29 October 2009

Ready! Take Aim! Fire!~ The University of Chicago Shoots Itself in the Other Foot

Once again, my Alma Mater, is in the news. And, once again, the news is not good. Not long ago I posted on the self-congratulatory love fest that the department of economics held recently - celebrating their market fundamentalism in the face of any and all evidence or reason. And just over a year ago I noted in a post on Studs Turkle that the University is buying the building on South University Avenue that houses the Seminary Coop Bookstore - arguably the best academic bookstore in the country, if not the world. I am not at all confident that the University can help itself; it will in all likelihood strike a fatal blow to the coop before the story ends. Stay tuned. The link between those two posts is that the building the coop now occupies is intended to house an institute in honor of ideologue-in-chief Milton Friedman. How fitting that that enterprise (funded by rich alums) should threaten the existence of the coop!

The University of Chicago seems to be incredibly ham-fisted when it comes to recognizing the value of community resources and public spaces. This morning I came across this contribution by Jamie Kalven to The Huffington Post. It seems the University is intent on evicting a community garden - and the robust set of associations that revolve around it - so that they can use the parcel of land as a staging area for a construction project. Kalven is sensible and articulate about the University. The administration apparently is populated by people who, while maybe polite and well-intentioned, seem have no clue whatsoever. Among the problems from which Hyde Park has suffered throughout the years is an emaciated 'community' and anemic 'public space.' Here the University is going out of its way to exercise it property rights in a way that will undermine the prospects even further. Worse. The construction project for which the garden land will be taken over is - you guessed it - going to produce a building that will house the Seminary Coop Bookstore.

While I do not want to get carried away with the virtues of gardening - what I think of as adults playing in the dirt - it is clear that the University is more concerned with community in the abstract than what it looks like in reality.

How Gardeners Learn Things from Invisible Institute on Vimeo.

Shirley Burtz from Invisible Institute on Vimeo.

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