“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.



“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.

“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.

“Rally planned at EMU after Native American man reports harassment”

From mLive comes “Rally planned at EMU after Native American man reports harassment.” Here’s a quote:

Native American students at Eastern Michigan University are hosting an on-campus rally Wednesday at 3 p.m.

The Native American Student Organization will gather outside the student center near the lakeside entrance to discuss a recent altercation between students and a Native American man at an off-campus party in Ypsilanti.

There’s one other bit of news that I hadn’t seen previously about this incident in the story. The Ypsi cops came and busted up the party after Phillips’ complaint and there is an EMU investigation going on “for internal purposes.”

“Arbor Brewing Co. (aka The Corner Brewery) presents a case study in local business ethics and crowdfunding”

In Ypsilanti news comes “Arbor Brewing Co. presents a case study in local business ethics and crowdfunding” the Detroit alternative newspaper metrotimes. I thought I’d share it here because I know that the ABC Microbrewery (aka The Corner) is a place popular with EMU-types. I know the EMU-AAUP has had functions there, my department has hosted at least one official retirement party there (and a lot of unofficial gatherings as well), I’ve met with graduate students there, etc. This article makes me think that maybe it would be best to stop doing those things.

Here’s a long quote from the beginning:

Arbor Brewing Co. owners Matt and Rene Greff’s decision to ask customers to chip in $75,000 via Indiegogo to upgrade ABC Microbrewery’s piecemeal, partly outdoor kitchen to a safer, enclosed space, has sparked a lively discussion among customers and business associates in the Ann Arbor area.

Some labeled the campaign and the Greffs “scummy.” Others swore off ABC’s beer altogether. And many more simply muttered their disapproval, especially as posts celebrating the couple’s globetrotting popped up on social media, and they diverted resources to help open a brewery in Bangalore, India.

At the heart of that debate was the ethics of crowdfunding campaigns and the question: When does it become unethical for an established business to turn to sites like Kickstarter and Indiegogo to fund basic improvements or expansions?

But ABC went beyond that gray area. A current employee who wished not to be identified tells the Metro Times that the Greffs charted new territory by pressuring staff earning less than a living wage ($9 an hour) to help pay to improve their own work conditions in a kitchen that lacked basics, like walls.

The staffer says employees were then asked to solicit funds from family and friends, and each was given an individual link to the Indiegogo page that would monitor their pull.

Then, with the goal met, the Greffs pink-slipped the kitchen staff.

As that unfolded, it was also revealed to MT that the Greffs have yet to pay back a dime to investors who in 2003 helped finance ABC Microbrewery’s 2006 opening. Mark Maynard, a widely read Ypsilanti blogger, and former Ypsilanti City Councilmember Barry LaRue say they, along with others, each put up at least $10,000 and signed a repayment plan stating investors would triple their money by 2016.

I had heard of the crowdsourcing thing earlier, either on Facebook or markmaynard.com, I can’t remember which. But what I recall at the time thinking was I suppose if people want to give what looks ostensibly like a successful business crowd funding money to be even more successful, well, I guess that’s their right. And maybe there’s a place for it for loved local businesses that have fallen on hard times– for example, Blimpy Burger reopened in Ann Arbor in part as a result of such a campaign.

But I don’t know, this doesn’t sound right to me. I want to support local businesses of course, and The Corner is just a great space for meeting with folks. It’s not quite as crowded and, well, “bar-like” as a regular bar like The Wurst Bar or The Sidetrack or what-have-you, and they also have beer. It’s a neat place to hang out. On the other hand, this article makes the Greffs look pretty sleazy and like borderline crooks to me. I want to patronize cool and local places, but I also don’t want to be taken advantage of by the owners complaining about not paying off their investors or building a kitchen for their employees while sitting on an airplane sipping Bloody Marys on their way to India to open a brewpub.

Hopefully local boy Mark Maynard will have something to say about all this soon.

More about and in memory of Jordan Hopkins and Shannise Heady

From mLive comes a couple of stories about the EMU students who died over the weekend in a car accident on Hewitt Road in Ypsilanti, Shannise Heady and Jordan Hopkins. The death of young people like this so in their prime is always sad of course, but I find it even more disturbing to learn that the investigation has revealed that the two were not wearing seat belts and they were going too fast.

Also related is this story about where the accident happened, “Crash that killed EMU students is 4th fatal in just over 2 years on stretch of Hewitt Road.” It is a pretty notoriously dangerous area (at least for locals like me), and I think the Washtenaw County Sheriff detective they interviewed for this, Doug McMullen, seems oddly defensive about the problem being all about the drivers.