In the September 17 Tribune crossword puzzle, the answer to 42 Down is “Old Goat.” The clue is “Nasty geezer,” which pretty well describes me when I read about Hyde Park residents who regard everything in the neighborhood as community property. It makes me want to take my bent spectacles, my crooked cane, and my jug of hard cider over to Medici and snap at passers by.
Here are some examples of what I’m talking about. Remember the dysfunctional clock on the Hyde Park Bank Building? The Bank removed the clock and refinished the wall's surface where it had been attached. And the people said, how dare the evil bankers decide what to do with their own clock on their own building without consulting “the community?”
Then the University of Chicago demolished a vacant building at Harper Court, which it owns. It was known and agreed upon that the building would be demolished. And the Hyde Park Herald said, how dare the evil University begin demolition of its own building without consulting us first.
Now we hear about unhappiness in some quarters that the University repaved an interior driveway deep within the main quadrangle. And the people said, how dare the evil university work on its own infrastructure in a location that is not visible from outside, without getting our permission?
Community relations, civic engagement, good neighboring, or whatever you call it, is a thankless task for businesses and institutions. In Hyde Park, it must be agonizing. Whoever does this work for the Bank, the University, whatever, can’t get paid enough. Every day, they have to deal with Hyde Park, the busybody capital of America. In my opinion, the University of Chicago in particular has been patient to a fault. No wonder they sometimes just go ahead with stuff, as well they should. Otherwise nothing, absolutely nothing would get done.
The University’s board and administrators have a first class school to operate, fund, nurture and protect. Community involvement is one thing, but not the main thing, not by a long shot. In the big picture, it is not necessary for a university to be loved by its neighbors, nor even liked. But at some point, an institution's strident and unreasonable neighbors create a burden and a distraction. If community relations are good, that’s terrific. If not, that’s too bad.
I’m an old goat and a nasty geezer. If I were king of the University of Chicago, I wouldn’t have the patience for this neighborhood’s nonsense. After all, I'd have a great university to run, and I’d tell the neighbors to go to…..to go and fix their own driveways.