December 14, 2010/Detroit Free Press Editorial
By John Dunn
President Western Michigan University
The Free Press suggests Michigan's public universities would be better if governed through a statewide system. They contend this approach would reduce duplication and bring us in line with other great systems, such as that found in Wisconsin.
Having worked in several states with statewide systems, my experience is quite the contrary. If the goal is to increase costs, create bureaucracy, enhance political infighting, and reduce entrepreneurship and creativity, a system is the way to go.
While the idea of a statewide system might appeal to the ill-informed, I am appalled that the Free Press would venture a proposition that would so poorly serve Michigan's international reputation as a home of great universities. Wisconsin has two research universities, but Michigan has five. Wisconsin provides more money to its universities, but Michigan's universities produce more with less state support.
In the editorial, Western Michigan University was chided for moving forward to create a medical school. Western Michigan University is responding to a major shortage of physicians in Michigan and in the nation with a privately funded medical school. Our medical school will be developed and sustained without state support. It will enhance the quality of our state's health care and boost research and economic development in the life sciences.
This is a win-win for our state that will produce physicians for Michigan's future and enhance the region's economy. It simply would not be possible in a system like Wisconsin's.
We will continue to collaborate and support our students by making it easier to transfer credits among institutions. We make progress on these fronts every day, voluntarily, because it's the right thing to do.
There is good reason to continue Michigan's commitment to autonomous universities. The outcome we've achieved -- outstanding universities that grow and develop while state support has eroded -- speaks for itself.