Flint Water Crisis: Who Will Stay?


Don Lierman

As the Flint water crisis develops, so do questions from students on whether or not the campus water is safe.

Terry Bigelow, vice chancellor for business and finance, said in a Feb. 2 email release sent on behalf of the Environment, Health and Safety, department at the University that campus-wide testing has been ongoing for more than a year.

“The news is reporting some Flint homes exceed lead levels at rates that filters do not work. Campus wide testing, conducted by an independent consultant, analyzed levels of lead, copper and trihalomethanes. We want to assure you that the testing in all instances showed water filters across the UM-Flint campus are working properly. The University drinking water is safe, filtered and regularly tested.”

Bigelow also stated that the next round of testing was scheduled to take place Feb.2-6 and that the campus would be updated when those results became available.

Although there has been concern that the water issue will dissuade students from continuing their education at UM-Flint, students are currently saying they feel safe.

“The water issue will not affect me from continuing my education here,” Megan VanSickle, a junior health science pre-physical therapy major from Lapeer said. “Although I do not drink campus water, I feel the University has been doing everything it can to ensure water quality safety.”

Sarah Mitchell, a graduate student pursuing an M.A. in English from Burton said she feels much the same.

“The water crisis doesn’t impact my decision to continue my education here,”  Mitchell said.

Mitchell said she also does not drink fountain water, but feels the University is doing its best.

“I noticed that the fountains are posted as being filtered on campus,” Mitchell said. “The administration is making the effort to ensure safety.  I do drink water at downtown businesses that post that they are using filtration.  Not only is the university making an effort, but the nearby businesses are acknowledging the problem and making an effort to address any fears of their customers.”

For one international student, the question of whether or not to stay in the area after graduation has been affected by the water crisis.

“My father called from home to warn me not to drink the water,” Jesutofunmi Omowumi, who is pursuing an M.A. in English and is an international student from Lagos, Nigeria said.  “Although it will not affect my present plans in regards to the continuation of my education here, it does pose a concern in regards to staying here after I attain my degree.”

Another international student, Nakshidil Sadien, a senior political science major, said she will remain in Flint for the moment.

“Even though we are in a state of crisis regarding the water contamination, I am currently still living in Flint and will soon be working in Flint,” Sadien said. “However, my lease does end at the end of February and the prospect of moving out of Flint is open.”

Sadien, however, hopes to see the crisis as a catalyst to student action.

“As a student at UM-Flint, you have the opportunity to apply what you have learned in the classroom toward short term and long term relief efforts,” Sadien said. “What we need to address is a feasible plan of action to remediate the situation. Children continue to be affected by the high levels of lead in the water even after using water filters and residents continue to have to pay for contaminated water.”

Current students appear to have adjusted to the water crisis and feel the university has done all it could to provide for their safety.  The next big question in regards to the impact of the water crisis upon UM-Flint concerns the next crop of potential students.

To attend or not to attend?