From ancient mythology to mathematical equations, I’ve learned a lot of things I never thought possible in three enlightening years at Washtenaw Community College. And my depth of study would reach an even deeper awareness as a student journalist and reporter.
I was lost before I came to WCC. Before that fateful call to our paper’s adviser, I had succeeded – to my surprise – in a few remedial classes. But my academics lacked direction until Keith turned my casual inquiry of the workings of The Voice into a week-long job interview and a stoic challenge that I could do it.
At first, it seemed like college was easy. The week-long breaks and at-will attendance were perfectly catered to my past penchant for recreational drugs and library of aging action flicks. Ill-fated rock bands checkered my high school experience as I was always taunted by the artistic expression and body of work possessed by my idols.
Frustrated into oblivion, I had all but given up on what little I was able to do well: string words together. But as an adult and student at WCC, I was actually able to see where that string may take me.
Keith showed me a side very different from the sunny ease that I had experienced in my first semesters here. After working with him and climbing the ranks of The Voice, it was clear that I had found an avenue for my talents.
I always liked to write, but struggled with motivation, with themes and concepts that would propel my skills.
Here at the paper, I found my reason to write – and surprisingly to work with people for one common goal: The News.
But from the very beginning of my employment at The Voice, the tides of change were already stirring among the internal workings of this campus. A newly appointed president posed a very different philosophy than her predecessor.
A rookie reporter at the start of last year, I found myself in the midst of a college in the midst of a stressful transition. But the anxiety I felt in those early days as a reporter marked the agonizing passion I had been searching for at WCC.
I’ve never felt more welcomed as a student than here at Washtenaw, encouraged by all my instructors to rebuild what intellect adolescence had disbarred.
And as I leave this sacred steppingstone for even taller challenges beginning at Central Michigan University next month, I am certain that WCC will continue to thrive as a stronghold for the movement of higher education in taking more idle minds to levels they never thought they’d reach.
I speak from experience, because it was here at Washtenaw Community College that I found my voice.
By ADRIAN HEDDEN | Managing Editor
Washtenaw Community College’s Board of Trustees voted unanimously last week to raise tuition for next year, holding the line for students who register – and pay – for classes early.
The resolution was adopted at the board’s March 26 meeting and will raise tuition $2 for in-district students, $4 and $6 for out-of-district and out-of-state students respectively.
The increases mark a 2.2-percent hike for in-district, a 2.7-percent increase for out-of-district and a 3.2-percent hike in tuition rates for students who reside outside of Michigan.
But for students who register and pay by Aug. 1, it’s a different story. They will be charged this year’s rate, seeing no change to their tuition until the Winter semester.
“I want to applaud administration for allowing us to keep tuition frozen for early registrants,” said Trustee Patrick McLean. “It’s an important function of this board to make these decisions while weighing the long-term needs of the community college.”
Registration for Fall 2013 begins April 17. Students who enroll in payment plans before Aug. 1 will also see no increase to their tuition payments.
“The board and I are truly pleased that we are able to offer this zero tuition increase,” said WCC President Rose Bellanca in a press release about the early registration rate. “I strongly encourage our current students and students interested in enrolling at WCC this fall to take full advantage of this opportunity.”
Since taking on the task of serving the community of Washtenaw County as a reporter for The Voice, I’ve experienced my share of hot water. I’ve been accused of sensationalism, characterized as someone just out for a good story, and painted as being unconcerned with the repercussions of his written actions.
But no conversation boiled over like the recent tongue-lashing I endured from one of WCC’s most capable and trusted administrators. When I was summoned in the wake of colossal inaccuracies in my Page-One story, I honestly had no idea what to expect.
It was like being called to the principal’s office. But unlike grade school, my conscience was clear.
I’d done my best to report an elaborate and difficult story on the school’s budget as discussed at a recent Board of Trustees retreat without much help or support from college officials when fact-checking.
So in the face of subsequent bitter accusations of negligence and irresponsibility from five different administrators, I could only stand before them and say, “We tried.”
After leaving the retreat and writing the story, I attempted to contact two different budget experts from the college to go over the numbers and correct any inaccuracies before they were made public. We were denied documents presented at the meeting, dismissed by the suggestion to submit a Freedom of Information Act request.
We were also told that these administrators simply did not have the time to teach us about the budget when all we asked was five minutes to go over the numbers. One said she didn’t have time, the other didn’t even return a phone call.
Then how is the public to know – if we can’t know?
As reporters, we are tasked with seeking out information in public documents and in interviews with expert sources and to interpret this information for our readers and shed light on what otherwise might be shrouded under a cloud of bureaucracy. We seek truth and report it.
Campus officials occasionally have been surprised by our zeal and attention to detail. We’ve provided students with tuition possibilities ahead of trustee votes and printed word-for-word transcriptions from campus crime log entries, publicizing information that officials didn’t expect to get out.
“No one reads the (crime) log,” one administrator told us last year. “But everyone reads your paper.”
If this sentiment is shared, it is then essential for the administration to strengthen its relationship with this newspaper and share just a little time for the sake of clarity and accuracy.
Learning to be a good news reporter is a high-pressure pursuit steeped in stress. We deal with a lot of extremely important information and honest mistakes are made. Some of the finest and most experienced professionals in our business make huge mistakes that require corrections and clarifications.
This is not an easy craft to learn – especially when we’re throwing our work out there for all to judge. The on-the-job training we receive here at Washtenaw is both valuable and crucial to mastering and embracing what is necessary to survive and succeed in this field.
And I defy any other program at this college to share a story of student error resulting in an administrator looking them in the face and saying, “You’re full of shit. The bell has been rung; you can’t un-ring the bell.”
If this campus community cares about its newspaper, then we can only hope she misspoke.
I’ve learned more, in making an error that I profoundly regret, than I ever thought possible. I can only hope there is another bell, another day, another story to prove what I have learned and why it matters.
Despite declines in enrollment and government
funding, WCC still operating in the black
Editor’s note: This article has been updated by Voice staff after it was determined that there were multiple critical errors a Page One story in our March 18 issue regarding the college’s budget.
Despite declining enrollment and annual reductions in state aid, Washtenaw Community College projects an increase of 1.2 percent in revenue next year.
“Over the past 18 months we’ve had a decline in enrollment,” said WCC President Rose Bellanca. “We know it impacts the budget, but how does it impact the budget?”
At the Board of Trustees’ annual spring retreat, Interim Chief Financial Officer Chuck Thomas and Budget Director Barb Fillinger delivered several surveys that explained many contributing factors to the college’s revenue over the past four years.
Factors included drops in enrollment since the college’s highest registration counts in 2008, while reductions in state aid and a decrease in revenue from property taxes were taken from that year as well.
Trustees discussed a $5,000,486 decrease in revenue since 2008 due to lowered enrollment and tuition payments and they were presented another $5,114,000 decrease since 2008 from their property tax budget which now stands at $46 million.
“For those areas between tuition and fees and other revenue drivers, it’s about $11 million,” Fillinger said of the reduction over the past four- ears. “It will mostly impact investment income because we will have less to invest, so therefore we’re projecting that to decrease.”
The college estimates that investment income has dropped $500,000 as well and that recent sequestration laws may cost WCC $40,000.Officials also anticipated that by this year, state aid is down $600,000 from a peak in 2002.
“I added a few years to this because it’s a pet peeve of mine that for community colleges overall, there’s been no increase, as a matter of fact there’s been a significant decrease over that 11-year period,” Thomas said of projections presented to the board. “For us here at Washtenaw it’s about $600,000 less than we received in 2002, which was really the peak in state aid.
“And that, to me is just an incredible statistic.”
But Thomas commended the school for continuing to function despite the continued wane in state aid.
Thomas also said that the school has experienced a 26-percent increase in enrollment since 2002 and has continued to flourish.
“It’s a credit of community colleges that they can maintain their service to their communities in the face of this,” he said. “The college is growing and very healthy. Overall the trend is up.”
But WCC’s faculty community is on the decline. Fillinger reported that the biggest savings the school can expect are due to unoccupied instructor positions caused by lower enrollment.
“Our biggest empty pot is faculty,” she said. “We currently have 20 vacant faculty positions, but that’s tied into our decrease in enrollment.”
And non-personnel spending, Fillinger said, will be maintained from last year’s allocation, a facet of the budget she said she watches carefully.
“There really hasn’t been much of an increase, they’ve maintained relatively flat,” she said. “That’s something we watch very closely to make sure things don’t skyrocket.”
As a reduction in funds for a furniture-replacement plan was planned for 2013, according to WCC’s general fund budget projections, an incline in the budget from $28,820 to $175,000 occurred between 2010-11 and 2011-12. The budget for 2012-2013 is $150,000.
Comparisons between WCC and other schools presented by Thomas for 2012-13 show that Washtenaw is one of the lowest-spending schools in terms of administration expenditures.
“Everybody is concerned that we’re not spending too much on administration,” Thomas said to the board. “You’re one of the lower ones in terms of the percentage spent on administration. I think it speaks highly of WCC and is something you folks should be proud of.”
A performance review conducted by college President Rose Bellanca on June 28 and acquired by The Washtenaw Voice staff through a Freedom of Information Act request revealed that Bellanca saw former Vice President of Instruction Stuart Blacklaw as unfit to perform the duties required of his position, and that she felt he failed to adequately communicate with her and her executive leadership team.
“I have lost confidence in Stuart’s ability to lead and communicate with me in confidential matters when needed,” wrote Dr. Bellanca in the review. “The faculty and deans know that he does not support the president and believe that there is a conflict between us. With the exception of scheduled appointments and meetings, Stuart rarely speaks to me.
“As the President, it is up to me to ask Stuart for updates. Stuart has also lost the confidence of many of his colleagues because of his lack of communication with individuals on the team.”
Bellanca’s first issue with Blacklaw arose, she said, when the position of executive associate to the president was reassigned to his office. When she asked him to change the job description, she said he merely changed the title and sent it to Human Resources for approval.
She said the only reason Blacklaw was to be kept on through the 2012-13 academic year was due to his strong relationship with faculty and that she would not recommend an extension of his contract to the Board of Trustees.
“Stuart clearly lacks the experience needed to lead and make decisions as the Vice President of Instruction. Many of his duties have been reassigned because of lack of initiative on his part to learn and to become involved with the areas under his leadership.”
Bellanca further blamed Blacklaw for communication problems between herself and instructors.
“As the President, I believe that having a positive culture to work and learn in is very important,” she wrote. “Unfortunately, the deans or faculty members are not aware that their issues are not researched and presented as thoroughly as they could be and because of that, they often receive an unfavorable answer.
“And often the ELT (executive leadership team) is not apprised of issues early enough so that we can facilitate an appropriate, positive response.”
Blacklaw’s performance before Bellanca?
Bellanca’s evaluation of Blacklaw was in stark contrast to one he received a year earlier from former WCC President Larry Whitworth on April 25, 2011 showed staunch support for Blacklaw, detailing his positive relationships with administrators and faculty alike.
“Stuart has done an exceptional job this past year at developing a positive, productive working relationship with faculty, department chairs and deans,” Whitworth wrote. “He contributes significantly to the management of the college, and I’m particularly impressed with his willingness to take on responsibility for difficult issues and to find effective resolutions.
“Stuart has done an exceptional job this past year, learning and becoming part of the Washtenaw Community College culture.”
Highlights of Stuart Blacklaw’s 2012 performance review from President Bellanca
Although Bellanca’s June 2012 review of Blacklaw’s performance detailed his professional demeanor and high regard among faculty as well as his skills in verbal communication and the positive image he created for the college, she listed several areas she felt needed attention for a satisfactory review:
- Communicating with the college president and her executive leadership team
- Visibly support the college president in communications with faculty and staff
- Maintain confidentiality in regards to negotiations
- Skill in handling administrative matters with other departments in regards to last year’s concerns over WCC’s involvement in the Milan Speedway
- Make decisions on well-documented facts and objective review rather than basing it solely on the approval of reporting administrators; when asked why a matter has Stuart’s approval, his answer is “because I support my deans.”
- Strive for quality in the delivery of instruction, curriculum and scheduling practices. The president received comments from various hospitals that WCC sends poor performers in for radiation technology exams and ultimately lost access for clinical exams at Chelsea Hospital.
- Initiative: learn the areas you are responsible for leading. The United Association contracts and Small Business Development Centers initiatives were realigned out of Blacklaw’s office due to a possible lack of leadership.
- Attendance at curriculum, on-line and other key instructional meetings; delegates all of his authority to his subordinates
When he agreed to provide a statement in response to Dr. Bellanca’s evaluation, Blacklaw refused an appeal and did not indicate any disagreement with her statements.
“We well know that people learn in multiple ways,” Blacklaw wrote in response to his June evaluation. “It should be no surprise that people lead in multiple ways as well.
“I am a servant leader, and I believe servant leadership is the only effective style of leadership for a group of individuals who, through tenure or contract, cannot easily be removed. One who inherits a protected workforce cannot move an organization through intimidation. You must achieve the institutional goals through inspiring the best performance of those assigned to you.
“Those who empower and respect their staff get better performance in return.”
Blacklaw went on to quote a letter he received last May from math instructor Jason Davis, who thanked the former VP for his leadership and the positive energy he felt Blacklaw created at WCC.
“I just wanted to take the time to say thank you for all that you do for WCC and its faculty,” Davis wrote to Blacklaw. “I’m sure that I don’t have to tell you that since you have come to WCC the culture here is so much more positive and uplifting.
“This college and its community are more important to me than I can sufficiently express in words, it is my lighthouse, and I know many of my students feel the same way.
“The joy that you protect for the work done here is infectious and it makes it that much easier to do our best work, so thank you from the bottom of my heart for the leadership you provide.”
As he continued his response, Blacklaw defended himself as a motivational leader to faculty, a sense he felt reciprocated into the student population as well.
“This is not an isolated feeling,” he wrote of Davis’ support. “I deliver the college a division filled with motivated and innovative people, dedicated to their work. They carry that excitement to our students. I do that by inspiring excellence; by supporting and facilitating. I focus my interventions on areas of need when people or departments are not reaching their goals. I do not waste time and precious resources watching over the shoulder of exceptional people.
“I have always seen my leadership roles as being centered on the development and growth of the people with whom I work. What has been the most exciting for me has been the impressive talent I have found in every group I have been charged to lead. I set goals and measure outcomes – and then serve as a resource and advisor for the leaders who report to me as they find the best route to those goals.
“My work as vice president in Ann Arbor, as a dean in Rochester, my previous administrative appointments and my department and program leadership has afforded me the opportunity to find ways to let the talent of the organization’s people shine.
“That, and the satisfaction of guiding excellent ideas into effective and inspiring new direction for the institution are what have made my work rewarding.”
Last Friday, the day after his termination Blacklaw spoke with Voice reporters addressing the college and further explaining his stance that at WCC, instruction trumps all.
“Washtenaw is an awesome place,” he said. “There are faculty members here who are truly the best I have ever seen – and I have been in this business for 27 years,” Blacklaw told The Voice. “There are amazing people here who just somehow reach students and inspire them.
“I love that. I am excited by that. I think there is no greater achievement as an academic leader than to help faculty do their work — give them the tools they need, the support they need and the encouragement they need to do great things. Washtenaw’s faculty do great things.”
Further documentation found in Blacklaw’s file said that he is not to come to campus as of March 14, except for necessary business and that he must “refrain from comment regarding this action and from making statements disparaging to the college, its trustees, its personnel or programs.”
Blacklaw was hired at WCC in 2010. He will continue to receive his annual salary of $128,270 until his contract officially expires in June, totaling to three months’ pay at $32,067.
Bill Abernethy, dean of humanities, social and behavioral sciences will act as interim VP, being paid $131,400 per year.
President uncertain of timeframe, but interim help is gone
Since former Vice President of Administration and Finance Steven Hardy resigned suddenly in November, Washtenaw officials have been entrenched in the arduous process of replacing him. But last week they were confident of finding a successor soon.
“We’re at the final round of interviews,” WCC President Rose Bellanca said at a board retreat last Tuesday. “It’s going very well.”
In early December, Bellanca was confident she could have a new CFO in place by Jan. 22. But as mid-March approached, she was ambiguous regarding a target date for filling the position.
She said it depended on the interview process tailored specifically to each candidate. She offered no information on either of two finalists from more than 50 applicants.
Meantime, Chuck Thomas, a 35-year employee at Macomb County Community College, where Bellanca once taught, has been filling in since November.
“There are always challenges in keeping the costs associated with education low,” he said. “But generally, things are well run.”
Thomas works on campus one day a week and has been available constantly by phone, according to Bellanca, who added that Thomas’ stint at WCC was nearing an end. He retired from Macomb in 2010.
“I knew Rose from back in those days,” Thomas said of his past at MCCC. “I know a couple people in the budget office. It’s been fun, but this week is about the end of it.
“That was one of my conditions in the first place.”
And despite the impending exit of the school’s interim CFO, the Board of Trustees deferred immediately to Dr. Bellanca when asked about the job opening. Trustee Stephen Gill was indifferent to the vacancy, certain that Dr. Bellanca will take care of its replacement.
“The board is not concerned,” Gill said. “The president has it under control.”
And other trustee members are looking forward to the long-range vision that a permanent CFO could bring to the college. At the board’s March 12 retreat, budgeting information provided by Thomas projected trends spanning just one year.
“Once we have a new VP, we’ll start looking further out,” said Trustee Pam Horiszny.
Past reports have forcast up to 10 years to allow for adequate time in planning for changes. But trustees are wary that such long-term planning may be the victim of circumstance.
“We could have never predicted in 2007 what happened in 2008 and 2009,” said Trustee Richard Landau of a dramatic spike in enrollment and the ensuing challenges it produced. “Our projections were vaporized.”
A resolution passed last year by the board mandated that $4 million would be put into a fund for deferred maintenance and that $1 million would be spent annually for next three years before reassessing.
But financial planners pulled back on that expense, allotting only $800,000 for deferred maintenance this year.
“I think we were fairly clear that this was a priority for us,” said Trustee Stephen Gill of the re
solution. “I hope we can protect those dollars.”
Other trustees were concerned at the dramatic drop in funds for campus repairs and maintenance, hoping that cuts could be made elsewhere.
“I think if we do 800 (thousand) that’s a lot better than what we have been doing but we do have that resolution out there that we passed,” said Trustee Pamela Horiszny, regarding the board’s deferred maintenance plan. “The campus maintenance and repair number has really been pared back.”
Budget specialist Barb Fillinger explained that cuts had to be made to keep overall expenses consistent with last year.
“We started with the scenario that we’d zero out,” she said of the budget. “In order to keep the other costs rather flat, we had to pull back somewhere and we took it out of campus repair and maintenance.”
Horiszny suggested that savings could be made in non-personnel expenses, which saw little change this year. She worried that reducing the maintenance budget will fail to address the necessary problems with the physical campus itself.
“We have to be realistic about needs,” she said. “And for campus repair and maintenance to drop $337,000 is a lot of money.”
Fillinger responded that in April, budget hearings will take place in which each department will have the right to make requests for the reallocation of funds.
“We do try to move funds around per the requests,” she said of the hearings. “There will be movement between the categories.”
Washtenaw’s Board of Trustees is considering a hike in tuition for next year, but may allow returning students to register early and see no change at all.
Presented to the board at its annual spring retreat, interim CFO Chuck Thomas laid out four scenarios for consideration. And after an initial idea to hold the line on tuition was found to create a $600,000 deficit for the college, the board settled on the second path.
“That would offer students the option of paying the current year’s tuition if they registered early,” Thomas said of the second plan. “This would encourage students to register early, commit to their programs ahead of time and get marching through school at a good pace.”
College officials estimated that 80 percent of returning students would take advantage of early registration rates for Fall 2013 and maintain rates from 2012.
Proposing a $2 increase for in-district students, $4 for out-of-district and $6 for out-of-state in Fall 2013, Plan B found a consensus and will be voted on by the board at its March 26 meeting.
Trustees were concerned with WCC’s declining enrollment as a major factor in tuition rates and hoped the increase in tuition could create more revenue for the college. They also justified that a zero increase for early registration, by July 1, could help enrollment by encouraging earlier academic commitments.
“I have always been a person, since I’ve been on the board, trying to keep tuition low or to lower tuition,” said Trustee Diana McKight-Morton. “But I feel because of the uncertainty that’s coming, that we don’t know what those are, we’re in a good spot but it doesn’t feel like we are with declining student enrollment.
“I just feel that (plan B) is a good plan. Without having any revenue coming in, especially Plan A could hurt us. I don’t want to cut off our nose to spite our face.”
Trustee Mark Freeman explained that in order to maintain viability in academic programs, in light of declining enrollment and subsequent revenue reductions, more funds are needed to be brought to the college – in the form of tuition.
Freeman referred to “terminal” programs such as nursing as providing many returning students that will be grateful for maintaining their rates from last year.
“Once you’re in, they’ve got you on a track; they want to keep you going,” Freeman said of nursing and other intensive programs. “This way, those people know exactly what to sign up for and exactly what they want in the fall and that spares them some of that pain.”
Some trustees also hoped that greater convenience afforded by a frozen tuition rate for in-district students would gain them political favor among county voters.
“I was hoping not to raise tuition this year if we could get away with it,” said Trustee Stephen Gill. “But early registration does help; at least we’re not raising it on the people that are already in the program. I can support Plan B.”
Trustees did acknowledge that the early registration benefit will look better to voters, and also hoped to cut costs in the classroom as well.
“We are always being cognizant of the voters and how generous they have been with us. If there’s a way we can keep in-district at zero, I think that’s a huge benefit,” said Trustee Patrick McLean. “But a dollar is a dollar whether you spend it on a text book or tuition.
“There are class costs that go beyond tuition; there’s some real room for savings there.”
Referring to electronic text books and other technological advancements that have not yet reached the wide range of implementation that he feels would reach their potential for student savings, McLean hoped the conversation on the price of education will continue to address costs other than tuition.
“I really hope we’ll go back and talk about textbooks and resources – class costs that go beyond tuition rates,” McLean said. “I’d love to find a way to incentivize faculty to reduce costs. We may lay out rewards.
“It’d be great to have a low-cost class option.”
And after a raise was largely agreed upon, but not made official, at the retreat, Vice President of Advancement Foundation Wendy Lawson expected that 2014 should see no increase in rates as the college will be appealing to taxpayers at that time.
“In 2014, we are going back to supporters for millage increases,” Lawson said. “That is the time to keep tuition the same.”
College administrators shut down an essential communications tool used by faculty in the wake of Vice President of Instruction Stuart Blacklaw’s abrupt firing.
The day after Blacklaw was relieved of all duties at WCC, a memo was sent out at 11:21 a.m. Friday from Director of Curriculum Assessment Joy Garrett, Friday to all the chairs that the use of their email list server had been discontinued. Department chairs were left to communicate internally direct email messages to their staff.
On Wednesday, however, instructors were told by administrators that a communication failure between Blacklaw and faculty resulted from a computer “glitch.”
When he attempted twice to release information about a monthly-scheduled general faculty meeting, his emails were not received by their intended recipients.
Blacklaw turned to the faculty union’s email server to announce the 3:30 p.m. meeting for Thursday and just one hour after the meeting concluded at 4:15 p.m., faculty and staff were notified of his firing via email from the college president’s office.
“I think there was a glitch,” Blacklaw said in an email to faculty on Thursday. “Jennifer (Baker, union president) provided these avenues, so I’m keeping my fingers crossed.”
The union believed that the correspondence was interrupted on purpose. When they attempted to contact Blacklaw on the school server, the day of his departure they received no response.
“Usually we get an email the day before our regular staff meetings with an agenda,” said Rosemary Rader, chemistry instructor and chair of the college assessment committee. “The day of (the meeting) we received a forwarded email from Stuart saying ‘I think there was a glitch.’”
But according to Chief Information Officer Amin Ladha, there was no malfunction. The server was temporarily shut-down in light of excessive, public use, he said. Any connection with Blacklaw’s departure, Ladha said, was a coincidence.
“I was not asked to do anything to stop messages from the list server,” he said of allegations of interference. “This had nothing to do with Stuart. We’re not trying to curtail anyone from communicating.”
The decision to turn off the faculty email group was made by Director of Systems Administration and Information Technology Services Michael Aldrich, as IT’s servers had become deluged with correspondence unrelated to the college via the faculty’s private email group.
“Someone made it public earlier this week,” Aldrich said of the private server. “It turned out there were so many people using it at the college that we weren’t aware of. I renamed it. It got out in the open, and we had to change it.
“It was a coincidence that it happened in the same week as Stuart Blacklaw’s departure. There were a lot of complaints. It could’ve happened anytime.”
The IT department was contacted by Executive Director of Public Relations and Marketing Anessa Carlise to reinstate the email group at 11 a.m. on Friday, but notification did not reach faculty until 1:02 p.m.
The PR department would work to develop a new policy in the meantime, Ladha said.
“From here on, we need to better communicate,” Ladha said. “What is the process? That has to come from marketing. You always have a gatekeeper.”
Faculty members attempted to contact Blacklaw shortly after notification of his firing was given, but the former administrator’s email contact had been eliminated.
“It’s like he never existed,” Rader said.
Editor Ben Solis contributed to this report
LAUNCHGRAM.COM COURTESY PHOTO
A modernized mess
Each year as the allures of 3D and CGI effects tighten their stranglehold on Hollywood and its wallet, directors eagerly buckle under the chance to redesign the classics, taking liberties with audience expectations and brand loyalty like never before.
So it was only a matter of time before the legendary “Wizard of Oz” fell under the ire of the future’s supposed movie magic, dragging moviegoers back into theaters out of mindless curiosity and retroactive wonder.
Thrown together as a prequel to the mythic tale of self-discovery and friendship, Sam Raimi’s “Oz: The Great and Powerful” may brainwash the pre-pubescent into delight with its flashes of pretty colors and dramatic visuals.
But anyone actually watching will find wretch in a revolving door of static, campy characters given just barely enough depth to harken back to the 1939 classic. Leading man, James Franco’s goofy grins and grandiose mutterings do little but complete snarky punch lines between him and a largely animated cast.
A cliché, modernized storyline finds a young Oz, in his early days as a sideshow magician, taking back the Land of Oz from a tyrannical pair of witches. If that echo doesn’t reveal enough stupidity, the movie’s themes are sure to.
Rather than following the heartwarming, but politically allegorical tendencies of its predecessor, this film stutters childishly without metaphor around the misallocation of power among citizens of Oz, an obvious choice in light of the Occupy Movement’s sensationalism.
Since sitting in the hot seat for three cheese-fest renderings of Spiderman, Raimi delivered himself from blockbuster euphoria in 2009, back to his intellectually cult-enthused brand of horror with the gleefully gothic “Drag Me to Hell.”
But in a year marked by the return of his quintessential saga of cult-horror flicks, “Evil Dead,” in a remake where Raimi will take a back seat as producer, the cult is left to wonder if this master of modern horror has finally seen the light and forsaken the darkness.
And after $40 million in incentives, every tax-paying resident of Michigan has already been strangled of almost $9 for the production of this infantile romp.
Don’t get charged again.