Liz Hornyak: In this week’s news, the Washtenaw County Health Department issues a stay-in-place order to U-M, and Ypsilanti City Council tries to accommodate restaurants struggling through the COVID-19 pandemic. In campus news, the EMU Board of Regents approves an updated academic calendar for the Winter 2021 semester. We also take a look into EMU’s sustainability program. I’m Liz Hornyak. This is the Eastern Echo Podcast.
The EMU Board of Regents approved a revised academic calendar for the coming semester. The update extends the winter break that occurs between semesters by one week. This break will now begin on Dec. 24, and classes will begin on Jan. 13. In 2021, there will no longer be a winter break, but the semester will still end on April 27 as originally planned.
An email that students received from the Office of The President on Oct. 23 states, “Data indicate that minimizing community members’ travel to different locations and limiting exposures due to larger social gatherings can help minimize the spread of the disease. Our hope is to return to regular break schedules once the virus is under better control.”
The Washtenaw County Health Department announced a stay-in-place order among students attending the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor. The order went into effect on Tuesday, Oct. 20, and will expire on Nov. 3 at 7 a.m.
The order notes that U-M students account for over 60% of Washtenaw County’s COVID-19 cases. Additionally, in mid-August, before students returned to campus for the semester, U-M only accounted for 2% of the County’s total cases.
University officials are exploring the possibility of moving some classes to an online-only format for the rest of the semester.
Ypsilanti City Council unanimously voted on Tuesday, Oct. 20 to extend sidewalk permits among qualifying restaurants. The extension allows restaurants to provide safe, outdoor seating options during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Bobcat Bonnie’s in downtown Ypsilanti has creatively set up three outdoor igloos, complete with string lights, electronic candles, and heating systems. Between patrons, everything within the igloo is sanitized, and the tablecloth is swapped out completely.
Other restaurants planning to follow suit in crafting outdoor seating are required to send an enclosure addendum to the city’s building department. Once their plan is approved and a structure is built, the building department will inspect it before the structure can be made available to the public.
The current 2020 sidewalk permit will expire in May of 2021.
The Echo’s Assistant News Editor Gracie Thompson did some digging into the university’s recycling program. Contrary to the rumor among students that recycling from the campus bins does not get recycled, we’ve found quite a bit of information regarding EMU’s recycling efforts.
According to EMU’s Waste Management report, in 2017, from 2,263.1 tons of waste, 9.1% was diverted from landfills. Between January and August of this year, 6.5% of 1237.3 of waste has been diverted from landfills.
Thompson asked Chirstopher Grant, EMU’s Grounds Manager, about the rumor among students.
Christopher Grant: That rumor [that recycling ultimately ends up in landfills] comes back to me all the time and I don’t know who started that. I’m not going to say that it never does because it is up to the custodian to get that recycling . . . to the right pick up spot. Once it’s in the pick up spot . . . I have a guy that brings it back to the physical plant. We have a compactor that's just for cardboard, paper, and plastic. No trash, just recyclables go into that compactor.
Hornyak: EMU has made an effort to improve campus recycling efforts by strategically placing recycling bins next to trash cans, making large recycling bins available for community use, and, for events like student move-in week, hanging instructional signs.
However, EMU only has one person on staff that sorts through the recyclables, and if too many non-recyclable items contaminate a bin, that whole bin may get thrown out. Grant hopes that there will be greater funding designated for recycling and waste efforts in the future.
Grant: I hope so. That would be great if they were able to, but it seems like every year they are wanting us to cut more, and then COVID-19 did not help us at all. It is getting worse at the moment. I would like to think that someday it will get better and we will be able to set some things aside for things like that, but in the very near future I do not see it happening yet.
Hornyak: Two years ago, students and faculty established the President’s Sustainability Commission. The 18 students, staff, and faculty members that make up the committee propose to the university president ways to improve sustainability efforts on campus. The committee uses the Sustainability Tracking, Assessment, and Rating System (STARS) to measure sustainability efforts.
One resolution proposed in 2019 would restrict EMU to only creating partnerships with external private companies or contractors that take sustainability into consideration. The resolution is in the hopes of being passed by the university president.
The STARS framework outlines 63 criteria checkpoints across four categories, which are academics, engagement, operations, and planning and administration. There is also a bonus category of innovation and leadership. COVID-19 has disrupted EMU’s STARS rating process, but over half of the criteria are currently finished. The committee will continue to use the STARS framework to guide their efforts.
The Sustainability Commission is always looking for volunteers to aid in recycling efforts, social media relations, marketing, event planning, and fundraising. Those interested in getting involved can visit the link on our website, or visit EMU’s sustainability website at emich.edu/sustainability.
11 students have been elected to EMU’s Student Government Senate, leaving seven seats unfilled. In accordance with Student Government bylaws, the Internal Affairs Committee will prepare an application process for those who wish to fill the vacancies. Each applicant will be voted upon by the Senate, and candidates with the highest votes will be appointed.
According to Student Body Vice President, Colton Ray, the appointment process requires applicants to attend a general student government meeting, have 3 proposals on what they wish to do as Student Senate members, and acquire 50 student signatures.
Student Body President Luis Romero hopes to revise that process slightly, given that it will be difficult to get 50 student signatures while remaining socially distant.
A new application process may be proposed to the Internal Affairs Committee. This can be done once the Committee is assembled. Romero hopes to have the updated Senate application ready by October 27.
Reported: Austin Elliot, Juliana Lumaj, Kennedy Robinson, Gracie Thompson
Script: Ronia Cabansag
Hosted: Liz Hornyak
Produced: Ashlee Buhler, Lauren Smith