MSU President Samuel Stanley talks about the challenges on campus during the pandemic

MSU President Stanley speaks on university' s future.
Published: Aug. 17, 2020 at 6:59 PM EDT
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LANSING, Mich. (WILX) - Michigan State University's President Dr. Samuel Stanley says a three-week nationwide stay at home order would help the United States get a handle on the coronavirus pandemic.

The expert in infectious diseases also says he doesn’t understand how wearing masks has become political.

News Ten’s Ann Emmerich sat down with him for a one-on-one interview. The conversation started with why MSU will not require mandatory coronavirus testing when students return to campus for the fall semester.

President Samuel Stanley: “I think the most important thing we can do is make sure by the time they arrive on campus, we’re stopping transmission. A test may identify 1% or something like that, but it doesn’t deal with the people who three days after they were tested or 4 days after they were tested go out to a party and get sick. So it gives you a false sense of security essentially that you’ve solved the problem. So really, the first thing you have to approach is topping transmission of the disease. That to me is the number one thing.”

Ann Emmerich: “I know the university is doing all it can, but doesn’t this really rely on the behavior of the students?”

President Samuel Stanley: “If people don’t comply with wearing masks on campus, we will identify them when we need to, they will go into student discipline when it involves students and faculty and staff in HR related discipline. We just have to have everybody doing this when we come to campus.”

Ann Emmerich: “How will the university monitor fraternities and sororities during rush week?”

President Samuel Stanley: “We’ve been meeting with them a number of times. And we’ve spoken with them again, about the sense of responsibility and their responsibility. And if they want to see this university stay open, If they want the opportunity to take classes on campus, they need to do their part in keeping the university safe. We’re working with them on a moratorium, essentially, on parties for them. We’ve gotten, I think we’re at a point where they’re going to agree to that. We think that’s very important to us moving forward. And again, we’ll try to make surveillance testing available for some of them as well, so we can keep an eye and help them manage on that issue.”

Ann Emmerich: “With your background, do you see having to shut the university down and send students home at any time?”

President Samuel Stanley: “I think that’s possible. Absolutely. And I think we did it obviously in March. We knew less about the virus then, we knew less about how it was spread, we knew less about what the prevalence might be in the community. We know more about these things as well. Michigan State is actually among states that, we’re 41st in terms of the amount of disease, that’s a good number. We’re near the bottom in terms of how much disease we have. So that’s a good place to be. So I think that lessens the chance we might have to go to that place. But if we do, we’ll do it.”

Ann Emmerich: “Let’s talk about mental health. A lot of students need the activities, the structure. How is the university going to support those students that are having problems, you know, they might not be in a good situation at home.”

President Samuel Stanley: "We've increased the amount of online counseling available. We started that last spring when we again, went fully remote. And we're trying to find ways to bring people together so we've encouraged students to develop after-class study groups, virtual study groups, something that worked very well. To have chat sessions, after classes so people can get to know each other and stay around. All these kinds of things are ways to try and build some of the college experience, ending for many students what is an online experience."

Ann Emmerich: “Any estimate on the revenue loss to the unversity because of Covid-19 expenses?”

President Samuel Stanley: “It’s going to be very significant. We know already, we can talk about athletics, we know what the cost is there. We know what the cost is from the declines in international student enrollment, both because of Covid-19 and because of visa issues. That’s very significant. And we know of some loss because of domestic out of state, there is some from that as well. And then we’re very concerned about what’s going to happen with our state allocation. So the State of Michigan provides support for the university. It’s close to $300 million a year. We’re concerned about what’s going to happen with that allocation going forward so, if you add everything up, we’re certainly in the $250 million range potentially of what losses could be going forward, it could even be higher depending on what happens with basketball.”

Ann Emmerich: “The pandemic has changed a lot of business models. Where do you see higher education going when this is all over?”

President Samuel Stanley: The faculty have become much more accomplished in teaching remotely or teaching online. We had many faculty who had never participated in this, because of Covid-19 they have learned how to do it. We trained more than 1,000 faculty over the summer in better teaching online. So I think its going to enable us to offer more courses. It think it’s going to take a bit of the burden off classrooms, and we’re going to offer more courses online. And I think it may expand the number of students who can come to Michigan State University because its just going to increase our capacity.”

President Stanley has encouraged students to stay home if they can this semester. Masks are required indoors and outdoors on campus.

As far as the major budget issues caused by coronavirus, President Stanley says the university is calling on Congress to pass an aide bill that will help higher education and the states.

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