February 3, 2022

Can you guess what is pictured in the photo above? Click the image for the answer and more.

The winter storm may have turned out to be somewhat anticlimactic, but with any luck we could still get some decent sledding out of it. Blizzards are always more fun in the abstract anyway.

Over the last week Ann Arbor saw one lawsuit begin and another potentially end: Monday morning, several U-M alumni announced a suit against the university over alleged sexual abuse by former instructor Bruce Conforth, while last Friday the news broke that a judge had ordered plaintiffs to pay the legal fees of the anti-Israel pickets they were suing, a coda to the lawsuit dismissed in August 2020 and city council’s condemnation of the protests and antisemitism last week.

Meanwhile, plans to build affordable housing are moving forward: A proposal for two towers on the “Y lot” near the AADL was sent to city council for approval, and a property on the corner of Catherine and Fourth Ave. is to be co-developed by the Ann Arbor Housing Commission and Avalon Housing. A case of meningitis was discovered on campus, U-M announced they will begin stocking public restrooms with menstrual products, and Jim Harbaugh ended his flirtation with the NFL.

Dayton Hare, editor

Bill Courtois clears his sidewalk on Carbeck during yesterday's snowfall.
Photo: Anne Courtois (@kayakwoman on Instagram). 

The News...Briefly

Washtenaw County reported 303 cases of Covid-19, five hospitalizations, and two deaths in the 24 hours ending Tuesday at 11 a.m., down from about 400 last Wednesday. Data from yesterday is unavailable due to weather-related office closures. The weekly test positivity rate fell to 12 percent from last week’s 17, a marked improvement and much better than the statewide rate of 22.5 percent.

Last week saw a case of meningitis on campus, U-M and Washtenaw County Health officials announced. A student who attended fraternity events in Ann Arbor on Jan. 20 and East Lansing on Jan. 22 tested positive for the bacterial infection, which attacks the brain lining and spinal cord. The patient’s vaccine status wasn’t released, but no further infections have been reported.

A new lawsuit acccuses the U-M of tolerating sexual abuse by former instructor Bruce Conforth, the Detroit Free Press reports. Students voted to give Conforth—a musician and founding curator of the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame—a Golden Apple teaching award in 2012, but he retired in 2017 after U-M became aware of new allegations against him.

Could Mark Schlissel remain at the U-M as a faculty member? The Free Press reports that in accordance with the agreement made when he was hired, the university has offered its ex-president tenured professorships in LSA and the medical school. It seems to be an offer designed to be rejected: Not only is the $185,000 salary a fraction of his $927,000 presidential income, but Schlissel would have to raise at least 50 percent of it from grants—with no lab to do research.

Meanwhile, interim president Mary Sue Coleman outlined her priorities for the coming months. First among them is rebuilding community trust, Coleman said, but also emphasized the importance of the search for a new provost: Susan Collins, appointed to an abbreviated two-year term following Martin Philbert’s removal for sexual misconduct, steps down in June. Coleman added that the regents will soon announce plans for the search to find her own replacement.

Beth Israel Congregation won a symbolic victory against anti-Israel pickets outside their Washtenaw Ave. building last week: City council unanimously adopted a resolution denouncing antisemitism and the protestors’ “weekly show of aggressive bigotry.” But this week the Jewish Telegraphic Agency reports that a federal lawsuit that sought to limit the picketing suffered another setback when the judge who dismissed it ruled that the plaintiffs and their attorney must pay the protestors’ legal fees.

A proposed pair of towers at the “Y lot” across from the Ann Arbor District Library will come before city council for approval, MLive reports. The fourteen- and twenty-story buildings would contain 370 housing units, of which 145 would be set aside for people earning up to 60 percent the area median income, which according to the Ann Arbor Housing Commission would have been $42,540 for one person in 2019. With a maximum allowed height of 275 feet, the larger tower could surpass Tower Plaza as the city’s tallest building.

At Catherine and Fourth Ave., the Ann Arbor Housing Commission and Avalon Housing will co-develop sixty-eight affordable-housing units. Half would be supportive housing for people who are exiting homelessness, and the ground floor would combine an art gallery with a small-business incubator for BIPOC entrepreneurs.

Fifty people picketed a Main St. building site last week to protest alleged racist treatment of employees by United Electrical Contractors, a subcontractor on The Standard student apartments, the Daily reports. Former employees are suing the company, alleging that managers used racial slurs and gave preferential treatment to white employees. In a statement quoted in ClickOnDetroit, UEC president Scott Flegler called the allegations “unfounded” and described them as “part of an ongoing harassment campaign by a union.”

U-M will provide free menstrual products in all main floor bathrooms in student buildings, the Daily reports. The move comes following a fall term pilot program running since August. According to a university statement, the action “aligns” U-M with the city’s November ordinance requiring public restrooms to be provisioned with free menstrual products.

The rumors swirling around Jim Harbaugh’s future were put to rest late yesterday as the U-M football coach confirmed he will be staying on with the Wolverines, the Free Press reports. The coach flew to Minnesota to interview Wednesday for the Vikings’ head coach job, but subsequently told U-M athletic director Warde Manuel that he won’t be leaving for the NFL now or in the future. Speculation had run rampant recently, as Harbaugh is hot off his best season in seven years as the Wolverines’ coach, which saw the team make the College Football Playoff for the first time and Harbaugh named the AP’s “coach of the year.”

The "Y lot" across from the library is slated for a pair of apartment towers. Of the 370 units, 145 would be affordable by people earning 60 percent of the area median.  

Marketplace Changes

Cultivate Coffee & Tap House will close indefinitely Sunday. Posting to social media Sunday night, the popular Ypsilanti hangout cited the Covid downturn and permit issues with the city that prevented them from erecting the large outdoor tent the business has used for the last five years. The Free Press got the city's side of the story in a Monday article. In a web post, Cultivate encouraged customers to visit other Ypsi businesses, and announced a 35-percent-off sale to clear out its perishable supplies.

Ypsi has also seen a recent opening, the Conjure Goddess Botanica and Metaphysical Shop, MLive reports. A supply shop for practitioners of religions such as Wicca, Hoodoo, and Voodoo, it carries everything from incense and herbs to alligator feet. More than simply selling supplies, the store hopes to become a gathering place for witches and practitioners of other faiths.

Meanwhile in Ann Arbor, Sava’s has closed temporarily for remodeling, Micki Maynard reports in February’s Observer. In its first total rebuild since she took over the former Zanzibar, Sava Farah is tearing out booths, fixtures, and the kitchen. She hopes to reopen in time for U-M’s graduation this spring.

Things to Do

by Jennifer Taylor

4 Friday: Take 30 minutes to step into ancient Rome via a U-M Kelsey Museum of Archaeology virtual talk by U-M student Amelia Eichengreen, “From Huts to Palaces: Understanding the Architecture of Rome’s First Houses.” Followed by a Q&A. Noon–12:30 p.m., via Zoom. Free. lsa.umich.edu/kelsey.

5 Saturday: Celebrate winter at the Chelsea American Legion Post 31’s annual “Winter Carnival.” Feb. 4–6. Three days of cross-country skiing, snowmobiling, and other winter fun (weather permitting) at Cavanaugh Lake. Also, a euchre tournament (age 18 & older only; $10; prizes) on Fri. 7 p.m., dancing to a live band, BoVine ($5) on Sat. 8-11 p.m., and a competitive ice fishing derby (weather permitting; adults, $10; kids, $2) on Fri. 48 p.m. & Sat. 7 a.m.4 p.m. with awards at 5 p.m. Food available. 4 p.m.–11 p.m. (Fri.), 8 a.m.–11 p.m. (Sat.), & 8 a.m.–noon (Sun.), American Legion Hall, 1700 Ridge Rd., Chelsea. Free admission. 475–1964.

6 Sunday: Warm up with some hot jazz, in person or livestreamed from Kerrytown Concert House, where “Chisel & Stone,” reeds player Andrew Bishop and pianist Ellen Rowe, both U-M jazz professors, perform original compositions and jazz standards. 7:30 p.m., KCH, 415 N. Fourth Ave. Livestream available at KerrytownConcertHouse.com. Tickets $10–$45 in advance online and at the door. Limited to 60% capacity. Mask & proof of vaccination (or negative Covid test within past 72 hours) required. 769–2999.

See the Observer’s online calendar for many more local events.

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