Wednesday, September 28, 2005

ANN ARBOR: Remembering the Fleming Building

I suggest you read The Washington Post's article about the current situation the trustees of American University find themselves in: infighting, a president accused of corruption (Benjamin Ladner, pictured at right), a faculty no confidence vote and a generally skeptical student population calling for his head.

Reading this brings back memories of my days covering the University of Michigan's administration and board of regents for The Michigan Daily. As a public institution, the regents had a little more transparency and awareness in the general public. But not much.

All in all, covering a university administration can be a tough assignment, where the elected or appointed custodians are quite reclusive, have undetermined motives, unclear internal collegiate allies and, most of all, usually don't pay much attention to students, especially those who might be aspiring journalists. So here are a former college reporter's memories from the Fleming Administration Building, pictured below:

The University of Michigan's Board of Regents still looks pretty much the same from my days on campus, when I was reporting on the downfall of the athletic department (the Ed Martin scandal), affirmative action to building projects. (Sidenote: Regents love presentations on building projects much like how cats like cat nip, especially if they're dealing with a big building projects. Their ears will perk up, they lean forward in their chairs and they'll often ask specific questions about brick color or the number of parking spots.)

Domino's David Brandon (who had been courted to run against Debbie Stabenow for Senate, but bowed out late this past summer) and Flint's Olivia Maynard were the ones who normally always returned phone calls; Andrea Fischer Newman, Northwest Airline's top government affairs official, always seemed to be flying between Tampa and Detroit; Kathy White was too busy being a White House fellow to be on campus; Walter Mondale operative Rebecca McGowen, who lived a few blocks from campus, would be too busy taking her kids to soccer or something like that to respond to telephone inquiries (but I'd always seem to see her dining at The Earle); no one could actually figure out why DTE Executive Vice President S. Martin Taylor was a regent as he rarely uttered a word at meetings; and Democratic operative Laurence Deitch, though always outspoken at regents meetings, was quite tight-lipped around reporters ... but noticeably bored to death when the university's vice president for research launched these monthly "Michigan Greats" snoozer PowerPoint presentations on a notable figure in University of Michigan history, like Claude Shannon (communication theory pioneer) and Charles Correa (an "architect of range and sensitivity"). The "friendly" reporter from the Detroit Free Press would nod off too, or go grab a pastry or soda from the break room to escape listening to a meticulously prepared lesson about Jessye Norman's importance as a vocalist.


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