News

UMHS Donates Millions to the Community

By Mariah Pongor

 

According to a Michigan Health & Hospital Association report released on March 10th, the U-M Health System provided $362 million of hospital-based community benefits in fiscal year 2011. This is 18 percent more than they contributed the previous year.

Though this money contributes to anything from health classes to support for medical training and research, a large component is used to aid those with uncompensated care. Citizens with uncompensated care either do not have health insurance or their insurance plan does not cover the total expense of their care. The MHA report brought light to this area for improvement in the 2011 report: UMHS constituted over 10 percent of all uncompensated care at hospitals in the state of Michigan. The amount of uncompensated care absorbed by UMHS has risen by 42 percent since 2008.

Aside from dealing with uncompensated care, the remaining $165 million includes educating new medical geniuses, as well as community-oriented programs, services, and activities directly supported by UMHS.

In a press release, Doug Strong, chief executive officer of the U-M Hospitals and Health Centers, described the system’s growing commitment to the community. “As the only hospital serving patients from every county in Michigan, and one of the nation’s leading teaching hospitals and biomedical research hubs, we carry out our commitment to the community in many ways every day,” Strong said. “As our state continues to have many people with reduced or no health coverage, we have not only maintained but increased our support for programs.”

It looks like Strong wants no one left behind, and Michigan has the funding to work toward this goal. Within the next year, the Affordable Care Act will specify more Michigan residents who will become eligible for Medicaid or for tax credits that will help them purchase health insurance. UMHS claims that they are ready to provide care to these newly insured individuals while guiding uncovered citizens to enroll in support programs.

UMHS is also a major participant in the Washtenaw Health Initiative, a partner in the Washtenaw Community Health Organization, and serves participants in county-based health plans like the Washtenaw Health Plan, which enrolls low-income Washtenaw county residents who are not eligible for Medicaid, Medicare or other public programs. These programs are mainly supported through hospital donations. Among these participants are adults and children in need of mental health and substance abuse services. U-M physicians, nurses, medical students, and other clinicians continue to show their support outside of hospital walls, volunteering their time at sites such as Packard Community Clinic, Corner Health Clinic, and Hope Clinic, among others.

Last year, Michigan medical students and faculty offered a student-run free clinic in Pinckney, a small town about thirty minutes from Ann Arbor. Volunteers have also contributed to the Hope@UMHS effort, which allows hundreds of Hope Clinic patients to receive specialty care at UMHS facilities. The Regional Alliance for Healthy Schools is a partnership between UMHS and the Michigan Department of Community Health and Michigan Department of Education that funds and operates school-based health centers at seven middle and high schools in the Ann Arbor, Willow Run, and Ypsilanti public school systems. UMHS also makes efforts to support healthy eating through the Ann Arbor Meals on Wheels service and community health screenings and events for the elderly through the Housing Bureau for Seniors. U-M health system is showing its increasing efforts to help those both covered and uncovered by health care benefits within all counties of Michigan, both within UMHS walls and beyond.

UM Expands, Prompts Tax Discussion

By Mariah Pongor

The University of Michigan is physically expanding their presence deeper into Ann Arbor. On the positive side, this expansion substantiates the University’s growing prosperity. The city, however, faces a huge tax revenue deficit with every property the University acquires. The University has bought 29 properties in the past thirteen years, 27 of which are downtown. As a public institution, they are exempt from property tax.

 

The University currently owns about 8.4% of the city’s total land area and 22% of downtown, according to AnnArbor.com. The school’s Ann Arbor properties are worth $5.1 billion, but the city’s tax base is closer to $4.68 billion. In fiscal 2011-12, the Michigan Department of Treasury collected $76.5 million in property taxes. Forty percent of the city’s land is non-taxable.

 

Timothy Slottow, U-M Chief Financial Officer, told AnnArbor.com that on the rare occurrence that they do purchase property, “it is for a very specific mission-drive purpose or it is very strategically located.” Namely, near the law school.

 

The city faces a bit of a catch-22: the expansion helps businesses and allows them to hire more employees (because students increase consumer demand at neighboring stores and restaurants), but they fear that a loss of tax returns might be harmful in the long run. City council member Sabra Briere, D-1 Ward, told AnnArbor.com, “The truth is we want people there, but is the boost to the businesses across the street significant enough to offset that [loss in revenue]?”

 

U-M Regent Andrea Fischer Newman added, “As the university grows, so do the businesses, so does the housing market, so does Ann Arbor. One is good for the other.” Ann Arbor thrives off the student population, and the students reap innumerable benefits from the city as well. The University has roughly 41,700 full-time employees in Ann Arbor. The student presence was especially substantial to the economy during the economic downturn: Ann Arbor only lost 4.4% of its taxable value while other local cities lost an average of 23%.

 

City council member Stephen Kunselman, D-3 Ward, worries about the long-term and proposes that the University use their finances to build up rather than build out. He worries that though Ann Arbor is considered a college town, the University will completely engulf the city. “It’s going to be the city of the University of Michigan,” Kunselman told AnnArbor.com. Michigan could also perhaps model after other tax-exempt universities, such as Brown, Harvard, and Boston University, who all offer the city voluntary annual payments.

 

Ann Arbor Might Restrict Unlicensed Taxis After Reported Rape

By Mariah Pongor

 

Every student at Michigan is familiar with the U-M Department of Public Safety Urgent Crime Reports. These emails are appearing in students’ inboxes with startling frequency.

 

Campus safety has become a growing concern among students and parents. Last Sunday, a University of Michigan student reported being raped by a cab driver after getting into a car alone at 2 a.m. on South University. She was allegedly driven to a parking lot on East Madison, near Packard Street. Shortly after, she was treated at the University of Michigan Hospital’s ER.

 

This offense is being investigated as third-degree criminal sexual conduct. Police are investigating if this limo was impersonating a taxicab by using “top lights” and whether it was licensed as a taxi by the city of Ann Arbor or as a limo by the state.

 

The city is trying to crack down on these unlicensed cabs to better ensure student safety. Stephen Kunselman, City Council Member and representing chairman of the city’s Taxicab Board, said on Monday night, “It’s imperative that our city police department start showing some enforcement of our taxicab ordinance and start pulling over limos with top lights that are basically impersonating taxicabs.” Some prevailing laws, however, are ambiguous and therefore provide roadblocks to enforcing taxi impersonation via “top lights.”

 

For now, Kunselman says that they are working under local ordinance to ticket any impersonated taxi unlicensed by the city. However, Ann Arbor licenses over 100 taxis and 200 taxi drivers, and many companies can impersonate cabs based on the Limousine Transportation Act. This act has allowed companies with fifteen seats or fewer, such as Michigan Green Cab and Yellow Car, to become licensed through the Michigan Department of Transportation, when in reality they are using top lights to look like taxis and are not actually licensed through the state.

 

These companies, according to Kunselman, are “trying to beat the system.” Alex Persu, the director of call center operations for Yellow Car, sees the problem as lying with the “scabs”, slang for out-of-town cabs, usually from Detroit, that pervade Ann Arbor on busy nights. Persu says that “scabs” will often be unmarked but have “top lights” which, unfortunately, indicate legitimacy to students.

 

Some benefits of getting a state rather than a local registration is the company’s flexibility to increase fare rates and reduce their insurance. Kunselman, said that the city wants these taxis to be licensed and on record with them. He said, “the importance of a well-regulated taxi fleet is that we as a community know who the drivers are and that we’re not getting into the car with a stranger… without that, we don’t know who these drivers are. We don’t know who these strangers are coming into our community, and I think it’s time that we do something about it.”

 

The issue is two-fold: “scabs” that use “top lights” to feign legitimacy as well as these taxi companies bypassing the city ordinance laws and seeking state registration. Recent reports, especially the alleged rape last Sunday, have shed light on the necessity of toughening and reinforcing these city laws and restoring safety to Ann Arbor community. The Council is taking steps to ensure student safety when hailing cabs near campus.

University Releases Sustainability Progress Report

By: Mariah Pongor

ANN ARBOR — The University of Michigan is once again upholding their vision to be “the leaders and the best” – this time in the realm of sustainability. Since 2003, funding for sustainability research at the University has increased by 200 percent, according to a new report. The 2012 Sustainability Progress Report shows the University’s efforts to tackle some of the world’s toughest sustainability challenges, such as ensuring safe, sustainable food and water sources and understanding brain processes that motivate humans to consume more food than our bodies really need.

President Mary Sue Coleman stated that she wants to address climate action, waste prevention, healthy environments, and community awareness by 2025. This enormous increase in funding is aimed at helping the Michigan community come one step closer to attaining Coleman’s ambitious goals.

According to the report, the funding increase has contributed to sustainability education as well as research and operations. Coleman feels that Michigan’s curriculum needs to integrate environment and business ventures in order to begin tackling these domino issues. The Michigan Planet Blue Progress Report website uses videos, animation and data to highlight their goals and progress.

Don Scavia, the special counselor to the University’s president on sustainability and the director of the Graham Sustainability Institute, told the Michigan News Service that he hopes the website will not only share their progress, but also spark conversation about sustainability policy and the individual action required to help alleviate the escalating effects.

Some milestones in the report include:
• The reduction of carbon emissions from Michigan’s vehicle fleet, which includes hybrid and biodiesel fuel buses
• The reduction of chemical applications through sustainable landscape management practices
• An increase in production and availability of more sustainable foods

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The website also indicates areas for improvement: U of M’s total volume of solid waste, for example, has risen slightly since last year. Coleman notes that the University’s efforts will have an effect both locally and globally. According to the report, she feels that the Michigan’s identity as a top university obligates the school to revive Michigan’s Great Lakes and forests and protect the Earth’s vital systems. U of M has channeled its research specifically toward livable communities and climate change, which includes “partnering with stakeholders throughout the world on planning sustainable developments, providing safe drinking water, developing smart cars that talk to each other and to traffic lights to prevent accidents, and designing smart buildings that monitor and adjust their own heating, cooling and lighting to match the behavior of their occupants.”

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The University wants to establish leaders for the future to continue this research, and therefore some of the funding went toward starting the Dow Sustainability Fellows Program, as well as hiring professors to teach undergraduate classes that comprise a new minor in sustainability. As Scavia addresses, “we have the unique capability to leverage our strengths in teaching and research to confront the complexity of building a sustainable world.” The University of Michigan will continue to tackle these challenges through education, research, and action, with the goal of uniting others in its passionate cause through their progress report.

To view the report, please visit: http://sustainability.umich.edu.

Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke visits Campus

Another great Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy lecture series took place Monday with Ben Bernanke, chairman of the Federal Reserve. Speaking to hundreds of students, faculty and administration officials (including President Mary Sue Coleman) at Rackham Auditorium, Chairman Bernanke gave us insights into the financial state of the country. Susan Collins, dean of the Ford School acted as the moderator to a lively and interesting talk.

The oft-confusing and much discussed fiscal cliff was top priority for the Chairman. The chairman said, “we’re in a fragile state of recovery. We would never want the country to be put back into a recession like that of 2008.” However, with the recent passing of legislation avoiding the fiscal cliff, the chairman noted, “we are not out of the woods yet.”

Clarifications were made as to why the country needs a debt ceiling. Chairman Bernanke noted that without it, there is no allotted time for the country to pay its bills. By not raising the debt ceiling, the country does not necessarily spend more, it only buys more time to pay off its heavy debt. IF the debt ceiling did not exist, the Chairman compared it to a family household that “was trying to improve its credit rating by not paying its credit card bills.

He emphasized that the Fed has been doing everything that is necessary to help the economy become as strong as it once was. The Chairman touted how the Fed has kept inflation lower than two percent and that we have seen a decline of about another two percent in labor market unemployment. He agrees that there is always room for improvement noting that short term interest rates have been brought down to almost historically low proportions near zero percent and long term interest rates are also down significantly. The housing crisis is now almost out of the water and we have seen rates recover in the housing sector to somewhat controlled levels. The chairman wanted to stress that, “there is no new method that we have not tapped.”

As far as reflecting on the past recession, the Chairman did not anticipate it as being this severe; however modest improvements count.

After speaking for about an hour, the Chairman answered questions from audience members via notecards and twitter with the hashtag #fordschoolbernanke.

Heavy security was present throughout the auditorium due to such a high profile speaker, however the Chairman was in good spirits and cracked jokes to the audience about his perfectly coiffed silver beard.

Attendees were pleased with the talk and lauded the University for bringing such dignitaries to campus.

Andrew Craft reporting for WOLV-TV in Ann Arbor

UMich Goes Google in October

By: Kari Rea

The University of Michigan has officially gone Google – and the transformation is almost complete. Students and faculty began the switch to Google Apps for Education in March and the traditional Maize and Blue mail servers will be turned off in the coming weeks. .
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“What’s happening on October first is we’re going to change mail routing. So anything sent to a student’s uniqname@umich email address will get sent to their M+Google account, instead of their current Maize and Blue account on webmail,” said Ryan Vis, the Communications, Training, and Support Lead for the M+Google project. . 

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According to the M+Google team, nearly 30,000 students and faculty have migrated their data since the project’s launch. However, nearly 24,000 users haven’t made the switch yet and risk losing their data on October first. “Some of that data will be going away, so we want them to migrate their data if they want to keep it. We can copy that data to Google,” explained Vis.

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M+Google is part of the NextGen Collaboration Project, which aims to encourage collaborative learning among students by equipping them with over forty Google applications and services. And the project’s goals reach beyond just Ann Arbor. “We’re giving a platform to campus to build on,” Vis said. “We really want to see how not just Ann Arbor, but all three campuses can build on that platform and leverage basically what we have for every single individual here – employee, student, or staff.”
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M+Google project members also say that Google is more than just Mail and Calendar. Students familiar with Google Docs will notice a change in the coming weeks as the Drive application is rolled out. According to Vis, “Google Drive will allow people to access all of their files no matter where they are. Either you’re on the browser, you’re on your computer, or if you’re on your smart phone, all of those files will be available.”
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Some students and faculty who migrated their data during the summer months expressed concerns for the compatibility between Apple Mail and their UMich email account. Project leaders say they have worked with Apple to correct the issue, and students experiencing compatibility problems can fix them by simply removing and re-adding their Michigan email account to Apple Mail. However, Vis says it’s still best to use a browser.
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“We want to encourage people to use the browser because that is where Google’s development efforts are focused. And a lot of the features you want in Google Mail are only available in the browser,” noted Vis.
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For questions about Google services or help with self-migration, students can call 4HELP, visit a campus computing site, talk to a PASS (Peer Academic Success Specialist) if living in a residence hall, or visit an ITS support center on campus.

Students can also stop by the M+Google “Migration Station” outside the Computer Showcase in the Union this Thursday, September 27th, from 10 am – 4 pm. M+Google team members will be on site to answer questions and help students migrate their data.
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For more information, visit google.umich.edu.
UPDATE: The university has extended the self-migration period because of concerns raised about accessibility issues with Google. The new deadline has yet to be determined, but the M+Google team still encourages all students and staff to migrate their data as soon as possible. Click here for more information on the extension.

CSG Election Results Remain Uncertified

The Central Student Government elections continued into their thirteenth day today, with the Presidential and Vice Presidential election results still uncertified. The University Elections Commission held a hearing on Monday night, during which they voted to remand an appeal of a hearing against President-elect Manish Parikh. Parikh and his vice president, Omar Hashwi, won the student vote during the March 21-22 elections, but the results remain unconfirmed due to multiple hearings and deliberations.

The University Election Commission and Central Student Judiciary continue to meet regarding claims of alleged campaign violations. It is unclear when the election results will be confirmed, however, CSG Election Director Peter Borock told WOLV-TV that they hope to certify the executive slate within the next week. He added that it is “vitally important to make sure that every party has a chance to be fully heard on all claims.”

This historic election may encourage representatives to reform election rules in order to avoid delays in the future. President-elect Manish Parikh told WOLV-TV that in order to ensure that future elections are certified more quickly, “CSG is currently deliberating on completely striking and modifying the election code in its entirety.”

Parikh also noted that “No matter who you voted for, no matter whether you voted at all, no matter what your major is or why you are at this University, as long as you have an M Card in your pocket, your Student Government loves you all equally, and will fight for you, will treat you as their only boss, and will ultimately return this Student Government back to the students.”

For more information on the Central Student Government, visit https://csg.umich.edu/.

COMING NEXT WEEK: Wake Up with WOLV hosts an exclusive CSG election special!

In less than two weeks, students throughout University of Michigan will submit an online ballot to determine who will represent the leaders and best as the President of the Central Student Government next year. Each year, the candidates campaign. They debate. They work to make their platform known, so that students can make an informed vote. Yet, some students report that they feel uninformed about who exactly the candidates are. Many either vote for their friends, or choose to support a party that generally aligns with their views. We at WOLV-TV want to fight that stigma; we want all students to log on to the election website on March 21st with a clear idea of exactly who they want to see lead us in the 2012-2013 school year. We want you to make an informed decision.

On Friday, March 16th, Wake Up with WOLV will be airing their first-ever “Meet the Candidates” special. All of the CSG Presidential candidates are invited to present their platform live as our anchors, Lauren Blanchard and Hadas Brown, relay the questions that you want to ask. These interviews will allow you to see the candidates in a candid format, and hear what they plan to do if elected.

WE WANT TO HEAR FROM YOU! Send us your questions at wolv.wuww@umich.edu. We will ask the candidates as many questions as we can, so that students can get all the information they need to feel confident in their vote. Be sure to tune in to channel 55 in the residence halls Friday at 11 AM, and if you do not have access to a dorm television at that time, you can also watch it online once it is posted on our website.

For all updates related to the election special and Wake Up with WOLV in general, follow us on twitter: @wolvtv_wuww.

Federal Charges against Former U of M Hospital Medical Resident in Ongoing Child Pornography Case

The ongoing case of the child pornography-found on a thumb drive in a lounge of the Pediatric Emergency Department of the University of Michigan hospital-has now received federal charges, and went through the Board of Regents on Thursday, February 16th.  Former medical resident Stephen Jenson has been charged with the possession of the files, found last May but not reported until this December.

According to The Detroit Free Press online, the Board of Regents ruled to allow the University to launch an external investigation, taking away control of the case from President Mary Sue Coleman and her administration.  Originally found and reported in May, investigation was not brought back to light until November-six months later-when, after the alleged child abuse at Penn State University, investigation of the case was reopened.

Jenson was released from court on Thursday by U.S. Magistrate Judge Steven Whalen on several conditions including not contacting minors or victims, not using the computer to search for employment, and not leaving Eastern Michigan except for a trip to Utah to settle his recently deceased father’s estate.

Jenson has previously been charged with four counts of possession of child pornography, and is scheduled to reappear in court on March 8.

 

eX-FLU To Begin A Study On The Spread Of Influenza Here at Umich

Modern medicine has come far, and there are a lot of things that can be cured or at least prevented.  The eX-FLU Study here at the University of Michigan is looking at non pharmaceutical ways to prevent the spread of one of the more frustrating diseases, seasonal influenza.