MOLINE, Illinois — The new president of Western Illinois University Dr. Guiyou Huang on Tuesday said the institution remains committed to its Quad Cities campus, despite calls from the Moline Mayor and the QC Chamber of Commerce for a new partner to take over the location.
"I want to learn about that campus. I want to hear the community’s perspective on it," said Dr. Huang, who took the helm at WIU on January 1st. "And our strategic plan will reflect very clearly the concerns that have been raised over the last several years."
"It's a beautiful campus and it's amazing," said Wilkinson Egger, a business project management major at the QC campus.
But Egger sees the the lonely walkways, quiet lobbies and near-empty parking lot and thinks the campus needs more people.
"Showing off their faces and smiling, just really making this feel like a community environment, because you walk in there and it's fairly desolate right now," Egger said.
Enrollment at the QC campus has steadily declined from more than 1,100 students in spring 2015 to just over 250 students this semester. It's a far cry from the picture of 5,000 to 6,000 students painted by leaders when at the groundbreaking ceremony a decade ago.
"This is the school that I chose to go to," said mechanical engineering student Torrence Johnson, who said he likes the small classes sizes and having more downtime with professors.
"With this campus we're more on the business tech to engineering side of degrees. So with that the class load is more," Johnson said. "So we can't really be more athletic. We can't really be more vibrant because we're all working."
But something "more vibrant" was what Mayor Stephanie Acri said the city wanted in a blunt public letter published last week. But Dr. Huang said Western remains committed.
"We are one university, serving one mission," Dr. Huang said. "We will be able to make a firm commitment to future of that campus."
"We will have more programs that meet the needs of the Quad Cities area," Dr. Huang said.