Community in the news

News outlet logo for favicons/freep.com.png

Will Fourth of July ever be the same? Not if we're fortunate enough to evolve as a nation

According to Kidada Williams, associate professor of history at Wayne State University, African Americans have a history of revering the Declaration of Independence, the document that inspired the day of "pomp and parade" that its signer John Adams predicted back in 1776. With its epic statement that "all men are created equal," the declaration represents "the guarantee all Americans are supposed to enjoy," said Williams. In a year of pandemic and protest, this Fourth of July also can be a time of reflection that unites everyone with the empathy to see that we are all in this together, whether it's stopping the spread of the virus or stopping racism in a substantive way. Said Wayne State's Williams: "I celebrate the Fourth. ... I do it with a heavy heart this year because of the pandemic and the police killings. But what I know as a descendant of enslaved people (is) that even with all of the criticisms I have for the U.S.'s failure to completely live up to the national creed, I honor and respect what the nation has done in terms of making good." Williams sees the day as a chance to take action. It could be filling out a 2020 census form to help your community get its fair share of funding or making sure you're registered to vote or even vowing to run for a local government office. "Who do we want to be as a people, as a community of people, as a nation?" she asks. "It can't just be let's feel good about ourselves."
News outlet logo for favicons/cnn.com.png

The kid next door: Neighborhood friendships on a comeback amid the coronavirus pandemic

Julie Wargo Aikins, associate professor of psychiatry and behavioral neurosciences, Merrill Palmer Skillman Institute, wrote this piece earlier for The Conversation. “Children's social worlds have been upended by the suspension of school and extracurricular activities due to the pandemic. Many older children and adolescents have been able to maintain their friendships over social media. But, for younger children, this approach is less likely to be available to them and less likely to meet their social needs. In some places, a silver lining of Covid-19 may well be the resurgence of childhood friendships in American neighborhoods.”
News outlet logo for favicons/forbes.com.png

Feeling anxious about wearing a mask? Here are 5 ways to overcome it

Feeling anxious about wearing a mask is actually a normal physiologic reaction. Jennifer M. Gómez, assistant professor in the Department of Psychology and Merrill Palmer Skillman Institute for Child & Family Development at Wayne State University says our bodies detect when we are not getting the resources we need to survive and one of those resources is air. Even though wearing a mask does not put a person in danger of actually suffocating, Gómez says the mask will tell our body, “Hey! I think there’s something bad here that’s interrupting breathing! Danger is afoot!” Our body will then respond by hyperventilating, becoming anxious, or panicking to alert us that there could be a problem, in this case trouble breathing, to cause us to do something about it. Our reaction is intended to save our lives and is actually what our body is supposed to do. Gómez notes, however, that the problem lies with the fact that the mask is tricking our body and we aren’t actually in danger of getting less oxygen by wearing a mask. This is only worsened by the fact that we actually can easily remove the mask to breathe in all of the air we want. In other words, Gómez says, “your body is responding like your fire alarm in your house does when the kitchen gets too smokey but there's no fire. It's a false alarm.”
News outlet logo for favicons/theconversation.com.png

Fireworks can torment veterans and survivors of gun violence with PTSD – here’s how to celebrate with respect for those who served

Arash Javanbakht, associate professor of psychiatry, wrote an article for The Conversation about celebrating the Fourth of July with respect to individuals with PTSD. “For some combat veterans, the Fourth of July is not a time to celebrate the independence of the country they love. Instead, the holiday is a terrifying ordeal. That’s because the noise of fireworks – loud, sudden, and reminiscent of war – rocks their nervous system. Daily fireworks in many U.S. cities in recent weeks have no doubt been interfering with the sleep and peace of mind of thousands of veterans. This reaction is not unique to veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD. Also affected are millions of others, including civilians, refugees, and first responders. As a psychiatrist who specializes in trauma and PTSD, I urge you not to overdo an act which causes so much suffering for so many of your fellow Americans.”
News outlet logo for favicons/freep.com.png

Stopping another Edenville requires more than a panel of experts | Opinion

Jim Townsend, director of the Levin Center at Wayne State’s Law School, and Kristin Taylor, associate professor of political science wrote an op-ed about the failure of the Edenville and Sanford dams in Michigan. “In response to public pressure, the Whitmer Administration last week appointed a panel of technical experts tasked with getting to the bottom of how the Edenville and Sanford dams in mid-Michigan failed and how this kind of catastrophe can be prevented in the future. Relying solely on technical experts, as the governor’s panel appears to do, should generate valuable technical findings and warnings about the dangers we face. But confronting and solving the problems that led to this disaster requires a clear-eyed look at the various government entities that failed to act and the inadequacy of the public engagement process led by the lawmakers elected to do that job. A panel of independent experts is surely preferable to the internal investigation first called for by the Governor in her May 27 executive order. Although the appointees have decades of experience designing dams and analyzing why they fail, a panel comprised only of scientific experts is unlikely to shed light on the intergovernmental failures that allowed private dam owners to skate by for 25 years after federal regulators first identified significant flaws in the dams’ designs.”
News outlet logo for favicons/hourdetroit.com.png

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.
News outlet logo for favicons/freep.com.png

Michigan university students flock to virtual summer classes

Students at Michigan’s public universities are filling their summers with online coursework at record rates — marking an unexpected windfall for several schools strapped for cash as the coronavirus pandemic transforms campus activities. Nine of the 10 institutions that shared data with the Free Press projected year-over-year growth in summer enrollment. Two-thirds of these schools anticipate a boost of at least 4% for one or more of their summer periods. At Wayne State University, only about a third of “spring/summer” credit hours — scheduled for May through August — are normally taken online, according to Registrar Kurt Kruschinska. This term, with nearly all instruction shifting to virtual in light of social-distancing guidelines, participation is up nearly 6%. Dawn Medley, the school’s associate vice president of enrollment management, said she thinks these “pretty amazing numbers” are especially driven by incoming freshmen. Wayne State recently launched its Kick Start College program, which is slated to give around 700 new students a chance to get ahead on their graduation requirements with a free class. The offering is particularly geared toward helping students prepare for the possibility of virtual learning come fall. “The courses are designed to launch them into and make sure that they are successful and comfortable in an online or virtually distant environment,” Medley said. “And that's why we selected English and the communication course — so that students would gain those foundational skills as we look to fall, and as we look to what our fall semester may look like.”
News outlet logo for favicons/theconversation.com.png

Why safely reopening high school sports is going to be a lot harder than opening college and pro ball

Tamara Hew-Butler, associate professor of exercise and sports science, and Phillip D. Levy, assistant vice president for translational science and clinical research innovation, wrote an article for The Conversation about reopening school and club sports amidst the pandemic. “Along with the revival of professional sports comes the yearning for a return to amateur sports – high school, college and club. Governing officials are now offering guidance as to when and how to resume play. However, lost in the current conversation is how schools and club sports with limited resources can safely reopen. As an exercise scientist who studies athlete health and an emergency medicine physician who leads Michigan’s COVID-19 mobile testing unit, we wish to empower athletes, coaches and parents by sharing information related to the risks of returning to play without COVID-19 testing. This includes blood tests to see if athletes have already had COVID-19 plus nasal swabs to test for the active SARS-CoV-2 virus. Regular COVID-19 testing on all athletes may seem like overkill, but the current tally of 150 collegiate athletes, mostly football players, who have tested positive for COVID-19 grows longer by the day.”
News outlet logo for favicons/newsweek.com.png

The Black Lives Matter protests are running on much more than anger | Opinion

Dr. Jennifer Gomez, an assistant professor in the Department of Psychology and an expert in the impact of violence on black and other minority youth and young adults, had this to say about the Black Lives Matter protests. "The tragedies that we're witnessing are neither new nor isolated. And, of note, they haven't stopped, even though videos have made it possible for the world to be watching and condemning the government-sanctioned violence against black people in the U.S. The difference is this moral elevation, this action-oriented hope, that has resulted in so many of us coming together to fight for justice. And, at long last, for some of us to finally listen and bear witness to the anti-black hate and violence that so many of us for so many years have been sharing without being believed." Gomez explained that as a black feminist trauma psychologist, she sees moral elevation often. "What should be completely depressing engenders action-oriented hope," she said. "When truth of depravity is finally acknowledged, we discover avenues for enacting change on large and small scales. Witnessing those actions in ourselves and others gives us this moral elevation that makes life worthier of living."
News outlet logo for favicons/chronicle.com.png

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.
News outlet logo for favicons/healthline.com.png

How COVID-19 affects children compared to adults

A new study by Chinese researchers found that COVID-19 pediatric patients had higher incidents of initial symptoms like fever, vomiting, and diarrhea than adult patients and often recovered an average of 3 to 4 days after treatment. Research on COVID-19 pediatric cases is still limited, but this new study offers a fresh perspective on the early diagnosis and epidemic control of COVID-19 in children and could enhance early intervention and diagnosis. The new study highlights the fact that so much about the pathogen underlying the disease remains unknown and there’s so much more to learn, added Dr. Teena Chopra, a professor of infectious diseases at Wayne State University’s School of Medicine. “[What] is interesting is that the children [in the study] did not present with severe disease unlike adults,” she said. “And most of them had mild or moderate symptoms.” Chopra added that the study has lots of implications for authorities pondering decisions such as school reopenings in the fall. Although the sample size is a “small number, it gives us insight into the world of children and helps us understand the impact on a younger age group,” said Chopra who serves on Wayne State’s reopening task force as well as one of a Detroit area school. School officials “should take studies like this into account before opening schools and making decisions about whether it can affect children or not,” she said.
News outlet logo for favicons/fox2detroit.com.png

Detroit activists plan Juneteenth march over disparities in sentencing, lack of jury diversity

Detroit activists are planning a Juneteenth march focusing on justice system reform raising awareness about the lack of representation on the supreme court, racial disparities in sentencing and the lack of diversity in juries in Wayne County. "If you think about injustice in the criminal justice system it goes from root to branch," said Wayne State University Law Professor Peter Hammer. "It is not just police brutality. It is how we define what is criminal, what is not criminal, it is who is sitting in the jury and who is not." Hammer is director of the Damon J. Keith Center for Civil Rights. He says judges Keith and George Crockett, Jr. helped bend the proverbial moral arc towards justice, benefitting not just African-Americans but everyone. "And they would tell you, they would not be the same judges they were if they were not Black men," Hammer said. "And they would not have had the impact that they did, because they took their life experience. They survived discrimination and knew the machinery and the physics of discrimination in this country. And they applied that knowledge on the bench. "If you have a bench full of European-Americans that have all these blinders on, even if they have the best intention and the sincerest beliefs, they are going to get it wrong.”
News outlet logo for favicons/wdet.org.png

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. 
News outlet logo for favicons/theconversation.com.png

Are we all OCD now, with obsessive hand-washing and technology addiction?

David Rosenberg, professor of psychiatry and neuroscience, wrote an article for The Conversation. “One of the hallmarks of obsessive-compulsive disorder is contamination fears and excessive hand-washing. Years ago, a patient with severe OCD came to my office wearing gloves and a mask and refused to sit on any of the “contaminated” chairs. Now, these same behaviors are accepted and even encouraged to keep everyone healthy. This new normal in the face of a deadly pandemic has permeated our culture and will continue to influence it. Many stores now prominently post rules mandating face masks and hand sanitizer use and limit the number of customers allowed inside at one time. Walkers and joggers politely cross the street to avoid proximity to each other. Only a few months ago, this type of behavior would have been considered excessive, irrational, even pathological, and certainly not healthy. So, where do doctors draw the line between vigilance to avoid being infected with the coronavirus and obsessive-compulsive disorder that can be harmful? This is an important question that I, a psychiatrist, and my co-author, a wellness and parenting coach, often hear.”
News outlet logo for favicons/freep.com.png

Schools eyeing big cuts amid funding crash

School budget makers across Michigan are eyeing cuts to employees, salaries and transportation among other things, as they work through the revenue crash caused by the Covid-19 pandemic. The two largest sources of state money to the School Aid Fund, sales and income taxes, have fallen sharply during the shutdown, leaving a budget hole that could reach almost $2.4 billion over the next two years, according to state estimates. Educators are pleading for federal help, but nothing is certain yet, except that state law requires districts to submit adopt a balanced budget by July 1. "I expect layoff notices will be going out to teachers," said Michael Addonizio, a professor of education policy at Wayne State University. "If they're not going out right now, they soon will be in the absence of an aid package. You'd certainly see layoffs of support staff, you are going to lose guidance counselors, librarians, attendance officers, school psychologists. I think it would be unavoidable. Teaching staff reductions would be unavoidable." Addonizio serves on the School Finance Research Collaborative, a task force looking to reform Michigan school funding. He said schools have faced budget struggles before and received federal aid, but this time is different. "The only thing approaching it was the cut the schools took in 2011, when federal emergency aid to the districts expired and the state foundation allowance was cut by $470," Addonizio said. "That was astonishing at the time." Addonizio said he expects Congress to pass something, but in the meantime, districts are preparing for cuts. 

Thoughts on theaters during the pandemic

As the pandemic continues, theaters struggle to stay on board this ever rocking ship. Every week it seems communities change and adjust to the “new normal”. But what are the effects of COVID-19 on theaters? How can an industry and a community entirely driven by large groups of people change to customize themselves to fit into the new social distance mold? As Director of Marketing and Audience Engagement at Wayne State University, Thomas Karr says “Our function is the same, but our tools will be different.” For the Bonstelle and Hilberry theaters, these different tools include live streaming, recording and sharing skits and dances, putting together live, in person outside events in parking lots and on campus, as well as drive-by events. Dance and theater students of Wayne State University have created and led virtual events on Facebook and Youtube. These events have received a far greater number of viewers than events produced within their theaters before the pandemic. This new way of production brings a new hope and excitement to the community that is already so intent on sharing stories and art. Soon to be chairperson of the Department of Theater and Dance at Wayne State University, Mary Anderson says, “They have been so resilient. But at the same time I grieve their losses. This time has been incredibly disruptive and alienating for them.”
News outlet logo for favicons/michiganchronicle.com.png

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.
News outlet logo for favicons/detroitnews.com.png

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.
News outlet logo for favicons/theconversation.com.png

Neighborhood-based friendships making a comeback for kids in the age of coronavirus

Julie Wargo Aikins, associate professor of psychiatry and behavioral neurosciences, Merrill Palmer Skillman Institute, wrote an article for The Conversation. “As the weather has warmed in my Midwestern town, my neighborhood is full of children on bicycles pretending to be riding through the Wild West. I can’t walk down the sidewalk without stepping on chalk drawings or hopscotch boards. There are children jumping rope and playing ball. In the eight years I’ve lived here, I’ve never witnessed this before. As a clinical psychologist who studies children’s friendships, I am fascinated by this development. Children’s social worlds have been upended by the suspension of school and extracurricular activities due to the pandemic. Many older children and adolescents have been able to maintain their friendships over social media. But, for younger children, this approach is less likely to be available to them and less likely to meet their social needs. In some places, a silver lining of COVID-19 may well be the resurgence of childhood friendships in American neighborhoods.”