Summer and Fall Planning Update
April 13, 2021
Dear MSU Faculty, Academic Staff, and Students:
As spring classes draw to a close, I would like to share important updates regarding our progressive planning for the summer and fall semesters. Improving vaccination rates and vaccine availability give us great hope, which we all welcome as we look toward the coming academic year. Indeed, student vaccinations play a key role in enabling our return to in-person activities, and we are heartened by the state of Michigan and the Ingham County Health Department providing vaccines for our students. Due to the FDA and CDC's recommended pause in using the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, beginning today MSU switched over to providing the two-dose Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine at the student-only vaccine clinic. This was made possible due to the partnership with the Ingham County Health Department, and we are incredibly grateful for their support. At ASMSU’s urging, I am asking faculty to excuse absences for confirmed COVID-19 vaccine appointments. Please consider allowing your students absences for this good reason.
Reminder: Study Days and Final Exam Times
Spring semester classes end on Wednesday, April 21. The following two days – Thursday, April 22 and Friday, April 23 – are Study Days. These days are intentionally designated to provide two additional days for students to prepare for their final exams.
- No classes or instruction, synchronous or asynchronous, may be held on April 22 and 23.
- No assignments may be due on April 22 and 23.
- No quizzes, tests, or final exams may be administered on April 22 and 23.
- Instructors and teaching assistants who wish to offer optional review sessions for their final exams or hold office hours on the Study Days are encouraged to do so.
Please also remember that if you are giving an exam during finals week, it must be administered at the scheduled time. Deviations from published final exam times create conflicts for students who have exams in other courses.
Changes in Guidance for Outgoing MSU-affiliated International Travel for Faculty and Graduate Students
The increasing availability of vaccines for COVID-19 has allowed reconsideration of requirements for MSU-sponsored outgoing international travel. The pandemic continues to present a rapidly evolving global challenge, with many countries having varying rules regarding quarantine, requirements for vaccination, and border restrictions. It is critical, if you are planning international travel, that you stay informed about MSU requirements as well as destination requirements.
The first set of changes affects faculty traveling on MSU-sponsored activities. Faculty who are fully vaccinated will no longer be subject to a full travel review by the Faculty and Staff Travel Review (FASTR) Committee unless there are security or safety issues. The dean approval on health waivers will also not be required for those faculty who are fully vaccinated.
The second set of changes affects graduate students who are fully vaccinated, expanding the list of countries they may visit to include countries with Orange risk ratings, based on daily prevalence of COVID-19 as reported by the Global Epidemics website (select the “Worldwide” Geolocation icon) maintained by the Brown School of Public Health and Harvard’s Edmond J. Safra Center for Ethics. A subcommittee of MSU’s Risk and Security Assessment Committee (RSAC) will review waiver applications for graduate students who are fully vaccinated, expediting decisions for those who are vaccinated.
All other requirements for faculty and graduate students remain in place. Please see https://globalsafety.isp.msu.edu/travel-during-covid-19-pandemic/international-travel/ for the complete requirements for all categories of MSU travelers. The process for those who are not yet vaccinated remains the same.
We anticipate there will be further changes to requirements for both group and individual student travelers on MSU-sponsored Education Abroad trips that will be posted on the Office for Global Health, Safety, and Security website.
Graduation Ceremonies for Spring 2021 Graduates
Graduation is a time-honored academic tradition and the Provost’s Office looks forward to enabling in-person undergraduate ceremonies for our spring 2021 graduates. We are drawing resources and talents from every part of our campus community in support of this effort and are grateful for the good planning that has been done to allow for this event. All undergraduate ceremonies will take place outdoors in large parking lots on campus to allow for appropriate physical distancing and sufficiently low enough numbers of people to preserve the campus community’s health. As outlined in the MSU Community Compact, graduates and guests are all required to wear appropriate face coverings at all times when on MSU property.
As we have done from the start of this pandemic, we continue to take guidance and direction from local, state, and federal authorities, as well as from scientific and medical experts. In each instance, we combine the best available information with our commitment to the health and safety of the campus community to establish a set of boundary conditions for in-person activities. We look forward to doing everything we can in the current environment to make these unique, outdoor ceremonies as celebrative as possible while maintaining the health and safety of all involved. Additional information, including information about advanced degree ceremonies, is available on the Commencement website.
An in-person ceremony for spring, summer, and fall 2020 and summer 2021 graduates is still in the works for dates yet to be determined.
S/NS Grading Option
MSU will again offer the Satisfactory/Not Satisfactory (S/NS) binary grade reporting option for most students in spring semester 2021. For undergraduate students, the threshold between S and NS is 1.0. For graduate students, this option will vary based on consultation with program directors. Individual colleges may have different grading policies. If the underlying numeric grade is 2.0 or 2.5, the program and college will determine how this course grade figures in degree requirements.
The S/NS grading option will continue for undergraduate students through summer 2021. Summer 2021 is the last semester we expect MSU will offer the S/NS grading option. The S/NS grading option will not be offered for graduate students for summer 2021.
Fall Semester Planning
The Provost’s Office is planning a fall 2021 semester that continues to enable the physical health and safety of our campus community while engaging in classroom offerings more similar to past years. Classes will be offered in multiple instructional modes, including in person, hybrid, and some still online, especially those that traditionally filled large lecture halls. We have expanded our online course offerings for students who have told us that they find this option valuable. Students can take advantage of online classes while doing an internship, engaging in a study abroad or study away opportunity, or living at their permanent address. Most courses will be offered with an in-person requirement.
Fall Break 2021
I am happy to report that we will be piloting a Fall Break for fall semester 2021 on Monday, October 25 and Tuesday, October 26. Faculty and academic staff are asked to integrate this Fall Break into their fall syllabi and other planning for the semester. The pilot Fall Break does not extend to the professional programs in the medical colleges and programs in the College of Law, where the academic calendar differs for reasons associated with their matters of curriculum and training.
The MSU we learn and work at this coming fall will not be the same university it was two years ago. We have learned a great deal as a consequence of the disruptions we have experienced together and we are reshaping the university in ways that will make us a more resilient and more hopeful community. Faculty have responded in innovative and creative ways to enable our commitments to student success and academic excellence, even during a period of unprecedented challenge. Moving forward, we will continue to offer more flexibility and options for students to take in-person and online courses.
This past year we have given, and will continue to give, more attention to students’ social and emotional needs, in addition to their academic needs. As part of that effort, we have established a strong new partnership across academic affairs, student affairs, and Residential and Hospitality Services, to better support the full range of the student experience in a more coordinated, thoughtful, and deliberate fashion. Your input will continue to be a valued part of our organizational renewal and I thank you for the shared ways in which you are involved in the MSU we are becoming.
We have many reasons to be hopeful and optimistic as we continue to plan for the many in-person activities, both academic and extra-curricular, associated with university life on a college campus. Additional updates on specific topics in support of international students, on-campus housing, and returning to work on campus will be shared as details become available. The Together We Will website will continue to be a resource for the most up-to-date information.
I wish you all the very best as the end of spring semester approaches and as we move toward our next academic adventures in the summer and fall.
Teresa K. Woodruff, Ph.D. (she/her/hers)
Provost and Executive Vice President for Academic Affairs
MSU Foundation Professor