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Washtenaw County Needs a Better WCC

Yesterday, I wrote about the level of poverty in Washtenaw County compared to the level of poverty in Ypsilanti. As I was writing about what the area needs and the level of participation that requires from WCC, a couple of things stood out to me+.

First, the Administration at WCC is more focused on and more dedicated to meeting the needs of people outside of Washtenaw County than those of people who live here and generously over-fund WCC.

This lack of focus on Washtenaw County explains why the biggest concerns in the current Master Plan focus on inconsequential things like the front entrance to the college. Worse, the plan calls for the closure of the main entrance to WCC.

Can you think of any better way to discourage local residents from attending WCC than permanently closing the main entrance to the college? Talk about barriers to attendance! This Administration plans to erect actual barriers to attendance. The Gateless Gate sculpture, which represents the accessibility of the college to everyone may ultimately find itself locked behind the Entryless Entrance as it stands watch over the Studentless Student Center.

The lack of Washtenaw County residents among the WCC Administration might account for the lack of focus on the needs of Washtenaw County. t WCC has had a long-standing relationship with the Parkridge Center, but that relationship has never produced programs that prepare residents for high-wage, high-demand jobs. As the old saying goes, “The proof of the pudding is in the eating.” After all this time, there’s still no pudding for Ypsilanti residents.

WCC Trustees Don’t Understand the Needs of Washtenaw County

Second, the Administration is likely focused on its own priorities because the WCC Board of Trustees isn’t really focused on the needs of Washtenaw County. Six of the seven trustees live in Ann Arbor, and the seventh lives in Dexter. Ypsilanti, Ypsilanti Township, Milan, York Township, Saline, Manchester, Superior Township, Augusta Township – none of these places have any representation on the Board. The Board is absolutely blind to the needs of the rest of the County.

That’s why WCC spends tax dollars intended for education on a quasi-private health club instead of developing strategies to address the near-30% poverty level in Ypsilanti. It’s why the Master Plan calls for the construction of a hotel on campus instead of coming up with strategies to help Washtenaw County residents feed their families. That’s why WCC reshuffles its course catalog to develop “new” certificate programs instead of designing actual new instructional content. They can’t focus on the poverty in front of them because they don’t see any poverty in Ann Arbor. (Of course, Ann Arbor’s actual poverty level is 23.3%, but that’s just from all the students, and if you ignore poverty long enough, it will go away, right?)

It’s why the Trustees paid a quarter-million dollars to a consultant to develop the most inane and vacuous Master Plan, after which Christina Fleming claimed the Master Plan was “just a suggestion.” You don’t waste a quarter-million dollars on “suggestions.” How many new academic programs could that money have developed?

I have a suggestion: WCC won’t get better until we elect better Trustees.

Photo Credit: Theryn Fleming, via Flickr