2B - The Michigan Daily - Weeke l alileai - Thursday, April 10, 2003
The Michigan Daily - Weekend Maazile -
Prof. Ralph Williams exposes it all
BY Ricky Lax
Daily Arts Writer
Ralph Williams has been teaching
religion and literature courses at the
University for years. His prescence in
the classroom is one of a kind as he has
entertained countless students all the
while teaching them the likes of Dante,
Shakespeare and the Bible. The Michi-
gan Daily caught up with Williams to
ask him what makes him so unique.
The Michigan Daily: Congratula-
tions on winning Best Professor.
Ralph Williams: I am genuinely
and deeply honored, and will do my
very best to try to deserve it. I love
every hair on my students' heads,
and am wholly in love with the mate-
rials I teach: My life is hugely privi-
leged in those ways.
TMD: When did you know you
wanted to be a college professor?
RW: Do you know I've always
enjoyed the study of literature, but that
existed in a larger network of interests.
In many ways, coming to be a college
teacher was something that simply
happened. There are probably six or
eight lives that I'd have enjoyed living.
I'd have enjoyed being a doctor. Loved
to have been a lawyer. Well, in col-
lege, I applied to graduate school and
Michigan's English department came
up with something marvelous called a
fellowship, which paved my way to
study more. While doing that, I dis-
covered that one of the chief things
that one did was become a teacher.
TMD: Academic freedom is very
important to you; have you ever
been deprived of it?
RW: No. And I would leave the
profession immediately if I were. It's
enormously important to me. One
needs to hear the views of all with
whom one has to do intellectually and
otherwise, as they wish to express it.
TMD: Is anything off limits in your
RW: Yes, there is. Abuse of other
speakers. The views of other are open to
inspection from all quarters, but there
will be human respect within the class-
room for those who are present.
TMD: Are any topics off limit?
RW: In general, no - but, pragmat-
ically, there is a restraint that I place on
myself. It's my understanding, my com-
mitment, that I, in the sense of commit-
ments or antagonisms to commitments,
am not the point of my Bible class. The
point of the class is the material that
draws us together and the discourse, as
it is constructed by you, by me, by all
of those there. Off limits for me in the
classroom is the sort of expression of
points of view, which intend to produce
commitment to my own views.
TMD: What do you think makes you
such a popular professor?
RW: I'd like it to be the fact that
in my presence, students are received
with respect, with human affection,
their intelligence; nourished, drawn
out, drawn on, their ability to receive
and to challenge; extended, and their
sheer joy in their human being and
TMD: If you were stranded on a
desert island and could only have one
work of literature with you, what
would you choose?
RW: Well let me say then Shake-
speare because the works show the
pressure of the Bible and then Shake-
speare's own work foliates out into the
works of almost all others in the West-
ern tradition and in many others as well.
I choose him because his works them-
selves are more extensively and deeply
human than virtually anything I know.
TMD: Have you ever written a
RW: Yes. The book, which
emerged from my doctoral disserta-
tion, is one on a neo-Latin poetics. It
drew together for me, at that point,
various forms of learning and touched
on a number of interesting issues
about tradition. My best writings are
the ones ahead. There is one in forma-
tion on Primo Levi on whom I teach a
course. There is one, which deals with
the ways in which the Bible has
worked through world cultures. There
is one called Five Florentine Chapels.
TMD: Where is a good place to get
By Ellen McGarrity
Daily Arts Writer
Where do you go when nature calls? Michigan students
reported that they'd rather be in the Angell Hall bathrooms
than anywhere else on campus. But what makes Angell's
facilities better than the rest? Or are they even that much
better? At least one person thinks so.
"I love the Angell bathrooms - there's not a lot of traf-
fic so you can shit peacefully," said Michigan alum Jim
Kyle, who graduated last year and used to spend a lot of
time in the building.
But let's look into this topic more before making a deci-
sion. So, you've just hiked up to campus from your dorm or
apartment and you've got an appointment with your LSA
advisor. Up the marble steps into Angell, and you hit the
first set of-bathrooms. Perfect, a chance to relieve yourself
before discussing your major and class schedule for the next
30 minutes. But beware of these "first chance" bathrooms.
The lighting above the stalls is almost non-existent and the
floors are always covered with dirty paper towels. These
bathrooms also have only three toilets each - not the best
when you're in a rush.
Phew, the meeting with your advisor is over and it's off
to your sociology lecture in Angell's Auditorium B. When
you're almost there, that supersize Coke from Wendy's
kicks in and a stop to the bathroom is necessary. This
time you hit up the stalls next to the auditoriums. These
are always a good bet - not too crowded and usually
kept clean. Girls, this is a good place to primp because of
all the space.
Lecture's over and a trip to the Fishbowl is needed, as you
have a psychology journal due in, oops, an hour. But, that
soda is still kicking in, so you visit the bathrooms right out-
side of the computer area. Be very cautious in these bath-
rooms. Warning: Foul smells and dim lighting lie within. Do
the janitors even stop in there?
best for u!
By Andrew M. Gaerig
Daily Arts Writer
Here are the ruberics for the day good people ...
The new bathrooms in Angell are the best on campus.
The journal is completed and successfully e-mailed to
your GSI and now it's time for English class. Up the stairs
this time - two flights to the old section of Angell. Your
bladder is still complaining, so you pay a quick visit to the
johns on this floor. These are probably the eeriest and qui-
etest bathrooms in the building. Be sure to read all the
ancient messages on the inside of the stall doors (yes, peo-
ple actually have conversations on the bathroom stalls).
You're done with Angell for the day and head out
through the newly completed back section of the build-
ing. It's embarrassing, but you feel a No. 2 coming on.
Don't worry, you're in the right place. The bathrooms in
the new section of Angell are a little-known secret. With
brand new toilets, sinks, tile floors and not visited too
often, these bathrooms are the ideal place to get some
precious time to yourself.
The consensus? While all of Angell's bathrooms may not
be up to par, the number and variety make up for it. LSA
freshman Steve Lake agrees.
"The urinals are wonderfully maintained," Lake said.
"And the toilets are so clean you can drink out of them. Not
that I do, but it's good to know the option is there."
Straddling that fine line between
having too many albums and having
way too many albums, Liberty Street's
Encore Records has been serving Ann
Arbor's music snobs since 1991. Nes-
tled unassumingly in a small store-
front, a trip across the threshold
reveals a crowded cubby of aural
treasures. Though navigating the cir-
cuitous shelving units can be like
mapping your way through the Grad
Library stacks, the rewards are far
more grand: the store deals almost
exclusively in used material, offering
the patient customer a seemingly end-
The collection of CD's is impres-
sive: the pop-rock section is hit or
miss, but persistence usually yields at
least a few gems. Classic rock and
one-hit wonders are sure bets, but any-
thing else depends on the visit. Less
popular genres - bluegrass, blues and
electronic - are less picked-over, and
as a result, offer rewards to the dis-
The store's commitment to local
music is impressive, as they shelve
dozens of local bands for reasonable
prices. Often, the best finds - in any
genre - are made at the counter,
where excess stock is stacked three feet
high. Patience is essential, but glean-
ing these towers of overlooked mer-
dinner in Ann Arbor?
RW: I'm homesick for Italy so
much. I'll go to this Italian restaurant
on the other edge of town. I'm Canadi-
an born, but I just fell head over heals
for Italy. You're born in a certain place
and in a certain sense that's home, but
then if you are fortunate in life, you
get to chose a home of the spirit. For
me that place is Italy. There is a bend
in the railroad when I come up from
Rome. When I pass it, I am home.
TMD: So much is made of your
commanding hands, there must be some
metaphor there, what would it be?
RW: I've heard people comment
on my hands. I've heard people com-
ment on and question my style. In a
certain sense, my hands are a given. I
can't help my looks. I'm given my
hands. If I were to move toward a'
metaphor, I suppose I'd want it to be
reach and grasp, a reaching out
toward, a wish to grasp. But what you
see in me is not premeditated style,
what you see is my body thinking.
TMD: How much free time do you
have every day?
RW: This may be a self-criticism: I
don't think I understand free time.
I'm 61 and there's necessarily limited
time and I have limited abilities and I
am going to get every second out of
that time and every bit out of those
abilities that I can before time ends
for me. So I open my eyes between
four and five in the morning and I get
up and I start going and I usually stop
between 11 and 12 at night. I'm not
good at the concept of leisure.
TMD: After you leave the Universi-
ty, how do you wish to be remembered?
RW: There's a line of Dante which
I'd like as indicated that by which I'd
like to be remembered, if I ever
earned it, I'd like it as an epitaph:
"Intellectual light, full of love."
TMD: Thank you, Prof. Williams.
RW: No, thank you. It is a joy to
talk with you.
Apply now at the Law Library
Minimum pay is $8.50 per hour!
Apply at the hiring table outside
room S-180 in the Law Library's
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