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Wayne State University Community Joins Hands to Partner with the People of Flint

May 11, 2016

Wayne State University students sort donations of food, pet supplies, household goods and beverages while volunteering at the Food Bank of Eastern Michigan in Flint on Friday, February 19.

As the challenges the citizens of Flint face with their municipal water system not only continue but worsen, schools, colleges, departments, programs, and student organizations from across the University have collaborated to work alongside the Flint community both on and off campus.

As Michigan’s only public, urban research university, Wayne State’s efforts are varied and reflect the University’s broad resources and longstanding commitment to serving the public. Wayne State University has formed a new alliance that will research an association between corrosive contamination in Flint’s municipal water system and a surge in Legionnaire’s disease cases in the region. The Flint Area Community Health and Environment Partnership, led by WSU health and environment engineering specialists began the first phase of the investigation by engaging the community to set up enhanced disease and environmental surveillance in Flint and Genesee County. Leading the project for Wayne State is environmental and civil engineering professor Shawn McElmurry and epidemiological investigator Paul Kilgore, M.P.H., M.D., from the Eugene Applebaum College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences.

Additionally, Wayne Law Associate Professor Noah Hall was appointed a special assistant attorney general for Michigan to join the Special Counsel team for the Flint water investigation. He will be part of the team investigating whether any Michigan laws were violated in the process that created the public health crisis.

WSU’s campus has also hosted multiple panel discussions to explore the various facets of the Flint water crisis. Attorneys working on class-action lawsuits discussed current efforts in the Flint water crisis Thursday, Feb. 4, as part of the Wayne Law Alumni Speaker Series. On February 11, an interdisciplinary panel of WSU professors hosted a "Panel Discussion on the Flint Water Crisis - Context, Concerns, and Lessons Learned." Topics covered included: provision of public amenities, urban planning in cities with declining tax-bases and populations; coordination between governmental entities and private agencies; problems with crumbling infrastructure; questions about environmental justice; addressing public health needs and, improving medical, nutritional, and educational opportunities for underserved children.

Numerous entities from across campus held water and basic needs drives:

  • The Maggie Allesee Department of Theatre and Dance partnered with Triumph Church in Flint and has collected over 125 cases of water.
  • Wayne Law's Homeless Not Helpless student organization held a water drive for homeless people in Flint and raised funds which were matched by two local Detroit partners – the Greater Detroit Coalition and the Horatio Williams Foundation. In total, the three organizations sent 600 cases of water to Section 8 Housing projects in Flint.
  • The MU Omicron Pi Chapter of Kappa Psi Pharmaceutical Fraternity at Wayne State University donated more than 700 cases of bottled water.
  • The Wayne State University Student Veterans Organization collected and donated 115 cases of bottled water.
  • TechTown raised the funds to purchase and deliver 585 cases of water to the Food Bank of Eastern Michigan.
  • Additional water and basic needs drives were held by the WSU Extension Centers located throughout metro-Detroit, the Black Student Union, Student African American Brotherhood, Office of Federal Trio, the Office of Multicultural Student Engagement, Students for Justice in Palestine, Black Lives Matter: Detroit, the Muslim Students’ Association: Wayne State, and the Wayne State University Police Department.

For over 15 years, WSU’s Center for Urban Studies has been deeply committed to child lead poisoning reduction, advocating for and monitoring the progress of efforts to prevent and eliminate lead poisoning and other environmental health problems.  In response to the current crisis, the Center has engaged the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), Genesee County Health Department, and the City Administrator’s Office in Flint to discuss relaunching the Flint Green and Healthy Homes Initiative, a local public-private coalition to leverage resources, including lead abatement funding, to create healthy and safe homes for children and families in Flint. The Center has also partnered with the Detroit Police Department to collect and donate bottled water.

In addition to the vast amount of work being done on campus, the Wayne State University Dean of Students Office has organized “Fridays for Flint,” a weekly trip for WSU students to volunteer in the city of Flint. DOSO has coordinated shuttle transportation and worked with the Food Bank of Eastern Michigan to plug WSU volunteers in where they are most needed. WSU volunteers have worked with Food Bank staff to repair damaged packaging of donated goods and sort products for food pantries.

Wayne State University will not only continue to assist with the current water situation in Flint but will continue its long-term commitment to solving problems faced by urban communities.




Division of Government and Community Affairs
4092 Faculty Administration Building, 656 W. Kirby • Detroit, MI 48202
Tel: (313) 577-5284