An increase in social gatherings leads to an increase in social distancing

While in-person classes are canceled and moved online, several students still moved into their off-campus apartments and houses leading to several large social gatherings. There are restrictions placed on an East Lansing area of houses and apartments largely mostly rented by Michigan State students. These restrictions prohibit gatherings of no more than 10 people inside and 25 people outside. Several gatherings were held that went against the restrictions, leading to the largest spike in COVID-19 cases Ingham County has ever seen. The recent spike saw two days reach 100+ cases, roughly tripling the single-day record of cases that occurred in June when several positive tests were linked to the breakout at Harper’s Restaurant and Brewpub.

East Lansing bars respond to on re-openings and the spread of COVID-19

 The typically loud and rambunctious crowds in East Lansing bars have been replaced with control and regulation, rendering a dramatic change in the bar scene since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. “Before [the pandemic], it was very laid back, it was a fun environment to make good money at,” said Lauren Dix, server at Beggar’s Banquet. “It’s just a little bit tenser and there are not as many people coming in.”

After the COVID-19 pandemic forced Michigan State University to end in-person classes, hundreds of students flocked to the local bars in East Lansing. Not long after, the lack of social distancing and mask-wearing at many bars and restaurants caused many of them to shut down or implement new rules in order to minimize the spread of the coronavirus. 

Four months after the pandemic reached East Lansing, many bars and restaurants attempted to re-open after Gov. Gretchen Whitmer issued an executive order on June 1 that allowed them to begin conducting business again. Some were able to open successfully, relying on curbside pickup and takeout orders to make up for the revenue that they lost while being forced to close down but, others, however, were not as successful.

Lansing, East Lansing work to get online education right

Kendra Freeman doesn’t know what she should do. When the Lansing School District decided on July 17 it would move to fully virtual learning for the first marking period between Aug. 31 and Nov. 6, Freeman, a mother of a 9th grader and kindergartner, was left wondering how she was going to make it work. “It has been very tough as far as moving online,” Lansing School District parent Kendra Freeman.

MSU Greek life goes virtual

One of the popular attractions in college is the social aspect of college, which includes doing Greek life. This upcoming school year, Greek life will join a long list of other social activities that will look different.  

Greek life at Michigan State allows students to not only xperience social venues at college, but also give them the opportunity to be a part of something bigger and get involved in philanthropy like ways never before that are both rewarding and fun for the students. One of the most important parts of Greek life is membership and recruitment. The ability to be face-to-face and in close quarters with one another. 

This type of recruitment will need to be adjusted as both the Interfraternity and Panhellenic Council will need to adjust their ways in order to continue. 

Kate Vernier, who is the Panhellenic president said how this upcoming fall will be like no other due to everything going virtual. 

“This fall, formal recruitment will be completely virtual,” Vernier said. “We will be using an online platform, which has not been decided yet.” 

Spring as well is likely to look different, although plans have not fully been made, says Vernier. 

“While we haven’t started formally planning for spring recruitment, we plan to follow all local, state and university recommendations, as well as the recommendations from the National Panhellenic Council,” said Vernier.

MSU professors work COVID-19 safety measures into fall teaching plans

Alec Gerstenberger(Top Left to Right) Dr. Raymond Jussaume, Professor Anastasia Kononova (Bottom) Professor of Practice Andrew Corner

After the spring semester was cut short because of COVID-19, many universities, faculty and students struggled to deal with the quick transition from in-person to online learning. Now that there has been time for schools to get plans together, many professors have been trying to figure out how to safely and effectively change their teaching plans to accommodate new university mandated safety measures when classes resume this fall. “The first couple weeks of fall will tell us a lot about what the rest of the semester is going to look like,” said Andrew Corner, an advertising and public relations professor at Michigan State University. As the start of the fall semester approaches, MSU has transitioned 57% of undergraduate classes to online learning, with 17% changing to a hybrid system and the remaining 26% completely in-person. 

“Even for my in-person classes, I would be prepared to go online anytime,” said Anastasia Kononova, an advertising and public relations professor at MSU. “This is something we did not predict in the spring semester and this is something I think we’re getting ready for in the Fall in case the pandemic re-emerges on campus.

East Lansing mayor Beier and councilmember Meadows unexpectedly resign during meeting

The East Lansing City Council’s July 14 meeting was not expected to be a dramatic one,  however that is what it became, after two voting members of the council resigned  suddenly.  

During the meeting, and after several agenda items had already been approved and addressed, council member Lisa Babcock decided to open a vote on terminating East Lansing City Attorney Tom Yeadon’s contract on Oct. 1.  Despite opposition from former Mayor Ruth Beier and Council member Mark Meadows, the motion to end this contract passed. Before the vote, discussion on the topic was opened by Beier, as she attempted to ask Babcock for an explanation. 

Jad Safadi

“Under the contract, no reasons are necessary,” said Babcock.  “I think we’ve had many experiences on this council that speak to the need of change.” 

The former mayor responded by challenging Babcock to present some back up to her claim. 

“The basic decency of hiring and firing requires reason,” said Beier.  “Just because you can fire someone without cause at will, doesn’t mean you should and no decent human would.” 

 Beier alleged possible wrongdoing on the part of Babcock on how this particular item made it on the agenda, and how Babcock, as well as other members of the council violated rules of The Michigan Open Meetings Act by discussing ending this contract outside of the meeting with other counselors.  She stated by collaborating together to plan this, it was a violation of this act. 

Jad Safadi

“If you have a problem with the city manager, you have an executive session,” said Beier.  “That’s when you discuss labor issues, you do not do it in public.” 

“If the council is unhappy with any its employees, there’s a proper way to take care of this,” said Meadows.  “That is to confront the employee with the unhappiness, or the specific items that are causing a problem with regard to the relationship between the city council or city council members and Mr. Yeadon.” 

When the lengthy discussion was concluded, Babcock, along with then Mayor Pro Tem Aaron Stephens and Council member Jessy Gregg voted to terminate the contract.  The vote passed 3-2. 

Shortly following the vote, Beier continued her critical speech towards the council, but made sure to thank Yeadon for his service, who was present in the meeting.  Yeadon has held the position of city attorney since 2012. 

“I am humiliated to be a part of this council,” said Beier.  “All three of you have commented that you didn’t really know how to do this, rather than find out how to do this, you decided to use your power to fire the city attorney.” 

“I would like to resign,” said Beier.  “I’m going to leave this circus to the fools who are left. It’s been great working with two of you, the rest, sayonara.”  

Beier left Stephens to move the agenda forward.  This was quickly halted by Meadows, who wanted to make his own statement. 

“The decision I have made today to resign from city council was not spontaneous, and has been contemplated by me for several months,” said Meadows.  “The action that prompted it was of course the action terminating the contract of the city attorney.” 

Meadows continued to speak about the possible rule violations the council had made in the session, before changing course by talking about his love for the city, and his many accomplishments in the city and community.  

Stephens asked Meadows if he would briefly stay in the meeting following the conclusion of his resignation statement, to which Meadows declined, and immediately left the Zoom call. 

 Stephens now shifts to the position of Mayor of East Lansing, as per rules when a mayor resigns.  The city will have a month to fill these newly opened East Lansing City Council seats, according to the meeting minutes.  The rest of the meeting was completed as planned, with Stephens now running it. 

“This was an extremely difficult meeting,” said Stephens.  “I think that it will be felt in the city for long after the close of this meeting.” 

Will historic East Lansing landmark get needed updates?

For the first time since March 12, the Historic District Commission met July 9 and was filled with many public hearings. One in particular, however, may seem recognizable to natives and students of East Lansing. A large blue house, located at 415 M.A.C., is known not just for its loud color, but for it being one of the few properties left in East Lansing as a co-op landmark. The house is a part of the Michigan State University Housing Cooperative, and allows students to jointly control and have equal shares, membership and occupancy rights to the housing community. Photo of the Co-op, also known as Howland (Cred Mike McCurdy).

Safety and sanitizing: The El Azteco way

It was difficult at first for El Azteco general manger to get adjusted to not having people dine in. But after nearly three months, Johnny Vlahakis gets to see his loyal customers again. “Customers love the patio especially during this time of the year, but once we opened back up, people were lined up at the door,” said Vlahakis. El Azteco, like many other restaurants in Michigan and across the country, had to adjust once restaurants and bars could reopen, especially with making sure customers feel safe. One way El Azteco made sure its customers felt safe was by focusing on cleaning and sanitation.

Livonia woman walks to protest, spread awareness

Chase GoffProtestors gather outside of Michigan State Capitol. In a time where protests and marches have become commonplace, Livonia native Beth Navas decided to switch things up last month. Navas embarked on a three-day march to the state capital that would take her nearly halfway across the state. “I wanted to do something that was a little bit different than just the typical marches and rallies that have been going on,” Navas said. “I thought that it was a pretty significant walking distance, so I was hoping to bring a lot more attention to the Black Lives Matter movement.”

Starting at 7 a.m. on June 27, Navas led a group on a journey that would take them from Navas’ house in Livonia to the capital building in Lansing.