16 - The Michigan Daily - Friday, September 7, 2001
By Elizabeth Kassab, Louie Meizlish and Maria Sprow
rA LV STAFF REPORTERS
U'gains reputation through
Moown before moving to A
/ny people say Ann Arbor would not exist without
the University of Michigan, but there was a time
when the University existed without Ann Arbor.
In 1800, seventeen years before the University was
born, the Motor City was almost nonexistent. It lay at
the edge of the frontier and was just beginning to attract
"At the time that we're talking about, there was
very little settlement in the territory of Michigan.
There was Mackinaw in the north and Detroit in the
south," said University Prof. Margaret Steneck, who
teaches the class "History of the University of Michi-
gan" with her husband Nick. "You're really in the
Seven years later, the reputation of the city would for-
ever change. The area became the birthplace of a revolu-
tionary idea: to offer residents a publicly funded system
"The public schools that we take for granted today,
you did not have those in the early 19th century," Ste-
In order to get the idea off the ground, several respect-
ed ministers and government officials - John Monteith
(the first president of the University), Father Gabriel
Richard (the vice president), Judge Augustus Wood-
ward, William Woodbridge and Lewis Cass - collabo-
rated and founded the Catholepistemiad, or University
of Michigania, in Detroit.
"These are real democrats," Steneck said about the
founders. "They wanted to see everyone in the Michi-
gan territory educated. It was a new idea. It's radical."
Steneck said the University was only a primary and
secondary school when it was founded because the set-
tlement was not large enough and people were not edu-
cated enough to build a college.
The University was reorganized in 1821 but didn't
stand as it was for long. In 1837, when Michigan
became the 26th state, a charter was signed and land in
Ann Arbor was donated to build a college. The Univer-
sity left Detroit.
The original building in Detroit was torn down in the
The University finally opened to students in 1851.
When it opened, nine students attended - seven freshman
and two sophomores, all male. There was one building
called the Main building and four houses built for profes-
sors, one of which is current-
ly the President's
s the yearlong festivities celebrating Detroit's 300th
anniversary begin to wind down, the University is
just beginning to get in on the action, striving to
bring students closer to Michigan's largest city.
As part of the attempt to show students every aspect of
Detroit - from fine art and history to inner-city poverty
- professors from departments throughout the College of
Literature, Science and the Arts spent the past 18 months
working collaboratively to organize the Detroit 300 theme
The theme semester, approved by LSA last November,
is comprised of more than 40 graduate- and undergradu-
ate-level classes, as well as various events and exhibitions
happening throughout the next three months.
The semester will officially kick off Sept. 15 at 7:30
p.m. at the Lydia Mendelssohn Theatre, where the Mosaic
Youth Theatre will perform the play "2001 Hastings
Street," a musical drama about Detroit's black community
and music scene in the 1940s. The group will then hold a
workshop about the making of the play.
Residential College Director Charles Bright, who heads
the theme semester, said the Mosaic Youth Theatre perfor-
mance was chosen to kick off the semester because the
troupe is an excellent
example of the theatri-
cal art found in
" " 'Motown.
"They are the most
Screative kids I've ever
met, full of energy,"
In addition to the
semester also features
a Pewabic pottery
exhibition in the RC
Art Gallery of East
Quad Residence Hall
beginning Oct. 19.
The LSA course guide
also advertises historical exhibits in the Bentley Historical
Library, the Special Collections Library, the Kelsey Muse-
um of Archaeology and the William L. Clements Library.
"Culture buses" will shuttle interested people to the city
and introduce them to various museums, landmarks and
Additional panels and symposia being held at the Uni-
versity will discuss Detroit-related issues. Bright said the
panels will not attempt to define problems in Detroit but
discuss and explore compelling issues in a non-antagonis-
"People living in Detroit know what the problems are,"
Bright said. "They don't need academics living in Ann
Arbor telling them."
The theme semester gives undergraduates a chance to
explore different programs at the University and experi,
ence the city that lies only 40 miles east of campus.
"We've been pretty impressed by the range of response
among the departments," Bright said. "The LSA response
has been really good."
Bright said he hopes the theme didn't
semester brings together faculty j
who have interests in Detroit but Detroit he
have never worked with each
other and may never have had theb
opportunity to teachb about the
city. unt otaccbuyh
Prof. Buzz Alexander said he
chose to teach his Detroit-based
English 310 class after working in
area prisons because he was inter-
ested in helping urban schools
"I'm interested in places that we've denied resources
to," he said.
LSA sophomore Sarah Zeile said she believes the theme
semester and classes like Armstrong's could benefit
Detroit's public schools.
"I think it would be really great if they were more
involved," Zeile said. She attended the Detroit High
School for Fine and Performing Arts and noticed the
University did not make much of an effort to reach stu-
dents at her high school. "We went to on-site admis-
sions, but they never came here."
Bright said he looks forward to the combination of
interests and knowledge the students bring to the courses.
Zeile said she is startled by some of the stereotypes she
encounters when she tells people at the University that she
hails from Detroit.
"I didn't know that Detroit had such a bad image outside
of the city," Zeile said. "I didn't realize there was such a
superstition about it. I always thought it was a rumor."
By letting students experience Detroit first-hand, the
theme semester aims to dispel some of those stereotypes.
Alexander chose to hold interviews before letting stu-
dents enroll in his course to ensure that students taking the
class are willing to let go of any biases they hold about the
"I want students who understand that they are going into
an important place that deserves our respect," he said. "I
want students to know that this is serious work. I want
them to know it can be painful work. I'm looking for very
responsible and committed students."
Alexander's class is not the only one that will focus on
hands-on experiences within the city.
Prof. Reynolds Farley is offering two sociology courses
through the theme semester. In Sociology 535, "The Urban
Community," he said, "we're going to look at trends in
Detroit as they reflect national trends." Some examples are
economic class trends, incorporation of immigrants and
"I hope that students will understand more about funda-
mental processes that are changing this nation as they play
out in Detroit and other cities,"he said.
But Bright noted that the University's effort to reach out
to Detroit didn't originate with the theme semester.
In the past five years, largely in response to the vision of for-
mer University provost Nancy Cantor, there has been an
increased effort to contribute to the community, he said.
Bright said a number of graduate and professional pro-'
grams now include connections to Detroit.
Jim Kosteva, the University's director of community
relations, said the University has more than 100 different
partnerships with community groups in the city.
One example is the Urban Research Center, which is affiliat-
ed with the School of Public Health and conducts studies to
improve the quality of life of inner-
city residents. One particular study is
enoaw that attempting to determine the reasons
for higher incidences of asthma in
such a the city.
outside Another program involves School
of Education students teaming up
fl with Detroit Public Schools students
to improve their writing skills. The
- Sarah Zeile Detroit students electronically send
- htheir writing to the University stu-
LSA sophomore dents who then critique the works
and return them.
The theme semester, which was intentionally planned to
come after the city officially celebrated the anniversary of
its 1701 founding in July, was designed to shed light on
"We wanted it to be a reflection on, rather than the antic-
ipation of, the celebration," Bright said.
Zeile said the celebration was well deserved. "It has so
much history," she said. "No one can deny it's kind of a
shell of its former self."
Even so, the city has the potential to return to its past
greatness, Zeile said.
Bright said the theme semester will end in December but he
hopes it will have lasting effects. He said a growing collabora-
tion between the University and Detroit and a permanent web-
site linking the two are possible. Bright also expressed hope
that the University might consider a new concentration in
urban community studies.
"I think an urban studies concentration at the University of
Michigan would be an excellent addition;' Farley said.
But Bright admitted the theme semester alone will not
"The splash will not be big enough to make huge waves -
it'll just start ripples. The way things go
here things take a lot of ripples and
time," he said.
310: Discourse and Society: The
Henry Ford High School Project
Professor: BuZZ Alexander
Students taking the class are
What tt is about: St eri ihsho eces
required to work with Detroihe workshops foachers.
Students hold art and theatewr~hP o
students hod otherwise would not have those
students who ot them. Alexander promises
resources avaiable in hands-on with the Detroit
students that workingwils o i e t er a
public school system will o' heseare schoolstt
that other classes cand" are schOOls tha
are not wealthy schools and are tesc S thatki
many, many Detroit students attend. y rt
with the students, you're going to learn about
certain sides of Detroit," he said.
Political Science 423: Politics
: Gregory Markus
Wt nd t s about: Students in the course will
to idosu why Detroit faces the challenges tempt
does,' Markus said. Students will study the effec
economic development public education, commut
activism and environmental concerns on the city. F
examplesome students will work with communityr
organizations to conduct research concerning the
city's new casinos. The focus,_arku sai nt
to study big city politicians, but rather todwasnot
demonstrate to students "h, ordiar po
cities can have an impact on citiesOnary people in
cited is the Detroit Project, of wic :12 members are
enrolled in the class.
Film and Video 190: Documenemey
Film and Community Cultures
Professor: Frank yBeaver
about:Students in the course will s Ite
Wat it Ioun documentaries on urban subjec I
is a twocourse sequence. In the first semeter,and get
students learn about producing docue nd
to meet prominent filmmakters wh a mester,the
documentaries on Detroit. In the con semes the
students will produce their oan cmmunties abo
Ann Arbor or surrounding urb
Economic,Socialand Racial Trens
Professor: Reynolds Farley
tagt tth sabout: This is a one-credit mini
tauht thrsee separate times throughout the semesterg
Each class will consist of four in-class meetings and
an al-day excursion to Detroit. The course focuses on
various trends evident in Detroit and explore their
history and their
implications for the