Western Michigan University President John Dunn says he still hopes federal regulators can be convinced to keep the tower at W.K. Kellogg Airport open. Western’s College of Aviation is located at the airport in Battle Creek. The Federal Aviation Administration announced on Friday that the tower is one being defunded because of automatic federal spending cuts known as “sequestration.”
In an interview on Tuesday with WMUK’s Gordon Evans and Mlive Kalamazoo reporter Yvonne Zipp, Dunn said there are contingency plans in place to continue training. But he still hopes to appeal, and convince federal regulators that the tower should be kept open. (Mlive Kalamazoo reports Congressman Fred Upton says a good case can be made for keeping the tower open)
On other topics:
Dunn responded to questions about a Mlive series on school safety that found universities were interpreting the law differently from state officials. Dunn says there should be a review to ensure that the law is being followed. But Dunn says Western is the only university he has worked at where drills are regularly done.
Finances of college sports
Dunn helped present a study in January on the amount colleges spend on athletics and a growing disparity between larger and smaller schools. Dunn says he is proud of the Mid-American Conference’s track record of competition without big disparities in spending. Questions about how much benefit a university gets from a winning team are what Dunn calls a debate that's been going on for a long time. But he says university presidents need to look at the whole picture, including making sure that teams are following NCAA rules.
Dunn was asked about a recent study from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities which found a steep decline in state funding for universities in Michigan. Dunn says that in 1980 for every dollar spent, 80 cents came from the state. Now about 23% of funding comes from the state. Dunn says the university has been able to redefine itself. Studies have shown that Western has low administrative costs, but Dunn says the university is searching for a balance to maintain quality and affordability.
With graduation around the corner, Dunn says there are encouraging signs in the job market. Dunn says the university is also working to try to make sure that students are ready for the job market. He says that includes working with the business community and with community colleges. Dunn also restated a point he has made often that autonomous universities allow for such relationships in Michigan. He says it would be more difficult with a state university system, which exists in other states.