Student life in the news

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WSU to require COVID-19 vaccines for students living in dorms

Less than five weeks before students move back to Wayne State University, officials said Monday that residents of its dorms will be required to get vaccinated against COVID-19. WSU President M. Roy Wilson made the announcement in an email that accompanied results from an online survey showing 86% of respondents reported being vaccinated. Those who responded included 9,106 people, a 29.5% response rate out of the 30,853 members of the campus community. There were 23,052 students enrolled during winter semester. "We are mindful of the particular risks of congregate living," Wilson wrote. "Therefore, we are implementing a targeted mandate for students living in university housing for the fall 2021 semester ... This targeted mandate — which is similar to those implemented by several Michigan universities — will help protect those who live in close proximity to each other. It will also help us prevent spread of the virus on our campus while allowing students to interact and engage face to face — a vital part of the college experience," Wilson added. Wilson wrote Monday that more information, including how to provide proof of vaccination, would be forthcoming "in the near future." WSU has told students they would make a decision by July about whether a vaccine would be required for students living in the dorms based on case trends, said Laurie Lauzon Clabo, WSU's campus chief health and wellness officer. "We felt we couldn't wait any longer," said Clabo, who is also dean of the College of Nursing. "The timing is always tough. We believe we acted responsibility." WSU is following COVID case numbers in the city and state, and two surveys were done to assess the percentage of those vaccinated. While the number of people in the WSU community who have gotten the vaccine is good, Clabo said, the lowest level of uptake is among undergraduate students. Another survey of those living in WSU residence halls showed "overwhelming" support for a mandate, Clabo added. WSU, she said, will work with students if they are not fully vaccinated by move-in, which begins Aug. 26.
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Public colleges in 49 states send students' debts to collection agencies, imperiling financial futures

To the surprise of many students and parents, public colleges in every state in the country except Louisiana use for-profit debt collection agencies to retrieve overdue tuition, library fees and even parking fines. Many universities add late fees to students’ bills, and when debt collectors add another 30 or 40 percent, students can end up owing thousands of dollars more than they did originally. Even as several universities have expressed concerns behind the scenes about losing revenue, some say using collection agencies isn’t necessarily more effective than other ways to collect the money. For example, in the fall of 2018, Wayne State University started a program called Warrior Way Back. Former students who owe up to $1,500 are allowed to reenroll, and for each semester they complete, one-third of their debt is forgiven. University administrators say the program has actually helped financially: Wayne State has gained $1.5 million in tuition from these students, after taking into account the debt it forgave. “Think about when you’re 18 years old and what you don’t know about managing debt,” said Dawn Medley, the associate vice president of enrollment management at Wayne State, who created the program. “We had a lot of students who owed us these past balances — they may have had veterans’ benefits or remaining federal aid money, but they’re caught. They can’t enroll until they pay the debt, and they can’t get aid until they enroll.”
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Wayne State to require masks inside campus buildings

Wayne State University will require masks to be worn indoors in spite of recently-released guidelines from the federal government and state health department, President M. Roy Wilson announced Monday. Wilson wrote in a letter to the campus community that he supports the new guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which announced last week that people who are fully vaccinated no longer need to wear a mask unless required by local laws or workplace requirements. Gov. Gretchen Whitmer's administration lifted mask mandates for fully vaccinated residents as of Saturday. "However, the practical limitation in the CDC guidelines is that we do not have the ability to differentiate those who have been vaccinated from those who have not," Wilson wrote. "This information is important, particularly if everyone is unmasked indoors. We need to operate in a manner that protects the safety of every member of our campus community. Therefore, masks will still be required indoors on Wayne State’s campus." Relaxing the CDC guidelines on mask-wearing for fully vaccinated residents is a hopeful, and pivotal moment in the COVID-19 pandemic, Wilson said. "The key to a fully open and healthy campus is the degree to which our campus community is vaccinated," Wilson said. "If you have not yet been vaccinated, I urge you to do so as soon as possible."  Wayne State's on-campus mandate also comes after the university offered a $10 incentive to students if they provide proof that they have been vaccinated by May 7. Of Wayne State's 27,000 enrolled students, 2,659 students participated, or about 10%. WSU spokesman Matt Lockwood said others likely have been vaccinated and did not take advantage of the incentive. Wilson will host a town hall meeting at 3 p.m. on Tuesday to discuss fall plans. He urged students to get the vaccine and said that the university Campus Health Center offers the Pfizer, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson vaccines. Said Wilson: "I look forward to seeing you all on campus soon – unmasked."
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Wayne State students who show proof of COVID vaccine will get money added to campus card

Wayne State University is offering a monetary incentive to students who receive a COVID-19 vaccine. Students who show proof of immunization will get a $10 credit added to their OneCard, the university announced. The credit can be used for Grubhub or used on campus. "As we announced last month, we expect the majority of our fall classes to be offered in person. There is nothing we would like more. Unfortunately, the COVID-19 numbers in Michigan are currently at an unacceptably high level," said President M. Roy Wilson. "The best way to ensure a return to campus in September is to get a vaccination if you haven’t yet done so."
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Wayne State University offers students money to get COVID-19 vaccine

Wayne State University is dangling some free money as an incentive to get students to get vaccinated. The offer from the midtown Detroit school is simple — upload proof of vaccination by May 7 and get $10 added to their student accounts. The proof has to show students have had at least their first shot, if they are getting a two-dose vaccination. The money can be used right away for Grubhub orders or saved to be used on campus in the fall. The vaccination can take place through the university's campus health center or anywhere else. University President M. Roy Wilson outlined the move in an email to students Wednesday morning. "As we announced last month, we expect the majority of our fall classes to be offered in person," Wilson wrote. "There is nothing we would like more. Unfortunately, the COVID-19 numbers in Michigan are currently at an unacceptably high level. The best way to ensure a return to campus in September is to get a vaccination if you haven’t yet done so. To further encourage you to take this critical step, we are providing an extra incentive — although the best incentive is your good health. In addition to getting vaccinated, please continue to take the appropriate precautions to ensure the health and safety of yourselves, our campus and the community. Thank you for doing your part to help keep our campus Warrior Strong."
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WSU to reduce number of people on campus, citing increased COVID numbers

Wayne State University said Saturday it is planning to reimpose restrictions to reduce the number of people on campus, citing increased coronavirus cases across the state. Starting Wednesday, the following measures will be taken unless case numbers fall within an "acceptable range," according to an email from President M. Roy Wilson to the WSU community. Face-to-face instruction on campus will be canceled with the only exception being clinical rotations in licensed health professions. All athletics practices and competitions will be suspended. Teams may resume practice after 10 days if 80% or more of team personnel have received their full COVID-19 vaccination. Laboratory research units must take steps to reduce current time-on-site activity for authorized personnel by 25% effective Wednesday. They must also prepare a contingency plan for an additional reduction of time-on-site as the situation evolves. The reduced level does not apply to fully vaccinated individuals currently involved with authorized on-site research activities. Guest access to student housing will be restricted. Students currently living in campus housing are permitted to continue doing so and must continue to follow campus health and safety guidelines. Towers Cafe will move to takeout only. Campus libraries will remain open but may be subject to increased restrictions. The Student Center Building is closed except for individuals attending the vaccine clinic. The W Food Pantry will remain open and will facilitate technology loans to students in need. With the exception of critical infrastructure employees, those who can work from home should do so. Metrics on campus, in the region and across Michigan will be reevaluated in 10 days, according to Wilson. If the situation has improved, Wayne State will reinstate the suspended activities. If the numbers still remain high, the period of limited on-campus activities will be extended accordingly, he said. Students and faculty are asked to monitor their communications and check the Wayne State coronavirus website for follow-up information or to contact a supervisor with specific questions.
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Wayne State joins parade of universities headed back to near normal in fall

Wayne State University has joined the parade of Michigan universities and colleges planning on a fall that will look almost like a normal fall on the Midtown Detroit campus. "With COVID-19 vaccines more readily available — and all Michigan residents age 16 and older eligible for vaccines beginning April 5 — I believe this fall will see a return to many of our beloved campus activities, events and traditions," school president M. Roy Wilson said in a message to the campus community on Tuesday. "All students, faculty and staff will be expected to follow on-campus health procedures and guidelines. We will continue to monitor and adapt these guidelines based on emerging scientific evidence and guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and state health officials." Wayne State joins the bulk of Michigan universities and colleges who have made similar announcements, including the University of Michigan, Michigan State University and Oakland University. The announcement said: Classes will largely return to face-to-face instruction. As allowed by the state, fans will be allowed back at sporting events. Campus events will start running again, but still may be modified based on requirements in place this fall. More Wayne State employees will be coming back to work on campus to provide services to students. That matches the announcements made by other universities as well, all of whom are optimistic their campuses will return to somewhat normal life.
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Wayne State announces plan for fall classes

Wayne State University President M. Roy Wilson announced Tuesday that the majority of classes will resume in-person in the fall, on-campus housing will open and athletics will resume with spectators in the stands in compliance with state guidelines. The university also will offer more virtual learning options as a result of lessons learned from the year-long COVID-19 pandemic. "We are excited to return to more of our classrooms," Wilson wrote in a letter to the campus community. "With COVID-19 vaccines more readily available — and all Michigan residents age 16 and older eligible for vaccines beginning April 5 — I believe this fall will see a return to many of our beloved campus activities, events and traditions." Wilson encouraged the Wayne State community to get a COVID-19 vaccine. "This will play a major role in allowing us to offer a more open campus this September," Wilson said. He said many parts of campus will resume with health and safety measures in place including campus dining, retail, student activities and celebrations. More employees will also be returning to work and the Campus Health Center will continue its Campus Daily Screener program to monitor campus cases of the virus.
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Wayne State University’s Board of Governors recognizes National Gun Violence Survivors Week

The Wayne State University Board of Governors voted unanimously over the weekend to declare the first week of February as National Gun Violence Survivors Week. The action was taken following a request at the Jan. 29 meeting by Megan Dombrowski, president of the WSU Students Demand Action of Gun Sense in America group. The board will ratify its vote and consider if the designation will be recurring at its March 12 meeting. WSU first commemorated National Gun Violence Survivors Week last year, to honor and remember all victims and survivors of gun violence. National Gun Violence Survivors Week is also recognized by the State of Michigan, following a proclamation by Governor Gretchen Whitmer. “Gun violence is an all-too-common occurrence here in Detroit and in our nation,” said Marilyn Kelly, chair of the WSU Board of Governors. “The board respects our students’ initiative in raising awareness of this issue and in honoring those lives lost to gun violence. We are proud to stand with our students.”
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Wayne State receives $1.2M to help veterans complete college

Wayne State University has received $1.2 million in funding from the U.S. Department of Education to supplement student success services for military veterans over five years. The $1.2 million Veterans — Student Support Services grant enhances services provided by the Office of Military Veterans Academic Excellence. The grant will serve 120 currently enrolled student veterans each academic year and provide intensive advising, career preparation, financial aid information, and benefits assistance. “Given the unique needs of our undergraduate veteran population, the VET-SSS grant will provide WSU with the additional resources needed to fully actualize our vision of truly comprehensive veteran academic support services on campus,” says Matthew McLain, assistant director of OMVAE. The grant is a collaborative effort between OMVAE and of the Office of Federal TRIO Programs’ Veterans Upward Bound (VUB) program, which helps veterans transition from the classroom to the workforce. “The VET-SSS program is designed to make a significant contribution to the student-veteran experience,” says Henry Robinson, senior director of the Office of Federal TRIO. “The Office of Military Veterans Academic Excellence and Veterans Upward Bound provide high-quality services and programs dedicated to meeting the academic support needs of this dynamic group of students.”
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Jackson College and Wayne State University set to partner in new equity initiative

Jackson College is partnering with Wayne State University to place effort into Equity Transfer Initiative (ETI). This Equity Transfer Initiative is led by the American Association of Community Colleges to improve transfer success. This is to help students who may face barriers when it comes to transferring from community colleges to universities. The two-year Equity Transfer Initiative awards up to $27,500 to partnerships to increase transfer and completion for underrepresented student populations, including African American, Hispanic, adult, and first-generation students. “I’m delighted that Jackson College is one of 16 higher education partnerships chosen nationally to participate in this project. This forward-looking project is designed to enhance the academic completion of under-represented students and ensure their successful transfer to a baccalaureate-granting institution – in our case, Wayne State University,” said Dr. Daniel J. Phelan, president. “We are deeply grateful to Dr. Ahmad Ezzeddine from Wayne State for his leadership and partnership in this important work.”
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Tackling hunger and homelessness on campus

Many months into the pandemic, we have witnessed extraordinary economic disruption and devastation. The effects have been far-reaching and prolonged, including across higher education. On four-year college campuses, recent survey data suggests that 15 percent of students are facing homelessness due to the pandemic and 38 percent of students are experiencing food insecurity. Imagine trying to focus on school when you’re not sure where you’ll find your next meal or even if you’ll have a safe place to sleep at night. Sadly, these aren’t academic questions for millions of students. They’re an everyday reality. Yet as we take stock of the pandemic’s extraordinary toll, we’re also reminded that hunger and homelessness are challenges not just in this moment but every moment. That’s why this week we recognize National Hunger and Homeless Awareness Week: to spotlight the scale of the need, identify possible solutions, and marshal public support to solve these long-standing societal challenges. Public universities also see a crucial role to play in addressing student hunger and food insecurity. To help address homelessness, Wayne State University has helped precariously housed students find housing during the pandemic through a long-running program. The university’s Helping Individuals Go Higher Program started in 2013 with the aim of helping homeless and precariously housed students persist in their studies by providing financial support and other resources.
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Michigan sees 'dramatic' increase in young voters casting ballots as colleges mobilize

Young voters in Michigan may be breaking some records. Among 14 key states, Michigan has seen the most "dramatic" increase in young voters ages 18-29 casting their ballot at this time of year, according to an analysis released by Tufts University last week. The analysis found 9.4% of all early votes have been cast by youth this year, as compared to only 2.5% in 2016. Nationally, more than seven million young voters have already sent in their ballots. “With the pandemic, I think a lot of younger voters and younger generations overall feel very energized to make their voice heard,” said Riya Chhabra, a Wayne State University senior and student government president. Wayne State University opened its own polling location in 2019, an initiative spearheaded by former student government president Stuart Baum, when he realized in 2016 the nearest polling location was 45 minutes away by foot and shared with three precincts. The new polling location near The Damon J. Keith Center for Civil Rights at Wayne Law helped more voices get heard from Wayne State, he said. The student government is continuing Baum’s work, launching the voter website Motivote. “Even though we have really difficult schedules, we still put in the time and the work to get students engaged,” said student government member Sailor Mayes, a sophomore. Motivote allows Wayne State students to complete bite-sized action items, such as making a voting plan, for points, Chhabra said. These points allow students to enter a raffle. She said her team had an extensive “Get Out and Vote” plan for students this semester but was quickly interrupted by COVID-19 — Motivote became the second-best option. 
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Wayne State tells campus community: Take Oct. 30 as a mental health day

The disrupted college lifestyle is weighing on Wayne State University students, its leaders have found. So, on Oct. 30, they want a pause in activities, including classes, for a mental health day. "We've been checking in on students and they're feeling pretty stressed," Interim Provost and Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs Laurie Clabo told the Free Press. "We know they're tired. We're seeing students who are feeling isolated. We're just worried about them." So the university will drastically slow down on that day. "We want them to take a day to just take a pause and recharge so they are ready to finish out," Clabo said. M. Roy Wilson, the university's president, said in a pair of emails sent Thursday morning to the campus community. "The purpose of this day is to allow you time to focus on your health and emotional well-being during these challenging times, connect with fellow students, learn more about the resources available to help you cope and thrive, or close the laptop and dedicate the day to self-care. Faculty are being encouraged to give students some leeway on assignments, and even cancel classes for the day, if feasible."  Wilson encouraged faculty and staff to give themselves a break as well. "Many faculty and staff have not been on campus since March, and continue to face additional stresses, from Zoom/Teams fatigue' and balancing work and child care, to the loss of working alongside our colleagues and the benefits that come with in-person engagement and collaboration. Many are working harder — and longer — and are not taking earned vacation time. While the changes in how we work were made with safety in mind, they bring new challenges, some of which can be unhealthy if not addressed." If Oct. 30 isn't feasible as a mental health day, leaders should consider allowing people to use another day, Wilson said.
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Sean Anderson Foundation donates $10,000 for Wayne State's HIGH Program

The Sean Anderson Foundation has donated $10,000 to benefit the Wayne State University HIGH (Helping Individuals Go Higher) Program. These emergency resources will benefit the program, which has been negatively affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. Big Sean, a native Detroiter, established the Sean Anderson Foundation to provide better opportunities for those in need. Big Sean previously exemplified his commitment to assisting young people’s lives when the foundation created a $25,000 endowment for HIGH Program in 2016. Wayne State first lady Jacqueline Wilson founded the HIGH Program in 2013, when she met a medical student who had experienced homelessness while attending school. The HIGH Program offers a strategic response to the homelessness issue on Wayne State’s campus. The program assists financially challenged, precariously housed, and homeless students reach their goal of earning their college degree.
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The new rules of engagement

Online learning during the coronavirus pandemic has proved to be a particular challenge for some lower-income students and students of color, whose communities have been hit hardest by the virus. Technical and personal challenges can make it difficult to connect with their classmates, literally and figuratively. If students are logging on with data plans and phones, have little privacy, or are caring for others, turning on cameras for online classes can be awkward, even impossible. At Wayne State University, which has a similarly diverse student body, Karen Myhr, an associate professor of biology, has also been thinking about inclusivity. Many of her students are considered at risk academically, she says: Low test scores placed them in her course, called “An Introduction to Life,” instead of in a more advanced biology sequence. Even in normal times, she says, her students have needed a lot of support. To help them build connections, virtually, she has grouped them into teams of their choice, and then put those teams into private channels online. Her five undergraduate learning assistants can enter. But she stays out, knowing that having the professor listen to their conversation could cause some to freeze up. Instead, she monitors their written work, which is done through collaborative online software. A typical online class might include a few minutes of instruction, followed by group work, and a debrief, as she shares examples of what they came up with in their teams.
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MSU, U-M, Wayne State presidents: In-person classes likely won't resume until fall 2021

The presidents of Michigan's top three research universities said it’s likely it will be another year before their students return to classrooms full-time. Most students at Michigan State University, University of Michigan and Wayne State University are taking their courses remotely this fall due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Each university's president expects online classes to continue through the academic year, with students returning in person in the fall of 2021. "The truth of the matter is that this is going to be with us for a while," said Wayne State University President M. Roy Wilson, who spoke with the MSU President Samuel Stanley and U-M President Mark Schlissel during a Lansing Economic Club panel on Thursday. "I anticipate that the winter semester will be basically the same as it is this semester."
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The psychology behind why some college students break COVID-19 rules

Going off to college is, for many young adults, their first real plunge into freedom and adulthood. It’s where they’re encouraged to take risks and find new connections in dining halls and laundry rooms. But those collegiate rites of passage aren’t possible if they’re largely confined to an extra-long twin bed in a stuffy dorm room, peering out at the world through barred windows. The fall 2020 semester looks a lot like that for some undergraduates who’ve returned to campus during the pandemic. And as anticipated, some of those undergrads have already started to rebel. CNN spoke with experts about the drivers behind these risky decisions, including Hannah Schacter, assistant professor and developmental psychologist at Wayne State University. Teens are also particularly sensitive to the potential rewards of risky decisions at this stage in their life. It’s not that they don’t understand the negative consequences, but they struggle to regulate those impulses that lead them to take risks because the potential reward is too great, said Schacter, who leads a lab at Wayne State University on adolescent relationships. “It’s this combination of being restricted from social contact for a while at an age where spending time with peers is so essential to development, to making teenagers feel good, and so, there’s some sort of calculation going on where the perceived benefit — ‘I get to spend time with friends’ — seems to be outweighing the potential costs,” Schacter said. When you plop students back on campus after a spring and summer spent cooped up in their childhood bedrooms, many of them will take those opportunities to connect with their friends and strangers. Their fear of the virus may be overtaken by their eagerness to connect, she said. “No one’s going back to college because they want to sit in their dorm all weekend by themselves,” Schacter said. “Peers are so essential that it’s no coincidence that we’re seeing these behaviors more and that they’re particularly peer-oriented,” Schacter said.