September 1, 2021
Dear MSU Community Members:
Welcome to MSU Fall 2021! We have all been eagerly awaiting and planning for this day and look forward to the hustle, bustle, and even the parking challenges. Fall is a season to renew and refresh, and this year to repopulate and reset.
Most days as I walk across campus, I stop at Beaumont Tower. It is a beacon for us because of its history, its location on the crest of a small rise, and the hourly peals of our world-famous carillon. On any given day I find recent graduates taking pictures, families on campus tours, faculty having lunch, or an MSU photographer getting a perfect shot for MSUToday.
Usually I pause and read the adage inscribed on the tower’s north side – “Whatsoever a Man Soweth.” As I move on throughout my day, I think about those things that we sow in our academic lives. In this fall letter, I provide some intellectual examples of this axiom, including the procedures that guide our campus lives and the policies that we have been working on together over the last year. I also provide important information regarding employee and student well-being, and a link to the university COVID directives. As we live out our academic lives, we seed rows of aspiration and accomplishment, grace and empathy, dignity and respect – all in the pursuit of knowledge, truth, and an ability to realize our best selves.
Information Pertaining to Teaching, Research, and Employment for Faculty and Academic Staff
The current Important University Policies for Faculty and Academic Staff document contains information regarding university policies related to teaching, research, and employment at MSU. This is a helpful document pertaining to both the beginning of the semester and the ongoing work of faculty and academic staff. Please review these policies, which merit the close attention of administrators, faculty, and academic staff. An awareness of these policies is valuable to students as well, since many policies are in place to support their academic progress, success, and well-being.
In my Spring 2021 memorandum, University Philosophy and Guiding Policies on Faculty Tenure and Promotion, I laid the foundation for departments and colleges to recognize diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts through reappointment, promotion, and tenure actions. Faculty are encouraged to include evidence of their diversity, equity, and inclusion activities and accomplishments in the context of research and/or creative activities, teaching, service, outreach, and engagement.
Over the past year we made noteworthy progress in improving the campus culture and work environment for all. This included both addressing past misconduct and establishing new efforts to encourage ethical, honorable, and respectful behavior and work environments.This coming academic year we aim to make additional progress, including efforts to:
- Implement processes, tools, and strategies to enhance diversity, equity, and inclusion in search procedures for faculty, academic staff, administrators, and campus leaders, working with the Office for Inclusion and Intercultural Initiatives and Faculty Excellence Advocates.
- Review faculty policies under a Policy Review Taskforce to ensure that any systemic structures that may be unintentionally creating barriers or inequities for our faculty and academic staff are addressed.
- Continue discussions with academic governance on a Professional Standards Policy for faculty and academic staff. Such a policy will be key to setting forth shared expectations of how faculty and academic staff interact with one another, students, support staff, and administrators, with the goal of maintaining a respectful learning and working environment for all while respecting academic freedom and the freedom of speech.
I thank each of you for your conscientious work in supporting these actions and policies, and in supporting one another.
Supporting Employee Well-Being
As the semester progresses, please remember there are a number of mental health and well-being resources available for faculty and staff, including the Employee Assistance Program, a confidential counseling service provided at no cost to MSU faculty, staff, retirees, graduate assistants, and their families. While we may feel relatively refreshed at the start of a new semester, as responsibilities and demands increase, the cumulative effects can be stressful, even for people who typically have few mental health concerns. Additionally, many of our employees never shifted to remote work and remained on campus, including those who work on our farms, in our labs, and who enable the critical infrastructure that keeps our MSU city running. Now and as the semester progresses, if you need support, please reach out for it – and remind your colleagues to do the same.
Supporting Student Well-Being
One additional area I think about when passing Beaumont Tower is what we at MSU are sowing in support of student mental health and wellness. At the start of this academic year – one characterized by a significant transition to in-person activities for many of us – I want to broadly share information about resources available to our students via Counseling and Psychiatric Services, or CAPS, as it is commonly known. While pertaining to students, these are resources that faculty and staff should be aware of as well, because all of us play a role in supporting student success. The greater our shared, communal awareness of these resources and services, the greater our opportunities to support each student effectively and empathetically, regardless of our role at MSU.
Over the past year, MSU has made deliberate efforts and investments to improve and expand resources in support of students’ mental health and wellness, which plays a central role in enabling students’ intellectual health and academic success. CAPS provides a broad range of resources and services, including triage, consultation, counseling (for individuals, couples, and a host of groups), psychiatric care, referral services, and outreach. This fall, CAPS is continuing CAPS Connect, their embedded outreach program in which CAPS counselors spend time on site at approximately 25 on-campus locations, to meet students where they live, learn, and connect with others. Kognito, the online, simulation-based, suicide prevention training platform that has been soft-piloted over the past six months, is advancing toward its hard launch this fall. Along with other Student Health and Wellness departments, the Employee Assistance Program, the College of Osteopathic Medicine, and the Psychological Clinic, CAPS has been working to collectively launch an online, searchable, community provider mental health database called ThrivingCampus. This is a publicly accessible database for all MSU students, faculty, and staff who would like to connect with a community provider.
This fall, CAPS will provide a hybrid service model of both on-site services and tele-health services to meet the preferences and needs of students. To further optimize initial access of any CAPS service, they recently moved to an online scheduling system for initial consultation appointments. Students can make a triage phone appointment with a counselor by providing some basic information using the online scheduling form. New students may find the Guide to Health and Well-Being at MSU useful for ensuring that transition of care, as well as the physical and emotional transition to MSU, is positive and successful.
CAPS offers 24/7/365 crisis counseling services by calling CAPS’ main number at 517-355-8270 and pressing “1” at the prompt. For other crisis services, students can also visit CAPS’ Crisis Resources for Students webpage.
University-wide Health and Safety Requirements
Given the ongoing global pandemic, the university is requiring all MSU students, faculty, and staff to be vaccinated against COVID-19 and wear appropriate face coverings indoors. Refusal to comply will result in discipline. In the interest of the health and safety of the entire MSU community, exemptions to the vaccine requirement will be limited.Current information about contact tracing for Fall 2021 is now available on the Testing and Reporting page of the Together We Will website.These measures were put in place to help with our goals of physical and intellectual well-being, so we can remain in person, on campus, this fall. As such, they are welcome and enabling requirements.
Whatsoever We Soweth
Working together in support of academic excellence and student success, we can make this coming year at MSU one in which we successfully renew, refresh, repopulate, and reset. I share your excitement and eagerness to experience a more typical semester on our beautiful campus.
Beaumont Tower beckons all of us. It asks us to remember. It asks us to gather. It asks us to listen. It asks us to sow. And in answering these calls, we beget the culture we seek.
I wish you all a tremendous academic fall semester!
Teresa K. Woodruff, Ph.D. (she/her/hers)
Provost and Executive Vice President for Academic Affairs
MSU Foundation Professor