My millions of regular readers will of course know exactly what I’m referring to in the title of this post, but just as a refresher: I am of course referring to the infamous EMU “University House,” the grand palace that Sam Kirkpatrick built for himself and his wife on EMU’s dime, the house that was the source of so much controversy and anger and passion on campus, and the house that ultimately cost Kirkpatrick his job. The Ann Arbor News has a nice site here that collects some of the previous articles they published about the controversy, and if you’re really curious, take a look at the July 2004 archive of this blog, the last time The House was in the news and on my mind.
Anyway, interim President Craig Willis (who everybody seems to like, btw) had a reception/party last night, and Annette and I went. Quite the event. After a golf cart ride from the convocation center parking lot (which is around the corner from the house) to the front door, we checked our coats and wandered into what was clearly the main “reception room” of the house, the place where functions are held.
We milled around a bit, and then we “took the tour.” Our original intentions was to “poke around,” but actually, we went on a real tour, one lead by an “EMU Ambassador,” who are undergraduate honors students who volunteer and represent EMU at functions like this. Incidentally, the student was a former student of Annette’s.
So, what did we see? Well, in the “east wing” of the house, just off the main room, the first thing is a large kitchen area which also included a small dining area and a sort of “family room” set-up. On the other side of the hall, there’s the president’s office (and our tour guide suggested that Willis did more work here than he did at the president’s office on campus) and the office of the EMU events planner. And then at the end of that hall is the “private residence” area, which I think basically are bedrooms and maybe some sitting rooms and such. We didn’t get to see that part of things though.
In the “west wing” (the other side of the reception room), there’s a caterer’s kitchen and a guest suite, which included a sitting room, a little wet bar area, a bedroom, and a bathroom. Oh yeah, there were bathrooms everywhere in this place, which makes a certain amount of sense since it’s a facility designed to hold events with lots of people. But on this limited tour we must have seen eight different bathrooms.
I guess I’m left with two general reactions. First, as one of my colleagues from another department at the function said, the money has been spent and while it probably shouldn’t have been spent on this, we might as well enjoy it. I don’t want to project a “let bygones be bygones” sort of sentiment, and I think it’s important for EMU to not repeat the many MANY mistakes of The House. But at the same time, we do have to go on here.
Second, I don’t quite get what cost $6 million. Now, I am of course not familiar with real estate in the seven figure price range, I realize that this was a custom built home that also had to meet the standards of a public and “institutional” sort of facility (normal houses don’t have a catering kitchen, for example), and we didn’t see everything. For all I know, the private residence part of the house is completely over the top.
But my reaction to what I saw was $2 million, tops. I mean, it’s “well appointed,” but it’s not like it has solid gold fixtures or crystal chandeliers or something. The House is on a fairly large chunk of well-landscaped land, and I know (from newspaper articles) that they spent more than my annual salary on pine trees. There are rumors that the Kirkpatricks (particularly Mrs. Kirkpatrick) had several changes during the construction process (as in “change those fixtures,” “move that wall,” “repaint that room,” etc.), and that can add to the cost. But $6 million? It’s hard for me to see where it all went, which is perhaps makes this whole chapter in EMU’s history all the more sad.