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Published: Tuesday, 3/6/2001

A Toledo welcome for UT boss

Dear Dr. Daniel Johnson,

Well, hey, welcome to Toledo! We've been waiting for you.

How terrific to finally have a new University of Toledo president coming into office.

Stop me if you've heard this before - I mean, maybe someone already mentioned it while you were here interviewing - but there'd been some, um, instability at the top of the university pyramid in recent times.

But, anyhoo, enough about all that. The university is moving forward now. Everyone's healing.

And everyone really hopes you'll like it here.

For one thing, you should find Ohio mosquitoes smaller than the Alaskan variety.

By the way, I understand your academic background is as a rural sociologist, while your more current research interests lie in urban universities.

Lucky, lucky you.

Both perspectives will come in very handy around here.

Now, I realize, based on news stories about your time here on our campus, that you think you're getting involved with an urban institution. And, of course, technically you are.

But you're also getting involved with Toledo.

And, pal, trust me on this: Toledo is the biggest small town you're ever likely to find.

Oh, I know, I know. Maybe you find that hard to believe at this point.

After all, didn't Noam Chomsky just stop by? And isn't Ani de Franco doing a concert in town next month? And didn't city council pass a human rights ordinance with nary a peep of controversy?

Yeah, we've got that big-city, open-minded veneer, all right.

But make no mistake - this is pure Sinclair Lewis territory, although even with your training, it might take you a while to catch on.

You could start by examining the gap between what Toledoans say we want and what we (quite contentedly) end up with.

Pay close enough attention and you'll see how we consistently make a lot of noise about being all hot 'n' heavy for “new ideas.”

Of course, we typically make all this noise right before we issue some collective gesture of scorn toward anyone with a “different” idea and settle, instead, for the same-old same-old.

Our political institutions, naturally, would be an obvious place to look for this kind of pattern of behavior - and, lo and behold, here comes a city mayor's race to prove the point.

Yeah, it's early yet in the political cycle, but the near future is looking mighty familiar to anyone who's been around this town long enough to have memorized the steadfast cast of players.

Fresh names?

Pal, yours is about the only fresh name we've heard around here in a while, and it looks as if you'll have your hands full enough with your own campus version of politics.

Yes, you're to be the salve to the UT wound, Dr. Johnson. The restorer of campus order. The booster of faculty morale and student enrollment.

And, if you get wildly successful, the finder of undiscovered parking spaces.

(Sorry. It's just a little inside joke, but then, you'll probably hear soon enough about the chronic campus parking shortage.)

Roberta de Boer's column appears Tuesdays, Thursdays,

and Saturdays. Email her at roberta@theblade.com or call 1-419-724-6086.



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