Liz Hornyak: In this week’s news, students voice their opposition to Eastern Michigan University's online course fee, and Housing and Residence Life provides answers about campus living for the Fall semester. We also have profiles on two of the candidates running for Washtenaw County Board of Commissioners.
EMU students have started a petition and planned a protest against the university’s online course fees. The petition calls for EMU President James Smith and the Board of Regents to:
Waive all fees for all online and hybrid classes for the 2020-21 academic year
Waive lab and studio fees for any labs that can't meet in person
Waive the REC/IM fee for every student
Waive the student teaching fee if schools move online
The fee for an online course is $80 per credit hour, and the fee for a lab or studio can vary between $0 - $132 depending on the class.
The university addressed several related concerns in an email to students. The email clarified that for any classes that were originally listed as an in-person class during registration, no additional fee would be added if that class were to become online only in the fall. Any class that was originally listed as a hybrid or online course would continue to have the online course fee associated with it.
The student-organized protest took place Sunday afternoon in the Pease Auditorium parking lot. One of the organizers, Quinn Hutchinson, said that the petition demands that all online courses and fees be waived, even for classes that were originally offered as online classes. Quinn and fellow organizer Torie DeSantes believe that such fees can be a heavy and unnecessary financial burden for many students.
The university recently held a Q&A via Facebook Live to discuss campus housing for the upcoming semester. Assistant housing director Becky Janes answered questions regarding housing assignments, the move-in process, safety measures, and other changes to residence life before the fall.
Janes said that fall move-in will be extended to multiple days to allow for students and guests to abide by social distancing guidelines. Later this summer, residents will be assigned a specific date and time to move into their dorm. Each resident will be limited to two guests during move-in.
Janes also addressed issues that some residents have had with the housing assignment system. In the past, the housing assignment system has allowed students to complete their application, find and select a roommate, and select a room space. However, due to the impact of the Coronavirus pandemic, the dorm assignment process has become largely automated. This has resulted in some students ending up in a dorm with roommates or in dorms that they did not select.
However, according to Janes, over 2,900 students will live on campus in the fall, and less than 100 have had such issues. Housing staff are working with residents to resolve these issues on a case-by-case basis.
As far as safety procedures, Janes anticipates guidelines concerning the use of communal lounges and bathrooms. There may also be rules regarding who will be allowed to enter a residence hall, and how many guests a resident can have in their dorm. Lounges will likely have some furniture removed to allow for social distancing.
During the Q&A, Janes said, “Living on campus, we still feel, is very much an essential part of being a college student and that experience, especially here at EMU. Students will be encouraged to wear masks, they’ll be encouraged to have physical and social distancing guidelines, but we’re not going to isolate students to their rooms, [not allowing] them to still live their lives.”
In our final story for today, we have profiles on two of the four candidates running in the Democratic primary for the Washtenaw County Board of Commissioners, District 5. The Board of Commissioners administers county level government by passing and administering legislation.
One candidate, Denise Kirchoff, is known for being a voice for her community. The lifelong Washtenaw County resident and mother of two is pursuing a Bachelor’s in Social Work at EMU. Kirchoff started attending local government meetings and often asked questions about relevant issues. Soon, people from other communities began asking her to come to their own local government meetings to advocate for issues there.
Kirchoff’s campaign focuses on increased access to resources in eastern Washtenaw County. She says many in that area struggle to access resources, especially those related to healthcare.
Kirchoff says that many residents she spoke with have trouble accessing both free and income-based clinics, and instead go to Ann Arbor for health-related services. Kirchoff would like to partner with EMU and Washtenaw Community College to help fill community healthcare needs.
Other key components of Kirchoff’s platform are:
More clinic access and extended hours
Developing a county financial literacy center and financial literacy programs in schools
County sponsored after school activities and summer programs
Improving internet and phone access throughout the county
She also emphasizes the need for transparency. Kirchoff said in an interview with the Echo, “I think we all need access to our local officials. I don’t think you should just move into an office and you don’t see people again, until it’s time for them to vote for you. People can influence local officials through their offices, and I think people need to know you have a right to see your local officials, not just every 2 or 4 years when they’re running.”
A second candidate, Justin Hodge, hopes to bring his expertise in psychology and social work to the position. The Lansing native earned his Bachelor’s degree in Psychology at the University of Michigan. He went on to earn a Master's in social work and received a clinical license and advanced generalist license in social work.
Hodge has worked at Community Mental Health System as a case manager for those with mental disabilities. He has also done outpatient therapy services at Michigan Medicine and Ypsilanti Health Center. Today, he is a professor of social work, teaching policy courses at the University of Michigan.
Hodge serves on several appointed boards, including the county’s Board of Health and the Community Action Board, which focuses on addressing economic inequality. He also chairs the Sheriff’s Community Advisory Board for Law Enforcement.
One way Hodge hopes to combat economic inequality is through a children’s saving account program. He says he has already worked to implement such a program in Lansing. Hodge also hopes to address predatory loan practices, saying, “We need to do something about [predatory lending practices] so we can help people be able to build wealth. It’s hard for anyone to build wealth when they’re trapped in cycles where they have to pay this absurdly high-interest rate on a small loan, and then some people have to get another loan from another [lender] just to pay the previous one, and then the interest just skyrockets. . .”
Other key components of Hodge’s campaign include:
Providing better access to broadband internet, especially to Augusta Township
Partnering with surrounding counties to provide better regional public transportation
Providing more home-based services, as well as better access to telemedicine and teletherapy
Hodge’s campaign has been endorsed by many local elected officials, including Sheriff Jerry Clayton, six currently sitting commissioners, and former state Rep. Adam Zemke.
Thank you to our Managing Editor Austin Elliot for providing information on both Kirchoff and Hodge. This segment is part of Austin’s Ypsi Votes article series, where he will continue to provide coverage of candidates in Ypsilanti and Ypsilanti Township. You can read about Kirchoff and Hodge, as well as all three of the candidates for Washtenaw County Prosecutor at easternecho.com. Be sure to check back in for the remaining Democratic candidates for the Board of Commissioners, Karen Lovejoy Roe and Michael White.
Written: Ronia Cabansag
Host: Liz Hornyak
Produced: Lauren Smith