Dear WIU Community,

I have written this letter because Western Illinois University gave me a chance to become the leader that I am today. Unfortunately, there are some who seek to compromise my alma mater from afar, but Leathernecks have tough skin. I want to preface this letter by saying that I have not written this letter to harm my alma mater. In fact, I have written this letter to give my perspective on the challenges that my alma mater faces while supporting the leadership of the 11th President of Western Illinois University, Dr. Jack Thomas.
It is no secret that enrollment has been on the decline at Western Illinois University for almost two decades, but it is not because of the great admissions staff or the incomparable administration at Western.
However, much of the decline is due to the City of Macomb, Illinois. Macomb’s refusal to grow its presence and expand its businesses has caused a once-bustling college town to become just another dot on the map. To the contrary, Macomb is not a modern-day college town. In fact, one could argue that of all the cities hosting public institutions in the state of Illinois, Macomb would rank very high in the least-desired places to live. Students are looking for the amenities of home while also seeking a quality and affordable education. Unfortunately, at this time, Western Illinois University can only check the quality of education box. This is due to the fact that in the Land of Lincoln, the budget for higher education has been gashed. Deferred maintenance costs are still at an all-time high.
With these obstacles, one would think that recruitment efforts should be kicked into overdrive and they have. Currently, Western recruits in Chicagoland area, the Quad Cities area and the St. Louis area. However, there is a faction that wants to see the office in St. Louis closed. This faction is led by former and current members of the Western Illinois University Board of Trustees. I know this because in fall 2015 they met me at the newly-opened Wing-Stop restaurant in the Quad Cities to discuss this very topic over lunch. Being naïve and a former trustee myself, I did not know why the meeting was taking place, but I decided to attend.
During this meeting, there was a conversation about the St. Louis office – in East St. Louis at the time. The two trustees wanted to know why I left the office and was it viable? I helped them understand how the St. Louis office could be a viable asset to a university with enrollment issues. However, they pushed even further toward the negatives of having an office in that region. As I listened to these two men talk, it reminded me of the covert racism that often permeates throughout higher education, especially at institutions where people of color are at the helm.
The St. Louis office is needed in the region and it costs little to operate. The reason why those two trustees wanted and still want the office closed is because it is perceived that the office only recruits Black students. In short, the good ol’ boys are out to make Western White Again, but that contradicts one of the core values of Western Illinois University: EDUCATIONAL OPPORTUNITY. If it were not for that core value, I would not have been able to earn two degrees from Western Illinois University. Shame on those two men, but I am confident that the board of trustees as a whole will see past the bigotry and prejudices of those two men. To the Western Illinois University Board of Trustees, now is the time to lead!
I submit this letter in support of President Dr. Jack Thomas and his entire administration because, during these tough budgetary times, Western Illinois University has kept their doors open. My alma mater has risen in many of the academic rankings over the last ten years while also providing students with cutting-edge degree programs. This has been done because Leathernecks are equipped with the mindset and wherewithal to survive the toughest of times.

Sincerely,
D’Angelo S. Taylor, M.A. ’11, ’15
Former Western Illinois University Trustee ’09-’10, ’12-‘13