And one more thing about football: location matters

This is sort of a “PS” to the post I had the other day about EMU on HBO Sports:

The joint report issued by the Faculty Senate, the EMU-AAUP, and EMU Student Government is getting some ripples of attention in the mainstream media. I don’t know what the chances are that these efforts succeed, that EMU really does drop football entirely and instead joins a non-football conference like the Horizon League (if they would have us, I have no idea how that works), but I like that the fight is underway.

There was a good article in the Detroit Free Press by David Jesse, “EMU in the market for new league for football?” I wanted to specifically highlight this quote from the EMU-AAUP’s Howard Bunsis:

“Culturally and geographically, EMU football will simply never succeed from an attendance and financial standpoint… It is a losing proposition — always has been, and always will be. We hardly raise any money for football, and our attendance is the lowest in the country. Some of you believe that we are close to succeeding, if we just throw more money at the situation. This proposition is insane.

Another way of putting it: we live in the shadow of Big Blue.

Culturally, EMU is not entirely a “commuter campus” (because there are a lot of people who live on campus or within about five miles of it), but we definitely have a lot of students who drive in from one of the various Detroit suburbs and then go home. We also have a lot of students (maybe the majority? I’m not sure) from working-class backgrounds who are working too many hours to pay the bills. Go to any “service industry” kind of place in the Ann Arbor-Ypsilanti area and I’m betting that at least 25% of the people working there are students at EMU. And we also have a lot of non-traditional students, 25+ year-olds with families and kids and the like. None of these people have time for or interest in football.

Geographically, we’re around seven miles from the University of Michigan’s campus, and if you are a college football fan– even one attending EMU– there’s a better chance you will root for the Wolverines rather than for the Emus Eagles. After all, the Wolverines are one of the most successful football programs in the history of the sport, period. Why wouldn’t you root for them? (Unless you went to Iowa as an undergraduate, but I digress).

Just to give you an example of what I mean: my son is finishing up his freshman year at the University of Michigan. He could have bought student section tickets for football before school started, but he has very little interest in sports so he passed. And yet he ended up buying tickets to a couple of the early games this last fall (when tickets are comparatively easy to get), and he’s likely to get season tickets next year. Why? “Because that’s what everyone does,” he said, “everyone” meaning all of the people he has been hanging out with in his dorm.

The culture at Michigan is essentially the opposite of EMU. You’re an “outsider” oddball if you take no interest in things like football there. Even very very casual fans like my son get swept up in the excitement of it all. Plus the students who attend the University of Michigan are the most traditional of traditional college students: 18-22 year olds from upper-middle class/wealthy backgrounds who are all living very near to campus and who generally have a lot of free-time on their hands.

The point is it’s not just that EMU can’t compete in the MAC; it can’t compete in the neighborhood.

Update: Just to give you an idea about how seriously the administration and the Board of Regents is taking the recommendation of this report from the faculty and the students, here’s a copy of an open letter to the EMU community:

Open letter to the Eastern Michigan University
campus community, alumni, friends and supporters

In the past several days, there has been considerable media coverage of reports that indicate that Eastern Michigan University is considering eliminating football, or reducing support for football by dropping down to a lower division of the NCAA and by dropping out of the Mid-American Conference. These reports are not based on any solid factual information. We have absolutely no plans to eliminate football or move into any other division or conference.

We are pleased to be a member of an outstanding conference, the Mid-American Conference, where all of our sports and our talented student athletes have the opportunity to compete at the highest levels with neighboring institutions in the Midwest. Any headlines or claims that Eastern is considering dropping football, or reducing our support of the program in any way, are false.

We are 100 percent supportive of our current Athletics administration, particularly Vice President of Intercollegiate Athletics Heather Lyke. She has assembled an outstanding support team and we already have seen positive results in terms of continuing Eastern’s championship traditions in a number of our sports, as well as in many new initiatives to increase revenues. As an example, year-to-date, fundraising has increased by nearly $430,000.

Two-and-a-half years ago, she hired an outstanding football coach in Chris Creighton. Now entering his third year and with the majority of the team now made up of his recruits, we believe the best is ahead in terms of on the field and academic performance. We believe very strongly in Coach Creighton and his efforts to rebuild the program.

We want to collectively reiterate that any notion, suggestion, or headline that in any way suggests Eastern is considering eliminating football or moving into another conference or division, is absolutely false. We will remain proud members of the Mid-American Conference football family for a long, long time.

Sincerely,

Interim President Donald Loppnow
President-Elect James Smith
Mike Morris, Chair, Eastern Michigan University Board of Regents
Mary Treder Lang, Vice Chair, Eastern Michigan University Board of Regents
Michael Hawks, Chair, Athletic Affairs Committee, Eastern Michigan University Board of Regents
Dennis Beagen, Eastern Michigan University Board of Regents
Michelle Crumm, Eastern Michigan University Board of Regents
Beth Fitzsimmons, Eastern Michigan University Board of Regents
James Stapleton, Eastern Michigan University Board of Regents
James Webb, Eastern Michigan University Board of Regents

Bloom, Iowa, and academic locales: a few thoughts

I read about Stephen Bloom’s Atlantic article about Iowa not first in InsideHigerEd but in an email my father sent around to family.  Bloom, who is a journalism professor at the University of Iowa (this will matter in a moment), wrote a piece about Iowa as a primer for people wanting to learn more about the Republican caucuses that will be happening in a couple of weeks.  I suppose he was trying to be tongue in cheek funny, but he missed. Pretty badly.  For example:

In this land, deep within America, on Friday nights it’s not unusual to take a date to a Tractor Pull or to a Combine Demolition Derby (“First they were thrashin’, now they’re CRASHIN’!”). There are few billboards along the washboard-bumpy, blacktop roads that slice through the countryside, only hand-drawn signs advertising sweet corn, cattle, lemonade, or boar semen.

Now, I grew up in suburban Iowa– Cedar Falls/Waterloo, which probably has about 100,000 or so people in the area– and I lived for four years in the decidedly college town of Iowa City, IA.  This is not the country area that Bloom is presumably describing, and as this critique of Bloom points out (and there are many critiques of Bloom out there), most of Iowa isn’t this area either. “Just 6.3 percent of Iowans are ‘farm operators,’ and in the last decade Iowa’s metropolitan population grew by 9.1 percent while its rural population decreased by 7.4 percent.”

Anyway, I never went to a tractor pull in Iowa and I didn’t go to one when I lived in Bowling Green, Ohio as a PhD student, the home of the national tractor pull championships. And yes, I missed the combine demolition derby too, though I won’t comment on the boar semen remark.

Then there’s this:

But relatively few rural Iowans are employed in the business of wind energy. The bulk of jobs here are low-income ones most Iowans don’t want. Many have simply packed up and left the state (which helps keep the unemployment rate statewide low). Those who stay in rural Iowa are often the elderly waiting to die, those too timid (or lacking in educated) to peer around the bend for better opportunities, an assortment of waste-toids and meth addicts with pale skin and rotted teeth, or those who quixotically believe, like Little Orphan Annie, that “The sun’ll come out tomorrow.”

Almost every sentence here is obviously not true. And in another part of his commentary that really bothers me, he even gets corn wrong.  Corn does not, as Bloom suggests,  “crackle” as it grows, and no, most of the corn planted in Iowa is not meant just for pigs; it’s meant for the many byproducts of corn (plastics, food products, syrup, paper, cardboard, ethanol, etc., etc.) that are in pretty much anything you buy in a grocery store anyplace in the western world. And if I had a dollar right now for every east coast/west coast self-satisfied Atlantic subscriber who read that passage about crackling corn and who then said to some fellow quasi-elitest bastard “Hey, guess what?  Corn crackles when it grows!” I’d have have enough money to buy all the meth in Iowa.

I came to Nate Kreuter’s “Go Native, Be Happy” after the original Bloom and his critics.  Kreuter’s take is on the problems of certain academic locales and he argues that Bloom’s problem is that he has failed to embrace the “challenges” of his college town.  Here’s a quote from that:

Do you imagine that you’ll secure a tenure-track appointment in San Francisco or New York, despite all the evidence to the contrary? If so, statistically speaking, you’re delusional. San Francisco and New York are wonderful cities, and I love to visit them, but wonderful as well are Fargo and Roanoke and Pittsburgh. Wonderful as well are the truly rural areas of the country (yes, all of them), where your college may be the largest community for very many miles around. There are a lot of great places to live in this country, and not only the metropolitan cities or quaint college towns. In some parts of the country, and depending upon your own interests and personality, you may have to work harder to find the things and people you’ll connect with, but every locale has things and people to recommend it.

I find myself here indirectly agreeing with Bloom in theory but Kreuter in practice.  What I mean is this: there is no doubt that a lot of great colleges are in kind of shitty towns.  I earned my PhD at Bowling Green State University, which was a great school but in the remarkably icky town of Bowling Green, Ohio.  There are lots of places like this, great schools in less than great towns. So while it is true that there are plenty of “wonderful” places not on either coast (and I think Fargo, Roanoke, and Pittsburgh would all be fine places to live and work), there are places in this country I am simply unwilling to live, and some places where I do not think the locale does have recommendable characteristics.

But Bloom’s whining about the problems of Iowa and (indirectly) the academic locale of Iowa City proves he doesn’t know what he’s talking about.  Iowa City is a nice town, a great town, actually.  I can’t speak with a lot of authority here since I moved away from there almost 24 years ago and I know that downtown isn’t quite as vibrant as it once was because of malls and suburban sprawl, but basically, Iowa City is both a classic college town and a cultural oasis in terms of restaurants, shopping, movies, etc.  Bowling Green it ain’t, which makes the Bloom piece all the more puzzling.

Incidentally, my father sent me another editorial from the Waterloo Courier, “U of I president disagrees with Bloom’s observations.” It recounts the widely circulated rejection of Bloom’s points by current U of Iowa president Sally Mason.  And then the editorial ends with this:

Bloom is on one year of leave from Iowa as he teaches at the University of Michigan.

Considering that, we would also be interested to see what Mary Sue Coleman has to say about the article. Coleman, the University of Iowa president from 1995-2002, is now at the helm at Michigan.

Perhaps she might have a stake as well.

If exaggerations and stereotypes – and we believe some inaccuracies – about Iowans are what Bloom comes up with after two full decades of living in this state, who knows what an article titled “Observations from Just 1 Year of Michigan Life,” could entail.

I do wonder if Coleman will weigh in on this….

 

Boarding up Borders

IMG_0356It’s just a matter of time before there are no more Borders to visit, so while running a bunch of other errands on Saturday, I decided to take in the latest going out of business sale at one of the three stores that were in town.  I didn’t venture to Borders #1 downtown because of the Art Fair hoopla, though I am sure I will find a way to get down there before it’s closed up for good. Instead, I visited the one out by Ann Arbor-Saline Road.

I suppose like most people in the Ann Arbor/Ypsilanti area, I have mixed feelings about the end of Borders.

When Annette and I were in our PhD programs at Bowling Green State, we came up to Ann Arbor a couple times a year to go to the U of M library, see the sights, get lost, and spend way too much money on books.  We always hit Shaman Drum, the many great used stores, and the flagship store of the then relatively small chain book store (according to this timeline piece, Borders was 21 stores in 1992).   Though if we could buy a book at either Shaman Drum or a used store instead of Borders, we would.

It’s odd that the only book stores open in downtown Ann Arbor nowadays are used ones, comic stores, or mystery shops.

Anyway, I don’t like to see anyone lose their jobs nor do I like to see book stores close, even big box ones, especially ones with such important local ties.  Borders used to support a lot of Ann Arbor/Ypsi causes.  They will be missed. That said, I am sure that there are many owners and patrons of small and local book stores experiencing more than a little Schadenfreude at all this given that it was Borders’ big box stores and rapid expansion that drove a lot of those places out of business a few years ago.

I freely admit that I’m a good example of a consumer that help push Borders over the cliff.  As I blogged about here back in 2009, shopping for books online at amazon.com et al is just too convenient and cheap, and, as I wrote about in that post, the store had become kind of a pain in the ass.  You couldn’t get any help, they didn’t have a huge stock (especially of things that are more academic and/or not pop writing), and their prices were terrible.  I guess I would be willing to put up with some of those problems to shop local, but not for the would be Starbucks of book stores, even if it was based in Ann Arbor.

Anyway, back to the going out of business sale visit on Saturday:

The store I visited was one of the “concept” stores Borders opened in 2008, which I blogged about back here then.  The short version of that post: it was clear then that they didn’t know what they hell they were doing when it came to the whole “eReader” and “internets” thing, and in hindsight, that store was as dumb as a bag of rocks.  On Saturday, there were more people there than I had pretty much ever seen at a Borders or any other book store, certainly there to make good on the “up to 40%” discount on books.  The only problem was very few books were actually discounted much at all.  The place can’t even go out of business right.  I’ll wait until the end is near and/or the prices really do drop below amazon.

I’m no business person or retail expert, but it seems to me that it is possible to run a book store and make a modest amount of money at it– not a big giant chain (though Barnes and Noble seem to be doing okay) and not a tremendous amount of money, but some.  I buy books mostly online and increasingly electronic books ala kindle, but I still hold out hope that there is a place for book stores– or at least places that sell books, music, coffee and food, have events, etc.  It’s not possible to replicate the value of the place of book stores.  So my hope is that maybe clearing out one of the big box retailers will allow some smaller book entrepreneur to come in?

Krause’s Around Ann Arbor

I have other things that I want to/should be doing, but since there are a lot of folks coming to town in the next few days for the Computers and Writing Conference, I thought I’d put together a map of a few highlights of things that anyone coming to Ann Arbor ought to think about trying to do (with a heavy emphasis on food and drink).  I tried to embed it here, but it didn’t work.  Oh well.

Anyway, a couple of general sort of thoughts about Ann Arbor and Ypsilanti for the uninitiated:

  • Believe it or not, Ypsilanti (and Eastern Michigan University) is right next to Ann Arbor on the east side of Highway 23 toward Detroit.  And for folks flying in:  Ann Arbor/Ypsilanti is probably closer to Detroit Metro Airport than most of Detroit itself.  In any event, we’re kind of on the far suburban edge of Detroit-city, so Detroit stuff is in range if you are into that sort of thing.
  • The easiest way to describe Ann Arbor is it is a very large “college town” with at least three main areas:  South University, the “Diag” area/State Street & Liberty area (this is closest to the conference), and Main street.  I tagged a few things on my map outside of that area– notably some attractions in Ypsilanti for those inclined– but most of this stuff is within walking distance from the North Quad.
  • Needless to say, I didn’t include everything– just places I thought were good, and a few places I’d strongly encourage you to avoid.  That said, if you only have a little bit of time to get out and about, I’d recommend going down to Main street to eat, drink, and shop (and, if you are into comics and that sort of thing, go to the Vault of Midnight) and try to make time for lunch or dinner at what is probably Ann Arbor’s best known eatery, Zingerman’s Deli.

“I’d like to thank the academy” and other prequels to C&W 2011

The other day, I received an email informing me that I’ve won the John Lovas Memorial Weblog Award for 2o11. Go figure!  This comes after I’ve decided (or, employing the passive tense, it was decided) to shelve my research on blogs as writerly spaces, and at the conference where, on a panel I organized around the question “Are Blogs Dead,” my answer is “maybe” (see below).

But in all seriousness, I am honored and thankful for the recognition, and I am happy to once again point to the memory of a blogger that influenced many of the past winners of this award, John Lovas.  I touch on John’s blog in my presentation briefly:  his work (along with a lot of the past winners of this award) represents a very different kind of blogging then what I see going on now.  If you look at John’s blog from way back when (this link is from the Wayback Machine) just for a moment, I think you’ll see what I mean.  John’s blog (and many others from back then, including my own) have a decidedly more autobiographical, “diary-like” turn to them, more than ones nowadays, I think largely because of Facebook.  So it’s interesting for me to be getting this award about “Weblogs,” something that sure seems a lot different to me now then it was back then.

Anyway, thanks again.  And I also really want to point people to what I think is my most successful blogging project, EMUTalk.org, which receives many many more hits and comments than this site and which is devoted to local issues about Eastern Michigan University.

In other prequel for C&W news:

I’m of course looking forward to the fact that the conference is about seven or eight miles from my house and in a town that I know reasonably well.  I kind of will miss out on some of the dorm/hotel/late night “hijinks” I suspect, but it’s always nice to sleep in your own bed.

Either before, during, or after the conference (I don’t know which), check out the “unconference” space I put together with some of my former students, something I’m calling “Is There a There There? A Meta-Review and Meta-Analysis of a Meta-Performance Video.” We’ll see what happens with that.

Thursday, I’m planning on golfing– which I mention because if there are others out there who are interested in potentially joining us, let me know.  Right now we’ve got a 3-some, and I could probably get two tee-times if there’s interest.  I’ll probably get us on at either the EMU course or at a more user-friendly (read “easier” and “cheaper”) course in the area.

Friday, I’m going to conference stuff, and Saturday morning, I’m chairing a roundtable I set up called “Is Blogging Dead?  Yes, No, Maybe, Other.”  It’s at 8:30 AM, and it is going to feature Aaron Barlow, Bradley Dilger, Virgina Kuhn, Carrie Lamanna, Liz Losh, Brian McNely, Brendan Riley, and fellow local and certainly non-academic blogger Andre Peltier.  We’re going to stick to a strict three minute (or less!) opening statement format followed by lots of discussion.  I think it’ll be pretty good. Here’s my talk, all YouTubed and captioned:

By the way, adding those captions was bizarrely easy.

Saturday night I’m thinking about getting out the word to convince some folks to come over to the Ypsi side of things– Depot Town, The Corner, etc.– though that might be a hard sell since there’s plenty to do in Ann Arbor and I am sure that plenty of people will not have a car.  And then there’s bowling, too.   So we’ll see.

And Sunday?  Well, the conference goes on Sunday, though I may or may not partake.  Depends on how far behind I fall in my pesky spring term teaching.

Anyway, looking forward to seeing various C&W types soon.

While Buttoning Down for the Groundhog Day Snowopoloza

Three snowy thoughts:

  • Extreme snow edition #1: circa 1982/3/4, the middle of Iowa:  the worst snow event I can recall happening to me was somewhere in high school.  I recall being a part of a high school debate/speech team event where I ended up being stranded for at least a couple of nights with classmates and chaperons in some ridiculously small Iowa town and equally ridiculous small town motel.  I remember it was about 8 people to a room, we could only eat at the deli counter at Hy-Vee for some reason, and the David Lynch movie The Elephant Man was on repeatedly on HBO or some such thing.
  • Any number of snowy memories/tortures blur together.  There were many other storms in Iowa, including a drive back to the University of Iowa from Cedar Falls on quasi-closed interstates with a classmate who I can’t remember:  I do recall coming back the Sunday after Thanksgiving only to find the university closed on that Monday.  I remember several times in Richmond, VA, where the (comparably modest) snow and/or ice and/or snow ended any sort of normal interaction in the city.  There was a terrible storm in Bowling Green that included -20 degree weather,  snow like crazy, canceled classes, etc.  I am sure there were other such experiences I’m forgetting.
  • And now we have this latest event, which is easily the most hyped snow event in recent memory.  I’m writing/thinking about this post long before this turns truly ugly, but I have to wonder if it’s possible for any weather event to live up to these expectations.  I suppose tomorrow morning will tell.

Puppets and (Shadow) Art

Actually, there were shadow puppets too….

Anyway, here’s a not very good set of clips from the Dreamland theater production of “The History of Ypsilanti: A Puppet Show” and walking around at the Shadow Art Fair from yesterday:

Saturn 4 sale

I just posted the ol’ Saturn to Craigslist:  Here’s the link to the ad and info.

Right when I started seriously looking for a new car, the “service engine soon” light came on.  I was hoping it would be just one of those things, like a loose gas cap or something.  Um, no.  Figures.  The good news though is $550 or so later, I know the car really is pretty much as fixed up as it’s going to get.

The Saturn has been a great car.  I got it in 2005 a few months after our crappy Plymouth Voyager minivan was stolen from in front of our house. Sure, I’ve had to put some money into it in terms of regular maintenance and such (though I can only think of one or so other times where I spent as much on a repair as I did today).  But basically, it’s been good, reliable, basic wheels.  It retaught me how to drive a stick, and it served me surprisingly well when Will and I went down to Alabama to visit my folks during winter break a couple years ago.  And if it wasn’t for the fact that our other car was getting “up there” in mileage and we were starting to feel a bit cramped on road-trips in the civic, I’d probably drive it for a year or two more.

Anyway, since I wasn’t going to get much for a trade-in, I’ve decided to try my hand selling it myself.  I’m cautiously optimistic about it.  At Will’s birthday party on Tuesday, a family friend said she knew some people looking for a used car.  I was in the grocery store today and somehow struck up a conversation with the woman at the register about our new car and how I was selling the old one, and the person behind me started asking me how much and if I had a card with contact information.  I posted the ad on Craigslist less than an hour ago and I’ve already received one inquiry about it.

So, if you’re looking for a gently used car….

Ann Arbor’s “Top Chef” connection

I just read in the Ann Arbor Chronicle that Eve Aronoff, who runs the restaurant eve, is a contestant on the upcoming season of Top Chef. Good for her, though I have to say I don’t recall going to eve.  I say it like that because Annette says we’ve been, but I honestly don’t remember it one way or the other.  I’ve heard it is very good, very expensive, and very pretentious (all things I generally enjoy in a restaurant), so maybe I’ll convince Annette to go (back?) after the Top Chef hub-bub dies down.

I have no real inside knowledge, of course, but I have to say this article and interview with Aronoff makes me think that she doesn’t last long on the show.  I guess we’ll start finding out next week.

Ann Arbor city council doing stupid emailing during meetings

This was an amusing way to wake up this morning:

Some question appropriateness of mocking e-mail banter during Ann Arbor City Council
meetings in the AANews. Here are the opening paragraphs:

After his presentation to the Ann Arbor City Council, Washtenaw Audubon Society member Will Weber had every reason to think city officials shared his views about protecting birds during migratory season.

But while they publicly endorsed the efforts, the same City Council members who backed “Safe Passage Great Lakes Days” in March mocked its significance in e-mails that flew back and forth during the council meeting.

“The highlight of Hohnke’s legislative career a non-binding resolution to dim your lights to help birds,” Leigh Greden wrote in an e-mail to fellow council members Carsten Hohnke, Margie Teall and Christopher Taylor.

Greden’s March 16 missive prompted a dozen messages in which the four council members made sport of environmental or wildlife protection measures that they had passed.

The article goes on to recount a couple other conversations in which Ann Arbor City Council members walk a fine line between being just human, childish and/or assholes. I think my favorite part of the story is how these emails came to light:

Sent from city e-mail accounts, the messages were released by the city in response to a Freedom of Information Act request by the Great Lakes Environmental Law Center.

The Detroit-based law center was seeking communication about the city’s planned underground parking structure on Fifth Avenue. What it got, in addition, were a series of live e-mail exchanges among council members during three meetings in February and March.

So, what have we learned here today?

  • Be careful about your email because it never ever goes away, even if you think you deleted it. I worry about this with my colleagues, actually. I’ve been on committees where fairly private/sensitive information found its way into email. I’ve been guilty of sending some of those emails myself. I recently had a conversation with a quasi-administrator-type person about a way to get reimbursed for something (I ended up getting paid the old-fashioned way, taxes and all) and this person told me to erase all those emails because they might get us in trouble. (Deep sigh) Well, if Kwame taught us anything it should be that stuff like email and text messages simply do not go away. Oh, and I don’t think those emails would have gotten anyone into trouble anyway.
  • People just can’t resist back-channel discussions, even when they really REALLY should know better. So maybe we really shouldn’t be that hard on students who don’t pay attention 120% of the time, especially when the instructor is just standing there going blah-blah-blah.
  • Many of the folks on Ann Arbor city council kinda seem like Douchebags, and, according to this wikipedia entry, I believe douchebag is the correct slang term: “The term implies a variety of negative qualities, specifically arrogance and engaging in obnoxious and/or irritating actions without malicious intent.”

Anyway, besides the local political/humor angle, I will have to remember this for English 516 or maybe English 444, some kind of class where we talk about how uses of email can go wrong.