University community pulls together to address Flint water crisis


Faculty, staff and students from all three University of Michigan campuses are coming together over the water crisis in the city of Flint to offer everything from research expertise and accurate information on the situation to water filters and bottled water.

UM-Flint Chancellor Susan Borrego and Provost Douglas Knerr are leading the coordinated university response.

“We are a campus of problem solvers,” Borrego says in a message to the university community. “We are committed to making a difference in our students’ lives and in our community.

“I want you to know that as an institution we are committed to doing whatever it takes to ensure the safety of our students, our faculty, our staff, and our campus visitors. I also want you to know that we recognize that this is far more than a campus issue. We must work to ensure the safety and well being of our community.”

Faculty members from all three campuses will gather at UM-Flint next week in a collaborative effort to “identify areas of expertise, outline strategies to meet immediate community needs and propose longer-term solutions to the systemic issues underlying this crisis.”

An invitation was sent to dozens of faculty members on the Flint, Dearborn and Ann Arbor campuses Wednesday. The invitation, from the UM-Flint provost, says, in part:

“The University of Michigan-Flint is issuing a call to action to interested faculty members from all campuses of the University of Michigan to help identify ways in which we can respond to the Flint water crisis.”

Part of that call to action is a commitment by President Mark Schlissel to provide $100,000 in seed funding for university faculty research initiatives to address the Flint water crisis.

The meeting is scheduled for 1 p.m. Jan. 29 at the UM-Flint’s Riverfront Center in downtown Flint.

UM-Flint has long been engaged in responding to the water crisis as a key member of the Flint community. All drinking water is filtered on the UM-Flint campus. The university has been testing the water monthly on campus for the past 12 months. View details.

Additionally, there are these efforts, with new initiatives being added:

• UM-Flint is offering a free, open-to-the-public course focused on the Flint water crisis. The class began Jan. 21 and continues for seven additional sessions.
View details.

• The School of Public Health this week launched a website devoted to responding to the Flint water crisis with information on experts, partnerships, research and media coverage.
View details.

• Both SPH and the Trotter Multicultural Center are collecting bottled water for distribution to Flint residents.
View details about the SPH collection.
View details about the Trotter collection.

• Water quality researchers in the College of Engineering are closely watching the unfolding situation with regards to several long-term aspects of the Flint drinking water crisis.
View details.

• Michigan News has developed a list of faculty experts on many topics surrounding the Flint water crisis.
View details.

• Michigan Radio has been focusing its environmental reporting team on the Flint water crisis.
View an archive of that reporting.



  1. Rhonda Todd
    on January 22, 2016 at 5:36 am

    Is the 1/29 meeting open to staff members?

    • Dilip Das
      on January 22, 2016 at 9:18 am

      U-M is an inclusive university – yes, you should go!

      • Rhonda Todd
        on January 24, 2016 at 4:01 pm

        Great! I am unsure if I will be able to make it. However, I am the director of MREACH and we had a discussion this weekend in regards to how we can help the Flint Crisis and the crisis happening in Detroit. MREACH is a Ross Outreach Program from 10th-12th grade students. One of our students, Dylan Hernandez, is a Flint resident and was featured on the front page of the New York Times on 1/20 for a comment he posted. He is hoping to attend as he is very passionate about the issue. Thank you for having the discussion. We have not concluded how we can help, but if there are specific ideas besides bottled water, we’d like to hear. Again, thank you.

  2. Marjorie Lynn
    on January 22, 2016 at 10:21 am

    I have copied this from our LEO Union website:
    Written by Bonnie Halloran. Posted in News
    On December 12, LEO distributed 576 cases of bottled water at the Harding-Mott University Center on the UM-Flint Campus. The water went to individual Flint residents affected by lead poisonings and community groups and institutions such as Hurley Hospital, Flint Neighborhoods United and the Community Outreach for Family and Youth partnership. Special thanks goes to John Molliasa and Matt Campbell, who recruited students and community members to help with the heavy work of lifting the cases and loading them into cars. Additional thanks goes to everyone who contributed money to support this cause. We reached a wide group of Flint community folks and established relationships with several local politicians. Thank you!

  3. Cathy D
    on January 22, 2016 at 11:11 am

    Will there be some consideration given to repeating the four-session free course on the Ann Arbor campus at a later date?

    And also perhaps to streaming the sessions and archiving them for those of us whose schedules and/or distance from Flint preclude us from attending the live class sessions?

    • suzanne selig
      on January 25, 2016 at 1:22 pm

      We have no plans to repeat the course, but it has been video recorded and should be available on our website later today. We have been invited to speak to the Lunch with Honors at the Honors College in April. Thanks. Let me know if you have questions, ok??

  4. Sabrina Gross
    on January 27, 2016 at 12:39 pm

    One year ago (January, 2015), University of Michigan Flint conducted lead testing on campus, and found high lead levels at 2 locations. Will this session be sharing the results of those tests from one year ago, and ongoing test results on campus?
    This news article discussed the results from February, 2015, but did not note who University of Michigan notified at Michigan DEQ about their results.

  5. Nancy Berta
    on January 27, 2016 at 4:40 pm

    I have two children that are students at UofM Flint…a Junior and a Senior living in the First St. residential housing. Was testing done on the water quality at that facility and have any resident students been tested for lead? I am obviously concerned about any health issues that my children may have as a result. Evidently there are water filters in use now…but I suspect that was a recent implementation after the issue surfaced. Were the students exposed prior to that and if so what were they exposed to. I am sure many parents are equally concerned and would appreciate some feedback. I think a letter or email to all parents and students with answer to these questions would be appropriate.

  6. Mary Antieau Barhydt
    on January 29, 2016 at 11:23 am

    I was born and lived for many years in Flint and now live in Virginia. I was glad to hear that UM is focusing on Flint’s water. To hear it from the Virginia press, if it were not for Virginia Tech researchers, Flint’s plight would still be unknown and the response unfocused.

    On the other hand, the article makes it sound as if UM Flint is content to focus on the campus rather than on the community in which they live. I see nothing that suggests significant political or social involvement. One appearance at the DEQ? Handing out bottled water? $100,000 for faculty research initiatives? UM’s actions since discovering the problem, seem overly academic and anemic. I can understand why the people of Flint turned to Virginia researchers. If I still lived it Flint, I would see you as part of the non-governmental response to this issue.

  7. Robert G Kelly
    on January 31, 2016 at 8:06 pm

    It strikes me the UMF administration missed an opportunity 18 months ago to seize the initiative and pull in resources from UMAA and UM Flint to fully address this major public health disaster. Sorry, but this late reactive response is not the kind we expect from the “Leaders and Best”.

  8. Mary Burton
    on February 18, 2016 at 10:24 am

    Flint has so many issues that go beyond water. The poverty there is due to a lack of jobs, a poor tax base that has decreased funds for education and infrastructure. The people who had the resources to leave have done so.
    I hope that assistance to the city will go well beyond water and provide something more permanent to help the city overall. The citizens need jobs and economic development; that will drive everything forward.

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