Wednesday, January 13, 2021

In Distress

    “Lake Michigan should not be taken for granted,” Derrick P. Thames

I received a Facebook message from former mid-Nineties IUN student Jill Semko Underly, who taught Social Studies at Munster H.S. and is now a school superintendent in Wisconsin. “You made a great impression on me,” she wrote. I realize my influence on students pales in comparison to gifted public school teachers, but words of praise from those who still remember me is gratifying. Jill participated in an oral history project that culminated in publication of “Tales of Lake Michigan and the Northwest Indiana Dunelands” (Steel Shavings, volume 28, 1998, my favorite issue). She interviewed Ken Jania, who at age 17 set sail from Burns Harbor en route to St. Joseph, Michigan. Several hours out, a sudden storm descended on them with 50 mile-an-hour wind and a precipitous temperature drop. Ken Jania recalled, as told to Semko:
We went from glass water to 15-foot waves in five seconds. Waves were coming over the boat; it was a driving sleet storm. The storm hit so hard that it took the boat and laid it down. It tried to right itself, but the sail was full of water. When the boat came up, it tore the sail. Within 15 minutes, the top of the boat was covered in ice. The sails were just shredded. Denny [the sailboat owner] had this little dingy that he towed behind his boat, which was gone, probably sunk. We were in distress. Denny’s radio didn’t work because it got covered with freezing water.
The 15-foot seas, going up and down 30 feet, caused everyone except Denny to become seasick and close to hysterical. We were almost thrown overboard every time a wave hit. Denny said we had to get the sails off, in order to turn the boat. He asked me to go up an icy pole and try to get the sails off. I climbed up with this belt and pulled on the sail. Finally, it came down. After we got the sails put away, Denny sealed the cabin, which had about a foot of water in it. Denny, Jack, and I were on deck, and others were working the pumps, trying to get the water out of the cabin.
Finally, with the little 10-horsepower motor running, Denny got the front of the boat in front of the waves, and the boat was actually surfing. The front was out of the water riding the waves and would come down with a crash. Everything would shake. I thought I was going to die. The boat was getting heavier and heavier with water. After surfing about eight hours, we came near the coast, but Denny couldn’t see the lighthouse. It was gone. The wind had destroyed it.
Denny told us to keep an eye out for the breakwall. All of a sudden, BOOM! The back of the boat hit the breakwall. We had surfed right over it into the Coast Guard harbor. It was snowing and sleeting very hard now, and as the front of the boat came down inside the harbor, we landed on a pole. It went right through the bottom of the sailboat and came up on deck. Once the Coast guard figured out what was going on, they rescued us and we called our parents. We stayed there three or four days of repair before sailing back to Burns Harbor.

Party Time

 “Ooh ooh it’s party time

It’s time to get you off my mind
. . . .
It’s time to laugh and pass the wine”
"Party Time," T.G. Sheppard
“Party Time” was the title of Saturday Evening Club speaker Jim Wise’s talk, so I joked beforehand that maybe it was about the 1981 song of that name by T.G. Sheppard or the 1957 rockabilly hit “Party Doll” by Texan Buddy Holly. The Emeritus Professor at VU had planned to discuss whether the decline of political parties was good or bad. Instead, after listing momentous events that happened in early January, such as Lincoln’s 1863 Emancipation Proclamation and JFK’s 1961 Inaugural address, he focused on the Trump-inspired deadly assault on the U.S. Capitol led by white extremists duped by the Big Lie of a fraudulent election. None of the 18 attendees defended the president. Wise cited Newt Gingrich’s becoming House Speaker in the 1990s as a turning point when Republican ideologues began treating opponents as enemies, not merely adversaries. Wise mentioned working on the 1972 McGovern campaign, as did Toni and I, and brought up past demagogues such as Father Coughlin, Huey Long, and George Lincoln Rockwell, whom I heard speak while at Bucknell, a pathetic American Nazi with a tiny following compared to current white nationalist groups. My only quibble: he praised Maine Republican Susan Collins' tepid condemnation of Trump; I pointed out that she defended her vote not to impeach by professing the belief that he had learned his lesson. Her naivety was recently matched by Sen. Roy Blount, who claimed that Trump “had touched the hot stove and is unlikely to do it again.” More clear-headed, Mitt Romney after being under siege in the Capitol labeled what happened an insurrection and added: “We gather today due to a selfish man’s injured pride.”

Dean Bottorff commented: The events of the past week – and, indeed, what is expected to take place tomorrow and in the ensuing weeks – raise an interesting question for my friend the historian. How much time must pass before this history can be written? The old cliché that journalists write the first draft of history may be true but what is the role of the historian who actually lives through major historical times? None of us will know how the final hand of Trumpism will play out. Is Trumpism the last gasp of the racial politics that have dominated American history since the Founding Fathers embarked on this experiment? Will the days of "alternative facts" ever end? You and I will never know. A somewhat sad thought, really.

Monday, December 21, 2020

Closings

     “The loss of newspapers may be, ironically, the most important under-reported story of our time.” Evan Davis


The Chesterton Tribune is poised to cease publication in 10 days after 136 years. It was owned most of those years by the Canright family and came out five times a week. Toni and I sent our regrets to the publishers:

If the Chesterton Tribune ceases publication, which appears inevitable, it will be an incalculable loss. The paper has truly been a community newspaper, skillfully reporting on doings ranging from the mundane to the unusual, from town board meetings to a Black Lives Matters march. Reporter Kevin Nevers has a particular felicity with words, and whenever his byline appeared, the story was must reading. With a granddaughter who recently graduated from CHS, we looked forward to reading about events she participated in, often accompanied by photos. The Tribune carried more state, national, and international news than any other paper in Northwest Indiana. Its history columns, especially “Echoes of the Past,” were a special delight. Of all the area closings that have taken pace during the pandemic, this will, in all likelihood, have the most long-lasting effect. Journalism has suffered numerous hits over the past 20 years, and our country, as a result, is much the worse for it.

Sorrowfully, James and Toni Lane

Chesterton resident Darcey Wade wrote: 

    The paper printed my first letter to the editor, 1976, our class reunion discriminated against single people by charging them more to attend. I am going to miss so much about it. I even have a copy of an old letter to the editor from Mr. Dave Sanders, a local character who ran Saturday’s child, the hippest place in Porter.

Former Post-Tribune editor Dean Bottorff wrote:

    I am always saddened to hear about the death of yet another newspaper, especially small community newspapers that, without other media, have been the mainstay of (if not the only) reliable source of local information. Who’s going to be left to watch over the likes of town boards, zoning commissions, the sheriffs, courts and school districts? Who’s left to honestly broker the truthful information that a viable community needs to function. Who’s left to record our daily lives, births, graduations, weddings and funerals? Who’s left to record the mundane of clubs, bake sales and bingo? Certainly not the Internet or social media which have evolved into cesspools of gossip, deceit and – too often – divisiveness. Sadly, when a community loses it’s newspaper, it loses part of it’s sole and the citizens there are thrust into bleak darkness.

IUN emeritus professor Don Coffin added:

  When I was a kid, there were four newspapers in Indianapolis--the Indianapolis Star, the Indianapolis News (both owned by the same company), the Indianapolis Times, and the Indianapolis Recorder (weekly; published since the 1890s, clientele mostly in the Black community; I subscribed to it when I worked in the Division of Planning and Zoning-I was a planner--in the 1970s). Only the Star and the Recorder have survived, and the Star has shrunk considerably over the past decade. It's not just small towns.


3 Floyds Brewpub, closed since March due to the pandemic, announced that it had no plans to reopen. Located in a nondescript industrial park in Munster, it became a hot spot after its craft brews, including Dark Lord, became critically acclaimed. I went there only once, with History colleagues Jerry Pierce and Jon Briggs on a mid-afternoon Friday, and by the time we finished our meal, there were dozens of people outside hoping to get in. NWI Times reporter Joseph Pete interviewed veteran Douglas Hathaway, who said he wore a 3 Floyds shirt to a DC craft brew fest and “got fan-boyed into oblivion - You've been there. Wow.”

 

Julius "Groucho" Marx (1890-1977) was a master comedian whose humor encompassed slapstick, satire, clever word play ("Time wounds all heels"), wise cracks, puns, and farce. A vaudevillian who debuted at 15 in Grand Rapids, MI, he played Gary's Palace Theater with his brothers in his 20s and reached Broadway not long afterwards, The Marx Brothers starred in 13 films beloved by generations of comedians. Groucho hosted the unique game show “You Bet Your Life,” first on radio and, beginning in 1953. on network TV. I was an instant fan. He once said, “A man is only as old as the woman he feels" and before he died quipped, "Bury me next to a straight man.”

I prefer writers (Kurt Vonnegut, John Updike, Richard Russo) that have a comic rather than tragic outlook on life. In Russo's "The Risk Pool" the author's alter ego lives in upstate New York, where his grandfather divides the year into “Fourth of July, Mohawk Fair, Eat the Bird, and Winter.” A drunk accosts his ne'er do well father Sam Hall and insists he must know a fighter from Syracuse named Hall. “That's the name my wife and I fight under,” Sam said.

Monday, December 14, 2020

Caste

 The price of privilege is the moral duty to act when one sees another person treated unfairly. And the least that a person in the dominant caste can do is not make the pain any worse.” Isabel Wilkerson, “Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents” (2020) 

In “Caste,” which compares America’s race-based class pyramid to India’s caste system and Nazi Germany’s persecution of “undesirables, Isabel Wilkerson traces the unequal treatment of African Americans back to1619, when a Dutch man-of-war brought two dozen black men captured from a slave ship bound for Spanish New World colonies to Point Comfort in Virginia. Especially horrific are her descriptions of lynchings that became common in the decades following the Civil War, even in places outside the South such as Coatesville, Pennsylvania and Marion, Indiana.  In 1919 in Omaha, Nebraska, for example, a mob numbering in the thousands set fire to the courthouse, seized packinghouse worker Will Brown, accused of molesting a white women, stripped him naked, strung him up, riddled his body the bullets, and dragged the corpse through the streets. Wilkerson compares such atrocities to German villagers living near Death Camps who went about their daily tasks as ashes from Jewish human remains floated down from the sky.

 

A woman told Wilkerson, “I find that white people are fine as long as I stay in my place.  As soon as I get out of the ‘container, it’s a problem.” In a chapter discussing survival skills blacks developed in the face of racism, Wilkerson cites the examples of Charleston church members forgiving the young white supremacist who murdered nine parishioners attending a Bible study class and of a black man in Dallas hugging in court the former cop who mistakenly broke into his brother’s apartment and killed him, writing: “Black forgiveness of dominant-caste sin has become a spiritual form of having to be twice as good in trauma, as in other aspects of life, to be seen as half as worthy.”  As Roxanne Gay put it: “Black people forgive because we have to survive . . . time and time again while racism or white silence in the face of racism continues to thrive.”  Hanif Abdurraqib furnished this explanation: “This expectation [of forgiveness] feels fueled by a perverse need to see harmed people demonstrate nobility because it’s how we believe the myths that political suffering builds character, and that righteousness rather than power will eventually triumph.”

 

Wilkerson attributed Trump’s political ascendency to fear by members of the dominant caste that their exalted status in the hierarchy was being threatened.  The author concluded: “The 2016 election would set the United States on a course toward isolationism, tribalism, the walling in and protecting of one’s own, the worship of wealth and acquisition at the expense of others, even the planet itself.”

 

Emiliano Aguilar posted an article about fearless labor organizer Emma Tenayuca, first arrested in 1933 at age 16 for demonstrating in support of cigar factory workers.  She fought against the repatriation of Mexicans and in San Antonio organized a 1938 strike on behalf of pecan shellers. Time magazine described her as “a slim, vivacious labor organizer with blackeyes and a Red philosophy.”

Majority Rule?

 “Democracy cannot succeed unless those who express their choice are prepared to choose wisely. The real safeguard of democracy, therefore, is education.” Franklin D. Roosevelt

The topic of Saturday Evening Club speaker Terry Brendel's talk was "Majority Rule." The main focus was on how gerrymandering has subverted democracy in the U.S. Congress and state legislatures. Brendel noted that during the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia, George Washington presided from a chair that depicted the sun, causing Ben Franklin to quip, “I have often looked at that without being able to tell whether it was rising or setting.” Franklin chose to believe it was rising, and Brendel hoped that was still the case.

 

Most participants slammed Trump's refusal to accept election results as a threat to democracy, our federalist system, and public order. Former IUN colleagues Pat Bankston and Richard Whitman, citing their experiences as poll watchers, ridiculed the notion of a fraudulent election. Referencing Jill Lapore's "These Truths," I mentioned that in 1789 no successful government had existed based on the three cornerstone principles of natural rights, sovereignty of the people, and political equality, Skeptical that pure majority rule was workable in a diverse nation, the Founding Fathers created checks and balances, separation of powers, and a federal system that retained state and local control over elections. I quoted cynic H.L. Mencken's prediction that “on some great and glorious day, the plain folks of the land will reach their heart's desire at last and the White House will be occupied by a downright moron.”  I added that Trump is certainly no moron but has historical amnesia and no respect for the Constitution. Bankston cited the erosion of political parties and the rise of social media as factors enabling a conservative populist demagogue to become president. I concluded by a quote attributed to Winston Churchill: “Democracy is the worst form of government, except for all the others.”

 

“"If we should perish, the ruthlessness of the foe would be only the secondary cause of the disaster, The primary cause would be that the strength of a giant nation was directed by eyes too blind to see all the hazards of the struggle; and the blindness would be induced, not by some accident of nature or history but by hatred and vainglory," Reinhold Niebuhr, quoted in Julie Lapore's "These Truths”

 

In an essay entitled “Trump’s Coup Attempt: Losing Power While Raking in the Loot,” Ray Smock wrote:

    After four years as president, Donald Trump still does not know a thing about how government works or how elections work. He thinks they work by the force of his will. He has squandered his entire presidency with little to show for it except his constant campaigning to keep the Trump brand before the public. The fecklessness of Donald Trump is staggering. His denial of Joe Biden’s victory is a form of mental illness. He lives in another reality, where he remains in power and is loved by the people. His pseudo-coup is so obviously frivolous that a smart ten-year-old could probably come up with a better plan to stay in power. Trump has only one game plan, the same one he has used his entire adult life. He hires lawyers to win for him what he is incapable of winning for himself. 

    At his own admittance on multiple occasions, Trump has claimed that the election might end up in the Supreme Court, where the results would be decided by just nine people, three of whom he appointed, regardless of the results of the elections in 50 states and the District of Columbia that resulted in a clear and decisive victory for Joe Biden and Kamala Harris. The election was conducted with fairness and accuracy.  Not so, says President Trump. The election was rigged. It was fraudulent. The fix was in. He continues to engage in mask-less rallies since his defeat and gets the crowd to yell: STOP THE STEAL. Before we get to the inauguration next month, we could see violence as Trump continues to whip his hard-core followers into a frenzy. 

    Despite the pathetic squeals of the president, despite the dozens of embarrassingly frivolous lawsuits in battleground states, the president is shrinking before our eyes. Those state officials who conducted the presidential election, whether the states were run by Republicans or Democrats, are a solid phalanx against the president’s Rudy-suits. The Supreme Court refused to even touch a suit brought to overturn the Pennsylvania results. They dismissed it unanimously in one sentence and slammed the door. 

    One of the last pathetic attempts to make this pseudo-coup work is the effort of the Attorney General of Texas to throw the election to Trump by having the Supreme Court determine how the electors in the Electoral College are selected. He has been joined by 17 other states, all with Republican Attorneys General. I have read this filing and the thing that struck me is that it is a complete parroting of the unfounded claims of voter irregularities that Trump has been spouting at every rally. A section of the complaint, called “FACTS” consists of unproven allegations, many of which have already been laughed out of court in other lawsuits. There should be some kind of sanction or serious penalty that stops such blatant partisanship and such a raw power grab to overturn a presidential election.

These elected officials are not upholding the laws or the constitutions of their own states. They are henchmen in Trump’s pseudo-coup. They are engaged in sedition and they should be impeached for it. They are hiding behind a curtain of law in an attempt to overturn the law. 

    Trump has run out of challenges. The process of certifying this election, despite Trump’s efforts, did not derail the process from being on schedule. This train will arrive on time.

    What Trump has done since the election in terms of using the occasion to continue to campaign and raise money is another unbelievable degradation of the electoral process. People keep sending him money. His aggressive money machine never stopped when the election was over. He has collected more than $250 million dollars from his loyalists since November. He has, in effect, created a Super-Pac that will put money in his own pocket for his own purposes. “Help Keep Donald Rich!” This should be the slogan. Trump’s money grab is the greatest swindle in the history of political chicanery. Trump’s pseudo-coup has worked for him; not to keep him in office beyond his term, but to make him vastly richer on the way out the door. 

 

I replied: “ IThese Truths historian Jill Lapore concluded: “Between the attacks of September 11, 2001, and the election of Donald Trump 15 years later, the U.S. lost its way in a cloud of smoke. The party system crashed, the press crumbled, and government imploded.” Let's hope Georgia sends 2 Democratic Senators to Washington and that the Biden/Harris team is up to a momentous task ahead.”  Ray responded, “Amen brother.”

 

 

The so-called runoff debates were very telling. Republican incumbent David Perdue was a no-show, claiming he'd already debated challenger Jon Ossoff twice. Addressing an empty stool, Ossoff said, "Your Senator feels entitled to your vote He is so arrogant that he is not here today to answer questions." Perdue and Republican colleague Kelly Loeffler had unloaded stock worth tens of millions of dollars after a closed-door briefing about the nascent coronavirus. Loeffler did square off against Raphael Warnock, senior pastor of Ebenezer Baptist Church, the 11th of 12 children raised in public housing and an advocate for programs on behalf of the poor. Taking excerpts from Warnock's sermons out of context, all Loeffler could offer were wild accusations that Warnock was a Marxist "radical liberal" who was anti-military, anti-police, and had an arrest record stemming, it turned out, from a sit-in at the State Capitol on behalf of expanding Medicaid. Although he provided examples of why he believed in the free enterprise system, I was disappointed that Warnock didn't give as good as he got; but as Ray Smock has told me, a better strategy is for a candidate to speak directly to voters and basically ignore specious charges.

 

Even though the Supreme Court unanimously refused to overturn Biden’s victory, by a 6-3 vote they denied a petition to stop the rash of executions the federal government is rushing through during Trump’s final days, including that of Brandon Bernard, just 18 when he and four others robbed and then killed youth ministers Stacie and Todd Bagley.  The former prosecutor in the case and five jurors went on record opposing his death, and Trump turned a deaf ear to pleas from Kim Kardashian, who released this statement: While Brandon did participate in this crime, his role was minor compared to that of the other teens involved, two of whom are home from prison now.”  Bernard last words were, “I wish I could take it all back, but I can’t.”  The family of Stacie and Todd Bagley issued this statement: “We pray that Brandon has accepted Christ as his Savior, because if he has, Todd and Stacie will welcome him into heaven with love and forgiveness.” 

 

On December 13, 1895, the Chesterton Tribune declared: “Everyone in Crocker hustles, which is why it is such an enterprising town, situated in a good farming locality.”  Located in Liberty Township, the unincorporated community was founded in 1892 upon the arrival of a rail line. A post office began operations the following year but closed down in 1905 when the predicted growth proved illusory.  The local paper also carried, tongue in cheek, this bit of town gossip: “Houses are so scarce and rents so high that Mr. Rice, our blacksmith, and Mr. Sphade, our electrician, have concluded to couple up.  One furnishes the provisions and  the other prepares the meals, and they live as happy as cats and dogs.”

Wednesday, December 9, 2020

These Truths

“The past is inheritance, a gift and a burden.  It can’t be shirked.  You carry it everywhere.  There’s nothing for it but to get to know it.”  Julie Lapore

With Terry Brendel due to speak on “Democracy” at our upcoming Saturday Evening Club zoom meeting, I have been reading Harvard historian Julie Lapore’s new book “The Truths,” suggested to me by Gaard Logan, who is perusing it for her book club.  The title harkens back to “self-evident” truths emanating from the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution: natural rights, political equality, and the sovereignty of the people. Taking a cue from Gaard, after looking over the introduction, I skipped to the recent chapters, entitled “The Brutality of Modernity” and “The Machine, 1946-2016.”  More than most such works, Lapore emphasizes the revolutionary importance of the internet, especially in a political context. Great strides in the development of supercomputers were made during World War II in hopes of breaking the Japanese code and estimating the altitude of missiles.  During the 1940s computer scientist Grace Murray Hopper, a Yale graduate, invented a linker that converted English terms into an A-O machine code system understood by computers.  Hopper was part of the team that developed the UNIVAC 1 giant computer. I recall NBC bringing Univac into its TV studio supposedly to predict 1952 election results as votes were being tabulated (I was a political junkie even then). In 1977 the microcomputer was first marketed, and within a decade home and office computers were increasingly common.

 

Lapore traced how Franklin D. Roosevelt’s welfare state goals eventually gave way to “the national security state,” as Cold War defense spending took priority over social programs.  While the GI Bill of Rights ushered in postwar affluence, African Americans and women were denied equal access housing and educational benefits.  Conservatives used propaganda provided by consulting firms, such as Campaigns Inc, founded by Clem Whitaker and Leone Baxter, to defeat liberal proposals for national health insurance, first in California and then at the national level.  The scourge of McCarthyism, Lapore concludes, was not an aberration but a harbinger of guilt-by-association tactics used by Republican politicians to this day. Reviewing “These Truths” for The Guardian, John S Gardner wrote:

    Lapore offers an unabashedly liberal perspective but seeks to be scrupulously fair to the modern conservative movement, devoting numerous pages to its intellectual origins as well as to its nativist and conspiratorial elements. Ideas do have consequences, as wrote [University of Chicago intellectual historian] Richard Weaver, a conservative intellectual for whom Lepore has sympathy.

 

I recall being cool toward computers initially until fully understanding their merits and limitations.  I loved it when a computer competing on Jeopardy against two champions inexplicably missed what seemed like a very easy Final Jeopardy – what city has two airports with names that refer to World War II (answer: Chicago, with O’Hare and Midway). Ironically, given my rudimentary knowledge of computers, after writing an article for the Journal of American History on industrial heritage museums, I was asked to be a paid consultant for a proposed museum in Chippewa Falls, Wisconsin, that came to house some of the country’s fastest supercomputers developed by Cray Research, a company founded by Seymour R. Cray, called “the Thomas Edison of the supercomputer industry.”  During the 1950s Cray had worked on the UNIVAC division of Remington Rand (later Sperry Rand) before forming his own company.  My main suggestion was that the Chippewa Falls museum include an oral history component.

 

Julie Lapore’s previous best-seller, “The Secret History of Wonder Woman,” revealed that the cartoon’s creator, William Moulton Marston, was an avid feminist who was married to suffragette Sadie Holloway, engaged in sex parties during the mid-10920, and included among his lovers Olive Byrne, the niece of birth control advocate Margaret Sanger.  He had four children, two with Sadie and two with Olive, who were good friends. Lapore notes that after Marston’s death in 1947 at age 54, All Star Comics hired new writers who had the Amazon princess conform more closely to women’s traditional roles, a development that infuriated the women the creator left behind.

 

In the Post-Tribune a “Quickly” commenter wrote that it was incorrect to say that Trump was one of the few presidents not to have a pet in the White House because he had lap dog Mike Pence, only it was the Vice President whose job it was to clean up his master’s messes, not vice versa. Columnist Leonard Pitts reported that after Mrs. Iddy Kennedy in North Little Rock, Arkansas, put up a Black Santa in her yard, a racist told her to get rid of the “Negro elf.” It made the woman initially question whether she wanted to raise her daughter in that neighborhood; but when neighbors heard what happened suddenly Black Santa appeared on lawns up and down the block.  Pitts concluded: “ People also sent money, over $1,000, which the family has redirected to the Arkansas branch of Ronald McDonald House Charities. Speaking to The Washington Post, the charity's executive director, Janell Mason called it ‘humanity doing good things.’ And so it is.”

Monday, November 23, 2020

IU Northwest Faculty Org

“Every institution has two organizational structures.  The formal one is written on the charts, the other is in the everyday relationships of the men and women in the organization.” 

Former ITT President Harold S. Geneen

 

When asked to pay tribute to my late colleague Fred Chary at November’s virtual Faculty Organization meeting, I agreed with one caveat: that my appearance be near the top of the agenda.  Last time I spoke, to honor retiring Sociology professor Chuck Gallmeier, I was called to the podium with just two minutes until automatic adjournment and had to cut my remarks short. Another unspoken reason was that such gatherings can be deathly boring, with tedious committee reports and unimportant announcements by administrators and events planners. Whereas once the Faculty Org played an important role in university matters, its power has been diluted by, among other things, an all-university Faculty Council and the establishment of a Chancellor’s cabinet.

 

In Paul Kern and my history of IU Northwest, “Educating the Calumet Region,” we wrote that the first recorded faculty meeting took place in 1952, when the campus, known as the “IU Extension,” met in Seaman Hall in downtown Gary, and that a constitution was drawn up four years later. Here are memories of meetings that took place in the 1960s after IUN moved to its present Glen Park location:

  Angie Komenich: I liked watching the rhetorical give and take.  Bill Neil, George Thoma, and Jack Gruenenfelfer were very good.  Director Jack Buhner encouraged discussion. 

    Ken Stabler: Several people saw the meetings as an opportunity to get up and expound.  Leslie Singer and George Roberts enjoyed telling everyone what they thought in a colorful language.  They were an entertaining part of the décor.

    Mary Harris Russell: My first meeting was nothing like expected, coming from Berkeley, where Noam Chomsky and other luminaries debated pressing issues of the day.  Discussion went on interminably over whether Sophie could bring over coffee on a cart from the cafeteria.  I thought, “I have better things to be doing.”

 

While an untenured professor during the 1970s, I attended meetings out of obligation and in order to meet some of the important players that might be controlling my fate.  Old timers exuded a certain gravitas, and gadflies George Roberts. Les Singer, and Gary Moran could be counted on to rail against those they considered to be administrative toadies.  Moran got his comeuppance when he asked Regional Campus director and future IU President John Ryan a question and made the unforgivable faux pas of referring to the mother campus as the University of Indiana.  Business professor Bill Reilly’s forte was coming up with Latin phrases that half the time went over my head. Over the years I can recall a handful od exciting meetings.  I missed by one year the 1969 debate over establishing a Black Studies program but was part of efforts to gain approval for Chicano/Riqueno and Women’s Studies programs as well as a resolution to ban smoking on campus.  I was on the losing end of one to have student transcripts simply be a record of progress toward a degree, eliminating needless W’s, I’s, and F’s. 

 

One ongoing debate, I learned, has been whether to tape meetings and have them then made available to those unable to attend. Opponents pointed out that written minutes already serve that purpose while protecting individuals’ anonymity, whereas recording meetings might stifle debate.  Sureka Rao noted that if professors really cared about what went on, they could make more of an effort to attend.  Zoran Kilibarda drew laughs when questioning whether anyone would spend hours watching the proceedings.  The motion was tabled. My remarks appeared to be well received (I subsequently received warm, congratulatory emails from all history faculty. 

 

I stayed around to hear retiring Computer Information Systems professor Bill Dorin praised by Faculty Org chair Mark Baer. Once a lunchtime fixture at the cafeteria faculty table, Dorin spent many hours helping me make a DVD companion to Ron Cohen and my “Gary: A Pictorial History.” Each photo appeared on the screen for approximately 30 seconds, sometimes with Bill panning in on certain details, while I recited the captions. While not terribly exciting, the DVD was used in some Gary classrooms during units on local history. Ever the comic, Dorin said he was looking forward to having time to catch up on his reading and then held up a child’s coloring book as an example.