College of Liberal Arts and Sciences in the news

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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.” 
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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?” 
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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.”  
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City of Detroit on the rise as average home price surpasses $100,000

The median sale price for a home in the city crossed the $100,000 mark for the first time ever. It’s a significant sign of the strength of Detroit’s housing market. Jeff Horner, a Wayne State professor of urban studies and planning, says this has double significance. “It’s an important psychological barrier for long-time Detroiters who have stayed in the city and have kept up their property, because they certainly have a lot to do with stabilizing housing valuations,” he said. Horner pointed to the work of Mayor Mike Duggan’s administration and the Land Bank as keys to rising home prices. 
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Bringing Detroit’s Indigenous history to the forefront

By Ryan Patrick Hooper  The City of Detroit turned 321 years old Sunday, but its history predates the French. Karen Marrero, associate professor of history at Wayne State University and author of “Detroit’s Hidden Channels: The Power of French-Indigenous Families in the Eighteenth Century,” researches, writes and teaches early North American and Indigenous history. She says a lot of what was once here was erased by the settler presence at the turn of the century. Indigenous peoples continue to maintain their connection to the land through oral histories passed down within their nations, but physical reminders of the past are scarce. This lack of preservation is not unique to Detroit, but there are still things we can do to reinstate cultural consciousness of this land’s history. For example, the Michigan History Center is making an effort to address the lack of historical markers that would designate significant Indigenous spaces. “A lot of people don’t realize that roadways like I-94 started life as Indigenous roadways,” Marrero said. “We have a long way to go to bring back some of that history.”  
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Median Detroit home prices hit $100,000, highest value ever

Median Detroit home prices hit $100,000, highest value ever By Arielle Kass The median sales price for a home in the city of Detroit topped $100,000 in June, the first time values have been that high, according to multiple listing and service data. The median sales price of $100,250 in the city is based on 381 sales in June, and is more than a third higher than a year earlier, when the median sales price was $72,500. The increase in values is beneficial for homeowners, particularly those who have held on to properties for many years. But it can also put houses further out of reach for the first-time buyers. In a city that has long been known for its cheap housing stock following the aftermath of the Great Recession there is also an “important psychological benchmark, of course,” in hitting $100,000, said Jeff Horner, associate professor of teaching in the department of urban studies and planning at Wayne State University. “Any time housing valuations are going up in the largest poor city in America, it’s going to be good.”
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Wayne State’s archaeology students and professors dig at Malcolm X’s home in Inkster

All week, students from Wayne State University have been working to uncover history at a home that once belonged to Malcolm X. The archaeological dig is looking to give new insight into the home and the surrounding neighborhood. Very few places that the civil rights leader resided in are still standing today, but thanks to members of an Inkster neighborhood, X’s early 1950s home is still up. “We have no expectations,” said Wayne State University professor and project manager Tareq Ramadan. “We’re hoping to find something maybe linked to the family or to Malcolm himself.” So far, they’ve found things like a stroller, picture frames and even an old Faygo can that will eventually fill the home once it is restored and turned into a museum. “We hope to fill the house with both materials we collected from the actual dig, but also stuff that we’ve collected,” Ramadan said “We have people who are donating period furniture and appliances from the 1950s to make the house look like it did when Malcolm would have lived here.”  
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Wayne State students to conduct demographic study for Detroit auto show

By Kurt Nagl Wayne State University sociology students will be conducting a demographic study for the North American International Auto Show in September to give organizers a better idea of its audience. In addition to this student project, the university’s Mike Ilitch School of Business will host an executive speaker series with an emphasis on the issue of recruiting diverse talent in the automotive industry. The Detroit auto show, scheduled for September 14 to 25 will return to downtown Detroit for the first time since 2019. The new indoor-outdoor format seeks to attract a new type of audience and raises questions about how the event will fit in the industry’s show circle going forward. “Our partnership with Wayne State University is a great example of the community outreach we are undertaking this fall as part of the auto show,” Rod Alberts, executive director of the show, said. “Students will be directly engaged with the show, managing and completing a demographic study of the various audiences that the show attracts.” 
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Wayne State University leads excavations of Malcom X’s Inkster home and Detroit history

By Rasha Almulaiki Beginning Wednesday, a team from Wayne State University’s department of anthropology will be conducting three-day archaeological excavations at the one-time home of American civil rights leader Malcom X, located at 4336 Williams St. in Inkster. The home is owned by the Inkster-based non-profit organization Project We Hope Dream and Believe and is partnering with WSU for the excavation digs. Excavations will be led by Tareq A. Ramadan, project manager at Project We Hope, Dream, and Believe and adjunct professor in the department of anthropology, Krysta Ryzewski, chair of the department of anthropology and associate professor and Aaron Sims, founder and executive director of Project We Hope, Dream, and Believe. 
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Stakeholders reflect on issues highlighted during BIPOC Mental Health Month

The past several years have been difficult for the mental health of Americans of all backgrounds. But the burdens of the COVID-19 pandemic and consistent reports of police violence – dubbed a “racism pandemic” by the president of the American Psychological Association – have fallen more heavily on Americans who are Black, Indigenous, or other people of color (BIPOC). July is BIPOC Mental Health Awareness Month, and medical organizations, advocacy groups, and the U.S. government are highlighting the unique mental health needs of BIPOC people and trying to find solutions. Although BIPOC Americans have mental health disorders at similar rates as white Americans, their treatment – or lack thereof – is very different. According to the Department of Health, BIPOC Americans have less access to mental health care, are less likely to get needed treatment, and are more likely to delay care or not seek it at all. Some organizations are acknowledging BIPOC Mental Health Awareness Month online, publishing resources and encouraging people to share information and personal stories on social media. It seems to be taking, at least with Generation Z. “This is a generation of young people that are fully immersed in TikTok and Instagram,” said Dr. Sasha Zhou, an assistant professor in the department of public health at Wayne State University and a co-investigator with the Healthy Minds Network. “These are platforms that highlight things like BIPOC mental health. [My students] discuss identities and mental health in a totally unique way. There’s more intentional learning and outreach.”  
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A fountain of creativity for Americans in Rome

Sitting atop a hill overlooking Italy’s capital, the American Academy plays host to a range of artists, composers, writers and scholars who gather in this distinctly Italian setting aimed at stimulating creativity and collaboration. Elena Past, a professor of Italian at Wayne State University, is among the artists and scholars working in fellowship at the American Academy. “It’s about creating community amongst the fellows – giving you a chance to talk about your work, your progress, to talk through problems, but also simply to deepen the relationships you have with the people around you,” she said. Past, a recipient of the Rome Prize scholarship, is writing a book and came to study the film stock of Italian cinema. “I’m thinking about analog and technologies – the materials that make the 20th century legible and memorable to us,” Past said.  
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What Senate gun control measures mean for mass shootings

It’s not news that mass shootings are common in the U.S. This past fourth of July, at least 10 people were killed in different mass shootings in Illinois, Indiana, New York and elsewhere. These tragedies occurred in the wake of the federal government finally passing gun control legislation. But many, including President Joe Biden, don’t believe the bill went far enough, which leaves questions about more needs to be done to prevent mass shootings. Stephanie Hartwell, dean of Wayne State University’s College of Liberal Arts and Sciences and a professor of sociology, joins in a conversation about the implications of gun control measures. Harwell said fostering trust between people is one of the most crucial values in order to keep each other protected and safe against gun violence. “I’m always amazed at how wonderful human beings are,” she said. “...but losing that trust, and not being able to trust human beings, it impacts everything.”
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Detroit Riverwalkers promote healthy fishing habits

It’s no question that fishing is a revered summer pastime of many Michiganders, and this season has been no exception. The Detroit River is a favorite spot for many anglers, but the high level of pollutants in the water poses a big health concern for those who consume their catch. In response, a group called the Riverwalkers has established a strong presence on the Detroit River to help combat this issue and educate anglers on safe fishing practices. The program is a partnership between the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services and Wayne State University, with the main goal of educating anglers about the pollutants that exist in popularly caught fish in the Detroit Rivers. Along with the education initiative run by state and local health officials, Wayne State University students and faculty play a large role in testing fish that are caught in the Detroit River to determine the types of and levels of toxins that are present in different fish. Education efforts also include improvements to the signage along the river under the guidance of Donna Kashian, professor and director of environmental science at Wayne State.   

Here’s what it means if you can’t stop sending people emojis, according to experts

By Collette Reitz  Emojis brighten up a message and make endless lines of text more readable, but they also reveal something about the person who sent them. “People who are rated higher in agreeableness use more emojis in general,” said Lara Jones, associate professor of psychology at Wayne State University. Jones researches the psychological aspect of emojis, looking at differences in how individuals and groups use them, how they’re positively or negatively perceived, and the interpretation of an emoji’s intended meaning. She says people process emojis similarly to facial expressions, so starting an interaction with an objectively positive emoji, like a smiley face, primes the receiver of the message for a positive interaction. “They want to make sure the positivity of the message comes through, and depending on the emojis used, they want to show their creativity and playfulness,” Jones said of frequent emoji users.  
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What Reconstruction teaches us about today’s politics

A new report from the nonprofit Zinn Education Project found that 90% of states have insufficient or non-existent lesson coverage of Reconstruction in schools. Historians warn that eclipsing the aftermath of the Civil War will lead students to be uninformed about the seeds of racial inequity today. Gregory Carr, Mélisande Short-Colomb, and Kidada Williams, associate professor of history at Wayne State University, join in a discussion about the legacy of Reconstruction. “…the violence we’re experiencing in the present day, with the killing of George Floyd or even the massacre at Mother Emanuel, has history that traces back to Reconstruction. This moment where African Americans are trying to be free, equal and secure – and they’re experiencing what essentially mounts to a war on freedom, specifically Black peoples’ freedom…” Williams said. A lot of historians see parallels between the January 6 insurrection and the events of 1877. “One of the things that is very important to recognize is that African American freedom after the Civil War was contested. The nation didn’t just magically decide that they were going to abolish slavery out of the goodness of their hearts. African Americans wanted that, to be sure, but that’s not what actually happened. Emancipation comes about in this era that is very contested. White southerners – white conservative southerners in particular – are very hostile toward emancipation. But so are a lot of white conservatives in the north and the west. So, it’s not just freedom itself, but the fleshing out of what freedom means…,” said Williams.   
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Stateside: The legacy of Malcom X in Michigan

Wayne State University associate professor Kidada Williams, who also hosts and produces the podcast “Seizing Freedom,” joins Stateside to shed light on the life of Malcom X and his legacy in Michigan. Malcom X isn’t as frequently discussed as other civil rights leaders. “I think we don’t talk about Malcom because a lot of people don’t understand who he was and what he really stood for. I think that the root of that is that he was unapologetic in his love for Black people and his willingness to point out the harms of white supremacy and the moral bankruptcy at the root of it. That makes a lot of people uncomfortable.” Williams said she teaches her students about Malcom X, and more importantly, she said she has them read his work. “A lot of them come with these preconceived ideas – they’ve been told Malcom hates white people, and they don’t like people who hate. So they come with these preconceived notions of who he was and what he stood for. But when they read his work for themselves, when they see what he stood for and what he actually said and tried to do, they have a much deeper appreciation for him as someone who believed in justice and liberty, and was willing to fight for it...”  
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State was told of problems before man fell through Detroit bridge, nonprofit says

Advocates said they warned the state that the city’s freeway walkways were in need of repair, including a pedestrian bridge a Detroit man claims collapsed beneath him last week, causing him to fall toward the freeway below. The Spruce Street pedestrian bridge was the subject of at least one previous complaint about structural problems, according to the Detroit Greenways Coalition, a nonprofit that pushes for better hiking and biking paths in the city. A spokeswoman for the Michigan Department of Transportation said she wasn’t aware of any previous issues with the span in Detroit. A group of Wayne State University students in 2016 visually inspected the then-71 pedestrian bridges in Detroit. Alex Hill, a professor at Wayne State’s Center for Urban Studies who also helps run the DETROITography blog about mapping different parts of the city, helped the students with data collection and then created an online map showing the problem bridges. The study found that the structural integrity of 33 bridges, or 46%, was compromised, with the structures in operation but with observable issues ranging from crumbling and disintegrating concrete to significantly rusted support beams, down signage and missing fencing or railing. Hill said the problems have likely gotten worse since the study was conducted. “The pedestrian bridges have not gotten better since then,” Hill said. “The only change I can see is that a number of the bridges have been torn down and haven’t been replaced – so potentially that means they’re safer because those bridges are no longer there.”  
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Why the Supreme Court rejected Boston’s case against raising the Christian flag

Mark Satta, assistant professor of philosophy at Wayne State University, wrote an article explaining and analyzing the Supreme Court’s Shurtleff v. Boston case ruling, in which the court unanimously held that the City of Boston violated the First Amendment’s free speech rights of a group that promotes the appreciation of “God, home, and country” by denying its request to raise a Christian flag at the site, given that the city had previously allowed secular groups to temporarily use the flagpole. Satta writes that “the key question, which determined the outcome in the case, was whether raising a flag on City Hall’s third flagpole was an act of government speech or private expression: categories covered by two different free speech doctrines…” 
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Inflation hits 40-year high, but it’s not necessarily all bad news

By Kim Russell  The Consumer Price Index is out for March, putting the inflation we are seeing into numbers. First, the bad news: If you are one of the 1% of Michiganders who use fuel oil to heat your home, turn down your thermostat or you will be spending 70.1% more than a year ago. The cost of filling up your gas tank in March was 48% more than a year ago, and food prices are up about 8.8%. Overall, in the last year, the all items index increased 8.5%, the largest spike since 1981. “It is a little bit scary,” said professor Kevin D. Cotter, Wayne State University department of economics chair. Cotter says while there is reason to be concerned, it is not all bad news. “Food and energy costs have been bumping up largely because of the war and they almost certainly are going to come back down,” said Cotter. If you exclude historically volatile food and energy prices, inflation has moderated. “If you look at, for example, medical costs, those go up but they don’t go down, so the fact those aren’t going up so much is good news. The things that are going up the most are the things that go down just as easily,” said Cotter. Cotter says the pandemic continues to cause inflation, but there is also reason for some optimism that the Federal Reserve might be able to manage inflation without causing a recession. “The things that would lead to a recession, a drop in consumer demand or job losses, we are seeing the opposite right now,” Cotter said.  

How you think about physical pain can make it worse

By Meryl Davids Landau Figures suggest a form of chronic pain afflicts between a third and half of the UK population, and in the U.S., the figure is 20%, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The devastating consequences of addiction to opioid painkillers have motivated researchers to look for innovative treatments beyond new drugs. One promising area of new research is looking at the way “catastrophizing” about pain – thinking it will never get better, that it’s worse than ever, or that it will ruin your life – plays a central role in whether these predictions come true. Pain doctors who do recognize the importance of quelling catastrophizing generally refer patients for cognitive behavioral therapy, says Mark Lumley, a psychology professor at Wayne State University. This psychological practice is often used to treat depression, eating disorders, and even PTSD, Lumley says.