July 1, 2007 marks the end of Diether Haenicke's term as interim President of Western Michigan University. Haenicke was an exceptional leader who took over at a difficult time and served Western well.
In August 2006, Judy Bailey was fired as President of Western. Bailey's tenure was marked by declining enrollment and discord on campus. She made a number of unwise decisions that wasted money and damaged academic standards. She also managed to antagonize nearly every group on campus.
After firing Bailey, the Board of Trustees appointed Haenicke to replace her. He had previously been President of Western from 1985 to 1998.
Haenicke made wise financial decisions that eliminated unnecessary expenditures. He canceled the purchase of a building from Pfizer that would have cost $2 million per year to operate. He also reversed Bailey's decision to give free room and board to Kalamazoo Promise students, who already get full ride scholarships.
At the same time, Haenicke also improved student services. He reopened the Ombudsman's office, which had been closed by Bailey. He also significantly increased library hours. His administration was responsive to the suggestions of the Western Student Association on that and other issues. He worked to improve services to students by requiring administrators to answer their phones.
Haenicke also was right on political issues relevant to education. He supported the Michigan Civil Rights Initiative to end racial preferences, and was virtually alone in the academic elite in doing so. He pledged to change Western's restrictive speech code, protecting freedom of speech. Finally, he cancelled the "First Steps Scholars" program to give in-state tuition to illegal immigrants.
Haenicke greatly improved morale and harmony on campus. At the same time, he did not indulge the sort of liberalism that is "offended" by everything.
Haenicke was a friend of the WMU College Republicans, and praised us in a 2006 article. While we will miss him, we wish him a great second retirement.
Thank you, Doctor Haenicke.