Exhibit 21.9

A Place Like This

I've been at this university for two weeks now, and while that probably doesn't qualify me to make the broad critique I'm going to make, I feel comfortable in my assessment anyway. Colleges are funny like that. Or maybe I'm just pompous like that. Either way.

But I want to acknowledge that I know nothing about this city. Okay, so I know Lyle Lovett is the greatest person to come from here. That's about it and that's about enough.

And so it was probably spending time with an architect--happy birthday, Marti--or visiting Rice's beautiful campus, but I've been thinking a lot about the physical makeup of the university. Not the administration or degrees or students but the actual buildings and landscape and how they're situated in the city. It's something that's been bothering me since the first time I visited the campus, and it only has become more clear in my time here because of this typical conversation (this one in particular I had with the guy opening my checking account):

Guy: What brought you here?
Me: School at UH.
Guy: Ha, how do you like the neighborhood there?
Me: Can I get any Ninja Turtle on my debit card or just Raphael?

UH knows the neighborhood around UH is bad. I know they know this because they talk about it as constantly as everyone else does. They tell us not to walk to our cars alone at night. They send us campus alerts when the Burger King across the street gets robbed. They have video cameras and emergency phones and anything else they can do to reinforce the idea that A) the neighborhood outside the campus is scary and B) aside from the occassional intrusion of this scary element, the campus itself is a protected space.

Obviously the university's first priority is the physical safety of their students and they should do everything possible to protect them/us. Unfortunately, they seem to have bought into this narrative that the campus can and should exist in isolation from the community around it. One gets the sense that everyone--except for, you know, the people living in the Third Ward--would be happy if around the hallowed borders of the school there was white space until Montrose and its American Apparel definition of urban.

It's such a pointless and anti-educational way of thinking about the space of the university that I hope I'm misreading the situation. I don't think I am. There really doesn't seem to be any engagement or even desire for engagement with the rest of the neighborhood, and its a shame to treat the campus as if it's some kind of colony on Mars where this will happen if you go outside of the compound without a helmet:

As a teacher--and, yes, I now say things like that just like I now have to care what Stanley Fish and Gerald Graff think about whatever--it feels like the physical campus is already setting up for at least a kind of failure. If the university can place itself in a sphere, should we be surprised if students keep their knowledge in one? If the university can't even confront what's across the street, what do students do when asked to confront the world? Being a public school, being a largely commuter college, hell, even being in the academic shadow of Rice, just isn't a good enough excuse to write off participation as part of the academic experience for students and professors.

(other things I do now that I'm in graduate school: ask inane rhetorical questions, wake up 30 minutes later than before, wear an academic gown around the apartment, have an opinion on standardized testing)

The university is--rightly--proud of their students. They makeup (allegedly) the most diverse student body in the country, they work jobs, they are often the first in their family to go to college. Which is why it's so perplexing that their chosen college seems to be afraid of the world many of them come from. Not only does it waste an opportunity, but it detracts from the education they're able to provide a truly unique student body. Building a moat around the university does nothing except reinforce the idea that the academic world is something that's closed to their membership and irrelevant to their lives beyond going through the checklist of their degree in hope of a better vocation.

(addendum to list of other things I do now that I'm in graduate school: use multiple metaphors for same situation often times involving either space or knights or both)

None of this is to say I want a campus like the oak-lined East Coast academia of Rice or for UH to use its clout to force gentrify the area, but I would like to see some understanding from the university that their responsibility to their students and their neighborhood goes beyond emailing the police blotter and patrolling the outlying parking lots. When I step into the classroom, it's the only time my students and I even have the opportunity to live in the same world in a very large, very diverse city. But if we can't agree where we are, if we're pretending not to be in a city at all, then we're nowhere and there are no implications outside of the classroom.

If the university thinks it needs to isolate itself in order to protect itself, the university doesn't even know what it's protecting.

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