People and Events

Thursday, February 12th, 12:00-1:30 PM in the Ehrlicher Room (411 West Hall)
Join the Library Diversity Committee (LDC) next week for a lunchtime panel discussion of transgender-related topics. We will have three panelists: Denise Brogan-Kator, Managing Attorney of the Rainbow Law Center; Andre Wilson, former lead negotiator for the GEO (Graduate Employees’ Organization); and current SI student Anand Kalra. Pizza will be provided.  For more information on this topic, visit the Spectrum Center website at:

Although I was familiar with the general terminology and had an overview of transgender-related topics and, coincidentally, also had known Andre personally by another name and another gender, years ago, I left the presentation at 1:30 knowing indescribably more about the topic than when we arrived at the Ehrlicher Room at noon.  In fact, I felt the way one feels when one has seen a heart-rending, wonderfully executed movie–as if it had entered my mind to the extent that it had become a part of my own life experience.

Andre, Anand, and Denise had all had lived completely different lives, but as each panelist skillfully narrated his/her personal tale, the common thread of gender confusion and subsequent deep unhappiness was revealed.  I doubt that there was even one person in the room who was not affected by all three stories.  And, to my way of thinking, one could almost identify with each narrative, in that but for the vagaries of biology and/or the Fate or a Deity–whichever one believes in–the situation could have been one’s own.  I think I can say without hyperbole that it was a transformative presentation for many in the audience.

Fast-forwarding to the segment that involves libraries and librarians (apart from the sponsorship and site of the panel presentation), I can report that Andre mentioned that as a much-scorned, picked-on, bullied, and generally disliked youth, he spent lots of time hiding out in the school library; in fact, he never ate lunch, fearing to enter the hostile territory of the cafeteria, but spent the time putting plastic  covers on the books and helping the librarian.  Further, this librarian first exposed him to the possibility of a girl taking a boy’s role–through a book she left out about a woman who fought in the Civil War.   Andre also lauded the web site of the San Francisco Public Library for its open display of transsexual literature.  He stated that he almost literally owes his life to two thoughtful and caring librarians.   Andre suggested that librarians should continue to distribute such sorely needed information on this still extremely stigmatized and little understood topic and should leave such books around for vulnerable youth to discover (“Be a slob–leave your books lying around”).


Kenneth May, UM Dental School Chair, performed a gracious introduction and welcomed the audience. Afterwards, a liturgical dance was performed by some 8 women in colorful garb. Then Frank Ascione, Chair of the School of Pharmacy, welcomed everyone in the Dow Auditorium of the UMHS. I also spotted Douglas Strong, UMHS CEO in the audience. Raymond Gist, Chair of the MLK Program, introduced Dr. Joanne Dawley, the first female president of the Michigan Dental Association, who happens to also be an African Amercian woman, an individual who earned her undergrad degree at UM and her DDS at UM School of Dentistry. The keynote address was about “the perfect storm,” meaning what is happening in Michigan economically as well as socially with particular concern about the lack of regular dental care for children who are African American, especially in the inner city. That was essentially it. She quoted statistics to reveal how dismal the situation is and gave a few examples of how lack of dental care can cause systemic disease and even death in one case (fulminating infection in a young man whose mother could not afford to have his tooth extracted in time). Then Q&A with a little discussion about the free dental day at UM but the fact that this is insufficient care. A couple of other questions were followed by a reception in the hall; there was another short segment of dance by the liturgical dancers, and then some of us (those with tickets) went to lunch downstairs in the lunchroom, which was set up nicely with lots of tables-room was just about filled. After lunch, more Q&A and then flowers were presented to Dr. May by a woman with a lot of charisma, possibly Valener Perry, I believe, who said that he was her actual dentist and that she retains her actual teeth (Dr. May had given Dr. Dawley a bouquet on stage right after her presentation).

Randolph M. Nesse “used to believe that truth had a special home at universities.” Mr. Nesse, professor of psychiatry at the University of Michigan and an expert on evolution and medicine, now thinks “universities may be the best show in town for truth pursuers, but most of them stifle innovation and constructive engagement of real controversies — not just sometimes but most of the time, systematically.” Faculty committees, he complains, make sure that most positions “go to people just about like themselves.” Deans ask how much external financing new hires will bring in. “No one with new ideas … can hope to get through this fine sieve.” –Josh Fischman
Chronicle of Higher Education’s Wired Campus 12/15/08


Talk about being a part of history, albeit in a relatively low-key, retiring role—I could identify with most of the personal anecdotes told by the various panel members at the Social Protest in 1968 discussion held at the Gallery of the Harlan Hatcher Graduate Library on November 13, 2008. We moved to a house in a new development in Ann Arbor in 1966, and one of my first clear memories of my neighbors was when I went door to door to petition against the Vietnam War, and they more or less literally slammed their respective doors in my face. Talk about neighborliness! However, I should have known better, I suppose, because even then it was all about “protecting the troops” and thus being fearful about speaking out against the war, whether one was in favor of it or not. I remember Sheriff Harvey and his brutal men first beating the students bloody and throwing them in jail afterwards. The narrative by Dean Emeritus Harold Johnson about then- UM President Robben Fleming putting his body between the Sheriff and the students, was poignant even after all these years. I remember feeling so close to the students, the only ones courageous enough to take a stand (well, my neighbors took a stand, too, I suppose, but one that I could not admire in the least). One week, the Today Show came to the Diag to televise from campus in an attempt to convey the atmosphere at UM, so I arrived to watch early in the morning and stayed as long as I could. Another memory was evoked by the mention of Mark’s Coffee shop in the alley off Maynard Street, the first in town, a friendly and interesting if somewhat messy and dirty location that did not even offer very good coffee, but it set the precedent for our current coffee shop culture. Also, I loved the tales that Cynthia Diane Stephens told about BAM and other student protest movements. I recall that in our library classes BAM made little or no impression; we did not close down in support, which was disappointing. And despite Daniel Zwerdling’s comment about the importance of protests about all the minor causes that took up space in the pages of “The Michigan Daily,” the really BIG cause, to my mind, was the WAR!