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Editorial: For Wayne State University Board of Governors

The Detroit News Editorial Board  |  The Detroit News
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Eva Garza Dewaelsche Endorsement Interview
The Detroit News Editorial Board recorded interviews with some candidates. We are posting these interviews to benefit voters.

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Editor's note: Michigan’s Constitution calls for statewide elections of the independent boards governing the state’s three major universities. Every two years, two of the positions on each eight-member board are up for election, and candidates are selected at state party conventions. Members serve eight-year terms, The university boards govern finances and hire presidents, among other important oversight tasks. 

The Wayne State University Board of Governors could use a refresh, following a period of infighting among members that is distracting from other important issues facing the university. 

Only one incumbent is on the ballot. And with just one Republican currently on the board, more political diversity is in order. 

Over the past year, the dysfunction on the board led to a spat about ousting university President M. Roy Wilson over switching the university’s medical school affiliation to the Henry Ford Health System. Luckily he’s still around. 

Democrats at their convention even booted incumbent Sandra Hughes O’Brien following her involvement in the infighting. Republicans ran into a glitch, after their nominee Diane Dunaskiss — a former long-term member of the WSU board — got disqualified from the ballot after failing to pay a 2018 campaign fee. The GOP chose instead Terri Lynn Land, the former Michigan secretary of state. 

We are impressed with Republican Don Gates of Northville, who is an IT security and business professional, as well as a retired colonel with the U.S. Army Reserve. He says he is committed to bringing a “strategic management” approach to decision-making along with more professionalism and civility. He’s also focused on keeping costs low for students, and ensuring the safety of the campus. 

We also think that Democrat Eva Garza Dewaelsche of Detroit is well-suited to join the board. She is a life-long Detroiter who runs a nonprofit workforce development agency, so she’s in tune with many of the issues facing university students, especially those from Detroit. She has been actively involved with WSU, including sitting on the alumni board for 12 years, as well as several president advisory councils. She is committed to improving the retention rates of students and expanding diversity on campus. 

Also running is Democrat Shirley Stancato of Detroit, whom Gov. Gretchen Whitmer appointed last year after board member Kim Trent resigned. She has a strong record of leadership and is the former CEO of New Detroit. 

Don Gates and Eva Garza Dewaelsche would be welcome additions to the board. 

Endorsements are determined independently by The Detroit News Editorial Board and have no influence on news coverage.