CNS Budget – Feb. 9, 2018

Feb. 9, 2018 – Week 4

To: CNS Editors

From: Eric Freedman & Perry Parks

http://news.jrn.msu.edu/capitalnewsservice/

For technical problems, contact CNS technical manager Tony Cepak at (517) 803-6841; cepak@msu.edu.

For other matters, contact CNS Director Eric Freedman at (517) 355-4729 or (517-256-3873); freedma5@msu.edu.

Here’s your file:

UNEMPLOYMENT: Unemployment rates in Northern Michigan are generally higher than elsewhere in the state, the latest jobless figures show. Mackinac County had the highest rate in December, followed by Cheboygan, Montmorency, Alger and Schoolcraft counties. We talk to the state director of USDA Rural Development (a former legislator from Traverse City), the Department of Technology, Management and Budget and Northwest Michigan Works!, which serves 10 counties. By Haley Gable. FOR ST. IGNACE, CHEBOYGAN, GRAND RAPIDS BUSINESS, MONTMORENCY, TRAVERSE CITY, MANISTEE, CADILLAC, SAULT STE. MARIE, MARQUETTE, BAY MILLS, ALCONA, BENZIE, PETOSKEY, HARBOR SPRINGS AND ALL POINTS.

w/UNEMPLOYMENTTABLE: 10 counties with the highest unemployment rates. Source: Department of Technology, Management and Budget.

 

WORKFORWELFARE: Michigan’s economy, on a slow upswing since the Great Recession, has recovered enough so that the state is reinstating stricter work requirements for recipients of federal food assistance. The waiver of a three-month limit on some benefits for unemployed persons is being phased out. Some lawmakers, including ones from Bainbridge Township, Hudsonville, Mancelona and Park Township, want more restrictions on public assistance benefits. We talk to the Department of Health and Human Services, Michigan League for Public Policy and the the Mackinac Center for Public Policy in Midland. By Maxwell Evans. FOR STURGIS, THREE RIVERS, MONTMORENCY, HOLLAND, TRAVERSE CITY, PETOSKEY, CHEBOYGAN, LANSING CITY PULSE, GRAND RAPIDS BUSINESS AND ALL POINTS

 

DESTINATIONSURVEY: Early results of surveys of summer and fall 2017 college graduates show that about 90 percent of those from Western, Central, Northern and Wayne State have found jobs or are continuing their higher education. The other 11 public universities are expected to report their results in the next few months. Institutions use the “first destination surveys” for recruitment, among other purposes. By Agnes Bao. FOR MARQUETTE, SAULT STE. MARIE, BIG RAPIDS, GRAND RAPIDS BUSINESS, LANSING CITY PULSE, HOLLAND AND ALL POINTS.

 

Can pair with…

 

COLLEGEGRADS: Why are fewer Michigan high school grads going on to higher education? The proportion of grads who continue beyond high school is dropping. We hear from the state Education Department and the Michigan Association of State Universities. By Colton Wood. FOR ALL POINTS.

 

DAIRY: Dairy farmers who produce Michigan’s top agricultural commodity — milk — are still being slammed by low prices and overproduction. The U.S. Senate is moving on a measure sponsored by U.S. Sen. Debbie Stabenow to help alleviate the problem. Allegan, Ionia, Missaukee, Ottawa, Newaygo and Lenawee are among the 12 counties with the most milk cows. We hear from farmers in Scottville and Gladwin, the Farm Bureau, National Farmers Union and United Dairy Industry of Michigan. For news and agriculture sections. By Gloria Nzeka. FOR BLISSFIELD, IONIA, BIG RAPIDS, HOLLAND, CADILLAC, GRAND RAPIDS BUSINESS JOURNAL, GLADWIN, LUDINGTON AND ALL POINTS.

w/DAIRYTABLE: 12 counties with the most milk cows. Source: U.S. Department of Agriculture.

 

ATTACKADS: Candidates and their surrogates and alter egos are taking off the gloves early and launching negative ads against their rivals this year, including some in the U.S. Senate and gubernatorial contests. A Central Michigan University political scientist and the Michigan Campaign Finance Network tell us why. By Maxwell Evans. FOR LANSING CITY PULSE AND ALL POINTS.

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ADJUNCTFACULTY:  Part-time (adjunct) instructors and non-tenure stream full-timers are teaching a significant number of courses at Michigan’s public universities and community colleges, accounting for 70 percent or more of the faculty at some institutions. That raises questions about job security, courseloads and educational quality.  Story mentions Montcalm, Grand Rapid, Lansing, Gogebic, Kirtland, North Central, Mid-Michigan, Southwestern Michigan community colleges and Northern Michigan, Ferris State and Saginaw Valley State university. The Michigan Association of State Universities, Lecturers’ Employee Organization and Michigan Community College Association discuss. By Crystal Chen. FOR GREENVILLE, IONIA, ALCONA, MARQUETTE, BAY MILLS, GRAND RAPIDS BUSINESS, PETOSKEY, BIG RAPIDS, MONTMORENCY, HARBOR SPRINGS, LANSING CITY PULSE AND ALL POINTS.

w/ADJUNCTFACULTYTABLE: percentage of adjunct faculty at Michigan’s 15 state universities.

 

BLOCKCHAIN: Whether you invest in Bitcoin or not, the technology behind it will affect your quality of life soon. Michigan manufacturers are using “blockchain” processes to better track and secure products and transactions. Blockchain, or “distributed ledger” technology, records transactions and other data in a permanent, unchangeable “chain” that’s instantly updated for everyone using the chain. Retailers like Wal-Mart are using it to improve food supply chains, and entrepreneurs are making money by building and supporting blockchain processes. We talk to the Michigan Manufacturers Association, an MSU expert and the head of a blockchain “mining” company in suburban Grand Rapids. By Riley Murdock. FOR GRAND RAPIDS BUSINESS AND ALL POINTS.

 

FUNGI&CHEERIOS: Researchers, including ones from Grand Valley State University, Oklahoma and Texas are hunting for a substance to cure pediatric cancer, drawing chemicals found in fungi deep in the Great Lakes. Samples came from lakes Michigan, Huron and Superior. The fungi spores grow well in the lab on Cheerios. By Jack Nissen. FOR HOLLAND, OCEANA, LUDINGTON, GREENVILLE, MANISTEE, TRAVERSE CITY, PETOSKEY, HARBOR SPRINGS, LEELANAU, ALCONA, CHEBOYGAN, SAULT STE. MARIE, MARQUETTE, ST. IGNACE, BENZIE, BAY MILLS AND ALL POINTS.

w/FUNGI&CHEERIOSPHOTO: A Ponar dredge collects sediment from lake bottoms. Credit: Mark Luttenton.

 

SALMON&TROUTDIETS: Scientists may have settled a debate between anglers and fishery managers over the future of the lake trout in the Great Lakes. With salmon hauls declining as their favorite food, alewife, dwindles, anglers are anxious to prioritize their protection even over recently resurgent native populations like lake trout. A new study shows lake trout eating whatever’s available, meaning they don’t always directly compete for food with species like the Chinook salmon. We talk to the researchers, including one from DNR, and the Great Lakes Fishery Commission. By Steven Maier. FOR LUDINGTON, MANISTEE, OCEANA, BENZIE, TRAVERSE CITY, HARBOR SPRINGS, ALCONA, PETOSKEY, LEELANAU, CHEBOYGAN, ST. IGNACE, BAY MILLS, SAULT STE. MARIE, MARQUETTE AND ALL POINTS.

w/SALMON&TROUTDIETSPHOTO: Lake trout. Credit: U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service.

Farmers confront too much milk, low prices

By GLORIA NZEKA
Capital News Service

LANSING — Michigan’s top commodity, milk, has suffered a series of economic blows since 2014.

When dairy cows produced about 9.6 billion pounds of milk in 2014, prices in the state began to drop, leaving farmers scrambling to sustain their businesses.

Michigan farmers produce 4.9 percent of the milk in the United States and are ranked 7th in production in the nation. However, over the last three years, dairy farmers have produced more milk than the market could process.

“The current supply of milk in Michigan is abundant but the processing capability hasn’t kept with this increase in supply. “says Burke Larsen of Larsen Farms in Scottville.

As a result, some farmers go out of business, use up their financial reserves or sell their herds says Zachary Clark, director of government relations at the National Farmers Union in Washington, D.C.

Ernie Birchmeier, a Michigan Farm Bureau livestock specialist, said that “dairy production is up because Michigan has the best dairy farm managers. In the last decade, we have added lots of cows to the herds.”

Clark said economic challenges in agriculture are affecting more than just dairy farmers. “Commodity prices across the board have been bad over the years. The prices of wheat, corn, soybeans and grain sorghum have been going down.”

Generally, when one crop or type of livestock is not doing well financially, farmers often use yields from other commodities that are doing well to balance their budgets. But when prices are bad across the board, it becomes difficult to offset low prices, Clark said.

For Michigan dairy farmers, the past few years have been challenging. To help address the problem of overproduction, dairy products are exported to other states.

But that comes with its own challenges.

Larsen said, “Sometimes milk has to be shipped to Florida because of the deficit Florida experiences due to heat. However, this increases transportation costs.”

And Clark said, “There is need for consolidation in the dairy industry.  We need to see recognition out of federal programs, a fair pricing system through federal orders, an assistance program for farmers during uncertain economic times and supply management.”

To help address that challenge, U.S. Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-Lansing,proposed a new farm bill which received bipartisan support in the Senate. She’s the top Democrat on the Senate Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry Committee.

The state’s dairy industry supports 40,000 jobs and contributes more than $15 billion to the economy. according to Stabenow.

The new farm bill proposes several risk management and insurance tools intended to protect farmers from market uncertainties.

The Farm Bureau’s Birchmeier said the Senate action is a vital step towards the assistance needed by the state’s struggling dairy industry.

However, he said the legislation would not solve the problem of overproduction.

“The risk management tools proposed in the Senate allow farmers to protect a margin between prices and the cost of production. It’s not a fix and will not make farmers profitable,” Birchmeier said.

Mark Iciek, a board member of the Michigan Milk Producers Association from Gladwin, said,  “There’s a long-term solution which is adding processing capacity. Several organizations are working to increase milk processing capacity but this is something that will take several years.

“At the moment, there is no short-term fix to this problem,” Iciek said.

Birchmeier said that to solve the problem of overproduction, people need to consume more dairy goods, adding that prices are reasonable and dairy is great source of protein.

“Milk contains nine nutrients that people need,” said Janice Jackson of the United Dairy Industry of Michigan, which promotes dairy products to the public.

A 2015 Dietary Guidelines for Americans report showed that there are four nutrients that Americans don’t consume enough.  Three of those nutrients – calcium, vitamin D and potassium – are found in milk.

“Consuming milk has also been associated with reducing the risk of cardiovascular diseases, hypertension and type two diabetes in adults,” said Jackson.

Besides encouraging consumption, Larsen said trade plays a role in handling excess production.

“We need to push dairy products. Globally we are doing all right, domestically we need to improve.”

And Birchmeier said, “We need to increase trade worldwide and cut production in order to bring it in line with demand.”

Michigan manufacturers explore potential of blockchain tech beyond Bitcoin

By RILEY MURDOCK
Capital News Service

LANSING — Cryptocurrency markets might remain volatile, but the technology behind the likes of Bitcoin – “blockchain” – is being looked at as a game-changer for potential uses in many fields.

Blockchain, or “distributed ledger” technology, records transactions and other data in a permanent, unchangeable “chain” that is instantly updated for everyone using the chain. That makes transactions easier to track and more secure from malicious attempts to change them.

A popular analogy, according to Governing.com, is to “think Google Docs, except that all changes are encrypted in a way that they can’t be changed or deleted.”

Chuck Hadden, president of the Michigan Manufacturers Association, said he’s been talking to member food manufacturers about companies like WalMart using blockchain to ensure food safety in their supply chain.

In August, Wal-Mart joined companies such as Dole and Kroger in a partnership with IBM to improve traceability and maintain secure digital records using blockchains, according to Fortune.com.

“If they get a bad basket of lettuce, let’s say, they’ve gotta track it all the way back to where it came from, and that takes a couple of days,” Hadden said. “If you blockchain it, it takes you like an hour. They can pull off specifically this carton of lettuce that came from this row, or they can start testing all the ones that were in that row.”

Digital security is another way blockchain can improve supply chains.

Steven Melnyk, a supply chain management professor at Michigan State University and global innovation chair in supply chain management at University of Newcastle, Australia, said blockchain can be part of the solution to a major cybersecurity problem.

According to Melnyk, cybersecurity aims to address three threats: theft of intellectual property; corruption of information technology, such as changing numbers in a company’s supply chain; and sabotaging equipment.

Blockchain, he said, is perfect for protecting the integrity of data, therefore combatting the second threat.

“If someone tries to change a schedule, there’s gonna be other copies of it,” Melnyk said.

He used a simple example: Blockchain prevents someone from changing a $500 check to a $10,000 check.

Melnyk described an American company  targeted by Chinese hackers. After penetrating the company’s computers and collecting information for two months, the hackers randomly changed order quantities and due dates in the company’s production schedule, causing it to botch several orders.

This is the kind of attack blockchain can prevent, Melnyk said.

“If you invest in blockchain, you’re investing in part of the solution,” Melnyk said.

However, blockchain cannot protect companies from intellectual property theft or the sabotage of equipment, Melnyk said.

According to Melnyk, cybersecurity is a two-part solution. One part is technology. The other is knowing how to use it, and by extension, convincing businesses that cybersecurity is necessary.

“I can have the best technology in the world, but if the person I’m trying to get to use it doesn’t understand why it should be used, guess what’s gonna happen? It’s gonna be ignored,” Melnyk said.

“The problems facing us are really far more complex than getting another solution. I think the worst thing we can do in cybersecurity is to convince people there’s a magic bullet,” he said.

That’s why Melnyk has introduced cybersecurity and blockchain into his classes at MSU.

“By the time we have a generation of managers, they’re going out there and they’re aware of the issues instead of us trying to teach them once they’re in the field,” Melnyk said.

Working to maintain blockchains is also a profitable venture.

For example, Ensource Capital LLC is a Wyoming, Michigan, company focused on Ethereum, Bitcoin’s main cryptocurrency competitor. By using a large number of computer servers, Ensource Capital verifies transactions and records for a blockchain. The verification work is then rewarded with cryptocurrency, in a process known as “mining.”

“The Ethereum network pays us to build their infrastructure — that’s how the mining works,” David Warner, its chief operating officer, said.

“We’re essentially providing their network infrastructure, so as a reward for doing that, you get the Ethereum tokens, which then get deposited to the investors’ accounts through our ‘smart contracts.'”

Ensource’s ‘smart contracts’ represent another side of its business.

The company’s main focus is expanding its Ethereum mining, for which it recently reached a $4 million private equity deal to build the largest mining facility in Michigan, Warner said.

The company also contracts out blockchain-based development projects, using the Ethereum network for applications such as automatically paying dividends to its investors.

“We’re utilizing the technology we’re building the infrastructure from,” Warner said. “If you’re a 10 percent owner, every week it will distribute (Ethereum) to your wallet automatically on a public ledger. If anything’s ever changed, everybody would know it was changed, so it creates a huge level of transparency with investors.”

Warner said blockchain has many potential applications in manufacturing, particularly to  trace supply chains.

He mentioned a test conducted by Wal-Mart in which a blockchain structure reduced its food recall process from 48 employees and two weeks to one employee in seconds.

“One guy, one second, clicked a button and knew where everything came from and where it went,” Warner said. “Traceability, on the manufacturing side, is massive.”

This could be just the beginning for blockchain technology. Warner said he recently discussed it  with U.S. Rep. Bill Huizenga, R-Zeeland, and other Michigan politicians.

“They’re all very well in the know and they’re very excited,” Warner said.

Attack Ads Info Box

Excerpts from recent Michigan political attack ads

“In crunch time, Brian Calley fumbled. We need a strong leader.” – Republican gubernatorial candidate Bill Schuette, against Lt. Gov. Brian Calley

“You can buy a Super Bowl ad. You can buy consultants to tell you the right political positions. You can even tell people you’re Detroit Tough. But in Michigan, we know tough when we see it.” — Republican U.S. Senate candidate John James, against Sandy Pensler

“Senator Stabenow votes with [U.S. Sen. Elizabeth] Warren 93 percent of the time … Tell Senator Stabenow ‘no to government health care!’” — National Republican Senatorial Committee, against Democratic U.S. Sen. Debbie Stabenow

 

Statewide campaigns are going negative in recent ads

By MAXWELL EVANS
Capital News Service

LANSING — Although the first half of an advertisement from John James’s U.S. Senate campaign is spent questioning an opponent’s policy decisions and toughness, the campaign doesn’t want it to be seen as an attack on fellow Republican Sandy Pensler.

“We don’t look at it as a negative ad,” said Ted Goodman, communication director for James, a Farmington Hills businessman. “We’re very proud to have ads that focus on John James and how he is different from the other candidates that are running.”

In the digital ad, the campaign responds to Grosse Pointe businessman Pensler’s “Detroit Tough” advertisement, which aired on Super Bowl Sunday.

James’s 30-second spot opens by suggesting Pensler hires consultants “to tell [him] the right political positions” and questioning Pensler’s toughness. About halfway through, the ad shifts, highlighting James’ status as an Iraq combat veteran and self-described “conservative outsider.”

Attorney General and gubernatorial candidate Bill Schuette’s campaign funded a Super Bowl Sunday ad of its own, calling out Republican primary challenger and Lt. Gov. Brian Calley’s legislative history under former Gov. Jennifer Granholm.

Attack ad or not, the decision to go on the offensive in an attempt to highlight a candidate’s uniqueness is commonplace in modern politics.

It is rarer for campaigns to take ownership of ads that go after opponents, as James’s and Schuette’s do.

Only about one in four ads that solely attacked another candidate or included negative content were funded by a candidate’s committee instead of a third party during the 2016 elections, according to data provided by the Political TV Ad Archive.

Letting outside organizations do the dirty work can insulate the candidate if the public doesn’t respond well to an attack or if the claims are questionable, according to J. Cherie Strachan, a political science professor at Central Michigan University.

“You don’t even necessarily have knowledge of the ad or how it’s being put together,” Strachan said. “It prevents the backlash.”

Strachan also said that the U.S. Supreme Court’s Citizens United ruling in 2010, which allowed corporations to spend an unlimited amount on political advertising, shifted campaign financing from being largely under candidates’ control to outside groups, like super PACs — political action committees — and nonprofit organizations.

“We have so much leeway for independent actors in the way we have structured campaigns,” Strachan said. “Maybe it’s not a good strategy for the candidate, but somebody that’s really angry — some group or organization that’s raised money — really wants to throw stones, they have free speech.”

Those outside groups can use that freedom of speech to say “negative things that aren’t a part of the official campaign strategy,” she said.

Ads sponsored by outside groups tend to be negative, while ads run by candidates’ campaigns tend to be positive, said Craig Mauger, the executive director of the Michigan Campaign Finance Network. The network is a nonpartisan organization focused on the impact of money on Michigan politics.

“With this flourishing amount of outside money coming in, a lot of that’s going to fund negative ads,” Mauger said. “That’s why you see so many negative ads right now.”

Independently funded attack ads can be useful for a candidate, Mauger said. Not only can the candidate be shielded from blame, but he said attacks tend to be more successful in affecting public perception than positive content.

“They tend to work — people often remember negative ads and they may be more effective than your normal, positive ad,” Mauger said. “If it’s an outside or independent group making the claim, it’s harder for the public to tie those attacks to the candidate.

“Also, if there are claims being made that are false or fuzzy or inaccurate, it’s harder to hold someone accountable because it’s an independent group that might be hard to pin down who’s actually behind it.”

Strachan said the public generally expects attack ads to be a part of the political process, minimizing the risk politicians take when going on the offensive. She added that, especially with an increasingly polarized political climate, candidates are willing to “cross the line” more often and go for personal attacks or name-calling.

“Historically, Americans have accepted that politicians are on different sides and have different opinions, ideologies and approaches,” Strachan said. “There’s a certain element of negativity that’s sort of inherent in hashing these things out.”

In 2013, Secretary of State Ruth Johnson proposed heightened disclosure rules for negative advertising. Taking issue with the impact of “dark money” — funding from anonymous donors — Johnson sought to end the exemption of “issue ads” from the state’s campaign finance rules.

Issue ads are allowed to support or attack a politician or cause anonymously, but cannot explicitly call for viewers to “vote for” or “elect” a certain ballot option.

On the same day Johnson announced that proposal, the Senate approved a bill by Majority Leader Arlan Meekhof, R-West Olive, to exclude advertising from campaign finance reporting “if the communication does not support or oppose a ballot question or candidate by name.”

A month later, the bill was signed by Gov. Rick Snyder, formalizing the ability of people or companies to fund unlimited political issue ads without public scrutiny.

Concern rising about reliance on adjunct, non-tenure stream instructors

By CRYSTAL CHEN
Capital News Service

LANSING – Colleges and universities, including those in Michigan, are increasingly relying on non-tenure track faculty and adjunct faculty.

About 65 percent of faculty positions in all colleges and universities were part-time or full-time non-tenure track in 2014, according to the most recent national figures from the Center for the Study of Academic Labor at Colorado State University.

According to the center, the proportion of tenure positions fell between 2005 and 2013. The drop was especially sharp at universities that award doctorates and at colleges that award bachelor’s degrees.

In Michigan public institutions, non-tenure track instructors, whether full-time or part-time, also make up a large percentage of faculty.

At Northern Michigan, Ferris State, Saginaw Valley State universities and the University of Michigan-Flint, more than half of the faculty were adjuncts or not in tenure-track posts in 2014, the Colorado State study found.

The percentage is much higher at some community colleges, according to the study. For example, it said Grand Rapids Community College had 71.2 percent adjuncts and non-tenure track instructors and Montcalm Community College had 75.2 percent in 2014.

Some had no tenure track faculty, including Alpena, Gogebic, Lansing, Mid-Michigan and Kirtland community colleges, North Central Michigan College and Southwestern Michigan College, the study said.

Michael Hansen, the president of the Michigan Community College Association, said community colleges often employ instructors who are also working in the field in which they teach, especially in occupational programs.

“Many of them work full-time, such as health care professionals, technicians and welders, but also teach part-time at the college,” said Hansen. “Their ‘real world knowledge’ is a valuable part of their teaching content. They bring the most current content information to the classroom, which greatly benefits students.”

For community colleges, employing adjuncts to meet changing demands of enrollment is an efficient method of staffing. It’s also a way to control course and program demand, he said.

“Community colleges are open-enrollment institutions, and their enrollments tend to fluctuate with the economy,” said Hansen. “As unemployment rates rise, so do enrollments. But as the economy improves and people can find work, the enrollments tend to decline.”

According to Hansen, the fluctuation in course demand and enrollment can lead to job insecurity for most adjuncts. “Part-time faculty are hired to meet demand. As demand for more classes increases, additional faculty are hired,” he said. “As demand is reduced, those part-time faculty are not rehired since fewer classes are needed.”

Meanwhile, the problems adjuncts face continue to grow, including financial security, lack of career advancement opportunities and unfair treatment, a union leader said.

“They are paid much less than the value of their contribution to their universities’ teaching mission and not given the job security, even after years, that their hard work and excellence in teaching warrant,” said Ian Robinson, the president of the Lecturers’ Employee Organization. The union represents non-tenure-track instructional faculty on all three campuses of the University of Michigan.

Last-minute course cancellations can be a major problem for adjuncts, and they are treated as “shock absorber,” Robinson said. “They are called in at the last minute if there is more enrollment in a course than expected, or canceled at the last minute if the reverse proves true.”

According to Robinson, a union with significant bargaining power, such as the Lecturers’ Employee Organization, can reduce that kind of last-minute cancellation by “putting a penalty in the agreement for units that cancel too late.”

“That’s not an adequate response to the large issues raised by the rapid growth of adjunct faculty, but it does help significantly with the narrow problem of last-minute cancellations,” he said.

There are other problems, Robinson said.

Some institutions limit adjuncts’ working hours to avoid providing health care. He said that happens particularly in cash-starved universities, where administrations are “looking to cut costs everywhere they can, no matter what the impact on quality.”

The workload for adjuncts and non-tenure stream instructors can be equal to or even higher than that of full-time tenured professors.

According to Robinson, at U-M-Ann Arbor, the normal workload for a full-time adjunct is three courses, and on its Flint and Dearborn campus, four courses per term. “In other places, it could be even higher.”

Also, adjuncts don’t receive “reasonable” pay, and their baseline wage, in real dollar terms, has decreased in past years, said Robinson.

Meanwhile, Robinson said the voice of adjuncts is rarely heard in department meetings and at the administration level. “It’s rare for adjuncts to be treated as fully enfranchised ‘citizens’ of the units in which they teach.”

The increasing reliance on adjuncts may hurt the quality of education, some experts say.

Daniel Hurley, chief executive officer of the Michigan Association of State Universities, said one of the attributes of Michigan’s public universities is quality. The organization represents the state’s 15 public universities.

“I think there is a perception of higher quality when an institution has more full-time faculty,” he said. For that reason, institutions need to “hold the line on the proportion of adjuncts.”

Robinson said a significant share of undergraduates are taught by adjuncts who are brand new and won’t stay long enough to get really good.

“Teaching is a craft,” he said. “More practice means better teachers.”

Though specialization and extra practice tend to generate better teachers, being treated “like commodities rather than professionals” can offset those advantages, he said.

“The quality of their performance hinges in part on being paid fairly and respected in other respects,” he said.

Most state college grads land jobs, continue education

By AGNES BAO
Capital News Service

LANSING – About nine out of 10 recent graduates from four state universities have landed jobs, continued their education or made other career or volunteer commitments, according to the earliest available “first destination survey” results.

The rates among those responding to the surveys were highest at 91 percent for Wayne State and Western Michigan universities, followed closely by Northern Michigan (89.6 percent) and Central Michigan (89.4 percent) universities.

The statistics include those securing full-time or part-time employment, continuing their education such as graduate school, an additional degree or a certificate, and other activities like military service or volunteering full time.

However, the data from Northern Michigan and Central Michigan didn’t count those other commitments.

Post-graduate placement rates from the other 11 state universities are scheduled for release in the next few months.

For example, Michigan State University (MSU) will release its class of 2017 survey report at the end of February, said Everett “Rett” Weber, the data scientist for Career Services Network. Grand Valley State University is analyzing its data for release in the spring, said Susan Proctor, the employer development manager of its career center.

The First Destination Survey examines post-graduate placement of students who have received bachelor’s degrees.

The prior year’s reports showed placement rates for 2016 grads were above 95 percent at five universities: Eastern Michigan (97 percent); Ferris State (96 percent); Lake Superior State (96 percent); MSU (95 percent); and University of Michigan – Dearborn (96 percent).

The rates of the other 10 were around 90 percent: Central Michigan (89.5 percent); Grand Valley (93 percent); Northern Michigan (89 percent); Michigan Technological University (94 percent); Oakland (92 percent); Saginaw Valley State (92 percent); University of Michigan – Ann Arbor (93 percent); University of Michigan – Flint (91 percent); Wayne State (91 percent); and Western Michigan (92 percent).

Trends in overall placement rates are increasing in 10 years, according to the reports.

Lauren Leeds at the state’s Center for Educational Performance and Information said although her office collects data at the state level, it doesn’t aggregate the survey results.

Each institution conducts its own survey and prepares its own report under the guidelines of the National Association of Colleges and Employers, she said.

Robert Murphy, the director of university relations and policy at the Michigan Association of State Universities, said the employment data for new graduates is useful for universities to understand their students’ performance in the marketplace and to adjust their programs.

At Grand Valley, Proctor said the report helps the university be accountable to its stakeholders by ensuring it fulfills its mission and that graduates are contributing to the economic vitality of the community.

Furthermore, she said that with the help of the data, prospective and current students and their families can make better decisions in selection of colleges, majors and career pathways.

Stephen Patchin, the director of career services at Michigan Tech, said the placement data is used for ranking, academic accreditation and corporate recruitment.

“We use our annual report very heavily in recruiting our students in the college fairs,” Patchin said.

“We distribute 4,000 to 5,000 hard copies to MTU’s departments and gave several thousand hard copies to all students and parents that come to campus tours,” he said.

While the First Destination Survey is important to each university, fewer than half the recent graduates responded to the survey at some institutions.

MSU’s Weber said more universities are using a “knowledge rate” in their reports. That combines survey responses with information from other sources, such as the graduates’ advisers.

Proctor, of Grand Valley, said, “We are looking for strategies to help improve our knowledge and response rates,” including sending calls for responses at least six times to graduates within the first seven months after graduation, marketing through many platforms such as social media, print and personal outreach, and providing monetary prizes.

Jason Nicholas, the director of Institutional Research and Analysis at Northern Michigan, said, his office plans to increase the response rate with new marketing strategies and getting alumni support.

Fishery managers excited by lake trout’s not-so-picky palate

By STEVEN MAIER
Capital News Service

LANSING — Scientists may have settled a debate between anglers and fishery managers over the future of the lake trout in the Great Lakes.

With salmon hauls on the decline in recent years as their favorite food dwindles, anglers are anxious to prioritize their protection even over recently resurgent native populations like lake trout.

Salmon reigned as the undisputed king of the Great Lakes fishing industry for decades after they were introduced in the 1950s to curb the invasive alewife. It was around that time that the highly lucrative lake trout fishery took a dive as populations crashed.

Alewife populations, the salmon’s key food source, have dwindled in recent years. Now anglers are afraid that the lake trout’s comeback could hasten the salmon’s disappearance and compete for the few alewife that are left, said Jory Jonas, a fisheries research biology specialist with the Department of Natural Resources.

But that’s not necessarily true. Jonas is the co-author of a new study showing that lake trout eat whatever’s available, meaning they don’t always directly compete for food with species like the Chinook salmon.

Both species mainly consumed alewife for years, Jonas said. That’s still true of most of the lake trout in Lake Michigan, where alewife populations are more stable.

Athough they’ve lost a main source of food, the lake trout’s flexible diet may make them beneficiaries after all.

“Nothing is ever truly good or bad,” she said. “It’s always a mix.”

Alewife consumption was probably harming lake trout eggs, said Austin Happel, who co-authored the diet study as a doctoral candidate at the University of Illinois. He’s now an instructor at Colorado State University.

Lake trout reproduction in the Great Lakes has been handcuffed for years due to chronically low levels of thiamine, a fat-binding agent key to a healthy egg membrane, according to the study.

Fish have to consume a healthy ratio of fat and thiamine to lay viable eggs–alewife are fatty and often low in thiamine, Happel said.

The goal for lake trout is self-sufficiency, he said. That’s not the reality these days because lake trout must be stocked for populations to survive.

The Great Lakes Fishery Commission seeks to protect native species like lake trout, said Marc Gaden, the commission’s communications director. But the agency is also pleased with each state’s efforts to save the salmon by growing the remaining alewife population.

“They have to take on this elephant in the room, which is that there’s not much food for the salmon to eat,” Gaden said.

Fishery managers face a balancing act. They need to support the alewife enough to meet the demand for salmon, while rooting against it–and in favor of other prey species–in the interests of the native lake trout.

The diets of lake trout differ drastically between lakes Michigan and Huron, and even between the east and west coasts of Lake Michigan.  

That kindles some hope for that balance managers need to protect both the salmon and lake trout, Jonas said.

The variation is consistent with availability – alewife in northern Lake Michigan still make up a large portion of lake trout diet, while the Lake Huron fish consume the more-abundant rainbow smelt. A booming population of round goby, another invasive, is now an important food source for lake trout in western Lake Michigan.

But Happel said the alewife’s downturn won’t necessarily solve lake trout reproduction troubles. Thiamine deficiency has been found in other Great Lakes fish that don’t eat alewife–meaning the alewife might not be the crux of that problem.

“At some point we wanted to point fingers,” he said. “We wanted to find a culprit.”

Scientists have turned the log over only to find a larger problem–the entire food web in the Great Lakes is full of fat withoutt much thiamine to offset it, Happel said.

Alewife are a large part of the problem, but Jonas said prey like rainbow smelt are also low in thiamine to a lesser extent. The good news: round goby don’t share that problem. Researchers could start seeing higher natural reproduction among lake trout in goby-rich territory like Lake Mchigan’s western shore.

Happel said the study is encouraging. If lake trout can diversify their diet–and with it, their vitamin intake–the odds look much better for reproduction.

Steven Maier writes for Great Lakes Echo.

Work-for-welfare push on in Michigan

By MAXWELL EVANS
Capital News Service

LANSING — Michigan’s economy, on a slow upswing since the Great Recession, has recovered enough so the state is moving to reinstate stricter work requirements for recipients of federal food assistance.

The waiver of a three-month limit on some benefits for unemployed persons is being phased out.

In 2002, Michigan opted in to a federal waiver allowing states with high unemployment or low job availability to remove work requirements for able-bodied individuals without dependents.

Previously, they could receive benefits only through the federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) program for up to three months every three years without meeting work requirements. The waiver eliminated the three-month limit, effectively allowing those without a job to receive assistance indefinitely.

Michigan used to have a statewide waiver of the federal requirements during the height of the economic downturn, according to Bob Wheaton, a public information officer for the Department of Health and Human Services. However, the state moved to “phase out” the waiver program by moving to a partial waiver last year.

“There have been significant improvements in the unemployment rate in Michigan over the last several years,” Wheaton said. “As a result, people who are trying to reenter the workforce, such as these individuals who were receiving the waiver, now have more job opportunities.”

Michigan is one of 28 states receiving a partial waiver, meaning the indefinite grace period for unemployed SNAP recipients will be revoked in counties with economic improvement but not in those that continue to struggle.

Fourteen of the 83 counties have reinstated the three-month time limit so far. Ionia, Allegan and Grand Traverse counties are among the 10 that have done so in 2018. Work requirements were reinstated in 2017 for Kent, Oakland, Ottawa and Washtenaw counties.

To continue receiving benefits, SNAP recipients in those counties must work an average of 20 hours per week each month or participate in an average of 20 hours per week in an approved training program.

Wheaton said that while there is no concrete time limit on phasing out the waiver entirely, it’s the department’s goal to reinstate work requirements in all counties by October.

The department is prepared to help individuals meet the work requirements and “become self-sufficient so they can be in a situation where, once their food assistance expires, they’re able to support themselves by working,” Wheaton said.

As the current waiver is phased out, some legislators are pushing to prevent future waivers.

A bill introduced by Rep. Kimberly LaSata, R-Bainbridge Township, would do just that, as well as create an “identity authentication process” for welfare applicants to prevent fraud. The bill is pending in the House Appropriations Committee.

Cosponsors include GOP Reps. Triston Cole of Mancelona, Roger Victory of Hudsonville and Jim Lilly of Park Township.

LaSata said the bill is intended to empower Michiganders to seek employment. She said the waiver was for individuals who would seemingly face the least obstacles towards returning to the workplace.

“You’re 18 to 49, you’re healthy, you have no dependents,” LaSata said. “Women that do have dependents have a work requirement.

“There’s really no reason for anyone to be against this,” she said.

But the move to prevent Michigan from receiving future work-requirement waivers is “foolish and self-defeating,” according to Peter Ruark, a senior policy analyst for the Michigan League for Public Policy. The organization describes itself as a policy institute “dedicated to economic opportunity.”

He said while he believes Health and Human Services is “acting in good faith” by moving to phase out the waiver as the state’s economy improves, there’s no reason to prevent future waivers in the event of another recession.

“One thing Michigan absolutely should not be doing is tying its own hands on this,” Ruark said.

Ruark also disagreed with the use of county-wide unemployment rates as a measure of an area’s economic health. Using Oakland County as an example, he said that although unemployment rates indicate the county was recovering, Pontiac — its largest city — still faces troubles that could suggest a need for a waiver.

“There are still pockets of economic hardship, even in those counties that appear to be doing well according to the countywide unemployment rate,” Ruark said.

James Hohman, director of fiscal policy at the Mackinac Center for Public Policy, said unemployment rates are “a good proxy” for the health of the labor market but don’t tell the full story. The center is a free market-oriented think tank in Midland.

Michigan’s labor force has been growing, which has raised the unemployment rate but indicates a larger pool of talent, Hohman said.

“Even though it’s giving a contrary sign, it’s been good news for the state of Michigan,” he said.

Reinstating SNAP work requirements is far from the only way Michigan policymakers have sought to restrict welfare benefits in recent years.

For example, Sen. Joe Hune, R-Gregory, sponsored a 2014 law adding community service to the list of work requirements.

“This common-sense reform will ensure that those benefiting from public assistance are giving back to the community that is providing them with a helping hand,” Hune saide. “There is nothing wrong with folks having a little skin in the game.”

The community service option has no minimum hours requirement, and caseworkers approach each case individually, according to Wheaton of Health and Human Services..

In addition to the law sponsored by Hune, bills signed into law include cutting off payments to families with chronically truant children and testing recipients for drugs.