Cheyney University has a student body of 750 students. Despite its size, the university held their Spring Open House in March which welcomed over 600 students to their campus for a tour detailing the different academic programs they offer. Out of over 600 students, 163 left with acceptance letters.
Although Cheyney looks forward to bringing in more students, the university is still lacking permanent leadership.
“I’m waiting to see a president, provost and dean that holds people accountable,” said Adedoyin Adeyiga, Professor of Chemistry at Cheyney University.
The Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education (PASSHE) appointed Dr. Frank Pogue as the interim president of Cheyney in 2014—almost three years ago.
“I don’t think he’s interested, he’s already retired,” said Adeyiga. “Why are you calling upon someone that is retired? Why not conduct a presidential search?”
PASSHE appointed a task force to go into Cheyney and assess what Cheyney needs to move forward. PASSHE says they will not start a search for president until the task force is done with their work.
Adeyiga believes Cheyney’s record-low enrollment and financial plight is a result of a culmination of no internal structure and lack of strong commitment from the state system.
“The state system is supposed to be the watchdog for everyone, but they just left us floating,” Adeyiga says. “If they kept bringing us good presidents, we could say ‘PASSHE is doing everything they can,’ but they aren’t. Let the state system show their commitment by giving us a very good president.”
With WCU and Cheyney so close, merging has been a constant thought. Collaboration is also a possibility, one that could do the two universities well.
“If there’s a fun event you want to go to, or a speaker that you think is interesting speaks there on campus, how do you get there?” says Randall Cream, Assistant Professor in the English De- partment at WCU. “If West Chester folks want to go, you can’t. You have to catch an Uber or something.”
According to Michael Burns, Assistant Professor of English at WCU, in the 1930s, there were radical progressive professors from WCU (then known as West Chester State Teachers College) taking students back and forth to Cheyney and sharing meeting spaces. Today, there is no direct way to get to one campus to the other without a car. A shuttle between West Chester’s and Cheyney’s campuses would provide a convenience for students and faculty at both institutions. The only way to access Cheyney from West Chester without a car would be to catch SEP- TA’s Route 104 bus from Church Street to the 69th Street Transportation Center in Upper Darby (right next to Philadelphia), and then catch the Route 120 bus to Cheyney University.
That trip requires almost two hours of sitting on a bus to access a school only 15 minutes away. Students at Cheyney are faced with the same time-consuming trip to West Chester, making access to downtown difficult for the majority of Cheyney’s students.
“It’s not in West Chester’s interest to provide the shuttle, and it’s not in Cheyney’s interest to provide the shuttle,” said Cream. “The connection between the two is the business of PASSHE, they should provide the shuttle.”
Cream stated that during the Association of Pennsylvania State College and University Faculties’ (APSCUF) strike last fall, he met faculty from Cheyney on the picket lines in Philadelphia at PASSHE’s Philadelphia campus.
“I was happy to meet friends from Cheyney University, because I felt like there was a history of distrust between the two groups,” said Cream. “Cheyney faculty felt like West Chester faculty disrespected them and didn’t like them, and it’s only because of the lack of connection.”
He went on to say there should be more conversations and collaborating between the two.
“[Cheyney] has been at it longer than we have just in terms of institutional memory,” said Burns. “And so I think there’s something we can learn from that as well.”
When talking about how both universities could benefit from collaboration and connection, both Burns and Cream agree that there is a lot to learn.
“Cheyney probably knows some things that we don’t,” said Burns. “They know about how to treat Black students with respect and how to treat Black students like people, which is something our institution can learn from.”
“Today we have a choice, we do we want to do? We have a sister institution a few miles away that’s got a rich history, a beautiful campus, some great students, a historical mission that is valable to the state and to the nation, and we operate that as public stewards,” said Cream. “And we could do better.”
Sunny Morgan is a second-year student majoring in communication studies with a minor in journalism. She can be reached at SM848270@wcupa.edu. Her Twitter is @SunnyMorgan97.