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The Eastern Echo

Podcast: January 20, 2020

EMU Board of Regents member resigns, concerns rise over COVID-19 vaccine distribution, and Honors College introduces creative scholarship opportunity.

Liz Hornyak: On this week’s episode, EMU Regent Rich Baird announces his immediate resignation, and the Washtenaw County Prosecutor, Eli Savit, will no longer try cases dealing with marijuana. I am your host Liz Hornyak and this is the Eastern Echo Podcast.

On Jan. 15, University Communications sent an email to EMU students, staff, and faculty informing them that Rich Baird is resigning as a member of the Board of Regents. His resignation is effective immediately. Baird was charged by the Michigan Attorney General in relation to an investigation of the Flint water crisis. Baird was appointed to the Board of Regents in Nov. 2018. In his resignation letter to Chairman Eunice Jefferies, Baird had this to say about his service here at EMU.

“EMU is an incredible institution and I have been honored to serve it in a variety of ways including the most recent appointment you bestowed on me as Finance Committee Chair. What I am going through right now is going to take quite a long while as the court diligently does its work. I will be exonerated. But until that time comes, I will not allow my affiliation with EMU to become a distraction from the great work done by the Board, the Administration, the Faculty and most importantly, our students.”

Gov. Whitmer will appoint Baird’s successor.

On Jan. 12, Eli Savit, Washtenaw County’s Prosecutor, announced that his team will not charge cases related to marijuana and other naturally psychedelic plants. His team will also focus on expunging marijuana charges off of people’s records. Savit was inspired to make this decision based on Ann Arbor’s City Council’s decision in Sep. 2020 to decriminalize magic mushrooms and other psychedelic plants. 

Savit had this to say about his decision as well.

“Marijuana was a separate decision that I made against the backdrop of the current legal landscape as well as the overwhelming data showing racial inequalities in marijuana prosecutions. I also made the marijuana decision against the backdrop of decades of public health information showing marijuana is no more dangerous than fully legal substances like alcohol.”

Savit commits that his team will still file charges to large-scale, profit-seeking organizations who break safety laws, as well as adults who sell drugs to children.

Concerns continue to rise over the distribution of the COVID-19 vaccine. Gov. Whitmer and the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services announced a distribution plan for Michigan on Jan. 6. The next phase began on Jan. 11. 

In Phase 1A. of Gov. Whitmer’s plan, healthcare personnel and residents of long-term care facilities are the first to receive the vaccine. In phase 1B, people sixty-five years old and older  police, teachers, and grocery store workers will qualify for the vaccine. In phase 1C, People sixty-five years and older, people sixteen years and older with underlying medical conditions who are high risk, and people who work in food service, public safety, and public health will qualify for the vaccine. Washtenaw County is currently trying to provide vaccines for the people in Phase 1A and are slowly working to accommodate people in Phase 1B.

According to Susan Ringler-Cerniglia, the Washtenaw County Health Department’s Public Information Officer, the request for the vaccine outweighs the supply, and there is a lack of willingness to get vaccinated.

Susan Ringler-Cerniglia: We are getting close to finishing 1A, but it’s not like there’s necessarily a registry of how many people fit into that category. So we’ve done our best to estimate and reach out to ask people to fill out our surveys if they need vaccination, but what happens is we continue to hear from the providers. So it’s not a huge number but we do continue to schedule as we hear from them that fit that category.

Hornyak: Former Eastern Michigan University student, Brianna O’Dwyer, works at a daycare in Grand Rapids, Michigan. O'Dwyer stated that it was important for her to get vaccinated because she does not want to get COVID-19, especially with an occupation where she is required to work with many children.

Biranna O’Dwyer: I work with a lot of children, and I know that children are carriers of it [COVID-19] and I would hate to see me pass it to them and they pass it to their parents. Another reason is that I live with my parents, and I know that maybe I could survive it [COVID-19] but I’m not so sure about them. So I think it is important to protect people and get the vaccine.

Hornyak: EMU’s Honor College has organized the Making Your Mark Photo Contest. This particular contest is eligible for current members of the honor college, each winning participant will be awarded scholarships towards their Winter 2021 semester. The first place winner will receive $1,000, 2nd place will receive $500, and 3rd place will receive $250. The Photo Contest will be judged based on four categories: Impact, Creativity, Composition, and Storytelling. 

Alexis Schmidt is the programming Graduate Assistant for the Honor College at Eastern Michigan University.  

Alexis Schmidt: This year theme is making your mark, for every photo that get submitted we want it to follow in the lines of how making your marking. [cause} making your mark can be different from everyone. We wanted to create a opportunity and creative experiences, to go out there and let see what your doing and what your consider what is making your mark [is].

Hornyak: The official deadline for submission is Sunday, January 31st.   

A huge thank you to reporters Juliana Lumaj, Tyler Gaw, and Bianca Ramsey for this week’s stories. The Eastern Echo Podcast is written by Jasmine Boyd, produced by Ashlee Buhler and Ethan Meyers, and edited by Ronia Cabansag. Until next Wednesday, I am your host Liz Hornyak and this is the Eastern Echo Podcast.