Following the public input session for the Hilltop Village construction project, a group of Western students formed a coalition to express student views and concerns regarding the future of the university.
The coalition has no ties with the Western Michigan University said David Hoskins, sophomore and President of the Residence Housing Association.
"There’s momentum now. A lot of people are now talking to the administrators about the gentrification that’s happening. How they are not really focused on diversity or student’s voices at all. They’re just focusing on the money,” Hoskins said. “There is now a power behind it that I do not want to die out. Things get popular and then it just fizzles away, and I don’t want that to happen because then the university gets its way.”
Students at the first meeting of the coalition said they feel that university leaders are not listening to students when it comes to topics that directly affect them. Items that came up were: the lack of affordable student housing, student parking and the inclusion of retail spaces instead of student-focused structures.
“They have false beliefs for why this university is going down. They like to think that people aren’t coming to Western because housing facilities are old, but they don’t seem to realize that housing is overpriced... it’s targeted towards only white students,” said Jerjuan Howard, president of WMU’s Black Student Union .
Those behind the coalition said it will help build arguments and create solutions, rather than just complaining about issues on campus.
“They’re (WMU) terrified because engagement and enrollment is down. They can’t figure out how to crack this code to get engagement and enrollment up. It feels so clear to me why it is down. Because we are coming to this school to be blown off,” said Kathy Garneau, a fourth-year student and creator of the parking initiative.
Other students in attendance expressed a shared concern for the future of the university.
“It should be easy for people to live on campus and be in this university setting. I feel like it has become harder for everyone. I’m concerned about people who are going to be attending this university and who are still attending,” WMU senior Marshall Kim said.
The coalition is currently planning on creating a survey that students could take, which would ask questions regarding housing and other changes they might desire from the university.
The students are also trying to attend the next Board of Trustees meeting, which takes place on March 12. This meeting will tentatively be held off campus in Detroit.
"I think it would be really smart if we went there. And say, 'Look, we are so dedicated that we are willing to show up and have our voices heard. That we will go all the way across the state for this,’” Hoskins said.
The next meeting is scheduled for Friday at 1:00 p.m in the Bernhard Center. The room for the meeting is to be determined.