Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Remembering Doctor Haenicke

The recent death of Diether Haenicke unleashed an outpouring of praise from across the Kalamazoo community. Haenicke served as president of Western Michigan University 1985-1998, and as interim president 2006-2007.

Many tributes have correctly noted Haenicke's accomplishments as President of Western. Western became a research university thanks in large part to his efforts, several major buildings were built or renovated on campus during his tenure, Western attracted a chapter of Phi Beta Kappa, and more.

Others have noted his distinguished record of scholarship. While I haven't personally evaluated it, I'm sure that it's everything people say it is.

Still others have noted his community involvement. He was active with many fine organizations, and wrote a popular column for the Gazette.

Most commonly, people have remarked what a wonderful person he was. The consensus is that he was genuinely warm and caring, witty and charming.

This post will focus on an aspect of Dr. Haenicke that was less known: his politics.

Haenicke was a dues-paying member of the Republican party. He was a frequent donor to Republican candidates and he endorsed State Rep. Jack Hoogendyk during his 2006 primary campaign.

Haenicke was a conservative on issues related to education.

He supported the Michigan Civil Rights Initiative to end racial preferrences in college admissions in 2006. He was not outspoken about it after his sudden assumption of the interim presidency, but he resisted efforts to oppose it. That made him a very rare (unique?) university president to oppose racial preferrences.

Haenicke took a variety of steps to save money on campus while improving services.

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.
He opposed the radical left in education, as in this column on Bill Ayers.

He cancelled the "First Steps Scholars" program to give in-state tuition to illegal immigrants.

Also rare among college administrators, he did not bow before the idol of diversity, and did not pander to racial pressure groups.

After his talk, I approached him and told him how I, as a Muslim, was offended by his remarks. He replied, unapologetically, with a smile: "Of course you are.'' President Haenicke, when you deny the humanity of another, you diminish your own. [author's note: hahahahahahaha!]
Haenicke was a friend of the WMU College Republicans. He devoted one of his Gazette columns to praising the group.

I sat next to Jim, a WMU criminal justice major from Ann Arbor, a bright, well-spoken and well-mannered young man. I asked him what his guess was regarding the political leanings of students on our campus. He thought that it was 50-50, with the liberal half being very outspoken and visible in classes and the conservative half smartly holding back in class discussions and public pronouncements. They know that their opinions are not popular with many of their teachers. My own observation is that Jim has it right, but it is a guess.

Since conservative views are so seldom heard on campus, the College Republicans must be thanked. Under the fine leadership of Matt Hall and Ashley Allen, who both served as presidents of this student group, they have invited to campus, year after year, conservative speakers who address controversial issues that usually trigger horror among academics: affirmative action, racial preferences, illegal immigration, campus speech codes, and other such hot-button topics.

Ward Connerly, the African-American who fought for abolishing racial preferences in California, spoke here, as did Justice Roy Moore who placed a monument with the Ten Commandments in his Alabama courthouse, and Dinesh D'Souza, Pat Buchanan, Michelle Malkin, Reginald Jones, and Alan Kors, the noted Princeton- and Harvard-educated historian who gained national prominence for defending the academic rights of students.
I heard Haenicke speak a number of times, but only met him once. It was at Bronco Bash, when he walked up to our College Republican table. He shook hands with us and we exchanged a few words.

I'll miss Dr. Haenicke, and I know I'm far from the only one.

Previous: Thank You, Doctor Haenicke

1 comment:

Matt said...


I don't want this note to drift off into the cyber wasteland:

Letter to the KG:

Opportunity to build understanding squandered by insensitive remarks

Wednesday, January 31, 2007
By Shadia Kanaan

On Jan. 8, Diether Haenicke gave a speech to more than 100 individuals at the Heritage Community of Kalamazoo on the topic of Muslims in Europe.

As a devout Muslim and a proud American I have two identities which find themselves in opposition in the minds of many people throughout the world and in my own community. I have taken on the responsibility of both of my identities to emphasize the values and ideals they have in common and to try to help others understand the true nature of Islam.

And so when I learned that Haenicke would be speaking, I was eager to hear what the president of my alma mater (I am a graduate of Western Michigan University's political science department), who is such a respected educator, intellectual and community leader, had to say on the subject.

I am saddened to say his discussion left me with a mix of bewilderment, fear and anger.

Haenicke presented a litany of crimes committed by Muslims in Europe over the last 10 years as if he were a judge reading the charges to 1.3 billion Muslim defendants. He described the demographic growth of Muslims in Europe with the same tone of alarm one might use to discuss global warming or the marginalization of a precious habitat. He failed to recognize that globalization and the concentration of wealth in places like Europe are the driving forces for millions of immigrants to leave their native lands and seek opportunities elsewhere.

Haenicke's energies were spent writing a speech that identified and magnified differences rather than trying to understand or reconcile them. There were no suggestions for helping Muslims integrate into their new communities without losing their cultural and religious heritage. He had no solutions for improving the economic and political situations in countries of origin that might lead to less immigration.

The disparities between Western countries and those in Africa, Asia and the Middle East are often maintained by corrupt governments supported by the West for the purpose of aiding large multinational corporations at the expense of exceedingly impoverished populations

His speech was open-ended, leaving the listener to reach potentially dangerous conclusions built on his insensitive and inflammatory statements. Statements such as: "99 percent of Muslims are not terrorists but 99 percent of terrorists are Muslims.'' Imagine this quote with a different minority group or different stereotype: "99 percent of this minority are not this stereotype, but 99 percent of this stereotype are this minority.''

Just as insulting was his claim that "any refrain from insulting criticism of Muslims is out of self-censorship driven by fear rather than sensitivity.'' The community outrage would be deafening if the president of Western Michigan University had chosen to single out anyone else.

We all have to remember that each of the Muslims immigrating to Europe is a human being, a human being who has hopes and dreams not unlike those that Haenicke emigrated with himself.

After his talk, I approached him and told him how I, as a Muslim, was offended by his remarks. He replied, unapologetically, with a smile: "Of course you are.'' President Haenicke, when you deny the humanity of another, you diminish your own.

Shadia Kanaan, of Portage, is a member of the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee of Greater Kalamazoo.