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September 13, 2006 - Image 15

Resource type:
The Michigan Daily, 2006-09-13

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The University of Michigan at - Detroit?
Our Back Pages I Local History Column

Wedesdy, eptmbe 206 Daly--Te ichga


(cAngie and I will
consider tying the knot

"'Don't get stuck on stupid.' It's good
advice for people in Washington D.C."
- PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH, recounting "one
of the great lines I've ever heard" dsringa speech in
Atlanta on Sept. 7.

when everyone else in 'Although many similarities exist between
Aldous Huxley's'A Brave New World' and
the country who wants George Orwels '1984,' the works books [sic]
to be married is legally though they deal with similar topics, are more
dissimilar than alike.

ixed to an otherwise nonde-
script parking structure on
an otherwise unimportant
block of Congress Street in down-
town Detroit, a modest historical
marker notes the original site of
what was then called, in 1817, the
University of Michigania.
The "Catholepistemiad," as the
University was sometimes called in
its earliest days, never flourished in
Detroit; a weak territorial govern-
ment was never able to provide the
University with sufficient funds to
build a degree-granting institution.
Shortly after statehood in 1837, an
offer of 40 acres by the Ann Arbor
Land Company - land that today
forms the core of Central Campus
- drew the University to its present
Writing in the midst of World
War II, one historian of Detroit
noted, "The University of Michi-
gan worked out its own glorious
destiny in Ann Arbor, but it is one
of Old Detroit's secret delights that
the foundations of that great school
were laid in the heart of the Detroit
scene" The former Arsenal of
Democracy has fallen on rather hard
times since that contented statement,
and the flow of wealth and popula-

tion out of the city continues to this
day. The eternal conflict between
town and gown notwithstanding,
might the University have been a
greater benefit to its community if it
had remained in Detroit?
To be sure, Ann Arbor would
be vastly different had the Univer-
sity never arrived here, but it might
have nonetheless worked out a path
to growth. Ann Arbor was already
the seat of Washtenaw County, and
it could have snagged the teacher's
college instead placed in Ypsilanti
in 1849, which today is Eastern
Michigan University. Or Ann Arbor
might have remained a small town,
hardly distinguishable from Saline
or Dexter.
Yet as quaint and charming as
Ann Arbor is as a college town (or
as unbearable as its yuppie preten-
sions are, depending on your per-
spective), there's a serious case that
the vitality the University brought to
Ann Arbor could have been put to
better use in Detroit.
Had the University never moved,
the Arsenal of Democracy might
have been able to boast that its pres-
tigious university was an assembly
line in its own right, churning out
educated minds bent on finding

smarter ways to smash fascism. Yet
in the postwar period, downtown
Detroit began to lose office tenants
and retail stores - just as the Uni-
versity was launching an expansion
that boosted enrollment dramatically
and led to the creation of North Cam-
pus. It's not too hard to seea scenario
where the University, left to grow
where it was planted in 1817, moved
classes into downtown skyscrapers
that instead became abandoned. The
Statler and the Book-Cadillac, luxu-
rious Detroit hotels of an earlier era,
might have seen a later life as high-
rise dormitories.
In the past five or 10 years, down-
town Detroit has just begun to shake
its reputation as a crime-laden dis-
trict devoid of attractions and ame-
nities. It might never have received
that reputation, however, if the Uni-
versity hadstayed put. Even if some
students chose to commute to cam-
pus from Detroit's suburbs, thou-
sands if not tens of thousands would
choose to live conveniently near
campus. Their presence could have
helped keep downtown streets from
becoming deserted and thereby
dangerous; their dollars could have
sustained restaurants and nightlife.
That's not to say that University

students could have single-handedly
"saved" Detroit. There aren't terri-
bly many happy marriages between
the nation's urban areas and elite
universities. Schools tend to wall
themselves as if trying to create a
physical manifestation of the pro-
verbial Ivory Tower, or they find
themselves in disputes with their
neighbors when they try to expand
into surrounding areas, as Columbia
University has time and time again.
Certainly, Wayne State University
hasn't prevented Detroit's decline,
although that institution, long pri-
marily a commuter school for metro
Detroit residents, hasn't had the
draw for students from around the
nation and world that the University
of Michigan has. Two other colleges
in Detroit, the University of Detroit-
Mercy and Marygrove College, are
so secluded from their surroundings
that they might as well be in their
own idyllic college towns - and
had it remained in Detroit, the Uni-
versity might have been tempted to
form a similar enclave.
But walking past the original
site of the University of Michigania
on a Sunday afternoon and find-
ing yourself the only living soul in
sight, as I have, it's hard to imagine

that the University wouldn't have
done a tremendous amount of good
for Detroit. The students it brought
downtown might have been just
enough of a boost to keep the area
alive. Instead, Detroit's become a
Mecca for "urban exploration," the
perfect playground for those whose
hobby is illegally entering and
exploring abandoned buildings.
Though a grand building that
once housed a University extension
center near the Detroit Institute of
Arts sat shamefully abandoned until
recently, the University hasn't aban-
doned Detroit entirely. The Univer-
sity community has volunteered
more service to Detroit through
efforts such as the Detroit Project
than one might expect given Ann
Arbor's physical and social isolation
from Detroit. The University even
opened a new Detroit Center on
Woodward last year, as a home base
for its operations there. Such efforts,
however, seem almost inconsequen-
tial compared to what might have
been if the life that the University
brought to Ann Arbor had stayed in
its first home instead.
- Zbrozek can be reached at

- BRAD PITT, on why he and Angelina Jolie
have no immediate plans to marry.

- Opening sentence of an essay by TERM
PAPER RELIEF, purchased by a New York Times
reporter for $49.75 for an article on online cus-
tom term-paper services in the Sunday Times.

1. Vogue Italia's "State
of Emergency" fashion
2. Tony Blair
3. Hydrogen-powered


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(Available locally)
Dogfish Head Beer, hailing from
the classic brewery in not-so-classic-
anymore Bethany Beach, Delaware,
is one of the best domestic beers
available today. While boasting
the infamous 120 Minute Indian
Pale Ale - which tips the scales
of inebriated accountability with a
20- percent alcohol content - Dog-
fish Head's India Brown Ale could
very well provide the straw that
breaks you into a beer snob. With
strong overtones of caramel and
chocolate, the Indian Brown Ale
is a rich ale that doesn't pretend to
be a stout. While the initial rush of
thick, strongly scented malt may turn
you off, notice its clear, unobtrusive
aftrtste. It's high-end ber, with
a 7.2-percent alcohol content that
slides just under the radar.
- Andrew Sargus Klein




Have an eye for
newspaper design?
Join the Daily
design staff.


4 9

Number of members of the Facebook.com group "If this group reaches
100,000 my girlfriend will have a threesome." as of 1:51 a.m. this morning.
Number of members of the Facebook.com group "If this group reaches
100,000 my girlfriend will have a threesome." as of 2:21 a m. this morning.
Number of members of the Facebook.com group "I'm a Disney Kid
and always Will Be" as of the same time this morning.

. .
8 7' 1
L2 1

Working as a model-cum-
fake-UPS man during New
York Fashion Week and ask-
ing Salman Rushdie and Fran
Leibovitz: "What can brown
do for you?"




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