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Has the pandemic put an end to the SAT and ACT?

Many students never made it through the test-center door; the pandemic left much of the high school class of 2021 without an SAT or ACT score to submit. Liberal arts colleges, technical institutes, historically black institutions, Ivies — more than 600 schools switched to test-optional for the 2020-21 application season, and dozens refused to consider test scores at all. To choose among all those college hopefuls, many institutions took a holistic approach — looking at factors such as rigor of high school curriculum, extracurriculars, essays and special circumstances — to fill in the gaps left by missing test scores. Take the case of Wayne State University in Detroit, where before Covid, high school GPA and standardized test scores were used as a cutoff to hack 18,000 applications down to a number the university’s eight admissions counselors could manage. “It was just easier,” says senior director of admissions Ericka M. Jackson. In 2020, Jackson’s team changed tack. They made test scores optional and asked applicants for more materials, including short essays, lists of activities and evaluation by a high school guidance counselor. Assessing the extra material required assistance from temporary staff and other departments, but it was an eye-opening experience, Jackson says. “I literally am sometimes in tears reading the essays from students, what they’ve overcome … the GPA can’t tell you that.”
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Understanding why Detroit floods and why it keeps happening

Thousands of Detroit residents, businesses, churches, nonprofits, libraries and others will likely need months to recover from the disastrous flooding caused by record rainfall two weeks ago and aging water infrastructure. It was the second time a so-called 100-year rain event occurred in the past decade. “We clearly can’t go on like this,” said William Shuster, chair of Wayne State University’s Civil and Environmental Engineering Department. “The infrastructure was built for a different time and place, and that’s changed. We are not keeping up.” This survey, which should be released by the end of July by Wayne State University and the University of Michigan-Dearborn, shows which parts of the city — from Jefferson Chalmers, on the east side, to Aviation Subdivision on the west — have dealt with recurrent flooding since 2012. Among 4,667 Detroit households surveyed between 2012 and 2020, 46 percent have dealt with flooding. There is a map showing which areas are more at risk of flooding — and it is strikingly similar to the current maps released by the City showing the hardest hit areas in the current disaster. The map doesn’t name neighborhoods, but shows clusters of streets on the west side, the northeast and lower east side that are prone to flooding. The report describes the physical and emotional impact many residents deal with long after the water recedes. There’s also a resource guide for various agencies that can provide assistance. “It’s nobody’s fault in particular; we have a huge and expanding service area,” said Wayne State’s Shuster. “Regional cooperation is the way forward. Let’s focus on that opportunity. “This is an equal opportunity disruptor, destroyer of health, property and morale.”
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How small businesses in metro Detroit navigated pandemic aid

All week long on The Rebound Detroit, we're shining a light on metro Detroit's small businesses and the people who work tirelessly to make them successful. It's been more than three weeks since our state's remaining COVID-related restrictions lifted, so we're exploring the hit small businesses have taken during the pandemic, what recovery is looking like now, and the road ahead. For many metro Detroit small businesses, government aid during the pandemic has been a vital lifeline. Where payroll wasn't a business' largest expense other federal programs sought to fill the gaps, like the Shuttered Venue Grant and the Restaurant Revitalization Fund; we saw locally a major hiccup with the latter, when funds ran out before all those approved could get their cash. "Big businesses have continuity plans," said Prof. Bertie Greer, associate dean at Wayne State's Mike Ilitch School of Business. "They have already put together some thoughts and done risk management," she said. On top of generally having less cash on hand, makes smaller businesses especially vulnerable during a period of uncertainty like a pandemic, Greer said.
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Big Tech is trying to disarm the FTC by going after its biggest weapon: Lina Khan

Amazon and Facebook have filed petitions seeking Federal Trade Commission Chair Lina Khan’s recusal in antitrust cases involving their companies. Khan’s confirmation to the FTC and appointment to lead the agency presents one of the clearest threats of major regulatory action in the tech sector in years. By seeking to recuse Khan, the companies are going after one of the biggest antitrust weapons the FTC has and, whether Khan is recused or not, the decision could muck up the antitrust charges against either company. Experts told CNBC that it makes sense for Facebook and Amazon to try to get Khan removed from the suits. Experts interviewed by CNBC said petitions for recusal of FTC commissioners happen but aren’t common. That makes the two petitions in a matter of weeks seem like an outlier. But, the experts said, it makes sense the companies would pull out all the stops given their opportunity to do so. “The last thing a party would want to do would be to sleep on its rights, so it’s not surprising that they would go ahead and raise the issue now,” said Stephen Calkins, a law professor at Wayne State University and a former FTC general counsel. “And raising it could serve a purpose even if all it does is to provide an argument the parties could make if any matter ever goes forward and ends up in a court.”
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How fear of government surveillance influences our behavior

People steer away from talking about policy issues publicly or even among family and friends when they think their attitudes aren’t widely shared. This inclination is known as the spiral of silence. Knowledge of government monitoring influences online expression, especially if users think their opinions conflict with that of the majority, according to a study by journalism professor Elizabeth Stoycheff at Wayne state University. Stoycheff asked 225 participants to fill out a survey about how they get their news, and about their views on surveillance. She showed them a fake Facebook page that reported on renewed U.S. airstrikes against ISIS terrorists in Iraq. Its tone was neutral. Participants were asked if they’d be willing to express their opinion on the airstrikes, by liking, forwarding, or commenting on the page. Half received several reminders that although the answers were confidential, there was no guarantee that the NSA would not be monitoring them. Afterward, participants were questioned about their opinions of airstrikes and what they believed most Americans thought about them. They were also asked questions about the legitimacy of online surveillance by government agencies. Their answers were consistent with the spiral-of-silence effect. The more their personal opinions diverged from perceived mainstream opinion, the less participants were willing to express their views. The effect was strongest in participants who believed that they might be monitored and that online surveillance was taking place: they answered in a more conformist way and engaged in self-censorship.
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Is your office safe from COVID?

As COVID cases drop in the U.S. and vaccinations increase, many companies are bringing their employees back to office buildings. And lots of those workers are worried: Will shared spaces remain safe as restrictions are lifted and viral variants spread? Can businesses require all employees to be vaccinated? What office and building features best minimize risk? If you’re vaccinated, you can return to work as normal (mostly). The most effective way to reduce the spread of the coronavirus at work is to make sure that everyone in the shared space is vaccinated. Current guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention specify that fully vaccinated people (those who are two weeks past their final vaccine dose) no longer need to wear a mask or practice physical distancing in most situations, including most office workplaces. COVID vaccines are highly effective at preventing infection and illness, so once you are fully vaccinated, “it doesn’t really matter what the vaccine status is of those around you,” says Gretchen Snoeyenbos Newman, an infectious disease physician at Wayne State University. If you’re returning to a workplace where some of your co-workers are unwilling or unable to get vaccinated or to wear a mask, the best protection you have is getting immunized yourself, she says.
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Opinion: Flooding and wreckage in Detroit expose the city’s climate vulnerability

For more than two weeks, convoys of garbage trucks have slowly crept through neighborhoods throughout Detroit, picking up damaged pool tables, soggy mattresses and endless boxes of irreplaceable memorabilia ruined by the June 25 flood caused by heavy rain. In kitchens and dens, distressed residents are gathering what paperwork wasn’t ruined to submit to the city, state and the Federal Emergency Management Agency in hopes of compensation. It was the second devastating flood to sweep the city in the last seven years. Much attention has been given to the potential for climate-change-driven devastation in coastal cities from rising seas, but with storms intensifying, inadequate city infrastructure is being exposed, as seen in New York over the past week. The damage in Detroit last month was particularly upsetting because the city has made considerable progress in rebounding from its dilapidated nadir in 2013 as the biggest municipal bankruptcy in U.S. history. The flood, and the infuriatingly slow effort to collect the wreckage it left behind, exposed the city’s physical fragility and stirred memories of the bleak, bad old days. Bill Shuster, professor and chair of the department of environmental science at Wayne State University, thinks urban resources to deal with climate change simply aren’t keeping up with the threat. “The burden just keeps getting larger and larger each time,” he said on the public radio program “Detroit Today.” “It’s really about social and political will to make sure resources are available.”

WSU's Nikki Wright lauded for efforts to give back

As a little girl on vacation visiting her lawyer uncle’s home in Mississippi, Nikki Wright would wander through his study in wide-eyed awe, mesmerized by the endless rows of legal tomes lining the bookshelves, daydreaming of a future where she would follow in his footsteps. Her uncle, Reuben V. Anderson, went on to become Mississippi’s first African American state Supreme Court judge, and Wright returned home to Detroit and transformed the girlhood aspirations Anderson had inspired into inspiring professional triumphs. After earning both her undergraduate and law degrees from Wayne State and then clerking for only the second Black man to serve on the Mississippi Supreme Court, Fred L. Banks, Jr., Wright went into private practice as a litigation attorney, honing both a sharp skill for investigation and a strong desire to give back to the community that nurtured her. These days, Wright serves as assistant vice president in the Wayne State Office of Equal Opportunity, her skills and passions having dovetailed at the same university campus where she pursued her earliest dreams. Among other things, she supports the university’s compliance efforts in investigations involving discrimination and harassment, and helps train faculty and students about these issues. Wright also helps the university ensure that WSU’s hiring committees are diverse. A member of the Social Justice Action Committee, Wright also helped the university draft recommendations aimed at boosting diversity, inclusion and equity as related to faculty hiring and retention. “I saw this job as a way for me to give back to the university,” Wright said about her decision to leave private practice for her alma mater. “Obviously, I could go into the public sector and potentially make a great deal more money, but I really wanted to take a step into a different direction and help a university that helped me. So it really came full circle for me. And that was the right decision because it allows me to give back, something I really enjoy.” Her efforts haven’t gone unnoticed. Recently, Wright was among several other women honored by the Michigan Chronicle with its “Women of Excellence” Award. The award recognizes African American women throughout metro Detroit for their leadership and public service. “When they selected me, I was really happy,” said Wright. “This type of work is really important work, and it supports the university, it supports our community. And the Michigan Chronicle is all about recognizing the work that African Americans do. It was nice that they recognized me. “ Her work at Wayne State, she says, is an extension of the efforts she’s made throughout her career to serve as a positive influence on both the community and individuals. In addition to being active in her church, Hope United Methodist, Wright has provided pro bono legal work for organizations such as the Horatio Williams Foundation, which supports local youth through mentoring, tutoring and afterschool activities. She has done charity work for the public school systems in both Detroit and elsewhere, providing resources for needy children and families. She’s also served as in-house and outside legal counsel for the Detroit Public Schools Community District. And while none of the work is easy, the load grew especially heavy in 2020 as Wright and her family also had to struggle with the death of her older brother, who passed away that March just as the coronavirus pandemic erupted. (Wright says her brother wasn’t diagnosed with COVID-19, although she suspects he may have had it.) “It was very difficult,” Wright admits. “And so we're just getting through it. We're still challenged, but we're getting through it. We were very, very close. Some of what we do now is in memory of my brother. He worked with students with the Southfield public school system, in particular, with the disabled student body. And so my family and I help to make students’ Christmas bright. We support them during Christmas by making sure that they have a full and happy Christmas.” Her work with students also reaches back to the WSU campus. For example, Wright serves as a judge for Wayne State’s Moot Court Competition. In private practice, Wright also hired and mentored young attorneys often giving them their first experience of practicing law. Whether she’s helping to diversify the faculty ranks at Wayne State or supporting students and new attorneys in metro Detroit, Wright takes heart in the fact that she’s helping others access dreams, not unlike the uncle who guided and inspired her. Doing this at her alma mater, says Wright, makes the job all the sweeter. “I’m the glad the Michigan Chronicle recognized the important work we’re doing, and I see us as continuing to support Wayne State’s efforts to tear down the barriers that impact minorities,” she says. “And I'm really happy to be doing it in a university that I care about, where I graduated with a degree in undergrad and law school. It means a lot to me.”  
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Wayne State University researcher invited to edit book on neuropsychiatry

A Wayne State University School of Medicine faculty member is editor of a newly published book, Brain Network Dysfunction in Neuropsychiatric Illness: Methods, Applications & Implications. Vaibhav A. Diwadkar, Ph.D., professor of psychiatry and behavioral neurosciences at Wayne State, and his colleague, Simon Eickhoff, Ph.D., from Heinrich-Heine University in Dűsseldorf and Institute of Neuroscience and Medicine in Forschungszentrum Jülich, Germany, were invited co-editors of the volume, which is published by Springer Nature Publishing, a subsidiary of the Nature Publishing Group, one of the largest scientific publishing houses in the world. The volume is a unique compendium of diverse chapters from more than 40 of the world's leading experts in the fields of brain imaging, computational and analytic methods, and neuropsychiatry. It is the first collection of its kind to focus attention specifically on the challenging problem of understanding how abnormal brain network function might give rise to debilitating conditions such as schizophrenia, depression, mood disorders, borderline personality disorder, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and autism.
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Researchers study how algal bloom toxins may harm Great Lakes air

Toxins from harmful algal blooms are well-known as water polluters, but now researchers are looking at how they harm Great Lakes air. Algae blooms occur because of a warming climate and nitrogen and phosphorus runoff from activities like agriculture, said Judy Westrick, a chemistry professor at Wayne State University. In the Great Lakes region, algal blooms occur in inland lakes and the western basin of Lake Erie, primarily in shallow water, Westrick said. Research focuses on water quality because of observations, she said. When people became sick after swimming in toxic water, scientists began researching it. However, now that water quality is better understood, scientists are branching out into understanding algae toxins and air, Westrick said. “You’re probably going to see, in probably the next year, like 100 studies on aerosol. Aerosol has become a big thing because of a couple of factors.” The factors are part of climate change, she said. For example, heavy rainfall can cause waves and break up harmful algae, releasing particles that could be toxic in the air. The expert consensus is algae blooms will get worse as climate change and runoff worsen, Westrick said. Algae essentially eat nitrogen and phosphorus nutrients from agricultural runoff. “If you take care of the nutrients and you don’t have the nutrient load, then then they won’t get worse, but if everything stayed the same, the nutrient load, and it just gets warmer, we expect them to go longer,” Westrick said.
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Wayne State Office of Women’s Health and Wayne Health Launch Well-Woman Wednesdays

The Office of Women’s Health at Wayne State University, in partnership with the Wayne Health Mobile Unit program, will introduce Well-Woman Wednesdays, bringing free mobile health screenings and health education to the community at a variety of locations beginning July 14. The first Well-Woman Wednesday will take place from 2 to 6 p.m. at the headquarters of Alternatives for Girls. The project seeks to educate and empower women to achieve better health by providing them with screening, resources and connections to health care providers on their journey to improved wellness. “With Well-Woman Wednesdays, the Wayne State University Office of Women’s Health aims to expand health care to vulnerable communities impacted most by health disparities and lack of access to health care, thus improving the health of women overall,” said Sonia Hassan, M.D., associate vice president and founder of the Office of Women’s Health and a professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology at Wayne State University. “The development of a women-focused mobile health unit aiming to improve health literacy and provide reliable methods and resources for the establishment and pursuit of care will improve accessibility of health care to women and eventually narrow the gap in health disparities.” The Wayne Health Mobile Unit program began in April 2020, bringing COVID-19 testing, and later vaccinations, to tens of thousands of people across Michigan. “This latest project is an extension of our initial testing and vaccination efforts,” said Phillip Levy, M.D., M.P.H., a WSU professor of Emergency Medicine and chief innovation officer for Wayne Health. “It makes perfect sense to expand the array of health care and health care education services that our mobile units can provide for communities, assisting people in the comfort of their own surroundings.”

Recorded cases of influenza dropped to ZERO at one Detroit hospital in 2020 as COVID-19 pandemic restrictions killed flu season

Cases of influenza plummeted during the COVID-19 pandemic, with one Detroit health system having a zero percent positivity rate for the virus, a new study finds. Researchers from Wayne State University looked at data from the Detroit Medical Center for the 2019-20 and the 2020-21 flu seasons. They found that every single one of the 6,830 tests administered for adults, and the 1,441 for children came back negative for Influenza A and Influenza B during the 2020-21 (September 2021 to February 2021) flu season. There were also zero positive tests for respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) in adults - out of 6,822 - and one for children among 1,404 tests. The findings add to the wealth of existing information that shows social distancing and mask mandates put in place to protect from COVID-19 were effective in combatting the flu. Researchers expect cases of the flu to return to normal levels now, though, as many COVID precautions are dropped around the country. 'It is likely that the number of cases of flu and other respiratory infections will rise back to normal in the coming years as SARS-CoV-2 becomes a seasonal virus,' said Siri Sarvepalli, a member of the research team at Wayne State. 'However, if handwashing and other mitigating measures are followed to the same extent as last winter, numbers could instead remain lower than usual.'  The team will present its findings at the European Congress of Clinical Microbiology & Infectious Diseases this week. 
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Two Michigan universities expect enrollment rebound while others still see declines

Mallory Terpstra has spent summer days visiting Michigan colleges as she enters her senior year at Byron Center High School south of Grand Rapids. Terpstra is among the students that the state's universities are trying to recruit as they seek a rebound a year after college enrollment fell 6.4% in Michigan after the COVID-19 pandemic gripped the world. Regional schools are reporting fewer newer admissions and declines in returning students, while the state’s two largest research universities expect to approach or surpass 2019 admissions. Among the Michigan public universities that suffered the most in the fall of 2020 were Central Michigan and Ferris State with 17,344 and 11,165 students, respectively, 11% declines from the previous year, according to a report by the Michigan Association of State Universities. Not far behind were Eastern Michigan University, with 16,324 students enrolled, a decline of 8% from fall 2019, and the University of Michigan-Flint, with 6,829 students, a drop of 6%. Least affected were the state's Big Three public universities. Enrollments at UM, MSU and Wayne State declined 0.4%, 0.2% and 2.2%, respectively. At Oakland, enrollment dipped 2.4% to 18,555 students in fall 2020.
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Matiss Kivlenieks' death illustrates one of three ways that fireworks can kill

The death of an NHL goalie in a fireworks accident Sunday illustrates the powerful impact mortar-style pyrotechnics can have on the human body, medical and bioengineering experts said Tuesday. Columbus Blue Jackets goalie Matiss Kivlenieks, 24, died Sunday at the home of his position coach, former Red Wing Manny Legace, during a July 4 party. Police initially believed he may have slipped exiting a hot tub, but a caller to 911 said he was hit in the chest by a firework, recordings released Tuesday show. The initial report led police to believe Kivlenieks died of a head injury. Dragovic said Tuesday there was no indication of any head trauma. After a direct impact to the chest, it's not surprising that Kivlenieks didn't survive, said professor Cynthia Bir, chair of biomedical engineering at Wayne State University, whose research focuses on human injury tolerances. "It's more than a blast injury, he had blunt trauma," Bir said. "With his injury, it was a freak accident. This is one of the dangers that can occur with fireworks." The incident is a reminder of the varied risks of fireworks, Bir said. Most fireworks accident victims walk away with burns, she said, and that's why certain levels of fireworks are illegal, she said. "Even people who are trained to compose firework displays face the risks of injuries. It's not something that should be taken lightly," Bir said. "I think they're readily available, but I don't think people truly understand the risks."
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As Michigan rapidly ages, “We are not at all prepared” for the burdens of long-term care

“The number of Americans 65 and older is expected to nearly double in the next 40 years,” according to a recent Kaiser Health News report. Experts say the aggregate cost of care for our elderly population is ballooning, particularly in Southeast Michigan. The burden of long-term care has fallen on families and, for many, finding adequate care and resources has proven to be a grueling process. “We are dramatically underfunded, especially in Southeast Michigan. And the population just keeps getting older,” says Tom Jankowski, associate director for research and adjunct professor of gerontology and political science. Jankowski’s work revolves around the aging of the population, as well as the historical origins and implications of policy that pertain to older adults. ”Michigan faces some special challenges because it was historically a younger state in the ‘50s, ‘60s and ‘70s … But today … it’s one of the fastest aging states,” he says. He explains there are limited resources for elderly Michigan residents. ”Unfortunately, the services are a patchwork. We’ve got the Medicaid home and community-based waiver program … In Michigan, that program is underfunded, there are wait lists in most areas of the state. And in Michigan, only about a third of our Medicaid long-term care folks are at home,” he says. ”I have been an advocate for increasing that at-home spending for years … it’s what most people prefer and it’s less expensive than putting people in nursing homes.” 
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It's deja vu all over again for metro Detroit flood victims despite past promises

Repeated flooding has plagued homeowners in cities across the region in recent years, with Detroit, the Grosse Pointes and Dearborn getting hit hardest in last weekend's latest round. After each event, government officials offer similar reasonings for the breakdowns: historic rainfall stressed aging infrastructure beyond its capacity. Investigations are launched, lawsuits filed and promises are made. But this time some are hopeful it’s a wake-up call that will force solutions that stick. "Everybody is exhausted," said William Shuster, chair of Wayne State University's Civil and Environmental Engineering Department and an expert in storm and wastewater management who himself lost a vehicle to the weekend flooding. "This is an equal opportunity disruptor, destroyer of health, property and morale." Shuster said the extreme rainfall was exacerbated by already saturated soil Friday night. In southeastern Michigan, combined sewer systems are the norm, which means storm runoff combines with sewage, often overwhelming water treatment facilities in periods of heavy rain. "It’s hard to tell if the (all) pumps were operating if it would have made a difference," Shuster said. "What we have are unpredictable rainfall events and this converges with undersized infrastructure. That’s why it’s so pronounced."
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Wayne State University and Henry Ford Health System announce new initiative in cardiometabolic health and disease

Wayne State University and Henry Ford Health System announced today the launch of a basic and translational research initiative in Cardiometabolic Health and Disease as a thematic focus for program growth. The Integrated Research and Development Initiative in Cardiometabolic Health and Disease will focus on program strengths at both institutions that directly addresses health issues of cardiac disease, hypertension, diabetes, obesity metabolism and kidney disease that are of particular relevance for the broad communities that the two institutions serve. “We are excited and pleased to be bringing our two institutions together to better serve our community’s cardiovascular needs,” said Mark E. Schweitzer, M.D., dean of the Wayne State University School of Medicine. “Heart disease is the leading cause of death in Michigan, and by joining forces with the excellent team at Henry Ford Health System, we aim to reverse this trend.”
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A little college student debt relief goes a long way

President Joe Biden campaigned on a plan to provide $10,000 of federal student loan forgiveness per borrower (though he ultimately left the idea out of his proposed budget). Sen. Elizabeth Warren, the Massachusetts Democrat, has called for blanket forgiveness of up to $50,000 in federal loans per student, while Independent Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont has proposed the cancellation of all student debt, at an eye-popping cost of $1.6 trillion. But as an innovative effort by a group of Detroit-area colleges is proving, even modest student-debt relief can have a big impact, especially if it’s coupled with a second shot at college completion for those who have discontinued their studies. Programs like Wayne State University’s Warrior Way Back and Eastern Michigan University’s Eagle Corps are offering former students a combination of loan forgiveness with a chance to finish their degrees. It’s a smart – and purposeful – approach to student-debt relief that could benefit hundreds of thousands of students nationwide. For former students who dropped out close to graduation and with relatively low debts, these barriers are unnecessarily harsh, says Wayne State University Associate Vice President Dawn Medley. “If you have a car and need tires but don’t pay off the tires, they come and get the tires, not the car,” she said. “But in higher education, we hold every bit of your academics hostage, and I just don’t think that that’s the way that we need to be going.”
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What this weekend's flooding says about Michigan's infrastructure

As metro Detroit families are still dealing with the aftermath of this weekend's severe flooding, many are calling the state's infrastructure into question. "It is safe to say everyone is feeling vulnerable. We've had increasingly unpredictable extreme rainfall events. They're, basically, making our infrastructure look outdated at this time, so we're basically undersized and overstretched in response to these precipitation events," says Bill Shuster, professor and chair of the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at Wayne State University. "What's to be done? It really demands quite a bit of assessment work. Each part of the Detroit metro area cycles water differently and, of course, we have all the infrastructure that plumbs our wastewater, stormwater system, the collection, the conveyance, the treatment, and this is aging infrastructure, we've known that for some time, and so we are really in a situation here where every aspect of the civil environmental experience, our transportation, our structural integrity (buildings), wastewater, every aspect of these critical services provided by these infrastructures is severed during an event like this. So, we really have to start looking at, again, equitable data, data assessments that take place in each area of town and you need good data to develop good engineering design approaches. That would be my general approach to this conundrum we're in. The resilience of our systems is very low at this point."