Urban drama

Wayne State University administrators planning to close the books on the College of Urban, Labor and Metropolitan Affairs (CULMA) have by now realized they have a fight on their hands.

This much was clear during a town hall-style meeting Friday afternoon attended by more than 70 students, teachers and concerned graduates of the college at Detroit’s Murray Wright High School. The rally at times had the feel of a revival meeting. Such is the passion for CULMA.

Provost Nancy S. Barrett first proposed shutting down the college in January. Students would be transferred to other departments, meaning they would lose their dean and other administrators who otherwise would be there to fight for them should there be an attempt to eliminate classes and such.

The idea behind closing the school, which was first established to 1985, is to save money — $300,000 to be exact. For the move to be implemented, it must be approved by the Academic Senate next month, and then by the Board of Governors in June.

But CULMA has some influential advocates. State Rep. Mary D. Waters (D-Detroit) and state Sen. Martha G. Scott (D-Highland Park), both of whom were on hand Friday, vowed to pass legislation opposing CULMA’s elimination.

“We will continue to fight this battle,” Scott said, adding that she and Waters would be taking the issue up with university president Irvin D. Reid in the coming weeks. “As long as we fight together we can win.”

Some 800 students could be affected by the move. Most of them are older, with an average age of 40. Scott says she and Waters will write proposals echoing a resolution adopted last week by Detroit City Council, which likewise opposes closure of the college.

It is an issue of special importance to the city because the college, which focuses on the social, economic and political issues facing urban areas, pays special attention to matters affecting Detroit in particular.

In the end, math professor Andre Furtado says, two factors could save CULMA.

“The only hope is the Legislature and the media,” he says.

Scott and Waters say they will do their part. “When drafting the resolution we will cite some of the passion we’ve heard here today,” Scott said.

The next move for students, faculty and concerned alumni of CULMA will be to attend the Board of Governor’s meeting at 2:30 p.m., Wednesday, April 20, at the Alumni House at Wayne State to have their voices heard.

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