Conservative Concepts Present on UofM Campus

When looking at Ann Arbor’s laws and policies, it is referred to as a liberal community, but some aspects of the University of Michigan bring a more conservative “Burkian” feel.

The city of Ann Arbor has been mainly left winged since the 1960s.  In 1974, Ann Arbor was the first city to elect an openly gay

Kathy Kozachenko

Kathy Kozachenko

candidate into public office, Kathy Kozachenko. Ann Arbor at this time had enacted a human rights ordinance that protected homosexuals in respects to both housing and employment. Kozachenko ran to ensure that this ordinance was being enforced, and to prove that an openly gay candidate could be elected into office. Ann Arbor is considered more liberal for other reasons too. With abortion being a controversial topic in current day society, Ann Arbor has made its stand on the controversy. Ann Arbor licensed a Planned Parenthood abortion center in 2012.  Lastly, and probably most important when regarding Ann Arbors liberalism, is its views on marijuana. The decriminalization of marijuana in Ann Arbor went into effect on May 1st of 2013. With this decriminalization, persons in the possession of marijuana in the city of Ann Arbor only have to pay a fine, instead of it being a misdemeanor and possible jail time. This decriminalization does not include the University of Michigan campus though.

When considering conservatism, Edmund Burke is that name that first comes to mind. In Burke’s Reflections on the French Revolution, he addresses three concepts that he feels are being lost by the “new conquering empire of light and reason.”  The first of these concepts is of the pleasing illusions. In Burke’s opinion, these illusions harmonize the different shades of life, but the new era is loosing these pleasing illusions. These illusions do exist though on the University of Michigan campus. The

The University of Michigan is a "Smoke Free Campus"

The University of Michigan is a “Smoke Free Campus”

greatest illusion present on campus is the illusion that we live on a smoke-free campus. This illusion makes the campus appear cleaner and friendlier to families. Burke would think that this illusion is a good thing, as it “beatifies and softens private society.” The second concept that Burke addresses is the concept of drapery. Once again, Burke is upset that the new era is headed towards eliminating the drapery in our lives. Drapery to Burke would have been how everyone looked up to the King and Queen, but in reality they are no more than any other human, an animal. Decent drapery on the University of Michigan campus is definitely present. Although there are no kings or queens on campus, athletes are looked up to almost as such. As a current undergraduate student at U of M, I can confirm from first hand experiences that athletes are looked up to by most students. So many students look up to athletes for a variety of reasons. Some look up to them simply because of their physical attributes; others look up to them because they represent our school in front of the nation. Some people even look up to them with the understanding of the competitive nature of the NCAA and the commitment that is involved with college athletics. When it comes down to it they are just people, no different than you, me, the king, or the queen. This drapery over the reality of who these athletes are is “necessary to cover the defects of our naked, shivering nature,” as Burke would say. Lastly, in considering the University of Michigan’s campus as more “Burkian” than it appears, is in regards to the fact that construction is currently taking place all over campus in attempts to beautify the campus. As Burke once said “To make us love our [campus], our [campus] ought to be lovely.” The inclusion of the arboretum on campus in the 1920s and 1930s was an attempt to make this campus lovelier. Both South and East Quad have been newly renovated, while construction on West Quad is still in progress. The University is doing what it can to make our the dorms nicer too.

Although Ann Arbor is a liberal city, and the University of Michigan is a liberal arts college, the conservative aspects of Burke’s ideology can be found on campus.


One comment

  1. mollygrant41 · November 19, 2014

    Your blog post was definitely interesting. However, on your third point about renovations, I think Burke would want to keep everything the same. Yes, we need to make the campus “lovely,” but doing so this way is taking out some of the history associated with the buildings. Your example of the athletes was something I never thought of before. I guess they are looked at as superior, but unlike a king and queen, they don’t really make decisions for the rest of the students. They are an influence, but not one that makes decisions I personally have to abide by. Your relationship of Michigan with surrounding Ann Arbor was a really good analysis though. The smoke-free zones are something that is a great example of an illusion.


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