By DEVIN BROOKS, NEWS3 Reporter
MOLINE, Illinois (NEWS3) — Quad City-area leaders feel Western Illinois University has not lived up to its promises for the university’s Quad Cities campus and the region and are calling on a new university to replace the QC campus in Moline.
Moline Mayor Stephanie Acri posted a letter she sent to WIU President Guiyou Huang on Facebook. In her letter, Acri said the city wants to “attract students to Moline by offering a student experience with housing, restaurants, shopping and athletic engagements.”
Some students are surprised to hear the city wants to bring a new institution to the Quad Cities campus.
“First, I was baffled by Mayor Acri’s letter,” senior Anna Headley, 26, said. “I was kind of disheartened about the discussions about removing the QC campus.”
Quad Cities Chamber of Commerce President Paul Rumler is one of the leaders pushing to bring in a new university. He said WIU has failed to keep its word.
“Over the past several years, we’ve been interestingly concerned by the lack of progress at the Quad Cities campus that’s under WIU’s leadership,” Rumler said. “WIU had the best intentions over a decade ago.”
When WIU broke ground on the Moline campus back in 2012, school officials said it planned to enroll at least 3,000 students. There are currently 168 students this semester, according to WIU.
“This really has not met the mark of what was envisioned,” Rumler said.
In a letter sent to Illinois Gov. JB Pritzker’s office, Huang said, “As our University has recently moved under new leadership, it is essential that we are provided time to assess the needs of our University and the communities in which we serve.”
In recent interviews, Huang has talked about his plan to make enrollment a top priority, but officials like Rumler feel it’s a little too late.
“What we’re wanting to see is a program that helps grow our region’s economy,” Rumler said.
Officials said the decision to remove and replace a state university is handled by the governor’s office. The governor’s office could not be reached for comment.
Huang and Acri had a second meeting on Tuesday, March 2 to continue their discussions. Acri posted a statement to Facebook that said she left the meeting “genuinely disappointed,” and Moline could not wait any more.
WIU Executive Director of University Communications Darcie Shinberger sent a statement to NEWS3 in response to Acri’s letter. “Under the direction of WIU’s 12th President Guiyou Huang and University leadership, Western Illinois University-Quad Cities remains future-focused and committed to the regions we serve. WIU will continue to serve students in the Quad Cities region, continue vital community outreach initiatives and further strengthen the University’s partnerships with Quad Cities area leaders, businesses, organizations, and area schools,” Shinberger said.
The full letters from Huang and Acri are attached below in this article.
Editor’s note: WIU officials sent a statement to NEWS3 Thursday morning to respond to a request for comment.