The Michigan Daily - Friday, November 8, 1991 - Page 5
There is a different drive
behind the commuter students
at the University'sFlint and
by Bethany Robertson
Daily Administration Reporter
They have the same block "M" logo, the
same maize and blue sweatshirts, and in Dear-
born there's even a rock that is painted almost
daily like the one on the corner of Washtenaw
But although the University's Flint and
Dearborn regional campuses are in the same
system as Ann Arbor, they don't have Satur-
day football games or residence halls, and they
don't have parking problems.
It may not seem like a remarkable distinc-
tion, but the numerous parking spaces in Flint
and Dearborn demonstrate the commuter as-
pects of the two universities - a characteris-
tic that leads to inherent differences in the
In addition, because the ages of undergradu-
ates on the Flint and Dearborn campuses vary
widely, people do not view university life in
the same way that some Ann Arbor students
Many students at commuter colleges say
something is missing from the overall educa-
"We're a commuter campus, so our stu-
dents have outside lives," said Tony Taweel,
vice president of the Dearborn student gov-
ernment. "There's a great percentage of cam-
pus that only wants to come here to go to
Nicholas Meijer, president of the Flint
student government, said he sees similar
symptoms on his campus.
"It's like an intellectual gas station, if you
will. They come here to fill up and then they
go home. There are a lot of students who view
the campus in that way," Meijer said.
And since many students only come to
campus for classes, extra-curricular activities
often fall by the wayside. But this lack of par-
ticipation is not necessarily a sign of student
apathy. It is more a function of the non-tradi-
tional nature of many students.
The admissions office lingo of "non-tradi-
tional students" does not have a specific defi-
nition, but several administrators said the
term is used for students who do not enter
Wollege directly from high school.
Almost a third of Flint's undergraduates
are 23 years old or older. In comparison, only
17 percent of Ann Arbor's students are older
than age 23.
"Most non-traditional students have full
time jobs, families to take care of - so they
don't have a lot of time for school," Meijer
said. "As I progress I'm beginning to realize
these people just don't have the time to put
Even students who do follow the tradi-
tional path from high school to Dearborn or
Flint face challenges similar to those encoun-
tered by non-traditional students. Roma
Heaney, director of Dearborn's Office of In-
stitutional Research, said studies have shown
that at least 85 percent of Dearborn students'
work 20 hours or more per week. As a result,
traditional undergraduates take five to six
years to complete a degree.
"That trend has been experienced across the
country. It would just be physically too diffi-
colt for a student to go to school full time
and work the hours they do and finish in four
years," Heaney said. "That's probably the
trend Ann Arbor is going in, but it's a lot less
Flint sophomore Howard Teeple, for ex-
ample, said his 20-hour-a-week job consumes a
lot of time that could be spent on campus.
"Last night, I didn't get any sleep because I
was trying to catch up," Teeple said. "Work
then school, or school then work - there's re-
ally not much of a break."
And on the Dearborn campus, the dearth of
extracurricular involvement is exacerbated by
the absence of a student activities center.
"What's really lacking around here is a
place to hang out," said Tom Kowalski, a
Dearborn electrical engineering senior. "By
02:30 (in the afternoon), everyone's gone
Dearborn Dean of Student Affairs Donna
McKinley agreed that not having a student
center is a problem. But she said the adminis-
tration is considering plans for a new student
Yet even in Flint, where there is a large
public commons area that is filled with
lounges, restaurants and offices for student
organizations, the lack of residential housing
cuts down on the level of campus activity.
"People don't see Flint as a college campus
because it doesn't have the residential draw to
it," Meijer said.
McKinley pointed out that her school has
tried to create activities that tailor to com-
muter students' schedules - such as a film se-
ries and cabaret shows.
"Since we assume we're doing things for a
commuter campus, those students who com-
mute feel they're being included," McKinley
And yet despite these apparent differences,
student concerns on the Dearborn and Flint
campuses are similar to many of those ex-
pressed in Ann Arbor. For example, many
Dearborn students say they are worried by
what they see as a lack of administrative
"The administration seems to like it as a
commuter campus," said Kowalski, the engi-
neering senior. "Since people don't know
what's going on around here, they can do
whatever they want."
Kowalski pointed to the administration's
Students on the regional
campuses also say they are
concerned that the University
Board of Regents, the
governing board for the three
campuses, is not interested in
Flint and Dearborn.
"I think that regents care,
but things that happen in Ann
Arbor have precedence over
events in Flint or Dearborn,"
But outside of the regents,
Meijer said he thought Flint Above: Stud
had a "student-friendly" ad- places on the
ministration. Above left: o
"There's a lot of parking lots.
cohesiveness with the issues.
We don't have much to complain about," he
ents relax in the Mall, one of the few gathering
e Dearborn campus.
ne of Dearborn's many staff and student
Racial tension is another con-mon concern
of Ann Arbor, Flint and Dearb. n students.
On the regional campuses, as in Ann Arbor,
open confrontations are rarely seen, but stu-
dents tend to segregate themselves. A cen-
trally-located Flint lounge open to all stu-
dents, for example, is used primarily by
Regina Laurie, a Flint senior, said the meet-
ing place is necessary because there are so few
venues on campus to socialize with other
"There's nowhere on campus I can say is
ours," Laurie said. "Things would be better if
"Most students here feel Ann Arbor is ap-
athetic to us," Hughlett said. "The students in
Ann Arbor don't even know we're here."
University President James Duderstadt,
who oversees the three campuses, said that the
"distance and different character of the cam-
puses" makes it almost inevitable that Ann
Arbor students look down on the regional
"I myself think of the system as a whole
and see all our students as the same in terms of
their abilities and educational needs," Duder-
stadt said. "We need to improve communica-
tion and interaction so that all our students
have more chance to know and identify with
one another and the whole University."
Ann Arbor LSA junior Jennie Olstead also
said she sees advantages to integrating pro-
grams between the three schools. For exam-
ple, the physical therapy program was moved
from Ann Arbor to Flint due to space
"That's what I wanted to do, but I didn't
want to go to Flint," Olstead said.
Olstead agreed that many students do look
down on the regional campuses because Flint
and Dearborn don't have the same academic
standards as the Ann Arbor campus.
"All my friends from high school who
couldn't get in to Michigan went to Dearborn
and then transferred here," Olstead said.
While many argue that the Ann Arbor cam-
pus has a superior academic reputation, Flint
and Dearborn students and administrators are
quick to point out the advantages of their
"I just got done having coffee and donuts
with my professor," said Robert Huta, a
Dearborn senior. "You get to know your
professors and your professors get to know
Terri Bumbul, an Engineering junior, was
accepted by the Ann Arbor campus but decided
to go to Dearborn instead.
"It had a lot to do with the money prob-
lem, and I pay for all my schooling," Bumbul
said. "Ann Arbor seemed too big for what I
was looking for. I saw a lot of advantages to
But when asked where they attend school,
many students answer "the University of
Michigan," and leave off the name of the re-
gional campus. Several use the the Career
Planning and Placement Office on central
campus because letters and resumes look bet-
ter coming from Ann Arbor.
"I think sometimes the Flint name drags
us down a little bit," Meijer said. "But you're
still getting a University of Michigan educa-
tion, no matter what you do."
Heaney said the regional campuses consider
themselves excellent, but that they have dif-
ferent standards than the central campus.
"We serve and meet a need that might not
be able to be accommodated in Ann Arbor,"
While some students said they might
transfer to Ann Arbor if given the opportu-
nity, most seemed happy where they were.
"Ann Arbor is cool - it's defnitely a fun
town, but I like this place," Kowalski said.
And in Dearborn, there's always parking.
IOWA CITY - Peija Tang, a
University of Iowa student who's
only been in this country for two
months, had just gotten used to
to people he
passed on theStephen
street. He S e h n
says people H n'ders I
they are in
Iowa. And he
to feel like he
was a part of
this inviting campus.
But after last Friday, when
doctoral student Gang Lu killed
five people, injured another, and
fatally shot himself, Peija's not
sure he'll be able to be so open
with American students. In fact,
he says he may not even be able
to look them in the eye.
"I'm afraid of what American
students will think of me," Peija
said, struggling to even look
straight at me. "When I pass them
now, I just look down or look
To me, that seems pretty
natural. There's always the fear
that a few imbeciles will use an
incident like this to justify and act
upon their own racist tendencies.
And the editor of Iowa's student
newspaper told me some Asian
students had already received
threatening phone calls.
But what struck me as
somewhat surprising about the
Asian students' reaction to this
tragedy was their willingness to
accept some part of the blame and
responsibility for what Lu did.
"It was one of us," Peija told
me. "And although I know this
was an individual act, I still feel
sorry for what he did... and a
little bit guilty."
"Guilty?" I thought. "Why
should anyone feel guilty over
It was clear to me at the time
that Gang Lu was disturbed. What
he did was not b'ecause he was
Asian, or even because he was in
a highly competitive academic
program. He snapped because he
couldn't find any other way to
handle things, and that's a
personal thing. The other Asian
students at Iowa had nothing to do
with his actions.
But Rev. Jason Chin, pastor of
the Chinese Church in Iowa City,
said the feelings of guilt within
the Asian community, and
especially among Chinese
students, have their roots in
"Confucianism stresses loyalty
to the family, and the individual
person and individual rights take a
back seat to the group," he said.
"In this case, the sense of family
carries over to a larger context of
the nation or peoplehood."
Chin said it would be a long
time before the Asian students on
the Iowa campus would be able to
have "face" again with Ameri-
LeAnne Howe, assistant to the
director at Iowa's Office of
International Education and
Services and someone who works
closely with the school's foreign
students, said her office is
committed to helping the Asian
students confront their feelings
and work through the crisis. She
said a group of Asian students
met this week to begin coordinat-
ing some programs to do that.
But Howe also told me she
spoke with Gang Lu's family
earlier this week. They said they
would be "shamed forever."
I still have a hard time
uiderstanding that logic or
accepting that the Asian students
at Iowa or Gang Lu's family
should feel responsible for what
happened last Friday.
Maybe it's because we stress
the individual so heavily in this
country, and try to make sense of
things that way. But then again,
I'm not Asian, and my perspec-
Flint seniors Tamiko Dixon, Chris Jones, and Regina Laurie travel through one of three
skywalks that connect all on-campus buildings.
decision to convert student apartments - the
only housing available on campus - into of-
fices at the beginning of the school year. In a
survey sponsored by the student government,
students supported keeping the housing open
In addition, many accuse Dearborn Chan-
cellor Blenda Wilson of wielding too much
authority from her position atop the campus'
"There is a lot of tension from people who
perceive the chancellor as doing whatever she
wants," said Aaron Hughlett, a sophomore
student government representative.
But Dearborn Dean McKinley said the ad-
ministration makes an effort to include stu-
dents in the decision-making process.
"Almost everyone has an open-door policy
around here," McKinley said. "I don't see any
need to apologize for being a commuter
more of us were recruited and kept here."
Yet segregation is not the only manifesta-
tion of racial tensions. Tamiko Dixon, also a
Flint senior, said she had experienced incidents
of racial harassment on campus.
"In class this guy called me a nigger. He
didn't think I heard him, but I did," Dixon
said. "It adds pressure, it's just another thing
to worry about."
Laurie said more inclusive activities need
to be planned to increase African American
participation on campus. Panels on topics in-
teresting to African Americans and cultural
programs might be one way to bring more
students into the community and reduce ten-
sions on campus, she suggested.
A sentiment echoed in both Flint and Dear-
born was that people in Ann Arbor don't take
the smaller campuses seriously.
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