"You'll never get ahead if you don't take care of what you have." - Doris Waddell, RIP

A historic building on our U of M-Morris campus - morris mn

A historic building on our U of M-Morris campus - morris mn
The multi-ethnic building was the original home of the music department at UMM. (B.W. photo)

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

When tradition can take a flying leap

"If there were no change, there would be no butterflies."
- saying on a banner at the fellowship hall of First Lutheran Church, Morris MN

When something becomes more trouble than it's worth, get rid of it. Women do it with husbands. St. Cloud State University has decided to do it with Homecoming. A light bulb went on over the collective heads of administration.
It wouldn't be fair to just single out St. Cloud State for having had problems with the institution of Homecoming. Unfortunately it picked up a stigma years ago. St. Cloud State's sheer size makes it a magnet for attention.
Our U of M-Morris hasn't been immune from problems. We're out here close to the edge of the earth. The dragons and waterfalls are a stone's throw, according to the self-deprecating image we've cultivated. We aren't much of a magnet.
Now it looks like we might not even be able to maintain a golf course anymore. First our movie theater fell into an emergency situation, requiring a co-op to come into the picture. Now we're hearing "co-op" in connection with the golf course.
Are co-ops becoming a patchwork of rescue efforts? It almost sounds like we're becoming Communistic.
We want vacated buildings in Morris to be resuscitated, but when rumors surface about such moves, we too often hear about churches. Churches are beyond the scope of the real economy. We want the old UBC building to be a private concern, a lumber yard, and not a church. Twenty years from now, will Morris be nothing but co-ops and churches?
We'll still have UMM if the state can keep its financial ship afloat. In that respect we might have been better off if Tom Emmer had been elected governor. But that's water under the bridge (or over that waterfall at the edge of the earth, probably near New Effington, South Dakota).
I'm sure the state's higher education circles are gripped with nervousness over finances. I'm sure St. Cloud State's issues with Homecoming grew as a higher priority due to this.
Why put up with a public relations embarrassment just for the sake of tradition? Have tradition take a flying leap. It's every man (or institution) for himself now.
UMM had better hope it can keep selling the liberal arts. Our campus has had several chapters in its fascinating history, and maybe liberal arts will end up being just one of those. Maybe something new will come along.
Whatever it takes to keep the campus viable and student numbers up, as well as having an obvious redeeming purpose, so redeeming you might not even have to "sell" it.
We keep hearing we need to preserve things like the movie theater and golf course because we're a college town. We need amenities. But it seems it's becoming more of a stretch to continue those.
Maybe we should just sell the fact we're a mere 45 minutes' drive from Alexandria. Then we can use Alex's amenities. We already are. Heaven knows we get enough advertising from there. Can a person walk into the Post Office and demand not getting the Fleet Farm ad circular anymore?
Golf courses? I'm sure the Alex area is blessed. I wouldn't know because I don't knock the ball around.
When you golf you get pegged as a "rich person." I'm not sure a co-op is consistent with a rich person's sport. A hippie grocery store, yes, a golf course, no.
I golf at the Pomme de Terre course once every ten years for my high school reunions. That next adventure should be in two years, provided our course isn't plowed under by then.
Yes, there is apparently an offer on the table that would result in the course becoming farmland. I wonder how people who built homes around the course feel about that. I'm sure a prime attraction for them was being next to a golf course. I wonder if they have any legal recourse.
The co-op people could come to the rescue just like for the movie theater, but it's starting to look like those performers who spin multiple plates on sticks. How many more can they handle?
There have been disturbing signs for the Morris area in the recent past. We're whistling in the graveyard. There is no more Chokio-Alberta Spartan athletics. The once-thriving and colorful program is now alive only in alumni memories. It added a lot to our area, even though Morris civic leaders probably wanted them to be assimilated here. Those leaders have their way now, at least with athletics, but I feel the net result for the area is negative.
I remember Cyrus High School and Cyrus Panther sports teams. As a media person I covered graduations and other special events there. The loss of that high school was a negative.
We have lost the restaurants in Cyrus and Donnelly. The closing of the Morris Coborn's store has changed the personality of our town. Coborn's was a hub of "people" activity on the north end of Atlantic Avenue. It's now a blighted spot, although the nearby McDonald's is doing fine. We no longer have a 24-hour grocery store. Willie's Super Valu is it. It all seems to make Alexandria more of a temptation.
The future of the University of Minnesota-Morris is so vital. Maybe the liberal arts will stay fully vital as a foundation. Personally I have my doubts.
I think UMM's enemy is the ubiquitous nature of information today. You don't need to be coached by some parent-like teacher or advisor who arranges hoops for you to jump through, to acquire information that will supposedly enable you to lead a happy and fulfilled life.
Making this model all the more impractical is the almost prohibitive cost of post-high school education.
People are going to look for alternatives. The mere act of getting enriched in liberal arts classes might not cut it anymore. All that information is out there for people to consume at will, sans cost, if they're simply interested.
I remember doing some advance research on a speaker coming to UMM from overseas. Actually the research was on the subject matter he'd share - a figure from European history. A child could have found this background information on the Internet, and by the time I was done reading it, I felt no need to hear the speaker. Save the money for flying him over here.
So much of this funding is for "legacy" systems.
"Well, we've always done it this way."
This will survive only in the short-term. But our leaders had better be prepared for adjustments.
If Governor Mark Dayton and the legislature don't want to make austerity moves like in Wisconsin - and with Dayton there isn't a prayer of that happening - the University will suffer along with other priorities. Maybe the pro-union faction of academia will learn a new outlook.
St. Cloud State University, my alma mater, is learning a new outlook with its abrupt cancellation of Homecoming, which has been a long-time embarrassment there. (Let's just say the celebrants have trouble managing their behavior.)
Forget the "legacy" value of Homecoming i.e. "We've always done it."
Well, times change. The West Central School of Agriculture bit the dust here. All bets are off.
It's 2011 and the economy is teetering as if by those waterfalls at the edge of the earth (near New Effington, SD).
- Brian Williams - morris mn Minnesota - bwilly73@yahoo.com

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