The University Insider is The Daily’s first faculty and staff-oriented newsletter. This weekly newsletter will give U-M faculty and staff the ability to see the most important issues on campus and in Ann Arbor — particularly those related to administrative decisions — from the perspective of an independent news organization. It will also provide a better understanding of student perspectives.
When Ali Darwish, sophomore at University of Michigan-Dearborn, found himself in the Henry Ford Medical Center emergency room in November of his freshman year, he was frustrated by the inadequate care he received compared to the University hospitals he went to as an Ann Arbor native.
Because U-M Dearborn does not have its own on-campus health clinic comparable to U-M Ann Arbor’s University Health Service, the HFMC across the street from campus was Darwish’s only immediate option.
“They didn’t even figure out what was wrong, and it ended up stretching until 6 a.m. because no one saw me for hours,” Darwish said. “They wheeled me around in wheelchairs and left me in hallways for extended periods of time, and at the end, I still had the pain and I just left with it. I had to come back to my U-M health doctor in Ann Arbor.”
For most students at the University’s Flint and Dearborn campuses, however, finding health care is not as easy as a trip home to Ann Arbor. While the University offers free UHS care to all students at the Ann Arbor campus, U-M Flint and U-M Dearborn do not have on-campus health care clinics. Instead, they refer students to health centers in respective communities, including the HFMC and the Genesee Health System in Flint.
The U-M Flint and U-M Dearborn student bodies differ greatly from U-M Ann Arbor in terms of socioeconomic status. More than 40 percent of undergraduates at U-M Flint and U-M Dearborn are Pell Grant eligible, compared to under 20 percent at U-M Ann Arbor.
The One University Campaign (1U) launched in 2018 by a coalition of faculty and students to equip the U-M Flint and U-M Dearborn campuses with more resources. Achieving on-campus medical services in U-M Flint and U-M Dearborn is one of the campaign’s seven goals, which also include equalizing the Michigan Legislature’s per-student allocations and extending the Go Blue Guarantee to U-M Dearborn and U-M Flint campuses.
Members of 1U from all three campuses continue to put pressure on the University’s administration to address these issues. At the Dec. 5, 2019 Regents meeting, 1U organizers and students involved in the Climate Action Movement addressed the Board of Regents about perceived inadequacies in funding and healthcare coverage, among other issues. The groups ultimately blockaded the entrances to the University Golf Course in protest against the University’s actions until they were moved by police.
Tyrice Denson, a recent U-M Flint graduate and 1U organizer, said socioeconomic disparities between the campuses put U-M Flint students in a tough position when most of them work jobs to cover tuition costs and often have to choose between going to class or going to the doctor.
“That can really burden students, even if, like, they have a really bad cold and probably shouldn’t be going to class,” Denson said. “Students have to decide whether they want to take a hit on their grade, force themselves to go to class sick or go to the doctor, get that doctor’s note and now have to deal with the medical bill.”
“In Dearborn, everybody is trying to support themselves and when it comes to healthcare issues, money just gets in the way,” Darwish said. “In Ann Arbor, not only do students have easy access to on-campus healthcare, but the population is a lot more wealthy so it’s a lot easier for them to get access and probably not work a job and focus more on their education.”
Denson connected the demand for more equitable health resources to the campaign’s broader mission.
“One University as a whole is about providing more equitable resources for all University of Michigan students,” Denson said. “We are one of the most prestigious universities in the world, and there are certain things we should just provide for our students. If students in Ann Arbor are provided these resources, then students in Dearborn and Flint should be as well.”
On Jan. 31, U-M Dearborn’s student government unanimously passed a resolution supporting the 1U campaign and its platform, including a demand for student medical services. Amanda Saleh, vice president of U-M Dearborn Student Government, wrote to The Daily that students at U-M Dearborn do not have access to an exclusive medical professional or a nurse practitioner, which limits access to mental health and sexual health services like those available to students at the Ann Arbor campus.
Saleh also wrote in an email that the resolution is a step in the right direction given U-M Dearborn’s “history of being shy when it comes to demands.”
“We hope that this resolution urges the conversation within administration to look further into the need of health services for our students,” Saleh wrote. “With health care services on our campus, students will not only have access to much-needed resources, but they will be able to do so independently of their parents’ insurance, which is crucial for folks who would not be able to receive help otherwise.”
University spokeswoman Kim Broekhuizen responded to The Daily’s request for comment on 1U’s medical services with information from the University website. The University’s website says the student fees charged to each student on the Ann Arbor campus support UHS.
“It’s not clear that students at UM-Flint and UM-Dearborn experience the same level of need on their campuses to support these efforts through added fees they would incur,” Broekhuizen wrote.
Broekhuizen also highlighted differences between the campus’s student bodies. She noted that Ann Arbor is a residential educational community with nearly 100 percent of its freshmen living in campus housing, while U-M Flint and U-M Dearborn are mostly commuter campuses. Broekhuizen also wrote that given the high percentage of commuter students compared to the Ann Arbor campus, “most regional campus students already have well-established relationships with local health care providers and receive their care in that manner.”
In a November 2019 interview with The Daily, University President Mark Schlissel said the U-M Flint and U-M Dearborn campuses receive less money from the state and their students compared to the Ann Arbor campus, leading to fewer available campus-wide resources.
“I don’t think Flint and Dearborn have less funding because their students come from lower socioeconomic communities,” Schlissel said. “I think they have less funding because they get less money from the state, they collect less tuition from their students, they don’t have nearly the philanthropy Ann Arbor has and instead of being 200 years old, with hundreds of years to develop the support that and the infrastructure the University has, they’re 50 years old.”
Students on all three campuses, however, voiced concern about the lack of health resources on the U-M Flint and U-M Dearborn campuses. Darwish said many of his friends are out-of-state or international students, which means they cannot always rely on healthcare providers in the immediate area to receive care.
“Just because it’s a smaller school with a higher percent of people from the area, you can’t just generalize and exclude that other population of people that don’t have access,” Darwish said. “I couldn’t imagine being an international student and having an easy time finding health care here.”
LSA senior Tyler Ziel, a transfer student from U- M Dearborn, researched the health disparities between the campuses last summer. According to Ziel, both U-M Dearborn used to have formal referral partnerships with local healthcare providers and U-M Flint had a University-operated health clinic on campus, but both were discontinued. As a student on both the U-M Ann Arbor and U-M Dearborn campuses, Ziel reflected on the impact healthcare can have on the student body.
“Since we are a state university, our job is to provide for the local community and for students’ educations,” Ziel said. “But the students need to be able to survive and be healthy in order to actually get that education … There’s a moral duty aspect to provide for your fellow students because we’re all Wolverines.”
Sara Alqaragholy, recent graduate of U-M Dearborn and organizer of 1U, said U-M Dearborn Student Government Representatives met with Amy Finley, dean of students at U-M Dearborn, last fall to present data on the need for medical services.
“I’m very hopeful that if (the) administration thinks in numbers and we’re providing the data around our demographics and funding, and we display a need (of medical services), then they should be listening to us,” Alqaragholy said. “If so many students are in need of them, it just makes sense.”
When asked about the low usage of past healthcare partnerships, Ziel and Denson pointed to poor advertising at both U-M Flint and U-M Dearborn. Denison said most students were not aware of the partnerships and the administration should not rely on low usage rates in the past when evaluating how to best provide health services for the future.
“Regardless of what the numbers show how often something is used, it is clear to anyone that there’s a need here for Flint students,” Denison said. “The University really does have an obligation for services better than they currently are.”
Correction: This article has been updated to clairfy U-M Flint used to have a school-operated clinic.
Reporter Calder Lewis can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org