Several hot button issues, including the infamous Ann Coulter speech, John Stossel’s comments on the proposed campus smoking ban and upcoming changes to not only physical but also academic aspects of NMU were discussed in the latest session of “Let’s Chat” with NMU?President Les Wong.
Wong sat down with DJ Gavin Telfer Wednesday on Radio X and touched on the College Republicans bringing Coulter to NMU.
“The main point for me isn’t the First Amendment thing; it isn’t about who she is,” Wong said. “The students who made the decision followed their own processes. They asked good, solid questions and they had good, solid discussions. They gathered what appears to be the right information to make a good decision and they made that decision.
“When students are that effective and competent, I’m going to stand by their decision. They did the right things and they acted responsibly and I support that.”
Wong also commented on 20/20 news anchor John Stossel’s recent campus speech, which made light of what Wong said is a serious issue.
“Even John Stossel was teasing me about smoking in your car with the windows up and down and that kind of thing,” Wong said. “I think he did do a disservice of making light of the study. We do know that second-hand smoke at certain levels is deleterious to health.”
The committee deciding on the smoking policy at Northern should be formed by the end of the semester, he said. Wong added that he hopes the committee will reach a fair decision by the fall of 2009.
“If New York City can control smoking in places like restaurants and bars, I have to believe that Northern can do it in a way that satisfies everyone,” he said.
However, the topic that is drawing the most student interest is the new Roadmap to 2015, which includes the Campus Master Plan and academic goals for Northern. The main topic is the prospective changes to the graduation requirements for Northern students, Wong said.
“Probably the most distinct issue is to tackle quickly, install and reinvigorate liberal studies,” Wong said. “We need to sit down in a short amount of time and offer up a liberal studies program that makes sense to students and is both challenging and really gets students engaged, and gets them ready for their major.”
Wong’s goal with the Roadmap is to start executing the goals on the plan and also making changes to it as they are needed.
“As I said to the community, if [the Roadmap] looks unchanged in 2013, something went wrong. Something really went wrong,” he said. “There are small things that we can change; this document should change, this document should evolve.”
As far as changes go, students involved with the Native Plants Area worked on a compromise with administrators to make sure it wasn’t removed from campus, Wong said.
“The final draft of [the Campus Master Plan] is being put together by our consultants,” he said. “It represents a nice closure to a very open and inclusive process. We found some compromises, for instance, in the Native Plants Area and I think everyone’s pretty content with that; it’s sort of a ‘no one wins, no one loses’ kind of thing. It was a constructive discussion and my kudos to the students who were involved with that. I felt they did a really professional job, not only holding their positions but realizing that everybody needs to negotiate somewhere.”
The plan includes many physical changes to NMU such as the removal of Carey Hall, the Summit Street Apartments and possibly West Hall, along with renovation of Lee Hall for an alumni center. However, a popular topic with students is the implementation of a student union. The building might temporarily stand next to the Native Plants Area until funding can be secured for a larger structure.
“I think there’s no doubt that a student union building is high on everybody’s list,” Wong said.
He said that after his three-and-a-half years at Northern he still has a lot to give and change on the campus and feels attached to the campus and Marquette as a whole.
“If the community continues to appreciate the work that (wife) Phyllis and I are doing and continue to invite us to stay here we would love to stay,” Wong said. “This has been a magical place for me personally and professionally. With the Roadmap, I feel invested in getting part of that done.”