In the news

News outlet logo for favicons/chalkbeat.org.png

Detroit launches attendance initiatives as rising absenteeism threatens pandemic recovery

By Grace Tucker  Detroit school district officials are planning more aggressive steps to reverse a rise in chronic absenteeism, a huge obstacle to their efforts to help students recover academically from the impact of the pandemic. In the latest school year, 77% of Detroit Public Schools Community District student were chronically absent, meaning they missed at least 10% of school days. Researchers say the figures are further evidence that the district needs to do more to address the broad range of causes for Detroit’s long struggles with absenteeism, including socioeconomic and transportation factors. “I think there’s this impression that Detroit parents don’t care about school, and that could not be further from the truth,” said Sarah Lenhoff, an associate professor at Wayne State University’s College of Education. “Families want their kids to be in school.” Lenhoff co-authored a study analyzing the rise in absenteeism rates during the 2020-21 school year, and said technology was a main contributor, noting that 40% of parents reported that computer problems, like Wi-Fi issues and poor-quality laptops hindered student access to online classrooms. When Detroit’s kids don’t make it to school, Lenhoff said. “it really speaks to the need for the city to invest more in employment, invest in stabilized housing, and make sure that families have the food and health care that they need, so that they can give their children what they want to give them…get them into school.”  
News outlet logo for favicons/wdet.org.png

The rise, fall and potential resurgence of unions in America

By Dorothy Hernandez  Marick Masters, a management professor at Wayne State University and labor expert, joins Detroit Today to discuss unions in America. He said corporations and labor both played a role in the decline of union membership, but the trade policies driving the U.S. economy are the primary culprit. While union membership has continued to decline in recent years, last month saw an increase in momentum for labor movements in Michigan. Both state congressional staffers and nursing home workers continued formal efforts toward unionization, continuing a spike in union worker petition filings nationally this year. “I would say the principal blame lies in the structure of the U.S. economy, which is dominated by the wealthy and those who have supported free trade policies, which has led to the exodus and off-shoring of jobs,” said Masters. “Treaties like NAFTA and our trade relations with China have cost lots of manufacturing jobs, which have resulted in the decline of unionized workers.” “I’d say that if we’re looking to place blame on the unions, it wouldn’t be so much that they did a poor job representing members. In fact, the opposite is probably the case,” he said. “They probably did too good a job in trying to raise wages and raise benefits to where the companies could not remain competitive with the onslaught of international competition with unfair trade rules.” 

To reduce stigma, Oneonta recovery center uses vending machine to distribute overdose reversal drug

By Phoebe Taylor-Vuolo  An addiction recovery center in Otsego County has introduced the first naloxone vending machine in New York. Naloxone, also known as the brand name drug Narcan, can reverse opioid overdoses. Experts hope these vending machines will improve access to the lifesaving drug. The machine was inspired by a program out of the Wayne State University Center for Behavioral Health and Justice. Matt Costello, WSU’s program manager, works with county jails and community centers to bring in naloxone vending machines. The machines are placed in visiting rooms, or in release areas, so people can access them on their way out of jail. Costello said the vending machines offer anonymity, helping to reduce the barriers that people who use drugs often face accessing naloxone. “Again, this is a population that is already dealing with a lot of challenges…many of them stigma-based, shame-based,” Costello said. He said that reducing stigma and providing anonymity are key, and that vending machines should also be placed in areas that are accessible 24 hours a day. “[It would be] nice if crises only happened from nine to five on Monday through Friday,right? We know in the real world, that just doesn’t happen. So if you have a strategically placed machine, it offers the opportunity for ease of access,” Costello said. The program in Michigan has placed 50 machines and distributed 19,000 kits of naloxone.  
News outlet logo for favicons/detroitnews.com.png

Michigan supplied $40M for marijuana research. Here’s what it’s funding

Two Michigan universities and a California-based marijuana research group are using about $40 million in Michigan marijuana tax revenue to research the therapeutic effects of cannabis on veterans suffering from suicidality and post-traumatic stress disorder. Wayne Stathe University, the University of Michigan and a marijuana research organization called MAPS (Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies) will spend the next three to five years studying hundreds of veterans using cannabis. They will examine variances in the effectiveness of pot use based on factors such as CBD and THC ratios, use prolonged exposure therapy and the inhalation of cannabis flower. The research, a requirement of the 2018 ballot initiative that legalized recreational marijuana in Michigan is rare nationally because cannabis remains illegal at the federal level and is considered a schedule 1 drug on par with heroin, ecstasy and peyote. The same federal laws that make such funding a rarity also make the research funded by state money all the more challenging as the groups struggle to comply with federal research standards involving a controlled substance. “I could go to a dispensary tomorrow two blocks from my office to buy whatever I need, but I’m prohibited by the FDA to give that to anyone in my laboratory,” said Leslie Lundahl, the lead principal investigator for Wayne State University’s research project. “We’ve identified a supplier who can give us exactly what we need and they’ve begun the process of getting approval,” she said. “But it could take a while.” Wayne State University received the most funding of any one group, raking in nearly $19.6 million between the two grant funding periods in 2021 and 2022. WSU researchers are working on a series of three areas to study marijuana’s effect on combatting veteran suicidality and PTSD. The study will work to determine the lowest dose of THC that still retains effectiveness in order to find ways for veterans to maintain concentration, memory or function while using cannabis. A second trial will examine whether cannabis use improves outcomes of prolonged exposure therapy, a common treatment for PTSD that includes discussions of trauma, triggers and reminders to decrease its debilitating effect. 
News outlet logo for favicons/bridgedetroit.com.png

Detroit’s queer advocates worry about monkeypox – and messaging

By Bryce Huffman With monkeypox cases on the rise in Michigan, some queer advocates in Detroit worry the heightened risk to gay men could create a stigma for a virus that can harmful to everyone. As of Friday, there were 17 confirmed cases of the virus in Detroit and 72 total across the state. Monkeypox is a viral infection closely related to smallpox and causes the same symptoms – flu-like fevers, headaches, backaches, muscle aches and chills. The virus is transmitted by close, personal contact, including skin-to-skin touches, kissing or other sexually intimate contact, or by touching fabrics or objects touched by someone infected. According to the CDC, over 7,510 cases have been recorded nationwide and most cases involve men who have sex with men or patients that are identifying as LGBTQ. Chris Sutton, broadcast coordinator for LGBT Detroit, worries that messaging around who is most at risk to contract monkeypox is triggering and will increase anti-gay stigma. Patricia Wren, chair of the department at Wayne State University, said the messaging around monkeypox makes people assume it is only sexually transmitted, but it’s mostly spread through long periods of close contact, not necessarily sex. “Right now, there may be more cases in men who have sex with men. These men may also be better informed about sexually transmitted diseases and, thus, more likely to see their physician if worrying symptoms appear,” Wren said. “But if the HIV/AIDS pandemic has taught us anything, it’s that viruses – including monkeypox – are transmitted by specific behaviors and not by sexual orientations or identities.” 
News outlet logo for favicons/legalnews.com.png

Levin Center summer law clerks assist Senate investigation into organ transplant problems

An investigation by the Senate Committee on Finance into problems with the U.S. organ transplant network held a hearing Thursday after benefitting from the work of two Wayne Law School students, Yesenia Jimenez and Thea Barrak, who interned with the committee under a summer program administered by the Levin Center for Oversight and Democracy at Wayne State University Law School “The Levin Center has been sending summer law interns to Capitol Hill for seven years now to work for committees conducting bipartisan investigations,” said Jim Townsend, director of the Levin Center. “It’s been a delight to see Wayne law students not only gain investigative legal experience, but also earn praise from committee staff for their high-quality work. Yesenia and Thea have made Wayne Law proud while raising the law school’s visibility in Washington.”  
News outlet logo for favicons/nbcnews.com.png

Locals and lawyers point the finger at Kentucky coal companies in region’s deadly floods

As eastern Kentuckians continue to search for missing loved ones, muck out their homes and prepare for more rain, they are beginning to ask who could be at fault for this past week’s deadly flooding and whether it was a natural disaster or one caused by the coal mines that have drastically reshaped and scarred the landscape. Compacted dirt, destroyed mountaintops and deforestation in eastern Kentucky have often been left ignored by the coal companies that mined there, despite legal requirements that they attempt to return the land to its natural state when mining concludes. In recent decades, that spurned responsibility has, at times, turned heavy rains into floods and caused local residents who once counted on mining for jobs and prosperity to bring litigation against their former employers in Appalachian courtrooms. About 408,000 Kentuckians live within one mile of abandoned mine land. Kentucky spent a little more than $1.5 million from its reclamation fund. The state is expected to receive an additional $75 million this year as part of President Joe Biden’s infrastructure law, which dedicated $11.3 billion toward abandoned mine reclamation over the next 15 years. The new sum is huge, but “it’s just a drop in the bucket” to address the need for communities across Appalachia, said Sarah Surber, a public health professor at Wayne State University who studied environmental justice issues in the region and practiced law there for more than a decade. “How do you prioritize [the funding]?” she said. “You have so many that have been left abandoned or sitting in limbo, you have more coal mine company bankruptcies anticipated, so how do you decide what mines get reclaimed and what does that mean for communities and their protection in terms of pollution and flooding issues?” 
News outlet logo for favicons/wxyz.com.png

Wayne State University looking for veterans to study the benefits of cannabis for PTSD

Dr. Leslie Lundahl, associate professor in the department of psychiatry and neurosciences at the Wayne State University School of Medicine, and her team are launching a new study to find out whether CBD and THC can help with PTSD. The study is looking to enlist the help of 350 veterans. The study will test cognitive function and monitor vitals while also testing blood, urine, and saliva samples. When studying regular cannabis users, they’re hoping to find lower levels of THC that can produce effective results. “Public opinion has really outpaced science in terms of cannabinoid therapeutics,” said Lundahl. “There are animal data that suggest it might be helpful, there are anecdotal reports that it might be helpful for pain or for PTSD or mood or anxiety, but we don’t really have any hard scientific data to really support that…Specifically, we’re looking at PTSD symptoms severity and then frequency and severity of suicidal thoughts and behavior.  
News outlet logo for favicons/wxyz.com.png

Discovering your African roots through DNA testing is tracing roots back hundreds of years

By Ameera David  Black adults in the United States are more likely than any other group to see race as central to their identity. For many of those Americans, descended from enslaved Africans, the roots of their identity through ancestry remains a mystery. Some are now using DNA testing to trace roots back hundreds of years to a specific country and ethnic group. African Ancestry, which provides such testing, noted a 35% boost in test takers between 2019 and 2021. Kefentse Chike, Wayne State University assistant professor of African American studies, said the desire to learn more about one’s roots and origin has always been there, but also believes the upward trends are tied to current events. “That’s like the missing link in our heritage and it directly impacts our identity,” said Chike. “Of course, the killings of African American men and I think this kind of came to a height or a pinnacle with the death of George Floyd.”  
News outlet logo for favicons/wjr.com.png

Wayne State University President M. Roy Wilson to step down in 2023

Wayne State University President M. Roy Wilson announced Monday that he will step down from his role when his contract expires at the end of the next school year in July 2023. Paul W. Smith speaks to President Wilson about his accomplishments in student success, fundraising and diversity, and what might be next. “After next year, I will have served as dean of a medical school or chancellor or president of a university for 30 years – 10 of those years at Wayne State. That’s a long time,” said Wilson. “There are a number of things that I want to get completed before next year. A couple of them are really big projects, so stay tuned because I’m really looking forward to this next year.” Wilson spoke about his plans for a sabbatical and continued work with faculty and students. reflected on some of his notable accomplishments. “The high point was certainly the improvement in the graduation rates. When I first came, the graduate rate overall was 26% - about 7 or 8% for Black students. Now, it’s about 60% overall and 40%...it’s something I’m particularly proud of…” 
News outlet logo for favicons/freep.com.png

Wayne State University president M. Roy Wilson to step down

Wayne State University President M. Roy Wilson said Monday he will be stepping down as leader of the Detroit institution in about a year. The nine-year president said that Wayne State is well-positioned to continue providing access to the public urban, research university and reach its goal of becoming the top research university for social mobility in the nation. Wilson became WSU’s 12th president in August 2013. He said he will be stepping down at the end of the 2022-23 academic year, completing a 10-year tenure at the helm of Michigan’s third largest public university. His contract expires July 31, 2023.  "Ten years is long enough to get most things done," Wilson said. "A year is still a long time. A year from now Wayne State will be in an even stronger position. I've got some big things in mind that I think we can accomplish in a year." Wilson said he will branch out beyond university administration and plans to "leverage my relationships at the national level." Wilson, an ophthalmologist, will take a one-year sabbatical during which he will leave Detroit to "retool in ophthalmology" before returning to Wayne State as a faculty member in 2024. "The impact of President Wilson's transformational leadership will be felt for years to come," said Board of Governors chair Mark Gaffney. "He has led our campus in putting students and their success above all else, furthering the university's role in providing life-changing opportunities for all students to earn a college degree. We are grateful for his years of service and commitment."
News outlet logo for favicons/crainsdetroit.com.png

Wayne State President M. Roy Wilson to step down

Wayne State University President M. Roy Wilson said Monday he will be stepping down as leader of the Detroit institution in about a year. The nine-year president said that Wayne State is well-positioned to continue providing access to the public urban, research university and reach its goal of becoming the top research university for social mobility in the nation. Wilson became WSU’s 12th president in August 2013. He said he will be stepping down at the end of the 2022-23 academic year, completing a 10-year tenure at the helm of Michigan’s third largest public university. His contract expires July 31, 2023.  "Ten years is long enough to get most things done," Wilson said. "A year is still a long time. A year from now Wayne State will be in an even stronger position. I've got some big things in mind that I think we can accomplish in a year." Wilson said he will branch out beyond university administration and plans to "leverage my relationships at the national level." Wilson, an ophthalmologist, will take a one-year sabbatical during which he will leave Detroit to "retool in ophthalmology" before returning to Wayne State as a faculty member in 2024. "The impact of President Wilson's transformational leadership will be felt for years to come," said Board of Governors chair Mark Gaffney. "He has led our campus in putting students and their success above all else, furthering the university's role in providing life-changing opportunities for all students to earn a college degree. We are grateful for his years of service and commitment."
News outlet logo for favicons/detroitnews.com.png

Wayne State University President Wilson set to step down

Wayne State University President M. Roy Wilson said Monday he will be stepping down as leader of the Detroit institution in about a year. The nine-year president said that Wayne State is well-positioned to continue providing access to the public urban, research university and reach its goal of becoming the top research university for social mobility in the nation. Wilson became WSU’s 12th president in August 2013. He said he will be stepping down at the end of the 2022-23 academic year, completing a 10-year tenure at the helm of Michigan’s third largest public university. His contract expires July 31, 2023.  "Ten years is long enough to get most things done," Wilson said. "A year is still a long time. A year from now Wayne State will be in an even stronger position. I've got some big things in mind that I think we can accomplish in a year." Wilson said he will branch out beyond university administration and plans to "leverage my relationships at the national level." Wilson, an ophthalmologist, will take a one-year sabbatical during which he will leave Detroit to "retool in ophthalmology" before returning to Wayne State as a faculty member in 2024. "The impact of President Wilson's transformational leadership will be felt for years to come," said Board of Governors chair Mark Gaffney. "He has led our campus in putting students and their success above all else, furthering the university's role in providing life-changing opportunities for all students to earn a college degree. We are grateful for his years of service and commitment."
News outlet logo for favicons/bridgemi.com.png

Wayne State University president M. Roy Wilson will step down next summer

Wayne State University President M. Roy Wilson said Monday he will be stepping down as leader of the Detroit institution in about a year. The nine-year president said that Wayne State is well-positioned to continue providing access to the public urban, research university and reach its goal of becoming the top research university for social mobility in the nation. Wilson became WSU’s 12th president in August 2013. He said he will be stepping down at the end of the 2022-23 academic year, completing a 10-year tenure at the helm of Michigan’s third largest public university. His contract expires July 31, 2023.  "Ten years is long enough to get most things done," Wilson said. "A year is still a long time. A year from now Wayne State will be in an even stronger position. I've got some big things in mind that I think we can accomplish in a year." Wilson said he will branch out beyond university administration and plans to "leverage my relationships at the national level." Wilson, an ophthalmologist, will take a one-year sabbatical during which he will leave Detroit to "retool in ophthalmology" before returning to Wayne State as a faculty member in 2024. "The impact of President Wilson's transformational leadership will be felt for years to come," said Board of Governors chair Mark Gaffney. "He has led our campus in putting students and their success above all else, furthering the university's role in providing life-changing opportunities for all students to earn a college degree. We are grateful for his years of service and commitment."