January 21, 2006
Of Bats and Belfries

Back in my university days, our tranquil hours of studying, gossiping, and arguing over the merits of various bands were periodically interrupted by the appearance of a random bat.

Who knows how these critters got in, but they usually swooped around the hallways, terrified, until they found a hiding place or someone pushed them out the window with a broom.

Oddly, in Chicago you never see bats. That's because Indiana is lucky enough to have its own indigenous bat, the Indiana bat. According to the National Wildlife Federation, they're classified as endangered animals, are about three inches tall, and can live up to 30 years. They can be surprisingly photogenic, but I still wouldn't invite one over for dinner.

Much the same can be said for university administrators, it turns out. They, too, can look good in pictures--and while they are usually bigger than three inches tall, they, too, can hang around for 30 years.

Our visit to KJ South was filled with gossip and speculation about bats and administrators in the wake of a series of announcements last week. For instance, the university president won't be renewing his contract, and the university trustees announced a major reorganization--the first in 30 years or so.

For our part, the biggest achievement of the weekend was saying goodbye to one of the more traditional bats--found dead in the top of the barn a few years ago. We'd left it there initially in hopes that it was just hibernating and would be gone the next time. Turns out, though, that bats hibernate in caves--not barns--and that our little guest wasn't going anywhere. At last, swept into a plastic bag, it ended at the bottom of Dr. Surly's garbage can.

In memoriam.

Assorted links:
History of the president's woes, and an alternate take.
Another perspective on the university's dilemmas.
Random Hoosier lore: Even Evan Bayh fans have their own Internet presence.
Apparently "Bat Chain Puller" is the actual title of a song by Captain Beefheart.
It's also--how did it come to this?--the title of a book by Kurt Loder.

Posted at January 21, 2006 06:04 PM