Friday, January 19, 2007

Haenicke is Awesome

It's great to see Western's Interim President Diether Haenicke put Western back on the right track. The Gazette has an article that profiles some of Haenicke's decisions.

In particular, Haenicke has canceled Western's free room and board for Kalamazoo Promise students, who already receive full tuition.

Not to be outdone, Western Michigan University declared its own deal within hours. To beat Wayne State University's offer of discounted room and board, WMU promised free room and board for four years for Kalamazoo Public Schools' Class of 2006.

In hindsight, that offer by former WMU President Judith I. Bailey's administration was a hasty decision that cost the university, WMU Interim President Diether Haenicke says.

Plus, instead of simply offering campus living expenses at no cost, WMU wound up writing checks to students who had scholarship dollars that exceeded the costs normally billed by Western.

"If we had taken that money and put it toward other scholarships, we would have done much, much better,'' Haenicke said. "It was one of these snap decisions, and nobody on the financial side of the house was involved in that decision.''
I criticized this move in the past. Promise students already have lodging within a few minutes of Western, so Western already has an advantage over any other school. As I have said in the past, Bailey made a long string of totally indefensible decisions.

Other examples of successful initiatives under Bailey include the university's new $28 million chemistry building, which opened for classes this month, and a progressively retooled Web site.
While the chemistry building was certainly needed, I have to disagree about the website. It's much harder to find things now than it used to be.

Haenicke has saved money while expanding necessary services.

The ombudsman office has been reopened, as least part time.

Main library hours, which were cut back under Bailey, have been extended considerably.
The mood on campus has improved greatly.

In his second tour at Western -- he was its president from 1985 to 1998 -- Haenicke's presence has been viewed by employees and students as revitalizing to a campus demoralized by controversy and problems including a multimillion-dollar deficit and falling enrollment. (snip)

Haenicke is responding to student concerns, too, said Andrew Hooley, a junior and vice president of the Western Student Association.

Hooley campaigned last year for the WSA on the issue of cutting library hours as a cost-saving measure.

"You've got 20,000 undergraduates ... and we need to have adequate access to the library,'' Hooley said.

"College students study at 11, 12, 1, 2 or 3 o'clock in the morning. Western having a library closing at 11 o'clock at night isn't representative of that. For Haenicke to change that was a great step in the right direction for the administration recognizing students' academic needs.''

1 comment:

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