GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Michigan State University will be returning to campus for class on Monday, a week after a shooting that killed three students and injured five others, university leaders announced during a Sunday afternoon press briefing.
“One of the things that’s important for us at this point in time is to recognize that coming back together is something that will help us. We’re a community that was shaped around the interest of discovery and learning, and it is as a community that we will heal,” Interim Provost and Executive Vice President for Academic Affairs Thomas D. Jeitschko said during the press briefing.
The shooting on Feb. 13 killed Arielle Anderson, Brian Fraser and Alexandria Verner and injured five others. In an update Sunday, MSU Police and Public Safety said three students remain in critical condition, while one is in serious but stable condition and one is in fair condition.
A vigil was held for Brian Fraser on Sunday, hosted by the fraternity he was president of. The fraternity has renamed their library in his honor.
“The university has arranged to cover the funeral costs as well as the hospital bills for the injured students,” MSU Interim President Teresa K. Woodruff said.
Jeitschko said that coming back together into familiar spaces is helpful for healing. School leadership, with the input of faculty, decided that students and faculty will be returning to campus for class on Monday.
For a replay of the news conference, watch the video in the player below.
The MSU Student Union and Berkey Hall will remain closed to classroom instruction for the remainder of the semester. Professors have been told where their new room will be and have let their students know, university officials say.
“We’ve utilized every space we possibly can. So we are asking for grace for our instructors who may be teaching in unfamiliar classrooms with unfamiliar equipment,” Melissa Woo, the executive vice president for administration, said.
With the return to campus, Chris Rozman, MSU police interim deputy chief, is reminding students that the shooting was an isolated event and that there are robust and comprehensive safety and security systems in place at MSU.
Police are also considering long-term changes to beef up security on campus.
“We know that there’s always room to improve and we have already begun conversations looking at comprehensive, long-term solutions to further improve safety on campus,” he said during the press briefing. “There are many things that we are considering and that includes building ingress, egress, access control, doors (and) physical security just to name a few.”
He said there will be an increased law enforcement presence over the next week.
“We have listened to our community and we know that some people just want to see extra police as well. So we will have that on campus,” he said.
Since the shooting, the school has announced some changes in how the rest of the semester will look.
Students will have the option for a credit/no credit grade reporting option for all 100 to 400-level undergraduate courses for the rest of the semester, a release from Jeitschko said. That decision can be made throughout the entire semester.
“Not every student is going to process or grieve the same and they deserve as many options as possible. We’re thankful to the provost’s office for working with students to enable the credit/no credit option for students. We look to our faculty to provide grace where needed,” Jo Kovach, ASMSU president, said during the press briefing.
Students are encouraged to reach out to their academic advisers to help with class accommodations.
“Students desperately need flexibility, empathy and options coming back to campus. Not every student is going to process or grieve the same and they deserve as many options as possible,” Kovach said.
Professors have also been asked to not try to make up for lost class time with extra work.
By Sunday morning over 22,000 students had signed a petition urging the school to make virtual classes an option. The creator of the petition said she expects fewer students on Monday due to some staying home in protest and others deciding not to return to campus this semester.
During the press briefing, Jeitschko said that the option for a hybrid or virtual class would be determined on a case-by-case basis. Students are encouraged to reach out to their instructors.
MSU Senior Vice President Vennie Gore said there are options for students who feel they are unable to come back.
“If students feel that they do not want to come back, they can contact our office of student support and accountability, and there are mechanisms for them that we will wrap around to make sure that happens in a very easy and caring way,” Gore said.
Since the shooting, nearly 200 community counselors, social workers and therapy dogs from around the state and across the country have responded to help students, staff and faculty.
“More than 1,000 people participated in a virtual reflect and connect session, which gave people the opportunity to come together in community with fellow Spartans experiencing a wide range of emotions,” Assistant Provost and Executive Director for University Health and Well-being Alex Travis said during the press briefing.
She said that as of Sunday, the employee assistance program has served 44 employees in individual counseling sessions, 20 employees in one-on-one crisis sessions and 350 employees in outreach sessions. The counseling and psychiatric services has also served 293 students in 318 clinical sessions.
“As we look towards next week, all outreach requests for counselors thus far have been staffed and are all ready to be deployed for Monday and Tuesday,” Travis said. “Planning is already underway for events on Wednesday and beyond.”
Students who need support can access counseling services through the Olin Health Center and the counseling and psychiatric services. Faculty and staff can access support through the employee assistance program and Bronson Healthcare. There are also live and prerecorded Spartan Resilience Program Reflect and Connect Webinar sessions as well as live and virtual counseling sessions through the Thriving Campus for the whole Spartan community.
For parents and the broader community, Travis said they can go to the East Lansing Hannah Community Center Monday through Thursday from 2 p.m. to 6 p.m. for counseling services. Additional resources and information will be released later this week.
For more information about resources visit MSU’s website.
— News 8’s Bryon Tollefson contributed to this report.