader Suzy Merchant as the new head coach of the women’s basketball team. The Okemos-born coach leaves her position as head coach at Bowling Green University after finishing last season 31-7.
Board releases Gupta report
A $1.6 million outside investigation by the MSU Board of Trustees found that the debated removal of former business school dean Sanjay Gupta was a disproportionate punishment and out of line with university policies. This comes after his failure to report sexual misconduct at an April 2022 business college event.
The investigation concluded the action taken against him appears “disproportionate” with his conduct as the recommended punishment for mandatory reporting failure at MSU is additional training. Woodruff said, however, there is a “higher bar” for deans than what’s in university policy.
Historic gymnastics season ends in Pittsburgh
After a historic season, the MSU gymnastics team did not advance to the NCAA National Championship. Similar to last year, MSU finished the regional final in third place, just behind two of the top teams in the country.
MSU Union reopens
Two months after the tragic events of Feb. 13, the MSU Union reopened on April 3. Staff members said it was nice to have more people back in the building, while students said the building is different than it was before.
Several changes have been made such as the addition of a reflection room on the third floor for people to visit where thousands of messages from schools and communities across the country show their support and love for MSU.
Whitmer repeals state’s 1931 abortion ban
Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer signed a series of bills April 5 repealing Michigan’s 1931 ban on abortions, crossing off another key promise by Michigan Democrats from the 2022 campaign trail.
April storms flood MSU campus
The National Weather Service issued a thunderstorm warning and tornado watch that closed several lots and campus infrastructure. The Red Cedar River rose to right beneath the banks, flooding the surrounding nature and dampening campus in its wake.
Civil Rights VP, Title IX Coordinator candidates announced
Chandra Bhatnagar and Laura Rugless were announced as the two finalists for MSU VP of the Office of Civil Rights and Title IX Coordinator. Both candidates currently serve in similar roles at UCLA and Cornell University, respectively.
Whitmer signs gun violence prevention laws at Spartan Stadium
Whitmer was joined by members of the MSU community and gun violence prevention advocates to sign two of the three bills that make up the initial gun violence prevention efforts by the Michigan legislature. The two bills pertain to universal background checks for gun purchases and safe storage regulations for firearm owners.