Archive for category Indiana Daily Student 2000
I believe it is time for Myles Brand to step aside and allow IU to seek new leadership. To lead effectively, University presidents must inspire confidence in those whom they are leading — the faculty, staff, alumni and students. Yet many of IU’s stakeholders no longer have confidence in Brand, creating a leadership vacuum that threatens IU to the core. It is time for Brand to go.
I came to this realization during Thanksgiving Break, when I took time to consider Brand’s behavior and the troubles at IU. It is clear he is no longer an effective leader — he is too bogged down in questions and doubts about IU’s rankings and his performance as president.
Let me make a couple of points right off the bat. First, a university does not need to be ranked one of the top institutions in the country to provide its students a top-notch education; in fact, a top ranking for a university might actually be an indicator the school is too interested in research to adequately educate its undergraduates.
Secondly, Brand’s behavior has been reprehensible, but that does not necessarily mean he’s a bad president. Many of our nation’s greatest leaders have not always conducted themselves in desirable manners — take Richard Nixon and Bill Clinton as examples.
What is at issue here is public dialogue, and it has become mired in these two subjects. Many stakeholders have become fixated on IU’s ranking and have chosen Brand as the target of blame. And Brand’s behavior has been so publicized that it is now something that needs to be discussed.
With respect to IU’s rankings: IU has fallen in the rankings, and it has called into question the quality of education provided to students here in Bloomington. Brand set out to defend Bloomington in an Oct. 2 IDS column entitled, “IU education is far from mediocre.” The headline shows Brand is governing ineffectively, and it shows he’s worried. By stepping aside, Brand can allow IU, which is far more important than any one individual, to gain breathing room from the University’s stakeholders with respect to its rankings and allow the University time to fix the problems that do exist.
And problems do exist.
Now, to Brand’s behavior: It is reprehensible. His series of meetings with trustees before firing Bob Knight were violating the spirit, if not the letter, of Indiana’s open meetings law. By having two “informal,” non-voting meetings in a row with groups of four trustees at a time, a strategy designed to skirt the law, Brand signaled he was willing to bend the rules to suit his agenda.
When Brand put Knight under a “zero-tolerance” policy, I think it was designed to eventually fire Knight. But instead of using the zero-tolerance policy as justification, Brand justified Knight’s firing by saying there was a “series” of incidents violating the spirit and the letter of the contract Knight holds with IU.
This indicates a lack of backbone in Brand’s leadership, because zero tolerance means zero tolerance, with no leniency at all. While I think Knight ought to have been fired in May and not September, zero tolerance meant he ought to have been fired the first time there was an incident, not four months later after multiple incidents, when a freshman went on television to tell his story about encountering Knight at Assembly Hall.
This behavior suggests Brand is incapable of doing his job with the confidence of the University’s faculty, staff, alumni and students, as well as taxpayers. All of them will be constantly questioning his motives and stances. As such, he is handicapped as president.
I won’t forgive him for his behavior. Brand’s presidency is tainted with scandal and slipping rankings, and the best thing for him, and for the University, is a fresh start — under new leadership.
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A Naderite for Bush
Trust me when I say, this was a watershed election for me. Every which way I turned, I faced decisions on the ballot between the lesser of two or three evils. Ultimately, I held my nose as I pressed the button that recorded my decisions at the Monroe County Court House Tuesday.
To be honest, neither Gore nor Bush are particularly appealing presidential candidates, and looking into my crystal ball, I doubt either one has the ability to last more than one term in office.
With that thought, I actually would prefer Bush to be president of the United States for the next four years, and not because I am a Republican. I’m not. I voted for Ralph Nader this year, and I am, for the most part, a left wing liberal with a few odd conservative streaks in me.
Bush as president is a strategic thought — with the House and the Senate so closely divided, whoever is president will not be able to get much done, and we will have the ultimate “do nothing” Congress — hamstrung by the close split and the constant threats of filibusters in the Senate. This “do-nothing” Congress will probably not pass a lot of laws, which might be a blessing in disguise — considering Congress’s past record.
The one downside to a Bush presidency is the Supreme Court. Bush has threatened to make appointments to the Supreme Court that will take the United States back in time to a period when women had no right to choose, when prayer in school was state-sanctioned and when free speech was restricted. Realistically, that’s not likely to happen, since it takes a two-thirds majority of senators to confirm judicial appointments and only 50 or 51 senators are Republicans. Bush will be forced to moderate his nominees in the hopes that they are confirmed.
The advantages of a Bush presidency are too numerous to tally, but I shall take a shot:
- Usually the party of the incumbent president loses seats in the House at mid-term elections, which means Democrats might control the House that is currently controlled by Republicans after the 2002 elections. If Gore is elected, Democrats will probably lose seats in 2002, and that’s not really desirable in my book.
- Environmentalists have had allies in power for too long and have grown soft. By having a Bush appointee at the Interior Department, one who is certain to be in favor of mining and drilling on federal lands, environmentalists will again have a cause to rally around. Remember that Secretary of the Interior James G. Watt in the early 1980s was a rallying cry for environmentalists; invoking his name and actions helped the environmental movement grow both in stature and fiscally.
- Rush Limbaugh will be put out of business. Limbaugh has thrived on the Clinton presidency, and if Clinton had not been elected in 1992 and re-elected in 1996, he wouldn’t have had anything to complain about for the past eight years. Limbaugh really wants Gore to win so he can spend the next four years complaining about Gore on his radio talk show, thus making money. Nobody will want to listen to him praise Bush for the next four years — people only want to listen to whiners (thus explaining the success of weirdos like “dr.” Laura who does nothing but whine about what she thinks is the immorality of society).
If Bush is president for the next four years, all of this sets us up for a Democratic president starting in 2004, and that is something to look forward to.
For the two and a quarter years that I have lived in Bloomington, I have restrained myself from complaining about Ameritech.
I’ve finally had it — I cannot hold back anymore. I had to call them for customer service last week and had yet another bad encounter. They just cannot get things right without making it complicated or taking multiple tries.
The sad part is that I am but a minor cog in the Ameritech system; other people have gone without service for a month and have never had their problems fixed. These problems have been so bad for so long that the five states that Ameritech has screwed over are finally ganging up on the company, and, thankfully, Indiana is in there.
Regulators from these states voiced their displeasure to the company in a meeting in Chicago. In response, Ameritech promised to have its service restored to “normal levels” by Dec. 31.
The problem is that it’s not good enough. Hoosiers need at least decent, if not good, phone service and Ameritech’s “normal level” of service is somewhere between awful and terrible.
When I moved here, it took them about three tries to get my phone service right — they gave me features I did not want and did not give me the features I wanted.
Let’s just say that of all the utilities that I’ve had to deal with in Bloomington, Ameritech has been the only one that has caused me any headaches. The others actually resolve problems quickly when they occur. On the other hand, Ameritech has lied to me about service issues, including a huge mistake that left me without phone service for several days last year.
Since then I have been on a personal quest to reduce Ameritech’s profits, and trust me, the company and its parent are making a lot of money.
After an exhaustive search in which I couldn’t find another local carrier, I decided my only recourse was to reduce the number of features on my phone, so the latest item I dumped was voice mail. It too proved to be a problem.
You see, I called the number listed on my phone bill for Ameritech Local Service, and I was routed into a telephone push button hell. First, they wanted to know if I was calling about service on the number I was calling from. Then, they wanted to know if I was calling to add or subtract service, and finally, they wanted to know my great-grandmother’s aunt’s uncle’s first name and country of birth.
I finally was rewarded with a human being, who immediately tried to convince me that dropping Ameritech’s VoiceMail ’98® service was going to be a terrible tragedy.
I explained to her that I was switching from Ameritech Voice Mail to a cheap Web-based voicemail service from www.evoice.com, and she said it wouldn’t be able to pick up while I was online. I told her it would, once I implemented call forwarding and busy line transfer — for less than the $5.95 Ameritech was rooking me for.
She deferred and asked me the next critical question, “How long have you had voice mail?”
I said, “Oh, two and a quarter years or so.”
“You’ll have to call another number, we can only cancel voicemail accounts that have been active for less than 30 days,” the voice on the other end of the line told me.
I told her I wasn’t going to press another button on my phone to disconnect my voicemail service. Between her and her supervisor, they transferred me directly to the voicemail help center, where the human being I connected with first asked me my phone number and then told me again that switching off Ameritech VoiceMail was going to be a terrible tragedy. I had to explain myself to her again before she gave up and told me that my voicemail would be disconnected within a few days.
Other relatively inexpensive alternatives to Ameritech’s voicemail service exist, including services that will pick up your phone while you are on the phone and send you e-mail alerts that somebody has left a message.
Hopefully, real competition and choice in local residential service will be the end of Ameritech, because trust me, as soon as a true competitor comes to town, I’m gone.
Call me a sucker if you will.
While watching “Survivor” this summer I took notice of promotions for CBS’s new television show, “That’s Life,” a show about a fictional 32-year-old woman who decided to go to college after having had a series of about 58 different jobs in her life.
I’ve always admired people who decided to go to college later in life. At my old school, we called these students “non-trads,” short for “non-traditional students.”
Traditional students were, of course, those of us who went to college straight out of high school: 18 years old and wet behind the ears.
Fortunately for me, I quickly picked up on the fact that non-trads were going to be my best friends. Simply put, non-traditional students were good students. They knew how to study, and they knew why they were in school. They were more likely paying for their education themselves, so they had no interest in failing. On the other hand, many of the “traditional students” spent a lot of time partying and not worrying about student loans.
That difference was responsible for my success.
My freshman year, I took a course on the art and history of Islam — and I was failing. It was my first encounter with a difficult class, but fortunately, a non-trad also took the course. One warm Saturday afternoon, I sat down with her and went over the material for five hours, missing an important football game. They were not wasted hours, for I believe she single-handedly raised my grade from an F to a B, a dramatic improvement in that small amount of time.
I’ve had encounters with these non-trads during my entire college career, and they’ve helped me better understand my world and helped me succeed in classes. I would say they are an often underappreciated resource on college campuses, even here at IU.
So, I sat down to watch the CBS show about Lydia DeLucca on Sunday, and I was struck by a number of unrealistic moments: like when the two guys helped push Lydia’s broken down car from the street into a parking lot. Highly unrealistic for two reasons: First of all, two guys walking on any campus I’ve ever visited would never help push a car; and second, they found an empty parking space in time for her to make her first class.
They also suggested that 95 percent of students in college have cell phones. Maybe that’s true in New Jersey, the setting for this show, but thankfully it is not true here.
The most believable moment in the show came when Lydia wandered into the bookstore to buy textbooks and discovered that the highlighted used textbook cost $25 less. She then managed to ignore the helpful traditional student who tried to tell her to buy the new books since you couldn’t trust a previous owner’s highlighting. However, the show missed out on one little detail: she didn’t bother to check out the other used books to see if any had less highlighting. Sticker shock, though, was the name of the game, and I could certainly relate.
What rung true about the whole show was the number of obstacles she had to overcome to attend class: a mother who was upset that her daughter was not getting married; a father who did not understand her return to college; a police officer brother whose best friend is her ex; and friends who epitomized the saying, “With friends like these, who needs enemies?” She also had to overcome the obstacle of a car that could only go about three blocks before breaking down.
Non-trads really do have all these problems, and their experiences make them all the richer for it — something I have come to appreciate in the classroom. I’ve been the lucky beneficiary of their lives.
To them, I say thank you.
To CBS, I say, the show doesn’t work as it’s written. Conceptually the show is intriguing, but as it is implemented, with the student talking to us from her job as a bartender to some anonymous customer who never says anything, it seems hokey. I might not be watching again.
Oh well, back to the books — maybe I’ll have time to watch “That’s Life” again during Thanksgiving, if it is still on the air.
If bad things happen in threes, IU is due for another catastrophe.
The University has already lost two prominent men in the year 2000, and neither experience has been pleasant or pretty.
The first catastrophe was the death of a man who meant much to IU — Herman B Wells. Wells defined IU. He built the University from an average state school to a world-class institution known around the world.
The second catastrophe, of course, was the firing of former coach Bob Knight. Knight defined IU to the rest of the world. Without him, it is likely IU would be a world-class school with the low profile of St. Olaf or Dartmouth, unknown outside the state.
Without either of these men, IU would be a vastly different place.
Wells, during his tenure at IU (starting in 1921), built up the University, setting a number of precedents that put IU at the forefront of higher education. As a strong supporter of the School of Music, Wells made a concerted effort to ensure IU had one of the best music schools in the world.
He also made IU a good campus, where students could live and study comfortably. For example, as University president he helped oversee the expansion of the Indiana Memorial Union. In 1957, under Wells’ leadership, the IMU remodeled the bowling alley and the Commons.
Wells also left a strong natural legacy by creating a beautiful campus. He consistently opposed cutting down trees in Dunn Woods and building over the Jordan River.
He made important strides in integrating the campus, putting African Americans and other minorities in the classrooms together with non-minority students. IU was the first University in the Big Ten to have African-American athletes because Wells thought it should be so. If we remember Wells for only one reason, it ought to be this one.
The linkage between Wells and Knight was the library. In five years, IU will no longer have the Main Library, but instead the Herman B Wells Library. It’s a fitting tribute to a man who requested money be donated to “The Herman B Wells Acquisition Fund” for the libraries instead of flowers for his memorial.
Bob Knight supported the libraries as well, making donations each year and by creating “The Bob Knight Library Endowment,” which has more than $1 million.
Ironically, Knight’s firing allowed IU to remove one more major racial barrier at IU. Mike Davis has become IU’s first black head men’s basketball coach. This is a significant step in the integration of the IU campus, and something of which Wells would be proud.
The loss of these two men was bad for the heart and soul of IU, whether you liked either one. One clearly represented the heart and soul of the University to those of us here, while the other represented the vibrant image of the University to the world. One was key in making IU a world-class institution, while the other made sure people all across the United States knew IU existed.
It is important for universities to have somebody or something to rally around or about. Everybody rallied around Wells — I remember telling my friends about the first time I was in the same room with him. Everybody rallied around Knight, debating whether he should be our basketball coach and whether he was good for the University.
To lose both of these prominent men in the same year is an unfortunate thing. It means we are left without our beloved University chancellor and an irascible general.
Right now it appears IU doesn’t really have anything to rally around. In a few months, once the furor over Knight has completely died down, we will have neither of these strong figures. We will be left looking for common ground.
It will be difficult to find: Myles Brand does not endear that same kind of support. Neither does the retiring Kenneth Gros Louis.
There doesn’t appear to be anybody who can fill the role both Knight and Wells performed so well. There are no burning issues for students on this campus to rally around or debate in a meaningful way. One can hardly call the campus parking problem, for example, a burning issue.
Until we can again find that unity in a prominent leader or on a particular issue, the IU community might be a bit aimless in its purpose and direction.
Without that sense of purpose, we are lost.
I have a love-hate relationship with Bloomington. I hate the heat and humidity of this quiet Midwestern town, but I love the vibrancy and spirit this city has. It’s the latter that keeps me happy. And it’s going to be a September to remember in this place I now call home.
It started Friday with a trip to the Live it Up Late Nite at the Indiana Memorial Union, where I got a wonderful character sketch by a local artist, free with a student ID. She managed to capture me perfectly, and I now have an awesome present for my parents, although the parental units will probably only get a copy. I like the original too much to give it away.
I wandered next door and watched Full Frontal Comedy, a group of IU students who do comedy sketches about life in the world and at IU. It’s the latter that is particularly impressive. Friday night in a discussion of Napster, the group managed to get several sacred IU cows ‘ including Myles Brand ‘ in compromising positions.
The group is Bloomington’s best and brightest star on the improv comedy circuit. Its willingness to take on hot potato issues makes members leading cutting-edge observers of the city and campus. They outdo all the columnists in The Herald-Times and the IDS, so go see them before you leave this campus.
During the weekend, I wandered downtown for another Bloomington event: the Fourth Street Festival, an annual arts festival held every Labor Day Weekend. This particular festival reminds me of how far I have to go in life.
My apartment is filled with the typical trashy furniture and bad poster art you would expect from a college student. But at the festival, I discovered real art that I want on my wall, starting cheap ($50 for a photograph) and soaring to the expensive (thousands of dollars).
But even at the cheap end, this art is beyond my budget. I’m at a stage in which $50 is better spent on my electric bill or trips to the grocery store. But it was free to look and free to enjoy. My favorite items were the huge, hanging glass ornaments, so huge that even if I could casually drop a few hundred dollars for one, I wouldn’t have a place to put it in my apartment.
What’s particularly impressive about all of this is that this is only the first weekend of September. There is more to come, with the best coming the last weekend of the month.
Saturday, we can enjoy the first IU football game of the season. IU will be host to North Carolina State. Women’s soccer will also compete in two games next weekend.
The last weekend of the month will bring us the Lotus World Music and Arts Festival, arguably the best festival in Bloomington all year. This event is five days of musical performance by groups from around the world, capped on Friday and Saturday nights by live performances at seven stages around downtown. This is a great way to learn about bands from around the world, such as Wimme from Finland, Lila Downs from Mexico and Dhagha from India. This might not be the Backstreet Boys or Madonna, but you will appreciate the difference.
That brings me back to the beginning: my love-hate relationship with Bloomington. I hate the Midwestern heat and humidity. But the vibrant life that exists here makes this one awesome place to live. The trick is balancing the school books with the festivals, and that’s no easy feat.
Being a nomad for several years, moving in and out of dorm rooms, my parents’ home and apartments, I have finally come to rest, not moving once this summer. That sedentary state has allowed me to enjoy something I have not been able to enjoy before: the spectacle of people moving.
Now I’m not sure whether the moving spectacle is a comedy or a drama. But I know from personal experience it can be a horror show for those involved ‘ either that or a comedy of errors.
My worst mistake in moving was not having a moving truck on the day I needed to move, and I felt lucky when I was able to find a U-Haul in Martinsville ‘ it was about three times the size of what I needed and much more expensive because I had forgotten to make a reservation. All of this occurred on a day when the temperature soared past 107 degrees, not counting the heat index.
But this seems mild compared to a problem I had not previously been aware of, although I could have fallen into this trap: temporary homelessness. This occurs when somebody’s lease expires before his or her next lease begins. This might be one of the worst possible things to happen to somebody, as they are compelled to find someplace to store all their stuff, and that’s often not easy.
It becomes a question of how many friends you are willing to impose upon, and how much free space your friends have to store your stuff. It’s doubtful a friend will be able to store an entire living room set, but they will find space for that 25-inch television. You also have to be careful that you keep your clothing together, because there is nothing worse than having taking a shower at Susan’s place, finding your pants, but discovering you left your underwear at John’s apartment, five blocks away.
So you resort to a suitcase with your clothing and a storage unit for your furniture, which really isn’t that bad a deal … or is it? At one storage company here in town, the smallest space goes for $25 a month, with a $15 nonrefundable processing fee. That’s pretty pricey for two days, and you can’t rent for less than a month.
Clearly there is a winner in this game: the companies that own storage units ‘ they must make a huge profit in August, the month when most of these temporary homelessness situations occur.
The dorm room experience is also interesting to watch and less exasperating for me because I no longer drive to work. There is nothing quite like watching an incoming dorm resident, especially a freshman whose parents don’t really want to see their offspring leave the nest. Upon arrival into town, 10th Street becomes unbelievably clogged with cars as traffic crawls to a complete halt. This is probably the one day a year that campus has a legitimate traffic nightmare.
I realize it’s not amusing for the people involved and that it is quite stressful, but I remember the first time I moved into a dorm room: The elevators were rickety and I brought too much crap. Of course, not everybody at IU has the benefits of an elevator; a lot of people at IU have to haul their stuff up the stairs, one large object at a time. It’s moments like these that you suddenly appreciate the 13-inch television and the beanbag chair your friends brought instead of that 35-inch television and EZ-Boy recliner you brought.
Of course, the whole scenario starts up again next May when people move out of the dorms and apartments. What I constantly find amazing is how much more stuff I can acquire in a year and what took one trip to move this summer will take Mom and Dad two trips the next. I hope I will be on the sidelines yet again.
With so many choices last weekend, it was hard to pick what I wanted to do. I could go to the arts festival on the square, Taste of Bloomington at Showers Plaza, or the Fun Frolic at Memorial Stadium.
Naturally, with the kid in me, I chose to go to the Fun Frolic at the stadium, and it was like taking a step back in time. With bumper cars, a Ferris Wheel, and a Tilt-o-Whirl, there is strong evidence that the frolic stepped out of an age long-past when things were simpler, easier to understand, and out of touch with reality.
Yes, I mean out of touch with reality, for the Fun Frolic seems to present to its patrons the 1950s instead of the dawning of the 21st century, and I don’t mean in the good, idyllic “father knows best” kind of 1950s. I mean the KKK kind of ’50s, when America, and especially the south, was out of touch with the notion that all men are created equal, the kind of south that I thought really only existed in South Carolina today.
Yes, the Confederate flag was for sale either in the traditional form or as a t-shirt at the Fun Frolic.
This is the same flag that has provoked the NAACP to encourage a boycott of South Carolina until the flag is banished to a “clearly historical position,” far from the South Carolina State House Lawn. Although the boycott started with a tourism boycott, it is in the process of expanding to the movie industry, labor, and college athletics.
I suppose one could argue that the flag being for sale at the Fun Frolic is merely an example of reminding us of the Confederate heritage, however, there was at least one flag for sale with the phrase “the south will rise again.” Somehow, I doubt that the person who created the flag actually is in favor of equal rights for all, regardless of race.
The South Carolina Heritage Coalition argues that the flag for the past 37 years (which is as long as the Confederate Flag has flown atop the South Carolina state capitol) has not been a racial divider. Obviously some people are oblivious to what the flag symbolizes, just like the Fun Frolic.
The Confederate flag is not a flag that needs to be displayed willy-nilly and sold for “fun” at a carnival. It is a flag that is best left in museums and historical displays that convey the divisive message of the flag and ensure those that viewing the flag understand the many messages that it conveys.
The part of this that surprised me the most was that IU Child Care and Big Brothers/Big Sisters of Monroe County, the two organizations that brought the Fun Frolic to Bloomington haven’t stopped the sale of Confederate Flag-emblazoned items at booths in Bloomington.
The part of this that saddens me the most is that Cumberland Valley, the people who own and operate the rides, would even stock these items in the first place. There is no need for these items to be sold at a family event anywhere in the world, not just Bloomington.
I don’t want people to think I don’t support IU Child Care or the Big Brothers/Big Sisters of Monroe County, but I suggest you contact them and tell them you don’t want the Confederate Flag sold at future Fun Frolics.
IU Child Care can be reached via Campus Child Care Support Office — and Big Brothers/Big Sisters of Monroe County’s phone number is.
I was considering writing yet another column about Bobby Knight, when it occurred to me that nearly everybody on the face of the planet has an opinion about the situation, including my mother. And she didn’t know the name Bobby Knight until a few weeks ago. Instead, I am going to write about other Bloomington happenings, which in a more direct and tangible way affects all of us.
I’m talking about Kirkwood, the main drag between the Sample Gates and the Court House Square where all the good places to go in town are located. Better than the mall, better than Wal-Mart, Kirkwood is where you get to see all the interesting and friendly people in town.
I do have to admit that the construction this summer, which has dug up Kirkwood, has caused a few problems. The construction office has taken up People’s Park, which has had the effect of displacing the restless youth of Bloomington, who while interesting, are not necessarily friendly.
Actually, that has been the worst part of the construction experience: instead of the kids just staying put, they’ve now taken up roaming up and down Kirkwood terrorizing people. I had a guest visiting, and one day while walking up Kirkwood, one of these youths followed my guest, and I was not comfortable with the situation.
I guess what I’ve learned is that People’s Park served a purpose: it kept the youths in one confined space that we all could avoid or visit, depending upon our willingness to take a risk. The project this summer has literally removed the asphalt and dug up the street in an effort to put the Jordan River into a new tunnel under the street and up Dunn Street toward Sixth. It has been quite a disaster for business owners, but fascinating for the kid in me. I actually spent a fair amount of time staring into the hole earlier this week.
The first thing that really amazed me was how close to the surface the old tunnel actually is. If you hurry down to Kirkwood this week, you might be able to catch a glimpse of the tunnel before they finish tearing out the street and sidewalks above it.
Which brings me to my second amazement: the old tunnel looks really old and unsafe. I’m no engineer, but I’m glad they’re taking the time to replace the old tunnel with the new one now, and not ten years from now. The other parts of the construction have also been mighty interesting, like Monday, when the construction crews managed to slice into a water main and a gas line in the space of 20 minutes.
The gas leak forced the evacuation of Dunnkirk Square, pushing people into the streets, just after 2:30 p.m. Conveniently, I might note, in time for people to go off and find the television set, which does bring me full circle, and right back to Bobby Knight.
Near as I can tell, time came to a standstill in Bloomington Monday at 3 p.m., and the world fixed its stare on Myles Brand in Indianapolis. I can’t recall any event that caught public attention as deeply since the O.J. Simpson verdict.
Unfortunately for the guys at Indiana Gas, they were trying to fix the leak through the press conference, for I know that the question that will be asked 10 years from now throughout Indiana: Where were you when Bobby Knight was suspended for three games? I’ll be able to say, I was at home, in Bloomington, watching my TV.
Where were you?
I will admit I am not an especially active activist. In fact, most people would be hard pressed to call me an activist. I tend to get wrapped up in my own work and achieve a type of tunnel vision that guides me from my computer at home to my computer at the office and the classrooms in between.
Which is one thing that’s caught my attention of late: the number of protesters around Bloomington. It is, in a word, refreshing.
Refreshing is probably not the word you expected me to say, but the presence of protesters outside Starbucks reminds me that politics are an important part of our life. You see, I might not actually agree with the protesters, but it is invigorating to me to witness people using their First Amendment rights to speak out.
Take, for example, the Protect Griffy Alliance. I actually agreed with them — once. I wasn’t in favor of the golf course, and I was pleased to see the golf course stopped. But since their slam-dunk victory, and what a victory it was, the group has insisted upon pounding IU’s administration into the ground. I thought it was enough to embarrass the trustees into taking the issue off the table before a vote could be taken, but the group continues to pursue the issue.
While I do not agree with their goal, this development is refreshing because the leaders of the group did not disband the organization once victory was achieved; they continued to focus and refocus on other related issues. That they are doing this forces me to continue to question what I think.
Another group that has been protesting a lot is the group outside of Starbucks. I never quite understood this group, but at least they made me question my coffee-drinking habits. Did I want to enjoy the overstuffed chairs and pretentious environment of Starbucks, thus dooming 12-year-olds to picking more coffee beans, or did I want to continue to enjoy SOMA with its quirky and charming environment? I don’t know where SOMA gets its coffee, so I don’t know if any child labor is involved.
The Education for a Sustainable Future group that protested outside Starbucks, McDonald’s, Ben and Jerry’s, Taco Bell and Subway, this past week almost convinced me single-handedly to shop at each one of the five stores. The group complained about the union-busting record of McDonald’s, along with usual (and unusual) complaints about the other businesses.
McDonald’s has a union-busting record? I didn’t know about it, but perhaps I should shop there more often. While some unions are good, many unions want businesses to be unionized just so they can get their greedy hands on the employees’ wages. I know this sounds bad coming from a liberal, but not every business is out to screw its employees over, and, believe it or not, some employees actually think that their wages and benefits are great, without a union “negotiating” for them. That said, I think a union for IU’s Associate Instructors might actually be a good idea.
This activist period in Bloomington has been extremely refreshing, and it mirrors, to some extent, what is going on nationally. The WTO protests in Seattle, which some IU students and Bloomington residents are taking part in, have led to protests in Washington D.C., with 600 people getting arrested Saturday outside the World Bank headquarters.
Regardless of whether you agree with these protesters, they have managed to put on the table a number of topics that previously had been overlooked. When I chat with my friends we are just as likely to talk about the protesters outside Starbucks as we are to talk about the weather. That in and of itself is a remarkable victory for the protesters.
The dynamic marketplace of ideas is hard at work in Bloomington, and we are all better off because of it. Discussion about all of these issues (and non-issues) encourages the democratic process and when really important issues arise, it means that we are more likely to discuss them. I-69 is a good example of an issue more important than Subway’s marketing techniques, which is what the Education for a Sustainable Future was protesting against. I can only assume they don’t like Subway’s exploitation of Jared Fogle, the senior who lost weight using his “Subway Diet.”