Friday, March 23, 2007

In the 'Hood

One of our newish administrators bought a house recently, and didn't buy it in the 'Hood. The 'Hood in Northwoods is the neighborhood right near the University, a neighborhood of mostly charming homes built from the turn of the century through the 40s. It's one of the more expensive areas in town, setting aside the nearby lumber baron mansions that have been mostly turned into student apartments.

I've heard several people remark upon the administrator's choice, commenting that it means he doesn't care about the University community, that he doesn't want to be part of the University community. Notably, everyone I've heard remark on his choice lives in the 'Hood.

When I first came to Northwoods, I'd paid off my students loans and saved several years for a downpayment. (It was relatively easy saving in the rural midwest; I have to say that for living there.) I'd done my financial homework, and figured out what sort of downpayment and mortgage I could conservatively afford (because, despite my deeply leftist leanings, I was raised by depression babies, and I learned well from them).

"Everyone" recommended the 'Hood; it has the best schools in town, they told me, and it's close to everything. So, I asked my realtor who was showing me houses in town and she dutifully showed me a couple houses in the 'Hood, along with others on the "hill" and on the "heights." In the 'Hood, my realistic choices were a couple of tiny fixer-uppers, with more fixing needed than not. On the hill and the heights, my choices were basically GI Bill starter houses, built in the late 40s and early 50s, mostly in good shape, small and cozy.

I bought my house up in the heights.

Only after I'd been in town a while, and another colleague was buying a house, did I think more about where people from the University live in town.

Everyone I know in the 'Hood is straight, and all but two are married and have two incomes in their household. One of the unmarried folks is divorced, and had owned a house previously with a spouse. The other has been on the faculty for 30 plus years.

Single folks don't live in the 'Hood. Neither do gay folks, even those with long term partners. People of color pretty much don't. Married couples with one income don't tend to live there, either.

The housing choices people make are related to economics, of course. But how we think about where we live shouldn't be limited by our economics. I think about how the faculty residents of the 'Hood expect administrators to live close, to be their neighbors, to be in their social groups, to talk over the fence. I think about how the residents of the 'Hood think about the University community as centered in their neighborhood. I think about how they hang out with Headmasters, Provosts, Deans and Deanlings, with people who can casually make things happen, because it's human nature to make things happen for your neighbors and friends.

It seems to me that the negative comments about this administrator's choice have a lot to do with the 'Hood's residents' expectations that they'll have neighborly access to people in charge. But, of course, they can't say that exactly; instead, they talk about how this administrator doesn't want to be part of the community.

And me? It's hard to know how to say it to them, to get them to rethink their comments about the new administrator's choice.


  1. Anonymous7:27 AM

    Good gosh, I would think the Hood would be the *last* place an administrator would want to live! Bloody fishbowl.

    The new provost at Our U is a longtime friend of my husband, and sometimes we still do dinner. The ironclad rule is that nobody talks about Our U. This seems to work fairly well.

  2. I'm with Theodora -- I like to have separation between work and home. If you live next door to professor X and across the street from dean Y, you can never escape. It is bad enough seeing people all over a relatively small town, but being that close would be bad news...

  3. Teehee!

    We call our 'Hood "the Professor Ghetto." Nobody goes through there for walks, or bike rides, and only rarely in cars. I mean, at any moment in that particular ghetto, you might be asked how your thesis is coming along, or if you've written your speech for event x, or if you want to house/ferret sit for a sabbatical year. ::Shudder:: Give me Crips any day!