News Story

MSU: Lockdown Doesn’t Apply To Us, We’re Reopening

Classes start Sept. 2, lockdown or not

Michigan State University does not need the governor’s approval to allow students back on campus.

The COVID-19 executive orders issued by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer require residents to stay at home, with exceptions only for approved activities. Going to class on a college campus is not on the approved list.

Whitmer has provided no firm timeline for when the stay-at-home order will end.

Yet on May 27, MSU announced it would reopen to students, with on-campus classes beginning Sept. 2.

“We will begin classes Wednesday, Sept. 2, as previously scheduled. There will be both in-person and online components to instruction in the fall semester,” MSU President Samuel Stanley Jr. wrote in an open letter to university employees and students.

Michigan State, Wayne State University and the University of Michigan assert that because the state constitution provides for them to have independently elected boards they are not subject to the same control by the governor as other people and businesses are. When these conflicts have arisen in the past, these have taken years in the courts to resolve. So far, it does not appear that the governor has tried to assert her control over these universities the way she has controlled and shut down other businesses and institutions.

“Decisions on resuming on-campus instruction at the state universities will continue to be made by the institutions’ respective governing boards and institutional leaders,” said Dan Hurley, CEO of the Michigan Association of State Universities. “All planning leading up to the resumption of on-campus activities will be done within the parameters of all gubernatorial executive orders and with full consideration of guidance provided by the state, CDC and other entities, such as the American College Health Association. Any and all decisions cannot be made in a vacuum, so extensive collaboration among the universities, the Governor and other state agencies and officials has been and will continue to be paramount.”

Whitmer’s office didn’t respond to an email seeking comment.

Whitmer's plan to reopen the economy implies that she has the ability to control when higher education can allow students back on campus. Her plan says that online learning is allowed in higher education in Stage 4 of her six-stage plan. Stage 5 states, "Live instruction in K-12 and higher education."

The Governor's latest stay-at-home order states:

All in-person government activities at whatever level (state, county, or local) are suspended unless:

  1. They are performed by critical infrastructure workers, including workers in law enforcement, public safety, and first responders, as defined in sections 9 and 10 of this order.
  2. They are performed by workers who are permitted to resume work under section 11 of this order.
  3. They are necessary to support the activities of workers described in sections 9, 10, and 11 of this order, or to enable transactions that support businesses or operations that employ such workers.
  4. They involve public transit, trash pick-up and disposal (including recycling and composting), the management and oversight of elections, and the maintenance of safe and sanitary public parks so as to allow for outdoor activity permitted under this order.
  5. For purposes of this order, necessary government activities include minimum basic operations, as described in 5(b) of this order. Workers performing such activities need not be designated.
  6. Any in-person government activities must be performed consistently with the social distancing practices and other mitigation measures to protect workers and patrons described in Executive Order 2020-97 and any orders that may follow from it