There’s an image on the UM-Dearborn Memes Facebook page that reads, “Wayne State gets Lupe Fiasco, we get a yelling atheist.” And that’s just one example of the cool things that happen on other campuses that we never get.
"There’s an image on the UM-Dearborn Memes Facebook page that reads, 'Wayne State gets Lupe Fiasco, we get a yelling atheist.' And that’s just one example of the cool things that happen on other campuses that we never get."


This piece was inspired by “Campus Engagement: Where Did We Go Wrong?” by Uzoma Okeke, and not just because he called out the radio station for having the lights on and no one home (which, by the way, just because you don’t see anyone doesn’t mean that there isn’t a show going on – you cannot see into the DJ booth from the hallway). Moving on.

I agree with Mr. Okeke that there are problems with student leadership. Pettiness runs rampant on the second floor, as does gossip. There are problems with the administration, too – I’m not denying that. But I think the problem goes much deeper.

There’s an image on the UM-Dearborn Memes Facebook page that reads, “Wayne State gets Lupe Fiasco, we get a yelling atheist.” And that’s just one example of the cool things that happen on other campuses that we never get.

Recently, Kal Penn Ann spoke at Central Michigan University of their Asian Pacific American Heritage month. Our big brother, Ann Arbor, had Obama speak at their 2010 commencement. We got Mary Sue Coleman. And no one as famous as Penn has ever spoken here for any reason.

This year, Ann Arbor’s commencement will feature Dr. Sanjay Gupta, CNN’s chief medical correspondent. We’ll have David Brandon, UM’s Director of Athletics and Chacona W. Johnson, President and CEO of the Detroit Public Schools Foundation. I’m sure Brandon and Johnson are wonderful people and they’re obviously successful.

But trying to compare Gupta to them is like trying to compare apples to oranges – if apples are nationally known and oranges only grow in southeastern Michigan.

Going back to my point about Lupe Fiasco, I actually got his opening act for that show – two dudes who call themselves Passalacqua – to come to UM-D. Nobody showed up. I couldn’t even get people from my own organization to show up.

So I started thinking, why was the turnout so low? We had Passalacqua on the UC Stage, so it wasn’t that people couldn’t find it or that it wasn’t accessible.

As I was asking people why they thought the turnout was low, someone in my org mentioned that most people who hang out in the UC are looking to do homework or talk to their friends – not listen to live music. And I realized that they were right.

That’s another way of how the school isn’t conducive to student life – we don’t even have a proper performance venue. If you think about it, almost every event is held in Kochoff or on the UC Stage – sometimes the BorgWarner Auditorium if it’s a bigger crowd. We don’t have a theater, so even if we could snag Lupe Fiasco or a nationally known actor, where we host him? In Kochoff, where the acoustics are terrible? BorgWarner only seats 220. That’s not even 1/9th of our student body.

I mean, we graduate in a gymnasium. A gymnasium. If that isn’t the best example of how this campus falls short, I don’t know what is.

I often hear people refer to this school as “not a real school” or “a continuation of high school.” I referred to my freshman year as “the 13th grade.” Many people reading this might protest and say, well, look at all of our organizations! And that’s great, but a lot of people have no idea that these organizations exist. And organizations – no matter how hard they try – do not make a college campus when that campus was not designed with student life in mind.

I have no idea what it used to be like around here, but in my time here, all I’ve see is people coming here for class and then leaving. Of course, on the second floor, you have people who stick around a little longer. But if someone doesn’t have to be here, they won’t.

And it’s not just because the food options here are terrible (which they are, by the way – thanks, Aramark!) or because there’s not really anywhere to hang out (the downstairs of the UC gets pretty gross as the day goes on, let’s get real) – although those are contributing factors.

It’s because everyone shares this mentality that this isn’t a real school. That nothing cool happens here, or will ever happen. Sure, SAB gives us Segways and slushies, but that’s not really anything to brag to your non-UM-D friends about.

And so you can critique student leadership and SAO and the UC Front Desk and make valid points about their downfalls. But until you look at the school as a whole, you’re missing the point – this school was not designed to sustain thriving student life.

The views presented, unless otherwise noted, are of the individual authors and do not necessarily represent those of The Michigan Journal Editorial Board, the University of Michigan-Dearborn faculty or administration.


  1. First of all, I’d like to say that I truly appreciate a well written article. As such, your article didn’t drive me away instantly due to a lack of proper spelling, grammar, and syntax. For that, I thank you.

    Second, I do agree with many of the points you present here. UM-Dearborn (which is the proper way of writing it out, as opposed to UM-D) does not have adequate space for housing large-scale events; UM-Dearborn does not have good food – I agree wholeheartedly that the served on a daily basis in McKinley is horrendous; and UM-Dearborn does not have the reputation of perpetuating student life like other institutions might. The problem I’ve had with your article, as well as Mr. Okeke’s however, is that you both have focused solely upon the negative aspects of the campus, rather than on potential solutions to the problems. Yes, UM-Dearborn may not be “designed to sustain thriving student life” at the moment, but who says that we can’t be the group to change that?

    Further, I do agree that we are unable to host major celebrities for various reasons. But focusing upon the fact that we can’t have one type of programming means that we’re ignoring other albeit less widely-known, but equally important types. For instance, look at the turnout garnered by the visit by Dr. Patch Adams earlier this year. Overall, nearly 800 attendants , or close to 10% of our student body, came out for that visit over both days. That’s a very decent figure for any campus – I mean, how many non-athletic events at UM-Ann Arbor attract 4,200 guests?

    To summarize my comments, I think that the biggest problems that we face as students attempting to perpetuate further student life at UM-Dearborn is not the lack of resources we’re given to work with, or the rigid system within which we’re forced to operate. Rather, the biggest problem is our lack of creativity in overcoming obstacles. We have a unique set of hurdles to jump through in order to execute the same tasks that come easily elsewhere, and I think we’re better off for it. So, while it might be difficult to work through these issues, I know that during the remainder of my time on campus, I’ll be coming up with creative, alternative solutions to problems, rather than complaining about what went wrong where and when, and I highly encourage all those reading to do the same. Let’s make UM-Dearborn better for ourselves, and for future students while we have the chance. Let’s be remembered as those who attempted to correct some of the problems we face, rather than be forgotten like countless past students who have whined their way into obscurity.

    • Anthony,

      The only reason I even continued to read your response after that pointless first paragraph was because I know you tend to have good points.

      I’ll say this: we stress the negatives because they outweigh the positives, we have “achievements”, but those achievements aren’t at the standards we should be at. That would be the same as saying a 23 year old man was finally able to beat an elementary student in a 20 yard dash, and he’s moving on to junior high school students next. You ask how many events at UM-Ann Arbor pull 4,250 if they aren’t based on sports? Can you use that same context with LTU? With EMU? Both of these campuses manage to pull 10% easily and have no sports affiliations worth bringing up. EMU reaches out with their facilities to more than just students, and you can pass it off as “they have the facilities to do so,” but there’s more to it than that.

      To continue down the list of relevant points: how is creating awareness of a situation, and telling others to choose a leader that has drive versus someone who just talks a good talk and is your buddy, not a solution? I feel like I’ve said this before, but when you voice concerns, and publicize what people can universally see as a problem, is that not the first step to creating a solution to it? Even if Kristen and myself did not say specifically that we need to do this or that, simply getting people to acknowledge this, and from that point on create possible solutions to what we all see as a problem, is an excellent step in the right direction.

      And we do have a problem when it comes to overcoming obstacles, but that ties in to a comment from my article last week, or rather viewing the comment differently: it’s hard to create something when people in power are restricting both your ability to do so and the drive/motivation you put behind it. When you want to kill a weed, you attack it at its roots. You don’t just chop it off above the surface. The same applies to problems. You attack it at its root. And one of our major roots, even if some may disagree, is the leadership that we have; primarily in faculty positions.

      I do agree with the fact that we need to overcome the restrictions of not being designed to sustain thriving student life, and that we lack creativity, though. And as far as UM-Dearborn vs. UM-D goes: I’ve been on this campus before people were even saying that we should change from saying UM-D. That’s not something that anyone should be subject to follow, unless in professional representation of the university. I’m fairly certain that the majority of the people that go here either say the name in full (The University of Michigan-Dearborn), or something to that degree. But how it’s posted isn’t relevant in an opinion article in which “The views presented, unless otherwise noted, are of the individual authors and do not necessarily represent those of The Michigan Journal Editorial Board, the University of Michigan-Dearborn faculty or administration.”

      But I would like to raise a challenge to everyone who reads these articles about campus life: don’t just respond back on the webpage. Talk about these things in person to others that voice their concerns and opinions. Act on the very statements you believe in. There’s a lot more power and meaning behind something that you do or say in person, rather than on a website; so why leave it at just that?

    • Anthony,

      First of all, thanks. I appreciate that you actually read my piece and I appreciate that your replied respectfully (something that doesn’t always happen in these comment sections).

      I didn’t offer solutions because I don’t see myself, as a student, having much of a voice. Let’s take food options, for instance. In my opinion, solution number one would be to dissolve Aramark’s hold over the UC food service (and over this campus as whole). Let’s invite businesses to set up shop in the UC. Or let’s invite food trucks to park on campus and serve students. Sadly, I don’t see the administration going for it – and really, whether it happens or not is up to them. What can I as a student do?

      I just see the issues I raised as topics for the administration to cover. It sounds pessimistic and defeatist, but I really fail to see how I, as a student, can change things that are far above my head.

  2. I’ll disagree on one aspect: we are a school that needs to thrive off of our community. If we wanted Lupe, we could get Lupe. We would just have to rent out the Ford Field or a nearbty venue to support the crowd and cover costs. And with the amount of money that SAO blows away on their events, it is quite possible to do so.

    This campus may not have what other campuses have, but that isn’t because it wasn’t designed to support student life. Student life can thrive, because it has in the past. But it’s the lack of creativity and the short-mindedness of both leaders as well as faculty that limit this. Thinking outside the box, and taking risks, are essentially what can lead towards brighter days, better investments, and venues we can discuss with pride.

    For ASB0-Detroit in ’08 and ’09, they slept in the gym at night. Yet only 5% of the participants complained about the living arrangements. It’s about taking what you have and making the most of it. No one ever said that we had to limit ourselves to what has the block M logo.

    But other than that, you do make some valid points.

    • I agree, we do need to thrive off of the community. But I just don’t see Dearborn as a “college town” a la Ann Arbor, Detroit (or at least Midtown), or even Mount Pleasant. I haven’t really been to any other campuses, so I can’t comment. But the three towns I mentioned have easily accessible restaurants, bars, and other venues.

      I know we don’t have to limit ourselves to what has the block M logo. If I’m not mistaken, Wayne hosted Lupe at the Majestic Theater. I guess when it comes down to it, we could’ve had him at the Ford Performing Arts Center. But then people would have had to drive there, and I feel like that in itself is a deterrent. I feel like part of what defines a college town is that you can easily walk/bike it. AA and Detroit are super easy to walk and many students there ride bikes to get around. I haven’t spent as much time there, but from my trip there, Mount Pleasant was also fairly easy to walk.

      But that’s mostly for events at night… and I don’t really see Dearborn as the happenin’ place to be at night. Like I said, it’s not really a town geared towards college kids.

      But that’s getting quite off topic. My article was mostly discussing day time, on-campus events. That’s what I want to see more of – people hanging out and enjoying themselves on campus. I want this campus to meet their needs, I want them to have fun here. I don’t want them to have to drive out to West Dearborn for food options or entertainment.

  3. The biggest things from both of these articles is it seems that the organizations on campus need to step it up and work together to create a better campus life and we need more HELP, yes i put it in caps, from administration. Organizations are here for one thing: getting students involved on campus. If we didn’t want to have a student life here then we might as well just become a community college and get rid of the orgs.

    Things are going on behind the scenes of this school that a lot of the student population is not yet aware of. Orgs are remodeling themselves, getting ready for better things in the next couple years. CVN is one of those orgs. Our programming is changing for the better. Wolf Pack is another one that is “revamping” their org. SAB is as well.

    These articles are great! This is what a lot of people have been saying around campus. Has anyone noticed that after about 5 o’clock campus is dead??? Where did all the people go? Even last semester there were more people at 6 or 6:30 then there is now at 5! Hopefully these articles will spark some thoughts and maybe we’ll see this campus come back to life within the next few semesters. Thank you both, Z and Kristen, for putting these thoughts out there. It was about time we got these thoughts out to the majority of the student body so they know that the leaders of the orgs are thinking the same way as many of them.

  4. I agree with this article. I have a full class schedule in the winter and fall semesters and I work two part time jobs on campus, so my issue with getting involved is that
    since I’m there so often but don’t live there, I want to go home and relax after work or classes.

    I think I would feel differently if I lived and had a lot of friends on campus. We would be looking for things to do on campus instead of returning to our respective suburbs looking for entertainment. Obviously dorms are a big project and one that I understand is currently in the works, and I know the SAO are always working hard to provide events during the day for students to participate in, but I feel like sometimes it’s an exclusive club that not everyone is privy to.

    I think it would be cool if some of the groups used their voices on campus to push for things like an auditorium so we could have an opportunity to have concerts and other things on campus. That sort of thing would definitely encourage me to stay after classes have ended and meet new people.

  5. I like the take this article has in the sense that student life is often as much to do with structure of a campus rather then simply big names or who we bring in. Although I must say in the cases of U of M – Ann Arbor, and Wayne State, both campuses have well entrenched and thriving communities within and around them to some degree or another. they also have a heavy amount invested in dorms. U of M – Dearborn never really did and that’s often where things stand apart. I think another idea to note here is also the factor of Sprawl, not much infrastructure interconnection UMD within it’s facilities… it’s not a very walkable campus, at least in relation between the Fairlane Center area and Evergreen. This as a result has an impact as well.

    It simply means when it comes to student culture, UMD has a long way to go still.

  6. What place do hip-hop moguls and minor celebrities have on academic campuses? Moreover, what reason would these same people have for coming to a campus with limited cache and horrible geographic placement?

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