Mayor Duggan tries to temper criticism of Wayne State with unusual meeting

Mayor Duggan_4450
Mayor Mike Duggan. Photo by Steve Neavling.

Wayne State University President M. Roy Wilson has come under fire recently for raising tuition, accepting a $25,000 bonus, showing a lack of transparency and failing to stem the rapid decline in black enrollment.

To curb the criticism, Wilson has called an unusual ally for help – Mayor Mike Duggan, who has no control over the public university but has connections to community activists who are calling attention to growing controversies at Wayne State.

WSU President Roy Wilson
WSU President M. Roy Wilson

Duggan arranged a private lunch meeting in his office Tuesday with Wilson and activist Minister Malik Shabazz, a friend and supporter of the mayor.

Duggan’s office declined to say why the mayor is meddling in university affairs or whether he plans to encourage Shabazz to quit criticizing the university. Duggan’s deputy chief of staff, David Massaron, is the son of Wayne State’s Board of Governors Vice Chairman Paul Massaron, one of the most vocal supporters of President Wilson.

Whatever the case, a defiant Shabazz said he’s not backing down until Wilson becomes more transparent and makes a sincere effort to reverse the decline in black enrollment, which has plummeted nearly 50% between 2009 and 2015.

“The mayor said that President Wilson has done some fantastic things for Wayne State, but he hasn’t done shit for us,” Shabazz told me. “The recruiting of Detroit students and people of color is abysmal. That needs to change.”

Minister Malik Shabazz
Minister Malik Shabazz

Shabazz also said Wilson needs to release records of his expenses, which Motor City Muckraker requested in a Freedom of Information Act request. But in an effort to prevent us from gaining access to the records, the university charged us outrageous fees that likely violate state law.

“I want to see his expenses,” Shabazz said. “They are raising tuition and giving out bonuses. We have a right to know how much was spent on his expenses. What are they hiding? They don’t want the public to know what’s going on.”

At the last Board of Governors meeting in September, Shabazz brought a legion of protesters to speak out about transparency, the president’s $25,000 bonus and the decline in black enrollment.

President Wilson “wants us to stop attacking him and stop coming to the board meetings,” Shabazz said. “He wants me to stop lighting a fire up his rectum and stop talking about him on my radio show.”

Wilson declined to comment for this story.

Shabazz also said the elected Board of Governors has failed to hold the president accountable.

“The Board of Governors needs to remember that they are President Wilson’s boss,” Shabazz said. “But in going to the meetings for the past year, they act like President Wilson is their boss.”

The lone board member to oppose the bonus, Dana Thompson, issued a lengthy statement last month about the university’s lack of transparency and failure to recruit more black students.

Since Motor City Muckraker launched an investigation into Wayne State this year, university officials have declined to answer questions and failed to meet state-mandated deadlines for public record requests.

Steve Neavling

Steve Neavling lives and works in Detroit as an investigative journalist. His stories have uncovered corruption, led to arrests and reforms and prompted FBI investigations.