Pardon me, is that a couch in the front lawn, or are you just happy to see me?

One of my favorite local blogs, “Ann Arbor is Overrated,” has been just obsessed for the last month with the talk in Ann Arbor of banning couches from outside of houses. Here’s a link from yesterday’s entry on the topic, but they go back to June and they show no sign of ending.

I’m not sure what is more amusing: the obsession with the couch ban discussion or the fact that the couch ban is a point of some discussion in U of M student circles in the first place. But I will make two observations. First, it seems clear to me that we can narrow down the writer(s) of this anonymous blog down to someone who has a couch on their porch.

Second, a lot of this seems to me to boil down to the different perspective of “renters” (and most students are of course in this category) and “owners.” When you rent your home, you don’t really care a whole lot about things like couches in the front yard, your yard or anyone else’s yard. But when you own your home, you care a great deal about things because a big tattered couch on the front porch of the house next door effects the dollar value of your home. Of course, living next to student housing doesn’t help your property values a lot in the first place…

Anyway, my take on this is pretty simple: I’m a home owner, and for the time-being at least, I live in Ypsi.

Even MORE Bad News about the University House

Just when you thought that news about the house that Sam and Pam built couldn’t get any worse, news of the state audit showed up in the Ann Arbor News today. This is really something else, too much to really summarize effectively, but I’ll note a couple of points:

  • “The audit found that the total cost for the project was $6 million, $2.5 million more than the $3.5 million approved by the EMU Board of Regents.”
  • “Operating revenues were used to finance the project without approval being obtained from the state. From the time the project was first announced, the university pledged that no state money or tuition dollars would be used to finance the house. But according to the audit: ‘…the project did require the use of operating revenues, which are derived from student tuition and fees and State appropriations.'”
  • “Some $1 million from future corporate royalties helped finance the house. In the past, those monies benefited student programs such as the Student Organization Center and were used to purchase student computers in the library. “Directing the royalty revenue to the University House project reduced the university’s ability to fund similar initiatives,” according to the audit.” It isn’t in the web article, but the article in the paper points out that this $1 or so million comes from soda and credit card companies allowed to sell their wares on campus.

Let me pause here to note two things. First, officials at EMU and on the EMU Board of Regents deny that any student tuition funds were used to finance the house. This audit– which is the only one that is remotely neutral on the whole thing– concludes otherwise. But beyond that, it’s clear that the administration is being disingenuous when they make the claim that this didn’t cost students anything. Every dollar spent on the house, regardless of where the funds came from, represents a dollar that could have been spent on any number of other things, including holding down tuition.

Second, it seems incredibly shameful to me that such a significant portion of the house was financed with soda and credit. Two of the biggest problems in general we have in this country are fatness and debt, and one of the most significant reasons why students at schools like EMU drop out is they get themselves in financial trouble in part because of the credit card offers plastered around campus.

Okay, back to the list:

  • “Rep. Scott Shackleton, R-Sault St. Marie, the chairman of the Joint Capital Outlay Subcommittee, said possible consequences would be cutting of the proposed $72.6 million slated for Eastern Michigan University operations in next year’s budget.

    “‘I think there’s going to be some legislators who are concerned, who say if there’s no consequences to Eastern on this, what message are we sending to the other universities about being responsible and being accountable?'”

I understand how Shackleton feels, but if the state carries through on its threat, the result will be that the likes of me and my students will be punished by the idiotic decisions of the board of regents and the upper administration. Argh.

Welcome to the new “unofficial/life” blog!

I’m shifting over to blogger as my blogging software for a variety of reasons, most of which have more to do with my “official” blog and which I discuss here in some detail. My old “unofficial” blog space will stay in place, though you’ll notice that this blog is now not so much “unofficial” as it is about the rest of my “life” that isn’t work. Hard as it is to separate those two things…

I’ve got a couple of things to figure out with this site, though. I need to monkey around with the archive files to make it work and I’m not sure how I feel about the layout yet. It’s supposed to be sort of the “opposite” of my official blog in terms of the look, but I don’t know. It might change. Anyway, here it is.

Tearing Down Fences

As I mentioned about a month ago on the previously Official Steven D. Krause Blog, Sam Kirkpatrick resigned as president of EMU in the middle of June. The scuttlebutt on campus is that it really was something of a surprise to people like the provost and there is wide-spread displeasure that the board of regents agreed to a $500,000 or so “golden parachute” package. And there have been PLENTY of less than flattering letters to the editor in the Ann Arbor News about the deal and EMU in general as of late.

But on the whole, Kirkpatrick’s departure has been positive. Right now, the faculty union (the EMU AAUP) is negotiating a new contract, and while there’s a long way to go, I’ve heard through the grapevine that the talks have gotten more “positive” post-Kirkpatrick.

And I noticed another literal tearing down of a fence the other day. While Sam and Pam (Kirkpatrick’s wife) were installed at the infamous “House” (for more on that, see this previous entry, and this one from way back last December), there was often some kind of campus security out front and also a chain-link fence that surrounded the property. The fencing obviously wasn’t part of the original plan; it had the look of a temporary barricade put up in an effort to fend off protesters, actually.

Anyway, that fencing is gone. Maybe it will be back in a couple more years, the time it will probably take to hire a new president. But it’s nice to see it gone for now.

The question is what Johnny is reading…

The New York Times today has an article about the NEA study about declining readership. The article is called What Johnny Won’t Read” and it’s by Charles McGrath. A Google search turned up the whole NEA press release and study here; I don’t have time to read it now, but I can see how I might want to come back to it later.

Basically, the study says that fewer than 50% of American adults reads “literature,” the definition of which we will come to in a moment, and it pooh-poohs this as yet another sign of the decline of civilization. Interestingly, McGrath, who used to be the editor of the Book Review section of the NYT, raises a number of the same points I’d raise about this decline. To quote:

” The “Reading at Risk” survey defines literature as “any type of fiction, poetry and plays” that ”respondents felt should be included and not just what literary critics might consider literature.”

“Mysteries fit the bill, for example, and so do romances, fantasies, science fiction, thrillers, westerns and presumably pornography.

“It’s not clear whether this inclusiveness stems from political correctness – from a wish not to “privilege,” as they say in the seminar room, one genre over another – or merely from a reluctance to venture into the treacherous business of making value judgments. But the result is a definition of literature that appears both extremely elastic and, by eliminating nonfiction entirely, confoundingly narrow.”


“The notion that imaginative writing is somehow superior to factual writing is one that used to flourish in certain English departments, especially those in thrall to the so-called New Criticism, but these days it seems a dubious distinction. Good, artful writing, writing with voice and style, turns up in lots of places: in memoirs, in travel books, in books about history and science, and sometimes even in books about politics and policy.”


“The endowment’s larger point – that book reading in general is down, though not as much as what it considers purely literary reading – seems inarguable. But it doesn’t necessarily follow that reading itself is in quite the dire shape that the survey suggests. After all, it doesn’t consider magazines, it doesn’t consider newspapers and it doesn’t consider the Internet, except to imply that it steals time people used to spend with books. But when people surf the Web what they are doing, for the most part, is reading. To judge from the number of hits on sites like Google, they are gobbling up written information in ever-growing numbers.

“The survey operates on the unspoken premise that books are our culture’s premier system of information storage, and the preferred medium for imaginative storytelling. No one would want to challenge that, but a nagging, heretical question nevertheless suggests itself. If people suddenly stopped going to the movies, for example, would we conclude that there must be something wrong with the moviegoing public or might we wonder whether movies themselves had declined?”

I think those quotes pretty much speak for themselves. McGrath also notes that the report suggests that while there is a decreasing number of readers of literature, there is an increasing number of people who are trying to write it. He concludes:”We seem to be slowly turning into a nation of “creative writers,” more interested in what we have to say ourselves than in reading or thinking about what anyone else has to say.”

Sounds to me like we’re all going to turn into a bunch of blog writers…

Welcome Back to Blogger!

Hey again–

Funny how this happens: As you can see from the previous post, back on January 1 of this year, I was hell-bent on moving from blogger to Movable Type. Here I am now, just over seven months later, and I’m back. Why, you might ask? Well, I guess three reasons:

* Spam, Spam, Spam! Even with MT-Blacklist, I was spending anywhere between 15 minutes to a half-hour every time I went to my blog just to get rid of all the junk that was showing up on my blog. I never had these problems with blogger. I’m using a different commenting scheme with HaloScan, and for all I know, I’ll have similar spam problems. But I doubt it.

* I got annoyed with MT (like everyone else). I don’t think anyone was pleased about the update and pricing scheme for the new Movable Type– not that that would have had any real effect on me since I don’t run a whole bunch of different blogs or anything like that. But it occurred to me that if this was the direction that MT was moving, it seemed likely to me that I’d ultimately be left behind since I didn’t want to pay for the software.

* Blogger has gotten better. It is WAY more reliable than it was even six months ago, it has a much better look than it used to have, and it has better templates than it used to have. Plus the new blogger has a spell-check command, something that I could have used with MT several times.

* I’m migrating to anyway… Like I said before, I want to decrease my use of my school server space (which runs on my office computer) and increase my use of this server space. For one thing, I’m paying for this. For another, I will be “on the market” for at least a year. This doesn’t mean I’m automatically going to be leaving EMU– far from it– but it’d be nice to be able to have a bit of stability in terms of a web site for a while.

So, we’ll see how it goes…