Advice to Wayne State University's New President
BLAC Detroit's editorial assistant Emell Derra Adolphus offers some ideas to improve his alma mater
Congratulations to Dr. M. Roy Wilson on becoming the new president of Wayne State University. I'm sure he already knows all of Wayne's bragging points: third largest university in Michigan, the nation's largest single campus medical school, home to Tech Town and so on.
But what he may not be as tuned into are the things that Wayne State needs to work on—and that's where I'd like to help. As a recent Wayne State grad, I was more aware of routine tuition hikes (sure glad I graduated before the most recent 8.9 percent bump!), the steady flow of crime reports, and the perils of parking than any of Wayne's awesome attributes. And I'm not alone.
And so, with the help of peers and colleagues who are still living the Warrior life at Wayne, I compiled a list of the top changes you should bring to the university. These changes may not be worthy of an executive order, but they should still make the cut for consideration.
1. Create an Office of Diversity and Multi-Cultural Affairs
You may not know it, but President Wilson has biracial street cred as a Blasian (Black and Asian). And he gets extra diversity points since he served as the deputy director for strategic planning and program coordination at the National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities. This organization is devoted to minority health research, so we all have an equal opportunity at a full life expectancy. Wayne State represents opportunity and diversity. Why not celebrate that diversity by creating an office of diversity and multi-cultural affairs to help create a welcoming cultural climate on campus.
I can think of no past biracial WSU presidents who were more fitting for the task than Wilson. An official office will tell students WSU, like Detroit, is a cauldron of culture and they are proud.
2. Give Me More Parking Time and Segways
It's not easy parking and getting to class at Wayne State. Major highways separate commutes between lecture halls, and students fight with city residents over free parking. And because the university expanded around Detroit, there are random sprinklings of university buildings, making the next class a mile away for some. With most class times clocked at two hours and 30 minutes, students arrive early for a 20-minute walk to their building. But the meters only allow for two hours. So students leave to refill their meters in the last hour of their class to avoid tickets, which leads to missing class time, information, and could even be a factor in Wayne's lower graduation rates.
First off, the meters around WSU need to allow more than a two-hour parking limit. Next, how cool would it be to have Segway stations at each building for students to check out and jet off to their next class? That would help students who can't afford the $6 parking garages and have to park in the sometimes dangerous land off far away, but free, parking. See suggestion No. 4 for more information about dangers.
Wilson says the future of the university rests on collaboration with other higher-education schools, but it's going take more than just collaboration to get students to spend $5,000 a semester. And that is only in late parking tickets for me. Give students more time for their money or create a campus sharing transportation program as cool as Segways. Heck, maybe even adding a bike-sharing program would help. If it's good enough for the employees of Dan Gilbert, it should be good enough for the next generation of city workers.
3. Provide Professors That Speak English, And Speak It Well
Learning Class, Race and Politics in America is difficult enough. Learning Class, Race and Politics in America through a thick Chinese accent is almost impossible, but not out of the ordinary for Wayne State students. Make no mistake, Wayne is an exceptional university, and one of the things that make it exceptional is its diverse faculty who are experts in their field. But how will they pass on this expertise to students, if no one understands them?
I suggest Dr. Wilson create an English pronunciation workshop for verbal clarity and require all non-native speakers to pass a verbal English-speaking test before they are allowed to teach. Maybe WSU can host the pronunciation workshops in their new Office of Diversity and Multi-Cultural Affairs!
While we are on the subject of language, it's my understanding that Wayne State's language departments continue to lose funding. That's a bad idea for a school that trumpets its multi-cultural cred. The university should be investing in their language departments, so students may have a native speaker teaching Russian, instead of a Nigerian.
4. Raise Tuition If That Means Insurance
Consider this vicious cycle. Most Wayne State students struggle to pay tuition at all. Many work full-time while taking classes, often in the same day. Already strapped for cash, they park in the far away dark land called "free parking," which is like playing Russian roulette with your vehicle's well-being. Their car is vandalized or stolen, which not only means they have to pay for that damage or a replacement, but also, they miss work hours needed to pay for tuition. They also miss class time because they can't commute to school. This could possibly be avoided if parking rates were lowered (see suggestion No. 2 for more about parking, one of the biggest issues for WSU students).
Factoring in the tires, catalytic converters, book bags, and iPhones that are snatched and sometimes torn from our cars, some student's would happily pay an extra few $100 in tuition if it means insurance from a series of unfortunate events while on campus.
5. Bring Soul Food to Campus
Variety is the spice of life, but what will feed our souls? College is one of the most stressful periods in most of our lives. And for those of us who are not lucky enough to land college sweeties, we find comfort in food. I'm not talking blueberry scones from Starbucks, but real food. Where can I find macaroni and cheese with a side of collard greens?
Wayne State is located in a majority Black city but it was reported in 2010 only 1 in 10 Black students graduate within six years from the university. Maybe they are leaving mid-semester for universities with soul food? I joke, but adding some soul to the dining selections at Wayne would still be a welcome change.
6. Create a Media Building for Communications Majors
Metro Detroit is home to two major papers, a variety of other news outlets, including this glossy mag, BLAC Detroit magazine, which you can get your hands on free of charge.
With the amount of scandal that oozes from Detroit's local government, which is located just few miles from Wayne State, journalism is alive and has plenty to eat in Detroit. Churning out fine journalists could be another selling point of WSU. Wayne State needs a media building!
Mr. President, if you're reading this, take heart. Some of these changes are really very feasible. How hard can it be to get a soul food restaurant to open up? And that verbal language test for non-native teachers, that should be easy enough to implement, don't you think? The parking issues at Wayne may not ever go away, but I'm sure you can make some strides there, too. Whatever Wayne woe you decide to tackle first, I wish you lots of luck. The future of around 30,000 students is in your hands. No pressure.