Dear Mississippi State University Family:
As we launch our 2020 Summer Semester, I want to update everyone in the MSU family on our ongoing planning processes for the 2020 Fall Semester. Since the inception of the COVID-19 global pandemic, our guiding principle has been structuring the difficult yet critical balance between protecting the health and safety of our MSU family while likewise ensuring that we continue to deliver the high quality academic experiences that our students expect and deserve.
That principle continues to guide us as we thoughtfully transition to a return to more traditional university operations including guidelines to resume in-person classroom and laboratory instruction for the Fall 2020 Semester.
The Mississippi Board of Trustees of State Institutions of Higher Learning passed a resolution this week stating the board’s intention that all public universities make plans to resume traditional operations on their campuses in the Fall 2020 Semester. We are already compliant with that directive and have been serving as key participants in crafting policies to that end.
MSU has taken a leading role in planning for the Fall 2020 Semester among Mississippi’s eight public universities. MSU Provost and Executive Vice President David Shaw was chosen by Mississippi Commissioner of Higher Education Commissioner Dr. Alfred Rankins Jr. to chair the 16-member Mississippi Institutions of Higher Learning’s Safe Start Task Force as the state’s university system plans repopulating campuses in a safe and effective manner. MSU Vice President for Student Affairs Regina Hyatt also serves on that group.
MSU has also taken a proactive approach to crafting our university’s specific path forward to the Fall 2020 Semester in the form of our MSU Future Planning Workgroup, led by Dr. Hyatt and featuring representation from Faculty Senate, Student Association, Academic Affairs, Student Affairs, Human Resources, MSU Health Services, MSU’s Agricultural Units, MSU Emergency Management, Foundation and Alumni, Research, and Finance. In addition, the group has sought detailed input from MSU’s Deans, Directors, and Department Heads.
I want to personally thank all those who have worked so many long hours to keep our campus operational, to contribute to the COVID-19 fight through our knowledge and research, and to systematically plan for how we move forward together. Their service has been magnificent.
As we have all experienced, the COVID-19 crisis has been an evolving challenge and that evolution will likely continue over the coming weeks. The ongoing work of the Future Planning Workgroup in visioning a return to in-person classes through traditional and other means of delivering academic content continues to be invaluable.
In addition, the Workgroup is establishing operational guidelines for all MSU employees as we move forward. The group’s focus is on fostering a safe environment for the Fall 2020 return of MSU students, faculty, staff, and visitors to campus within the confines of official federal and state government guidance and that of the leadership of recognized public health agencies.
Those guidelines will include:
Revising the academic calendar to minimize disruption.
Focusing on spread reduction techniques including social and physical distancing, increased cleaning and disinfectant protocols across facilities, and the availability and use of face coverings.
Repopulating MSU through a robust screening strategy bolstered by testing where needed and contact tracing. Containment and isolation procedures if positive COVID-19 cases become present on campus.
Exploring the appropriate mixture of hybrid, online, and face-to-face instruction, classroom and other facilities usage, and innovative class scheduling.
Considering innovative and alternative best practices in campus life, business functions, athletics, Extension and other public outreach.
The time has come to ramp up our efforts to repopulate and revitalize our campus and prepare to serve our students for the Fall Semester.
For those MSU employees who have been teleworking or otherwise not reporting to campus for work, you will, throughout the month of June, be called back to your work location as more departments gradually begin to phase-in the resumption of regular work schedules. June 15 is the target date to have the following buildings reopened.
—University Post Office
—The Marketplace at Perry
—Colvard Student Union
—Montgomery Hall – Disability Support Services, Admissions
—Library – limited access
—County Extension Offices (as allowed by the county)
—Regional Research and Extension Centers
—Bully's Closet & Pantry - 120 Morgan Avenue
—University Police Department
—Barnes and Noble Bookstore (reduced hours)
—Longest Student Health Center
—Animal Health Center
—Sanderson (reduced hours)
—Child Development and Family Studies Center
—Hunter Henry Center
By July 5, we hope to have all MSU departments back operating at near full capacity if we are advised that it is prudent to do so by federal, state, and local officials.
Throughout the next two weeks, each employee should expect to be contacted by their supervisor regarding the date to return to work. There are a number of employees who will be able to continue to telework throughout the month of June. Those employees should discuss this option with their department head.
Some employees may need to consider taking leave due to childcare availability issues, illness, or medical conditions. I would encourage those individuals to review the available options on the HRM website. https://www.hrm.msstate.edu/covid19
To MSU’s faculty and staff, thank you for your hard work, thank you for your commitment, and thank you for your patience during unprecedented challenges.
To our alumni and MSU stakeholders, thank you for the constant presence of your support for the university. That support is vital to everything we do.
And to our students and their families, thank you for your trust in us and for your patience in working through what we know are frustrating problems. We are working hard every day to merit your trust and to earn the privilege of helping our students stay on their academic paths and realize their dreams.
Please stay strong, keep your faith and stay safe.
Mark E. Keenum, President
Mississippi State University