University of Michigan, Ann Arbor Police Department partnership seeks to educate social students

Ann Arbor canvassing teams focus on cooperation, education

A deserted State Street along University of Michigan's Athletic Campus on March 24, 2020.
A deserted State Street along University of Michigan's Athletic Campus on March 24, 2020. (Meredith Bruckner)

ANN ARBOR, Mich. – University of Michigan students congregating in large groups or not wearing masks can expect to receive reminders about public health and safety.

The University of Michigan Student Life has launched its Michigan Ambassadors program, a student-centered initiative set on promoting healthy practices and guidelines about new policies and ordinances.

The canvassing ambassador teams act as a visible presence and consist of U-M students, student leaders, professional staff, community members and non-sworn community engagement officers from U-M’s Division of Public Safety and Security or the Ann Arbor Police Department.

University of Michigan Dean of Students Laura Blake Jones said in light of recent events and community feedback, the program was tailored to minimalize police presence for first-time warnings.

Identified by blue shirts and branded masks, ambassador teams will approach groups and individuals to remind them of the U-M’s face covering policy, social distancing and size limitations for groups.

Jones said ambassadors undergo a series of training modules related to COVID-19 in order to prepare for their canvassing shifts. She added that training includes modules on conflict resolution and de-escalation, bystander intervention, a program overview and a public health module required by all U-M students and employees. Two additional modules focused on motivational interviewing and anti-bias education will be added as the training curriculum evolves.

Through the public health module, all students are able to opt-into giving the school contact information and addresses. Jones said that the volunteered information is cross-checked with complaints so that the school can reach out to individual students even before the Michigan Ambassadors are needed.

While ambassadors do remind students about masks, they also remind them about gathering sizes.

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