* Michigan Daily 2004 “Best Blog” *
* Current Magazine 2004 Runner-up “Best Blog in Ann Arbor” *
“His tone is partisan, progressive and precise”
– Current Magazine, June 2004
“Visitors to the site are encouraged to respond to the posts constructively to facilitate open dialogue. Goodspeed posts consistently and keeps the community up-to-date with recent events.”
— The Michigan Daily, April 2004
“Rob has cemented his reputation as one of the most influential voices on campus … I often am amazed that Rob has the time to maintain the website with such skill and consistency amid all of his academic obligations and extracurricular activities.”
— History Prof. Matthew Lassiter
What began as little more than an obscure hobby in my life has grown much larger than I ever anticipated. Over 1,400 posts after an inauspicious beginning on September 11, 2001, I am now a “blogger,” a member of what seems a still-maturing online niche somewhere between personal diary and journalism proper. However, I graduated with a BA in History with High Honors in May, and I am planning to move away from Ann Arbor in August. Although it’s been a good run, it’s time to move on.
A project I initiated over a month ago with a group of other local bloggers was launched this week. Arborupdate.com is an edited, blog-style news website focusing on Ann Arbor which went live late Tuesday, and has reached nearly 700 unique visitors in five days. I am excited about the project, and I plan on focusing my energies on it over the next few months. In the short term, I’ll be traveling for the next week, and I won’t be posting to this website in that time.
However, before I sign off, a few notes. In general universities, and the University of Michigan in particular, are truly good and remarkable institutions. However, a student of history, I try not to forget the less noteworthy periods and study how they came about and what we might learn from them.
The University of Michigan participated in court-ordered forced sterilizations early in its history, suppressed and expelled students involved in pacifist demonstrations and radical politics in the 1930s, fired professors for refusing to cow to Senator McCarthy’s inquest during the the 1950s, and resisted unionization efforts of its employees. In recent years it has been obliterating walkable neighborhoods to build gigantic buildings with no interface with the street, demolished historic structures, and conducted a massive and secretive effort to terrorize students to end (or minimize) the harmless naked mile and hash bash traditions.
In the past year, SAPAC has been largely dissolved, Michigamua continues to meet over the protests of Native American students, the residence hall libraries have been closed, the tiny LGBT office has their budget cut and educational program eliminated, lecturers have to hold rallies and a walkout before getting anything close to an acceptable contract, the Pow Wow cut back further due to budget cuts (no matter photos from this event grace the walls of Fleming!), holes in the walls of the Trotter house are in the front page of the Daily, as tuition spirals ever higher.
However, that same history contains the stories of activists, students, and Regents who have forced the University to divest in tobacco companies and companies that did business with South Africa’s racist apartheid regime, adopt path-breaking affirmative action policies for women and underrepresented minorities, get out of the business of directly designing the weaponry of war. Recently, activism by Students Organizing for Labor and Economic Equality, Student Voices in Action, Our Voices Count, and faculty and staff in general have arguably produced substantive changes in university policies and priorities.
Similarly, although there is much to like in the city of Ann Arbor, in a general sense, students are disenfranchised by city politics. Politics in the city is dominated by the political machine of local NIMBY environmentalists like Doug Coward, who pull undemocratic moves like the recent naming of the Greenbelt committee, which apparently happened entirely behind closed doors.
However, I am optimistic – there seems a critical mass of progressive voices in the city which could breathe new life into city politics. Students for PIRGM have embraced a campaign to legalize Accessory Dwelling Units, or granny flats, in many of Ann Arbor’s neighborhoods which would introduce much-needed housing options, density, and vitality of the city’s gentrifying and depopulating neighborhoods. Groups like the VOICE Coalition, people working to create artist space in the city, developments like Lower Town, and the newly formed Community Design Center are all working towards an Ann Arbor I’ll be proud to visit in the future. There are also graduate students armed with innovative policies to build more inclusive, affordable communities, and I’m convinced if they are persistent Ann Arbor can learn much from them. Also, a number of people would like to see a representative of Ann Arbor’s tenant and student communities serve on city council, and I optimistic this will happen within a few years (the deadline to file as an independent for this November’s election is July!)
What will happen to this website? Expect to see fewer posts here, although this space will not be abandoned entirely. Although I intend to focus my energies on arborupdate.com, where I am a contributor, this website will continue in its present form for a little while longer. Also, the extensive archive of material stored on this site will always be publicly available.
I took former University President James Duderstadt’s experimental university course in Winter 2004. In one lecture, he projected a list of goals for the University created by administrators during his tenure. One I particularly liked – it said, “Keepin’ the joint jumpin'” I think is what I tried to do here – not only to learn and teach, but also to stir things up a bit and report fully, honestly, and truthfully about them. (On that note, former Daily editorial page editor Zac Peskowitz brought it to my attention that the article in this month’s Current which quotes me contains an error: I said I worked for the Daily on September 11, which wasn’t true, I had recently quit the editorial staff and it was December before I was hired as a news reporter.)
I’d like to say thank you not only to the people who have read, commented, or criticized this website, but also to everyone who has helped me at Michigan. The last four years have been exciting, memorable, certainly educational, and I hope to stay in contact with many of you in the future.
Finally, I can’t end without a little organizing. You may have read on this site before about an organization I am trying to create of progressive, political alums of the University. We are planning mass meetings on June 20 in Ann Arbor and Washington DC, and perhaps Chicago and New York if there is enough interest. If you are interested in joining or learning more, send me an email at rgoodspe (at) umich.edu.