Campus news in the news

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Wayne State Professor Melba Boyd on George Floyd and the future of policing

Melba Boyd is a native Detroiter and a distinguished professor in the department of African-American Studies at Wayne State University. An award-winning author of 13 books, her poetry, essays, and creative nonfiction have appeared in anthologies, academic journals, cultural periodicals, and newspapers in the United States and Europe. Today (Thursday) at noon, Boyd will be joining other community leaders for Wayne State University’s George Floyd in America: Black Detroiters on George Floyd event. The virtual event is part of a new series — called George Floyd in America — that is presented by the university’s Office of the Provost, College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, Law School, Damon J. Keith Center for Civil Rights, and the Office of Diversity and Inclusion. Prior to the event, Hour Detroit spoke with Boyd about the ongoing protests, how the country has responded to the killing of George Floyd, and the future of policing.
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Colleges say they can reopen safely. But will students follow the rules?

Wayne State University is among the campuses that’s proposing to revise its student-conduct code with language about face coverings and social-distancing. If the university's board signs off on the changes during a meeting on Friday, failure to comply with Covid-19 policies would join the university’s list of prohibited conduct. The proposed requirements include completing a daily self-screening for symptoms before coming to campus; following campus-health-center directions when sick; wearing a face covering in public spaces; maintaining six feet of distance from others; and complying with signage in hallways, elevators and stairwells. University officials proposed modifying the code because they wanted to be specific about what’s acceptable, said David Strauss, dean of students. Once a Covid-19 vaccine has been widely distributed and the threat of the virus has disappeared, any added provisions can be removed, he said. Student-affairs leaders acknowledge that enforcement has its place, but looking ahead to the fall, they prefer to focus on student buy-in and community values. At Wayne State, after conduct-code amendments are finalized, Strauss said, he’ll convene a group of student ambassadors who will help promote a campaign on campus expectations. Riya Chhabra, president of Wayne State’s Student Senate, said she’s glad the university has involved students so extensively. Students want to go back to normal and hang out with their friends, said Chhabra, who’s studying public health. If her peers understand that following these rules will allow them to do that sooner, she believes they’ll comply. “We definitely don’t want to have students get in trouble for it,” she said.
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Wayne State houses National Police De-Escalation Training Center

Wayne State University Chief of Police Anthony Holt says the National Police De-Escalation Training Center, located on campus, has actually been a long time coming. “This is not a reaction to what happened in Minneapolis,” Holt says. ”This was in the works a year, two years before that.” He adds that while training is a key component in combating police brutality, hiring is another essential part of the equation. “It’s not training alone. I think you have to go back to the very beginning. You have to go back to the hiring process. You have to have the discussion about implicit bias.” In response to the growing calls to defund the police, Holt says it’s time to come to the table and take an in-depth look at how police departments function. He says that especially when it comes to calls involving a mental health crisis, professionals outside the police force could be very helpful. 
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Mapping the road to return

Months after it began, the coronavirus outbreak that swept through Detroit and the rest of the country continues to rage. While there are mixed opinions on how quickly the crisis is actually receding, local leaders have already started to consider how the city begins to bounce back. At Wayne State University, which since March has been holding remote and online classes only (as well as a virtual graduation that was livestreamed), President M. Roy Wilson and Provost and Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs Keith E. Whitfield are among those carefully charting the city’s recovery and weighing the prospects of students’ physical return to campus in the fall. Although their plans are still taking shape, Wilson and Whitfield agreed to sit down for a Q&A for the Michigan Chronicle to discuss how WSU is faring amid the outbreak, the factors driving any potential decision to return to campus and their concerns that the recent unrest over the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis in combination with relaxed social distancing practices could usher in another spike in COVID-19 infections.
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Opinion: Wayne State University works toward return to campus

Keith Whitfield, provost and senior vice president for academic affairs, wrote an opinion piece regarding the return to campus in light of the pandemic. “In the fall, we will offer a mix of in-person, remote and online classes. What proportion of which will be determined by July 15. By then, we should have more information about the progression of the virus, and a determination of which classes would best be held on campus vs done remotely. In the end our decision will be based on science and a full commitment to protecting the health and safety of our campus community. Despite the understandable trepidation you may feel about returning to campus — or even continuing your college education — now.
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As protective gear becomes a new normal, some call for Michigan health systems to buy domestic

The demand for PPE may surge as such large institutions as Michigan's public universities prepare to resume on-campus, in-person classes in the fall. Wayne State University, for example, has ordered 62,000 reusable face masks from Office Depot in  preparation for the fall semester. The university aims to provide students, staff and faculty with a small supply of PPE, and also is considering installing PPE vending machines on campus, said Ken Doherty, associate vice president for procurement and business services. For now, the university is stocked up on hand sanitizer and dispensers. Doherty and other stakeholders have daily conversations about PPE to work through new issues raised as they contemplate a return to school. One example: how to ensure that hearing-impaired students who rely on lip-reading are not at a disadvantage. "Beyond that, we're pretty darn comfortable with where we're at," he said.

A degree of uncertainty

In a recent survey of 262 colleges and universities, the American Association of Collegiate Registrars and Admissions Officers found that nearly 60 percent are considering or have decided to remain completely online this fall. "The restart is far more complex than the shutdown because there are so many different scenarios," said Michael Wright, vice president of communications and chief of staff at Wayne State University. WSU is trying to plan for a variety of unknowns, Wright said, including having far fewer students returning in the fall or more students than expected showing up. “We know people will be uncomfortable even if the governor says it's OK to open, and we've heard from students who want to get back in the classroom," Wright said. Either way, he said, WSU will be back in business come September. "We're Wayne State Warriors, and we hope to get back on campus." During a recent Zoom luncheon, Wayne State President M. Roy Wilson told students and alumni the school created a restart committee with nine subcommittees that are examining housing, dining services, testing recommendations and more. The university will be designating space in residence halls for students needing quarantine. Understanding the importance of the college experience, Wayne State's plans to welcome incoming freshmen include virtual small groups that allow students to connect before school reopens. "We are going to be guided by what's safe," Wilson said. "I want to be sure I can look any parent in the eye and say, 'Your child will be safe.'"
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Wayne State freezes tuition, warns of budget cuts

Wayne State University’s Board of Governors unanimously agreed Friday to a proposal by President M. Roy Wilson not to increase tuition for undergraduate and graduate students for 2020-21. “It has been a difficult decision for the Board of Governors to freeze tuition for the coming year,” board chair Marilyn Kelly said in a statement. “Two of our most crushing worries have been, first, that in freezing tuition, the board forces the university to confront a budget shortfall of as much as $60 million. Second, we render the university all the more challenged to meet the goals we’ve set of making Wayne University an even better learning center for minorities and the financially underprivileged to gain a quality education." Wilson said there will be some budget cuts, noting that the university relies on tuition as one of its two main funding sources, with the other being state aid. “There will be some financial pain,” he said. “It’s too early to say specifically what the budget deficit will be. There are still too many unknown variables. We don’t know how long the pandemic will last or its impact on enrollment and our state appropriation."
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In times of crisis, get free mental health sessions from Wayne State

The novel coronavirus pandemic – and subsequent stay-at-home orders — have taught Michiganders how to interact in different ways. For many, the recent protests have only added to anxiety and increased social isolation. To help residents improve their mental health, Wayne State University is offering free online counseling sessions with psychology and counseling students. Lauren Mangus, professor of psychology, oversees the program. She says the world has changed and it can be difficult to adapt to a new way of living. “Life as it once was, it’s completely changed for so many of us. Not to mention the emotional psychological bandwidth that’s being taxed for many of us right now.” On dealing with grief when gatherings were limited: “Grief is really complex. It’s really difficult because it’s a very personalized, individualized process. But it is never completely finalized. But at the same time when we have different ways to celebrate life, and celebrate loved ones, and to get that support can really help us through the grieving process. So that is really complicated.
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Wayne State University center to train officers in de-escalation

Wayne State University announced the creation of a National De-escalation Training Center. The headquarters will be on its campus. The Wayne State police department says its officers are already being trained in de-escalation methods. Tony Holt, chief of police for Wayne State University,  says the de-escalation training is different from a one-size-fits-all approach to de-escalation training. “You want to let the person know, now I understand what kind of promise you have, and you can see, individually, what this person is going through, and to help you understand what those next steps are to take,” he says. Holt says officers are trained to break people down into 16 main personality types, each having their own subgroups. Officers are trained to recognize these personality types based on behavior, and can more effectively address the problem. He says it won’t be easy for officers to earn community trust, something he says is understandable since people are rightfully upset about police brutality. “And I think the timing is good because it’s going to cause you to work extra hard to get that buy-in. And this is not an overnight, you’re not going to build trust overnight. The community and the citizens want to see this in action,” says Holt.
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Colleges take graduations online: 'All we're doing is a placeholder'

Newly minted doctors taking oaths over Zoom. College presidents giving speeches from home. Students creating entire commencements inside computer games. Graduation has taken on a new form during the COVID-19 pandemic. Gone, for now, are stadiums filled with cheers, instead replaced with teleconferences and smaller tributes to the class of 2020. Some schools have managed to hold in-person ceremonies, with students spaced six feet apart or staying in their cars. Yet most colleges have had to decide whether to reschedule ceremonies, conduct them virtually, or do both. Similarly strong interest in Wayne State University's virtual graduation offerings surprised Carolyn Berry, its associate vice president of marketing. The public institution, in Michigan, created a short video congratulating students that its schools and colleges could add onto with their own presentations. A 16-minute video of Wayne State's nursing convocation — which graduated about 130 students — got more than 1,000 views. All told, the videos have received more than 8,000 views, according to university data. Wayne State's videos featured pre-recorded speeches from administrators and also included a tribute to three students who were awarded posthumous degrees, including sociology student Darrin Adams, who died of COVID-19 in April. Despite
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Wayne State launches virtual health programming

The Wayne State University Campus Health Center (CHC) has started a “Health Programming Gone Virtual” initiative to create new ways to reach the WSU community. Instead of attending wellness events on campus, Wayne State students, faculty, and staff can access health resources and information from the comfort of their homes. “While we miss having the face-to-face engagement with students and our WSU community, we are making our programming available online and in different formats to best serve the changing needs of our campus,” says Erika Blaskay, community outreach nurse at WSU. Currently, all health care resources are available via PowerPoint presentation and handouts on CHC’s Health Programming webpage. Some programs now feature recorded webinars to provide in-depth learning about these important health topics. CHC also launched an “Ask-an-Expert” engagement form that allows the Wayne State community to ask specific questions anonymously. A qualified health care provider will respond on CHC’s social media platforms the Wednesday following the form’s submission. The goal is to create a fun way to engage with each other and the CHC in a virtual environment, but Blaskay says it is important to remember that these tools are meant to help guide conversations with health care providers, not replace them.
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Michigan colleges make changes to ensure COVID-19 doesn’t move in

Michigan colleges and universities are preparing numerous scenarios to educate students in the fall during a time of unpredictability. There's limited testing as well as no vaccine for the coronavirus. The planning comes as higher education institutions also are grappling with gaping holes in their budgets as a result of a slowing economy. Already, some at universities have lost their jobs. It also comes as opinion differs as to how colleges should continue in their missions: face-to-face with safety measures or online courses only? At Wayne State University, the campus might look more different. Two WSU students succumbed to the novel coronavirus and the campus is located in Detroit, the state's epicenter for the virus. Though a final decision hasn't been made, WSU President M. Roy Wilson recently said he didn't know how the campus could open in the fall, though it is preparing for all scenarios. Wilson noted last week during a virtual town hall meeting that there is still a lot of time before the fall semester begins. "We don't have all the answers to that yet," Wilson said. "When you really think about it, that's three months away. I always try to remind people that three months ago, it was a very different situation here." A lot can change in three months, Wilson said. "We really want to be guided by the science, guided by the public health realities at that time," he said.
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A bleak picture for international enrollment

As colleges try to plan their fall operations and shape their classes, they face a big question that will largely be answered by forces outside their control: If they do resume in-person classes, will international students be able to join them? The global pandemic is causing widespread uncertainty: routine visa processing is suspended at U.S. embassies and consulates worldwide. International travel restrictions are in place in many countries. Commercial flight options are limited at best. College administrators say they have little choice but to plan for sizable declines in international students and the tuition revenue they bring. “It’s going to be predicated on two things -- first what we do here on campus, face-to-face versus remote and online, but also the more important part is what’s happening outside of the U.S. with consulates reopening and students being able to get access to visa appointments and being able to make it to the U.S. once things open up,” said Ahmad M. Ezzeddine, associate vice president for educational outreach and international programs and senior associate to the president for special initiatives at Wayne State University. “From everything that we’re seeing, the likelihood of having new international students physically here in August and September, I don’t see how that is possible.”
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Wayne State developing plans, protocols to reopen

Wayne State University officials said Thursday they are deep into planning for reopening the campus, possibly when a state of emergency order ends May 28, and with medical, public health advice and government guidelines in mind. The officials said the situation is subject to change, and they are remaining vigilant and active. They'll follow the governor's lead: If the state of emergency declared by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer ends May 28, the campus will reopen, officials said. Some general guidelines are already clear, President M. Roy Wilson said during a video conference viewed and heard by a few thousand people. People will be asked to continue to work from home, if they can, Wilson said. Remaining to oneself and at a safe distance will continue as primary concerns. “We have an open campus,” he said. “It's very important that we make sure that everybody follows the guidelines to protect everyone else. “It's not just a nuisance. This is, you know, peoples’ lives at stake.”
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Preparing for an uncertain job market

It's a tough time to be entering the job market, as Michigan faces historic jobless numbers, along with the rest of the country. “A lot of students’ job offers have been postponed or rescinded. In some cases with the internships, some of them have been converted from paid to unpaid," said Wayne State's Student Employment Coordinator Arlinda Pringle. She said students and recent grads alike need to prepare for a different kind of job search right now -- one that's going to take longer. “You may have to volunteer if it’s an option. You may have to start off with a part-time job. Sometimes, it’s just a matter of getting a foot in the door," she said. Pringle also advises students to regularly update their resumes, and cast a wider job net by applying to any job they could be qualified for, not just their dream job. She said networking is more important than ever and students need to treat a virtual interview just like an in-person one in terms of how they dress and conduct themselves.
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Our college presidents face unprecedented challenges

There's the same vibe every August at college campuses across the country. Young adults, filled with unwavering excitement about their futures, unpacking their belongings with the help of family and friends into dorms and apartments, ready to begin (or continue) their higher education journeys. But that was then, and this is now. Across America, college presidents and chancellors are faced with undoubtedly the biggest challenge of their careers: not just educating the children they become (in a very real sense) custodians of, but now, keeping them physically healthy and safe in a country ravaged by COVID-19, the biggest public health crisis of our lives. In Michigan, the Big Three research universities — Michigan State University, the University of Michigan and Wayne State University — are led by medical doctors (Samuel Stanley, Mark Schlissel and M. Roy Wilson, respectively). And at Oakland University, President Ora Hirsch Pescovitz, a pediatrician, served as executive vice president for medical affairs and CEO of U-M’s Health system earlier in her career. Stanley and Wilson — both epidemiologists — attended Harvard’s medical school at the same time (this week was to be their 40th reunion). Wilson, who estimates WSU has lost about $10 million so far and projects losses could grow to $50 million, said not having a hospital has been a silver lining. “There have been times we wished we had a hospital,” said Wilson. “This is one of the times we’re glad we don’t. We have partnerships but we aren’t financially responsible for those hospitals.” The COVID-19 crisis and its extraordinarily debilitating impact won’t be here forever. Nor will this way of life continue for all of us forever. As for Schlissel, Stanley, Pescovitz and Wilson they remain determined that when it ends, students will once again enjoy the benefit of a full experience on their campuses.