Author's visit grabs media attention

“When Jimmy Santiago Baca arrives in Akron Tuesday, the writer’s presence is not likely to go unnoticed. Since the Buchtelite announced last week that Baca would be speaking at the University of Akron, several media publications have jumped on the story, including The Associated Press, the Akron Beacon Journal, the Channel 5 news and multiple AM talk radio shows.”

When Jimmy Santiago Baca arrives in Akron Tuesday, the writer’s presence is not likely to go unnoticed.

Since the Buchtelite announced last week that Baca would be speaking at the University of Akron, several media publications have jumped on the story, including The Associated Press, the Akron Beacon Journal, the Channel 5 news and multiple AM talk radio shows.

It just goes to show that this issue is important to the Akron community, Buchtelite editor in chief Mike Rasor said. This is a story about the importance of a well-rounded education – an education that challenges students to look at their world differently. That is so much more important than preserving good public relations.

Earlier this semester, Baca’s memoir, A Place to Stand, was being considered for UA’s 2007 freshman summer reading selection. However, the book was removed from the list because of Baca’s criminal history. In light of negative media attention that resulted after several felons were discovered living in university dormitories, associate provost Karla Mugler said she could not support the recommendation to bring Jimmy Santiago Baca to campus in fall 2007.

While it is true that Baca’s work wasn’t banned from campus, the administrative decision to defer the use of the book until 2008 was grounded in troubling logic, according to Rasor.

To the university’s credit, since the story ran, administrators have continually complimented Baca’s recovery from his life in prison and his artistic poetry.

Nobody has a right to be selected by the summer reading committee. I understand that, Rasor said. But if a man has rebuilt his life while in prison – if you are going to publicly compliment his work – why delay the use of his book simply because of mistakes he made?

The error wasn’t in the decision. The error was in the reasoning.

That’s why the Buchtelite invited Baca to campus – to demonstrate that misguided administrative decisions aren’t acceptable in the realm of higher education.

When Baca speaks at Akron next week, that’s exactly the message he wants to send.

I’m going to talk about the beauty of education, Baca said. Education is the antithesis of oppression. Education trains its eye on oppression and destroys it. I can’t say enough about the importance of learning.

I will also talk about the current state of affairs in prison in America along with literature.

Baca’s visit, which is sponsored by the Buchtelite and the Center for Conflict Management, will feature a forum and writing workshop. Baca will speak Tuesday in the Student Union, Ballroom A at 7:30 p.m.

The poet will also host a writing workshop the following morning from 10 to 11:30. The workshop can accommodate 25 students and is free.

Students interested in participating in the workshop should contact Buchtelite adviser Bruce Zake at (330) 972-5475 or e-mail requests to news@buchtelite.com.