Saturday, June 12, 2010

Local NIMBYs Float Unholy Alliance with Irked Profs

posted by chicago pop

Back when we first began running doomsday scenarios on the HPP supercomputer, the most outlandish, improbable, and hair-raising of all was one in which local NIMBYs managed to overcome the social and cultural gulf separating them from their faculty neighbors so as to form an unholy alliance with irked professors.

Their common enemy? The Evil Empire, Mother Church, and Borg Collective itself: the University of Chicago.

Our favorite homespun "Good Neighbors" NIMBY listserv, rooted in our local Waziristan and useful for finding a plumber and hatching conspiracy theories, has recently floated the idea of just such an unlikely coalition. The folksy "Good Neighbors" list is again being mobilized for more than a gardening project, and indeed is mulling the unthinkable: that local professors, irked at the totemic status of Milton Friedman and the institute being established in his honor, might join forces with the community-oriented neighbors they usually ignore.

Impossible, you say? After all, we all know professors who laugh at all those letters to the editor, scholars who had no idea what was going on with the Co-Op, and didn't even know White Lodging was planning to build a hotel at Doctors Hospital before the Vista Homes NIMBYs scuttled the idea. Indeed. But now even some of those professors are so irked by inner University politics, and the Milton Friedman totem, that they, too, are now writing letters to the Hyde Park Herald, the customary preserve of the grumpier among their non-tenured neighbors.

Local Good Neighbor Jay Mulberry, who usually gives the signal for the listserv's mobilization, electronically transforming its Jeffersonian yeoman homeowners into a redoubtable NIMBY militia, proposes just such an alliance.

Will the party of mostly humanist academics who oppose the Milton Friedman Institute, and what they generally decry as the corporatization of higher education, take the bait? Will they join forces with powerful grassroots movement that controls the hinterlands beyond the walls of the monastery? Might such a coalition bring the Evil Empire to its knees?

A recent circular to the Good Neighbors reads:

Unless I am mistaken, everyone I am writing today either was a student at the University of Chicago was on its staff. One or two have other intimate relationships with it. For the last several years during the presidency of Robert Zimmer the elements of the neighborhood that include me and Alice have been in an almost continuous state of frustration over the University of Chicago's high-handed and secretive ways. There is plenty to say on the subject but I think the following letter gives a good start.
To which is approvingly appended the following letter from CORES spokesman Bruce Lincoln:

Click image to enlarge

In a May 28th article, the Maroon quotes a few familiar names as representative of those who have become quite concerned that, now that the University is committed to preserving the old CTS building, it won't do it the right way.

Those names will be familiar to readers of the Herald and Hyde Park Progress:

But some community members are concerned over MFIRE’s move into the CTS building. Some are afraid that renovations will not take into consideration the integrity of the building's original design. Longtime Hyde Park resident Charles Staples (School of Social Service Administration ‘61) has taken a special interest in preserving the CTS building. His unease primarily revolves around the future of the stained glass windows in the building. If they are to be removed, it will be due to the University’s lack of respect for antiquity, he said.

A "lack of respect for antiquity" that seems more than a little odd, given the location of the Oriental Institute, a University-run repository of artifacts from some of the most ancient sites of human civilization, directly across the street. But read on:

Jack Spicer, Preservation committee chairman of the Hyde Park Historical Society, shares many of the same concerns. “The quality of the CTS is timeless- it can’t just be renovated.” Spicer said.

Spicer goes on to add, without a trace of the irony that would be appropriate, given his role in promoting the adaptive reuse of Doctors Hospital as a hotel:

“It is difficult, but not impossible to recreate buildings that were made for one purpose and used for another purpose,” Spicer said.

That's funny.

So the question is, will these two groups form an alliance? There is already an impressive list of names attached to an anti-Friedman Institute petition printed by the Maroon on May 23; the latest burst of renewed concern from faculty originated with the news that a contractor had been chosen to develop the old Chicago Theological Seminary building.

One gets the feeling that some of our Hyde Park Herald letter writers would like their names presented together in such illustrious company. But for that to happen, a charismatic leading figure must emerge from the ranks of irked faculty, a traitor to his or her professional corps, a LaFayette or Mirabeau with tenure, who may serve as a bridge between the academic aristocracy, jealous of its ancient rights, and the neighborhood's Jacobin masses.


Elizabeth Fama said...

This exhaustive letter from President Zimmer and Provost Rosenbaum is pretty firm about the whole Milton Friedman Institute thing, among other projects. I hope it puts the hullabaloo to rest.

Richard Gill said...

Choosing to fight his battle in the Herald must have been an act of absolute desperation on the part of Bruce Lincoln. The Herald lost its relevance years ago, screaming hysterically about the Co-op and helping make Hyde Park look like a looney bin in the Promontory Point fiasco.

The Herald was so gleeful in its rush to print Lincoln's letter that it left one lonely word dangling in a column all by itself. Maybe they bumped some actual news for it.

Let us hope that the adaptive reuse of the seminary building does not require a zoning change. That should go a long way toward keeping the Alderman out of it, as well as busybodies, NIMBYs and assorted other purveyors of useless aggravation and unproductive delays.

Anonymous said...

Boot the NIMBYs south of the Midway and dissolve the Anthropology department. Problem solved :)