When there’s a minute left in the fourth quarter and the football team is down by a single touchdown, all the students in the Big House cheer wildly, regardless of which of the University’s campuses they attend. So when a policy was created last football season that gave priority football seating to students from Ann Arbor, Dearborn and Flint students were rightfully outraged. The policy has been changed for the next football season, but the dispute brought to the surface the importance of the University’s smaller campuses. To keep up with recent efforts to improve the Flint and Dearborn campuses, the University should invest more time and attention in them.
Last year, the Athletic Department instituted a policy that gave priority seating at football games to Ann Arbor students over Flint and Dearborn students. This year, 220 fewer tickets were sold to Dearborn students than in previous years, quite possibly because of this policy. But after students from all three campuses confronted the Athletic Department arguing that this policy was blatantly unfair, the policy was repealed.
Many students at the Ann Arbor campus may be upset at losing priority seating because they feel that they are entitled to it. It’s true that Ann Arbor students pay significantly higher tuition fees than students in Dearborn or Flint. But denying Flint and Dearborn students an equal opportunity to attend football games sends the message that they aren’t part of the University. Football games at Michigan Stadium are a defining characteristic of the culture that draws students to the University, and all students deserve the chance to take part in this important Michigan tradition.
This policy was also emblematic of the discrepancies between the Ann Arbor campus and the Flint and Dearborn campuses, and ending it should serve as another move toward granting these campuses the proper recognition.The University has recognized in recent years that Flint and Dearborn can be valuable assets, but only if the University is willing to invest in them. The Flint campus, for example, opened its first residence hall last year. Improvements like this demonstrate that the University’s other campuses have much to offer students.
But there’s still more to do. The University has a responsibility to its students, and not just those in Ann Arbor. It must ramp up support of these other campuses’ needs in order to provide an education and a college experience that is just as worthwhile as Ann Arbor’s.
The University of California is a prime example for the University to emulate. There are six University of California campuses that operate at respected academic levels and each have their own unique but centralized identity. Considering that the University of California was originally modeled after the University, it’s a little embarrassing that it now showcases a better working system of sister campuses.
Granting equal access to football games doesn’t signal a sudden increase in interest in Flint and Dearborn, but it was the right decision to make. Now the University must move forward to utilize the Dearborn and Flint campuses to their full potential. And that means investing time and, yes, money, in them.