November 8, 2021

Welcome to this week of The University Insider. The perennial challenge of Daylight Savings Time is upon us once again. We hope you enjoyed the extra hour of sleep and are adjusting to the darker evenings.

This week, The Michigan Daily covers a day in the life of Anderson survivors protesting outside University President Mark Schlissel’s home, UMich releases a statement on School of Music, Theatre & Dance Professor Bright Sheng, and Gov. Gretchen Whitmer sits down for an interview with The Daily.

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24 hours with the Robert Anderson survivor protesters outside Schlissel’s house


Former Michigan running back Jonathan Vaughn has been camping outside President Schlissel’s South University Avenue residence for a month. Since he began, Vaughn has been joined by a contingent of survivors, allies and passersby in decrying Schlissel’s decision not to meet directly with him and other survivors.

A team of Daily reporters, photographers and videographers covered the demonstration for 24 hours straight and documented our observations: survivors flying in from out-of-state to join the protest, protesters sharing their own stories of sexual assault and the first “Hail to the Victims Karaoke Night.” Over the course of a day, our teams captured scenes at the protest site, from the grandiose speeches to the smaller, more intimate moments shared among the survivors, showing a snippet of what survivors of late Dr. Robert Anderson are experiencing as they sit through the cold, fighting for their cause.

Read the entirety of The Daily’s coverage of Anderson since the news of his sexual abuse broke in February 2020 here.

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‘U’ releases statement on SMTD Professor Bright Sheng

Bright Sheng, the composition professor who faced backlash from students for showing a 1965 version of “Othello” featuring an actor in blackface in class, will continue to teach composition lessons and have a full course load next semester. The University announced this in a statement released last Wednesday, declaring “no sanctions have been imposed on (Sheng).” Sheng stepped back from his composition course after discussion with SMTD administration on Oct. 2 after students wrote an open letter calling for his removal. The situation has since become a national controversy over academic freedom. University President Mark Schlissel released a statement Nov. 3 declaring the University’s commitment to open conversations about diversity.

“Discourse that addresses conflicts among differing viewpoints is essential to higher education,” Schlissel said. “Honest and respectful discussions of ideas ­— even those that make us uncomfortable — help us learn and grow. These are issues we must address together as an academic community committed to inquiry and greater levels of understanding.”

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer speaks with The Michigan Daily at the Union Friday morning. Madeline Hinkley/Daily. Buy this photo.

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer discusses higher education, chemical contamination and the future of Michigan with The Daily

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer visited Ann Arbor Friday to sign a bill repealing Michigan’s “tampon tax.” While in town, she sat down with The Daily to discuss her stances on numerous issues facing Michiganders.

Whitmer discussed the funding of higher education institutions in the state, lauding the University in particular for making strides toward increased affordability. Even so, she called on the University to expand on that growth. The governor also promoted the budget she signed which includes a 5% increase in higher education funding across the board.

Madeline Hinkley/Daily. Buy this photo.

Dr. A. Oveta Fuller talks FDA advisory committee’s votes on COVID-19 vaccines, vaccine hesitancy

Dr. A. Oveta Fuller, associate professor of microbiology, has been thrust into the national spotlight as a member of the Food and Drug Administration’s vaccine advisory committee. She sits down with The Daily to discuss her committee’s recent decision to approve pediatric COVID-19 vaccines and vaccine hesitancy. Fuller said she was encouraged by the increased transparency following the Pfizer vaccine’s approval for adults in December. She also said fighting the pandemic among younger children was an important consideration in her decision to vote “yes” on the recent Pfizer vaccine for children ages 5-11. 

“I voted ‘yes’ to make that available as something that parents who choose to have their children vaccinated can do,” Fuller said. “My opinion was not so much to make it mandatory but to make it accessible.”

Madeline Hinkley/Daily. Buy this photo.

UMich sees increase in COVID-19 cases after Fall Break, Halloween weekend

COVID-19 cases rose slightly following Fall Break and Halloweekend festivities. The University reported the positivity rose to 2.4% the week of Oct. 31 as it tracked 40 positive cases across two clusters. In response, the University has implemented “enhanced surveillance measures” to track cases arising from these clusters.

“As changes in weather have driven more activities indoors, it is very important to wear a face covering, make good decisions when interacting and stay home if you’re sick,” Schlissel wrote in an email to the campus community. 

Doctors and nurses administer COVID-19 vaccines at the Big House. Madeline Hinkley/Daily. Buy this photo.

Washtenaw County to begin vaccinating children ages 5-11 against COVID-19 on Nov. 9

Children aged 5-11 in Washtenaw County are now eligible for the Pfizer-BioNTech pediatric vaccines. As of yesterday morning, vaccination appointments are available on the health department’s website. Those under the age of 18 will need to be accompanied by a parent or guardian. Susan Ringler-Cerniglia, public information officer for the Washtenaw County Health Department, said vaccine supply is not limited, though the rollout may take a couple of weeks. Students who receive the vaccine by Thanksgiving will be fully vaccinated before the winter holidays.

Courtesy of Rachel Mintz.

SACUA talks COVID-19 impact statements for faculty, rules of engagement

The Senate Advisory Committee on University Affairs met Monday to discuss procedural changes and COVID-19 impact statements. Vice chair J. Caitlin Finlayson proposed setting aside a half hour for discussing items not on the committee’s agenda to avoid rushing discussions of matters faculty members deem important. 

Finalayson and other professors also examined University’s lack of COVID-19 impact statements for promotion and tenure committees. SACUA Chair Allen Liu said the provost ought to implement these statements for all promotion and tenure discussions. The committee will put the issue to the full Senate Assembly at their next meeting. Finally, SACUA continued debating the rules of engagement for its subcommittees, with a focus on confidentiality. The committee worked to refine its draft language to keep the content of subcommittee meetings private while allowing them to report back to the committee at large.

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Letter to the Editor: We should accept Professor Sheng’s apology

Former Daily editors Judy Oppenheim Olinick and Michael Olinick call on the University community to accept Bright Sheng’s apology, deriding the University’s response as “grovel(ing) at the altar of vengeful political correctness that exacerbates racial tension and freezes honest inquiry, growth and learning.” They call the incident a valuable learning opportunity, saying it offered students and administration a chance to engage with one another.

“In capitulating to students’ demands that they guarantee an impossible standard of ‘safety’ from emotional discomfort and summarily punish all accused offenders, colleges and universities across the country betray their primary obligation to genuine education,” Olinick said. “We are very sorry to see our alma mater join the cowardly throng.”

As of Monday evening, 97% of students are fully vaccinated (with <.5% partially vaccinated and <.5% exempt) along with 98% of faculty and 89% of staff, bringing the overall employee vaccination rate to 90%. Two percent of employees have received an exemption, <.5% are in progress and 7% have either rejected the vaccine or have not submitted their proof of vaccination. Bargained-for employees, including nurses at Michigan Medicine, are not covered by the vaccine mandate. In Washtenaw County, 69.9% of residents 16 and older have been fully vaccinated.

Quarantine and isolation occupancy is 16%, with 46 students isolating due to a positive test result and 0 quarantining after an exposure. All of the Q&I statistics reflect a significant jump from last week.

For the week beginning Oct. 31, the University preliminarily reported 170 positive cases from 5,519 tests, which marks a doubled positivity from last week with cases rising while testing plateaus.

The Opinion section has space in The Michigan Daily for first-person accounts of sexual misconduct and its various implications. In this series, submissions underpinned by the experience of survivors will be published, aiming to highlight their essential perspectives.

To be considered for publication, please submit pieces to Editorial Page Editors Liz Cook (elizcook@umich.edu) and Joel Weiner (jgweiner@umich.edu) by Nov. 14, 2021 at midnight. Read more about submission requirements here.  


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