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Moving Forward Together

February 17, 2023

Dear Faculty, Academic Staff, and Advisors,

The initial days following the violence our community experienced on Monday night were focused on providing care to those directly and deeply impacted and on managing immediate needs. We are now working to identify how the MSU community can best move forward, together. As the deans and I discussed this week, if we don’t come together, we will come apart. Experts note the distinct value of returning to common spaces and practices as a helpful way to find perspective and regain a sense of self and community. To make this happen, we all have to work together, with trauma-informed perspectives and actions. 

The process of moving forward will be neither swift nor easy, but made possible by each of us working in our individual roles and by each of us working together. It is a crucial time for us to be together, and to work together in support of restoring the university community we all love and to which we want to return. Many of us sought community by attending Wednesday night’s Vigil at the Rock – to grieve for those lost and injured, and to connect in ways that enable us to move forward and heal, myself included. 

Returning to instruction 

We will all grieve and heal differently, and we should all be respectful of and sensitive to that reality. As I noted in my earlier message to you, it would be appropriate and prudent to adjust expectations for yourself and your students. Please extend yourself and your students grace, empathy, and flexibility in the coming days and weeks as we return to instruction. Our international students may have particular concerns, so please be attentive to and sensitive to those unique concerns. You are all successful individuals with great capacity to do this work, and we trust you to make professional decisions about your courses and how to best support our students as they return to class. 

You should feel confident in adjusting syllabus expectations as needed, and you should not try to make up for lost time, or to scramble to catch up. This includes exercising the flexibility to move or drop assignments, and to avoid “heavy lifts” such as scheduling tests too soon after the return to classes. Please extend as much grace and flexibility as you are able with individual students, now and in the coming weeks, for example by recording a lecture or adjusting a student’s deadline. If you have extenuating circumstances, please discuss them with your chair or dean. 

Please note that some professional schools have accreditation requirements that must be honored, so check with your academic unit for additional information around those requirements which must remain in place. 

We will be offering a Credit/No Credit grade reporting option for all undergraduate courses for the entire semester. Undergraduates will be able to use it to report the grade in any 100- to 400-level course. Students will have the entire semester to make that selection. Additional details will be available soon to help them make an informed decision regarding Credit/No Credit. 

Taking care of yourself and your students 

We each experienced the violence of Monday night in a somewhat different way, and we each continue to process its aftermath. As we prepare to return to campus – and after we return – if you find yourself, your colleagues, or your students in need of help, please engage with the services and programming provided by the Employee Assistance Program and Counseling and Psychiatric Services. Now, more than ever, it is important to enlist the resources available in support of our health and wellbeing. I have learned that some instructors are teaming up in support of one another and accompanying each other to their classes next week, a wonderful gesture that signals their support for one another, and that also demonstrates to their students that we are all looking for ways to navigate our way forward, educators included. 

Resources for teaching after a crisis 

In an effort to support our educators, Resources for Teaching After a Crisis have been assembled on the website. Please reference them before you return to your instructional settings; they provide a breadth of practical information and insights, including how to help students who may need extra time or support. 

Additionally, the webinar Rebuilding Hope: Teaching in the Aftermath took place this morning, during which Dr. Alyssa Hadley Dunn, a renowned expert on teaching after a crisis, provided helpful resources in advance of classes resuming. There was a good deal of practical information shared that you may find helpful, so please do consider watching the recording if you did not attend. The webinar was recorded and we are aiming to make it available later today. 

Safety on campus 

When you return to classes, I understand you may have concerns about the safety and security of yourselves and your students. University leaders have been in communication with MSU Police and Public Safety and local and federal law enforcement officials and will continue to maintain that frequent communication. In addition to MSU Police and Public Safety, the East Lansing Police Department will be providing additional support to the university and have a greater presence on campus. We recognize this is of critical importance and it remains a top priority. I have every confidence in our law enforcement leadership and am also confident that best practices are in place for our campus community. MSU’s Chris Rozman, Interim Deputy Chief of Police, addressed campus safety in his remarks at this morning’s webinar, so please watch that recording if you would like to hear what information he shared. 

Berkey Hall and MSU Union classrooms 

For those who teach in Berkey Hall and the MSU Union, we continue to work with you and your deans to move your courses to alternate locations on campus that will best enable learning outcomes. Thank you for your swift and thoughtful engagement in support of this effort and your students. Neither Berkey nor the Union will be used for instruction for regular courses for the remainder of the semester. Additional information is being shared with affected instructors under separate cover. 

Join us for the Spartan Sunday event 

You may have heard about an event to welcome students back to campus on Sunday, February 19. The event’s goal is to create an environment for returning Spartans to feel supported and cared for, and to express that they are returning to an environment that is uplifting. The idea for the event was conceived by Comm Arts graduate student Emily Damman, who has also organized a Facebook event page. Spartan Sunday will take place along the river trail from 1 to 4 p.m. Volunteers will be at tables handing out donated goods, non-perishable items, etc. This event is gaining support through the East Lansing campus community, state-wide, and nationally, with donations from Meijer, GM, Colgate, Cards for Cause, and other businesses, and the university has reached out to Emily to lend our support and to connect her with logistical teams here at MSU (e.g., SLE, IPF, MSUPD). 

The intent behind the event is one of community and support – which is a hallmark of being a Spartan. The event clearly communicates that we remain ready to support our students, and that our entire community is behind them. Please consider participating and welcoming our students back to campus this Sunday. 

Moving forward together 

As we work together to support you and your students, I am grateful for each of you and the countless human touchpoints you provide. I have every confidence in each of you to make sound professional decisions about your classes and how to best support our students. Together, we will move forward. Together we will keep our MSU community unified and strong. 

From the heart,
Thomas D. Jeitschko (he/him)
Interim Provost and Executive Vice President for Academic Affairs
Professor of Economics