A little EMUTalk.org news and reflection

First off, you might have noticed a change in the header images for the site. There were a couple of days where they were pretty messed up, and now they are limited to three of my favorite and/or readily available images on my computer. This is because of something I tried to do with the wordpress install that didn’t work, and I ended up erasing a bunch of stuff I shouldn’t have erased. Oh well. But I’m not going to work too hard at restoring some of those images because the end is near for EMUTalk.org anyway.

Second, I took a moment to glance through the archives of the site, and if you are a fan of EMUTalk.org from the old days, I’d encourage you to do the same. For example, June 2007 was when stuff about the Dickinson murder was back in the news following an investigation that showed that EMU’s top administrators at the time handled things quite poorly. It’s interesting to look back to see where we were versus where we are, right?

“Hurons logo, harassment prompt meeting at EMU”

From the Detroit News comes “Hurons logo, harassment prompt meeting at EMU.” Here’s the opening paragraphs:

U.S. Justice Department officials came to Eastern Michigan University this week to meet with president Susan Martin and a Native American campus group to discuss concerns over the continued use of the school’s Hurons logo after students allegedly harassed a Native American elder in April.

At the meeting Tuesday, Martin refused to remove the logo after being asked to by the EMU Native American Student Organization, according to Mark Fancher, a staff attorney for racial justice for the American Civil Liberties Union of Michigan. Fancher attended the meeting at the request of the student group.

Martin returned the Hurons logo, which depicts a Native American face with paint and feathers, to the EMU Marching Band uniform in 2012 to promote what she calls the university’s history and pride. It is hidden under a front flap.

“She takes the position the logo was retired. Its presence under the flap does not equate its return,” Fancher said. “Martin says it’s a part of the university’s history. My response to that is yes — it’s a disgraceful part of the history. It is causing harm to the students. It needs to go.”

The article goes on to recount the recent incident where students were dressed up as mock Indians and they yelled at and threw a beer at Ypsi local Nathaniel Phillips, who is Native American and who is always described in these articles as a “Elder.”

I don’t think it was a good idea to put EMU’s past logos– including this one– under a hidden flap on the band uniforms, and I also am pretty certain that there is no cause and effect relationship between these uniforms and these drunken college kids yelling “We’re fucking Hurons!” at this Native American man who happened to be walking around Ypsilanti one night. Rather, I think the cause of that unfortunate incident was the combination of the fact that EMU once was “The Hurons,” Phillips is himself Native American, and those dumb kids had too much beer.

And I suspect that the powers that be at EMU were attempting a PR move that would have satisfied the “once a Huron, always a Huron” alumni, and now it’s coming back to bite them. I am almost certain my colleagues in the EMU communications office are wishing they had a “do-over” on that one.

But on a slightly different note: I have to say that as a professor who studies and teaches about rhetoric, I am pretty fascinated about the power of this hidden symbol. Remember: this logo is on the uniform but out of sight. Members of the band would know it’s there of course because they’re putting on the uniforms, but if the fact that it was there had not be publicized, we would never know that it was there.

So symbols– even the idea of a symbol, not even its actual manifestation of its presence to an audience– are incredibly powerful, and not merely as a metaphor. They are powerful enough to cause a meeting between the DOJ, the ACLU, EMU officials and lawyers, and student groups. That group of people certainly spent some time debating the removal of an image that few people can actually see. That’s pretty fascinating to me.

 

 

More lazy summer days & “I’m a liberal professor, and my liberal students terrify me”

Pretty quiet around here at EMUTalk.org, which is typical (summer, after all) and good. I’m still planning on closing things down here early in the fall and I’m still encouraging all of you to join the EMUTalk facebook group! You’ll be glad you did!

Anyway, a loyal EMUTalk reader (and also a member of that Facebook group!) sent me a link to this piece by Edward “not his real name” Schlosser writing for Vox, “I’m a liberal professor, and my liberal students terrify me.”  It’s an interesting piece. I don’t think I completely agree with it, though I have to admit that as a) a tenured full professor who b) is a middle-aged white male (and thus I am less vulnerable to various attacks and critiques, generally), and who c) doesn’t really teach a whole lot that is too controversial politically or culturally, particularly at the undergraduate level, I have little reason to be “afraid” of students’ accusations about me, liberal or conservative or otherwise. And I’m not sure that the conditions now amongst students regarding “political correctness” are that much different now than they were back when I was in college.

What I do think is different now though is the powers and perils of social media and the internet generally. All the problems and backlash that Schlosser talks about here were possible back in the 80s or 90s or so, but they become that much more magnified now. And I do think he definitely has a point that it’s problematic to make make too many assumptions about ideas and views based first on identity rather than the argument itself. Anyway, definitely worth a closer read.

“EMU Football Helmet Part of College Football Hall of Fame”

Two alternative headlines/titles for this post I had in mind were “slow SLOW news around here” and “What?!?” But I decided to go with what they had at emueagles.com, “EMU Football Helmet Part of College Football Hall of Fame.”  Apparently, the new helmets with “the flat forest green metallic color, featuring a chrome diamond plate Block E logo on the side” (I blogged about them way back in October) are featured as one example (with about 50 others) of an exhibit called “The Alternate Helmet — Modern Styles.”

Besides wondering who exactly would go to the College Football Hall of Fame and why, my other two favorite things about this story are the corporate sponsorships. That is, it’s “The College Football Hall of Fame and Chick-fil-A Fan Experience” and the Emus helmet is featured in the “Specialty Exhibit Delivered by UPS.” Heh.

“Report: Stepdad of Julia Niswender headed to trial on child porn charges”

From mLive comes “Report: Stepdad of Julia Niswender headed to trial on child porn charges.” The first paragraph kind of sums it up:

James Turnquist, the 47-year-old Monroe man who is considered a person of interest in the murder of his stepdaughter and former Eastern Michigan University student Julia Niswender, is headed to trial on charges on possessing child pornography, the Monroe News reported.

I don’t know a whole lot about child pornography, but the story here makes it sound like those charges are kind of trumped up. I have to wonder how much of this is really about holding this guy while he remains a “person of interest” in the Niswender murder.

Former EMU faculty “Father Bernie” O’Connor died

Sad news for those amongst us who have been around here for a while: I heard via the EMUTalk Facebook group that Father Bernie O’Connor has died of kidney failure at the age of 64. Here’s a link to a CBC article about him. A quote from that piece that kind of explains what he had been doing since right before and right after EMU:

He was twice named Michigan Professor the Year by the Carnegie/CASE Foundation.

He was visiting professor at Pepperdine Law School and was designated as a national expert in Constitutional philosophy from the We The People program in civic education.

In 2004, he was posted the Vatican during the papacy of Pope John Paul II to serve as political adviser and consultant to the Congregation of Eastern Churches.

On his return in 2011, O’Connor was appointed Chancellor’s Visiting Professor of Law and Humanities as Indiana University.

I can’t say that I knew Bernie all that well, but he was obviously a successful professor while at EMU, everyone knew who he was, and he seemed to know everyone. Part of it of course is that he was pretty visible as a priest– the collar and all. But he was also a genuinely nice guy, someone who would always say hi to me and remember my name after a jogging his memory a bit and ask how things were going and the like. He had seen me at least once with my then very young son and then always asked about him afterwords.

Too soon; rest in peace.

It’s only a drill, folks…

This sounds kind of interesting: Geoff Larcom sent a campus-wide email announcement the other day with the subject line “EMU to use Convocation Center to stage emergency response training Wednesday, May 13 from 12:30 to 3 p.m.” The full text is below, but the upshot is there is a going to be something described in Larcom’s email as an “active shooter exercise.” And actually, it also looks like a lot of it is going to be happening on the campus for St. Joseph Mercy Hospital, too.

I don’t think I’ll be making it through the area then, but I am kind of curious as to what this will all look like. But the point is it’s a “fake” shooting; don’t panic.

Continue reading

“Little recourse against faceless commenters”

A loyal EMUTalk.org reader sent me this link the other day, “Little recourse against faceless commenters,” a column by Froma Harrop in “Herald.Net” out of Everett, Washington. It talks about a variety of examples of bullying online and the problems of anonymous identities and the like, but the reason I include it here is because it makes reference to our own local Yik Yak controversy:

Three female professors at Eastern Michigan University were shocked to learn that some young scholars in their lecture hall had been on their cellphones attacking them with lewd public posts, complete with imagery. It was all done anonymously, courtesy of an unusually obnoxious social media app called Yik Yak.

Their lecture topic, post-apocalyptic culture, seemed somehow apt. And to think, this was an honors course.

One complained to her union rep as follows: “I have been defamed, my reputation besmirched. I have been sexually harassed and verbally abused. I am about ready to hire a lawyer.”

It’s not clear what a lawyer could do for her.

She really has only two options: 1. Rip the electronic devices out of the students’ grubby little fingers. Or 2. Choose to not give a fig what anybody says about her anatomy/age/hair color/sweater size.

Having been on that receiving end any number of times, I’d advise 2. The more obscenity and general abuse flourish online the less impact any of it should have. These days, even high schoolers need skin 10 feet thick.

And then the commentary goes on from there.

Say, speaking of different online forums:  remember that the sun that is EMUTalk.org is setting for good some time this summer/early fall, and if you haven’t done so already, now is a good time to join the Facebook group EMUTalk. It has the disadvantage of not being anonymous (well, unless you set up a pseudo-anonymous Facebook account), but it has the advantage of being about as close to an open-ended forum where anyone can post and comment as we’re likely to get. So if you have a Facebook account (and really, who doesn’t?) go and join the group.

A couple of Yiks and/or Yaks

Summer is always the slow season around EMUTalk, and in that sense, there’s not a whole lot different in this last season of the blog. No news is, well, no news. But I did come across a couple of kind of interesting articles on Yik Yak I thought I’d post.

Feminists United plans to announce at a news conference Thursday that it has filed a complaint with the U.S. Department of Education alleging that members were threatened with sexual assault and death and were cyber-stalked after speaking out in campus debates about Greek life and against a lewd chant by the rugby team this year, said attorney Lisa Banks.

Authorities say that Grace Rebecca Mann, a 20-year-old from McLean, Va., who served on United’s board, was slain April 17 by a roommate. Steven Vander Briel was charged with first-degree murder and abduction. Police have not commented on an alleged motive.

Banks and United members said they have no evidence that Mann’s activism or the threats on Yik Yak were related to her slaying. But they said a flood of more than 700 messages — some of which targeted members by name — left them feeling afraid. They said school officials did nothing to stop the threats despite repeated requests throughout the year.

So, what I mean by it being “two stories” is it seems like there is an issue of the women who are in this group being harassed via Yik Yak and one of their members was killed by her roommate for some reason, probably not related to Yik Yak though.

“EMU students say dressing as Native Americans was part of theme party (WITH POLICE REPORT)”

Not much new going on lately (not surprising since we’re now into the slower months of spring and summer), but this story from the Ypsilanti Courier is kind of interesting: “EMU students say dressing as Native Americans was part of theme party (WITH POLICE REPORT).”  Here’s a quote:

An Eastern Michigan University police report has provided more details into an off-campus party where students dressed as Native Americans with faces and bodies painted with red paint.

The report sheds light on student behavior during the April 11 party, that included a game of beer pong that one man said was a metaphorical “impregnation ceremony.” It also includes interviews with party goers who said dressing up was part of a “theme party” and there were no racist overtones.

The police report, obtained under the Freedom of Information Act, is part of a university investigation that could result in punishment for students involved if their behavior is deemed to have violated the university’s code of conduct. Names of those interviewed were redacted by university officials because of federal student privacy laws.

Here’s a link to the police report itself, which is posted on Scribd. As far as I can tell, what you’ve got here is a bunch of drunk college kids doing some racist and stupid things, which is to say that this pretty much confirms the previous story as well. Reading the actual police report is kind if interesting though.