Oakland West Campus now open — What you need to know


Photo courtesy of OU

Oakland University’s new West Campus (OWC) is located at 1500 University Drive, just two miles west of the main campus. The building is a shared space with Baker College, and houses the Oakland University School of Music, Theatre and Dance.

Effective at the beginning of the Fall 2022 semester, Oakland University’s new West Campus (OWC) is now in operation and home to the School of Music, Theatre and Dance.

The site — located at 1500 University Drive — was acquired this April for $8.1 million and is currently being shared by OU and Baker College. This helps address immediate need for classroom space as Varner Hall is being remodeled; at the time of purchase, there were 226 academic space requests.

Currently the majority of classes taking place at OWC are music classes, except for those scheduled for Varner 110 and some additional classes taking place in Hill House. Some theatre classes, like costume history, are also being taught over at OWC.

“The setup works great for me,” assistant professor of theatre Whitney Locher, who is teaching costume history, said. “I don’t have a very large class, [and] I have all the technology I need to teach that class.”

This is Locher’s first time teaching the class in-person, and despite it not being at Varner, she still said it is better to teach it this way than on Zoom. Aside from general classroom space, she is pleased to see other uses for the building — which she is happy OU acquired.

“I hope that we can continue to use it in the future,” she said. “Not to keep all the theatre over there, but I mean, there’s a space that could definitely be used for performances and cabarets and everything, so I think it’s useful for us. I actually like the building.”

While the building is nice and Locher is happy with her space, she does have concerns about her students making it to class on time due to transportation. The options provided to the students are either their own transportation or carpooling, or using the SMART Flex — which has given students issues.

Students must schedule a pickup time from Oakland’s main campus to OWC, but the system recommends they schedule 24 hours in advance which spots are taken anyway. The SMART Flex vehicles are not buses like some would think, but instead are vans which can typically only fit six people.

Junior Amanda Pordon, a theatre design and technology major, is skeptical about the service and instead carpools to OWC as most people are doing.

“Carpooling has been much easier because I don’t have to share the car with someone I don’t know, and we can just head straight to campus,” Pordon said. “We don’t have to worry about our ride arriving late, realizing we never scheduled a ride or how much class we’re missing.”

“I think the administration doesn’t realize how many students are using this system, and they all need to head over to West Campus simultaneously,” she added. “SMART Flex only has so many cars they can dispatch to our area, making it difficult for everyone to receive the ride they need to make it to class on time.”

One solution Pordon has suggested is to re-start up the Bear Buses, which were shut down due to low ridership and a cost of $20 per ride. The Bear Buses could be used for just this route to begin with, and can hold more students per ride as well.

Another area of concern for some was the safety of OWC and how it will be operated under the Oakland University Police Department (OUPD). Chief Mark Gordon said OUPD and their student service aids will include OWC in their patrol areas.

“Local municipal law enforcement (Auburn Hills Police) will only be involved at that location when called by the OUPD for assistance,” Gordon said. “ We would like to be notified first of issues that arise at that location.”

In addition to the main way to contact OUPD — which is calling their main dispatch number (248) 370-3331 — the Baker College Security will still be staffed at their office, room 105, at OWC, and is instructed to notify OUPD for all police matters.