John Foreman: Women remain on march as another year fades away
As we bask in the soft light of the year's shortest days and ease our way into the season of peace and goodwill, we look back in quiet contemplation of all that has passed since the calendar last hosted these days.
Here then, we offer gentle thoughts on this — oh yes — and that:
Let's face it, boys, 2012 was another tough year for the OWG.
The much-maligned Old White Guys, who had been doing such a smash-up job running things these oh-so-many millennia, continue to be brushed aside in alarming numbers.
This is nowhere more true than in our own Champaign-Urbana, where, let's face it; women are now pretty much in charge of the entire public arena.
Heck, a hundred years ago we didn't even let them vote. Now the new year will dawn on a woman queued up to be Champaign's next city manager, the first of her kind, just as another begins hitting her stride as the first female superintendent of schools. Yet a third, the school board's former president, has shifted seats to run the United Way. And just a year ago, of course, the Big University's new chancellor showed up for work in a dress.
Need mind that Champaign-Urbana once again retained a woman to represent it in the Illinois House of Representatives and that Urbana's apparent mayor-for-life is of the same gender.
Some of these roles are not unprecedented, of course, but you can count the previous female occupants on the fingers of one hand — Helen Satterthwaite, Joan Severns, etc.
Alma Mater, now in rehab, was the only big-time gal in town to have a really rough year. And like Lindsay Lohan, even she got a year-end movie role.
The handful of guys still in charge of some major public policy role are mostly not old, not white or, in the case of Champaign's police chief, not either.
Thank goodness Bob Easter has barricaded himself in the local president's mansion to assure us some representation.
On a larger stage, one observes what happened to old Mitt Whatshisname — yesterday a contender to be leader of the free world and today the answer to a Jeopardy question.
Mind you now that I do not lament all of this, but I am considering a support group.
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The Big U has had but one other woman as local Big Cheese, former Chancellor Nancy Cantor, and that didn't work out so well. By contrast, current Chancellor Phyllis Wise is winning rave reviews from both town and gown.
Even the students seem to like her. On her one-year anniversary, they lined up to hand her orange roses as she walked to her office.
Back in my day, most kids didn't even know the name of the chancellor — and the few who did were burning him in effigy for something.
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Wise can't quite claim to be a rock star (yet) but she has starred in several slick videos promoting the campus. Atop all her other notable attributes, she's got a stage presence befitting Roger Ebert's alma mater. Find her "Let's Get To Work" video. It's great stuff.
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The boys at the Big U had less success in front of the camera, as witnessed in a Channel 3 television commercial aired about the same time and promoting the sale of football tickets. Technical splash and dash it had, but its jazzy graphics misspelled "rite" as "right."
This is the sort of mistake institutions of higher learning presumably prefer to avoid.
No more players writing copy. Maybe Wise should have done that, too.
As it turns out, it was the least embarrassing thing to happen to the football team all year.
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It's well-known, of course, that rookie football coach Tim Beckman had a not-so-good year. The team was bad; the stands were empty; the Internet message boards were vicious.
And, to add insult to injury, the coach was pinched on national TV for tucking a little pinch between his cheek and his gum before game time.
This, of course, is a grave transgression in the wholly wholesome world of NCAA athletics.
All in all, however, one would have to conclude it was a good year for "chew" at the Big U. In her least laudable move, Wise decided to ban the outdoor smoking (of tobacco) anywhere on campus.
While 50 percent of the 19 students voting in a campuswide question on the idea opposed this stroke of in loco parentis, they did not burn Wise in effigy — perhaps for fear of being seen with a lighter.
In deference to the coach, one assumes, a chaw is still OK, but the chancellor did him no real favor when she extended her ban to the grounds outside Memorial Stadium, thus providing one more reason for people to go home early lest they subject themselves to both a temper tantrum AND a nicotine fit. I suggest spittoons for both the Great Halls and the Illini Union.
Her decision does assure that even Beckman may have a better year next year than new UI Police Chief Jeff Christensen, who presumably draws the responsibility for enforcing the chancellor's prohibition.
It would seem no one took note of the fact that UI gendarmes have never been completely successful in enforcing a previously existing ban on the smoking of non-tobacco substances on campus.
And if Wise remains beloved, she still hasn't quite harvested the charm of Ohio State's Gordon Gee, who perennially claims the title as the highest paid president of any public university in the land.
Gee's salary is old news. It was what one wag dubbed his "other trappings of sultan-hood" that caught national attention last year.
Gee, an OWG whose dapper bow ties have become something of a signature, charged some $7.7 million in expenses to OSU since 2007, the Dayton Daily News reported, adding that this is many times that of the prez at places like Texas and Michigan.
The paper said his costs included an $813,000 tailgating tab, a $532 shower curtain for the presidential digs and — get this — $64,000 for bow-tie-shaped cookies, pins and other souvenirs of himself.
All those critics of UI paychecks take note.
I must disclose, however, once being served a cookie in the shape of an "I" by a UI prez and on another occasion being offered a smoke by an occupant of Wise's office. Pretty safe bet those days are over, too.
Season's Greetings to you all the same. And God bless us, every one.
John Foreman, publisher of The News-Gazette, can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or at P.O. Box 677 in Champaign.