Serving the UMN community since 1900

The Minnesota Daily

Serving the UMN community since 1900

The Minnesota Daily

Serving the UMN community since 1900

The Minnesota Daily

All content by John Hoff

Out of the classrooms and into the streets

Published May 5, 2008

As Dorothy said in "The Wizard of Oz," "People come and go so quickly here." The whole point of being on a campus is to leave, to go somewhere else and have a positive impact. So, I say, get out of here...

Learning from the ‘Battle in Seattle’

Published April 14, 2008

Some people are like yeast, a small and vital element which makes bread dough rise, or ferments humble grains and fruits into intoxicating liquor. On Wednesday, in Room 205 of Blegen Hall, the yeast gathered...

Learning lessons from Dru Sjodin

Published April 7, 2008

There's no definitive, authoritative playbook about how a campus should respond to an abduction or murder. There is no firm and fast rule about how many security measures are enough, versus what would...

This is just a drill

Published March 31, 2008

When I talk to people about the need for better security on campus, I always find myself bringing up the University of North Dakota-Grand Forks and the murder of Dru Sjodin. I attended UND when Sjodin...

Get in line for free money

Published March 24, 2008

There's a great way for students to get a bunch of cash after blowing a big pile of money during spring break: file your income taxes. It sounds counterintuitive, but for many people of modest income (and...

I’ve got your ‘branding effort’ right here

Published March 10, 2008

It took me a while to warm up to the "Driven To Discover" branding effort for the University, but now I think it is a great promotional tool and I am in favor of it, very much behind it and on board. However,...

Don’t all stampede at once

Published February 4, 2008

If you're planning to get a degree from this University, then the city of Minneapolis would like you to consider living on the lovely north side. Does the very thought fill you with excitement? Are you...

Critical Mass turns the tables on injustice

Published January 28, 2008

University student Augustin "Gus" Ganley, 20, has very thin shoulders for a hero. For about half an hour last Thursday, I sat behind Ganley while lawyers argued in court about what evidence may or may...

Towing vehicles is not the answer

Published January 23, 2008

The towing vultures almost got me over winter break, and it nearly cost me a vehicle. Though they missed me this time, I'm quite unhappy with the inefficient system of towing and so-called "snow emergencies." Our...

From student renter to scholar homeowner

Published December 10, 2007

If you visualized the radical concept of student home ownership, you might get a picture of Thomas J. Ernste, a Ph.D. student at the School of Journalism and Mass Communication who is also a live-in landlord. Ernste...

Visualize student home ownership

Published December 3, 2007

How will this University become one of the nation's top three research institutions if its students are struggling for decent, affordable housing? Many, perhaps most students live under the oppressive...

Improving scholarly discovery and graduate education

Published November 26, 2007

Wouldn't it be great if final papers written at the end of the semester had some kind of actual impact on the world? What is the point, I often wonder, of all this effort to put words and ideas on paper?...

Long live the cookie liberation front

Published November 19, 2007

A radical left-wing revolution broke out at the Humphrey Institute this week over an alleged cookie-snatching incident at a private event held in the atrium. Of course, I prefer to think of it as cookie...

Say no to 7 a.m. construction noise

Published November 12, 2007

You're sick of hearing about the bridge disaster? Imagine how you'll feel once you actually start to hear the pile drivers every day, the steel hitting steel with a resounding clang that makes the pulp...

Threat evacuation should be voluntary

Published November 5, 2007

Have you ever had an exciting day you didn't know about until later? That was my Tuesday, Oct. 24, when somebody sent an e-mail bomb threat to the University police making reference to Blegen Hall. To...

Jailed and bailed, but never charged

Published October 29, 2007

She stood next to her fallen bike, hands raised in a gesture of surrender. This wasn't the way things were supposed to go. Alice Battey, 22, went to the Critical Mass bike ride on Aug. 31 to have fun before...

Brutalized and arrested, but not charged

Published October 22, 2007

Three weeks after graduating from the University, Alice Battey, 22, was pepper-sprayed by police and thrown into a jail cell with women alleged to be crack addicts. Battey, a slim young woman with dreadlocks...

Nature’s eerie omen of global warming

Published October 15, 2007

This will be the mildest winter in Minnesota's recorded history. We might barely have winter at all. I know this because an oak tree told me so. For four generations, my family has sought information about...

From twisted steel to inspiring art

Published October 8, 2007

A new professor came to our campus and - being from another state and unfamiliar with our University - she saw bent, colorful steel girders on the western bank of the Mississippi and wondered, "Is this...

Avista Capital Partners is the devil

Published October 1, 2007

There was a time when I loved the Star Tribune, and reading its news stories was the highlight of my day. Now, I'm convinced that if I buy a copy I will be putting money directly into the hands of Satan. The...

This labor conflict ain’t over

Published September 27, 2007

The picket signs might be put away, but the underlying issues and conflicts associated with the recent American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees strike can't be tossed in the back of...

Jailed for asking too many questions, part two

Published September 24, 2007

Last week, I told the first part of Mike Kirk's story of arrest and incarceration at an Aug. 31 Critical Mass bike rally, right up to the point Mike was arrested. Mike is a third-year computer science...

Jailed for asking too many questions, part one

Published September 17, 2007

NNow that he is confident he won't be charged with rioting, third-year computer science major Mike Kirk is finally willing to talk publicly about what happened at the Aug. 31 Critical Mass bike rally. At...

Students are trapped behind the lines of a battle

Published September 10, 2007

How, exactly, do I find myself crossing picket lines? I am asking myself this every day, but I suspect that only makes me like the vast majority of students who are good, decent people. Who is listening...

From the classrooms to the streets

Published September 6, 2007

Let the countdown to chaos begin. The Republican National Convention is almost exactly a year away. Have you bought your gas mask yet? From Sept. 1 through 4, 2008, our metropolis will be crawling with...

Sit still and look suitably profound

Published April 30, 2007

Four or five years of paying tuition, hitting the books, pulling all-nighters to finish papers, cramming for final exams but then - during the big graduation ceremony - the announcer mangles your name. I...

This lunchmeat election was a farce

Published April 23, 2007

If the people in charge of the recent student government election have a shred of decency, they will hold the Minnesota Student Association election again. The election results as of Friday are not to...

Prank candidates make voting worthwhile

Published April 16, 2007

In this lame and lackluster MSA election, the best candidates might not be, in the strictest sense, alive. Yes, I'm convinced: Your precious vote should be a write-in for "Network and the corpse of FDR." You...

Students need a friend at tax time

Published April 9, 2007

There are a dozen hard, gritty reasons why a college student should file a tax return, even if you can get away with not filing. My friend David Dermer of H&R Block will tell you some of those reasons...

Planning a party for our Republican friends

Published April 2, 2007

Maybe it was all the wine my buddy salvaged from some trash containers after a high-class tasting party, and then served up at his own festive blow-out gathering of assorted radicals on Friday night, but...

College is no escape from the war

Published March 26, 2007

I might possess some small, precious piece of mental real estate where I can still escape for a few moments, and stop thinking about this stupid war. Maybe escape happens when I read about the saga of...

Sighting the elusive campus turkeys

Published March 19, 2007

A week later, I'm still wondering why two wild turkeys were wandering around on campus over spring break. Yes, wild turkeys. And I don't mean the kind of Wild Turkey that makes you drunk, but the kind...

Fear and loathing at the impound lot

Published March 5, 2007

My van had already been brutalized prior to getting snatched by a tow truck. When the first wave of the snowstorms hit, I calculated it was better to pay for all night parking on the West Bank and ride...

Our bridge, our corner of the world

Published February 26, 2007

What an amazing debate has been taking place on these pages about the Washington Avenue Bridge and how to improve life on our campus. Not since columnist Adri Mehra conceived a cheeky little hypothesis...

A bridge can be what we dream

Published February 19, 2007

One night, at the University of North Dakota, my roommate and some of his friends played a clever prank using a rubber love doll. The prank taught us all some lessons about transforming our everyday environment...

Boynton has really great drug deals

Published February 12, 2007

It's a good thing I'm a teaching assistant and not an instructor, because I have little sympathy for students who try to use aches, pains, illness or even death as an excuse for missing class or assignments. Broken...

The cost of stopping a killer on our campus

Published February 5, 2007

Brad Bogard went before a committee of the student government with a smart, cost-effective plan which would almost certainly save the lives of several students over the next few decades. Bogard's plan...

Don’t blog about your fake ID

Published January 29, 2007

I think most teaching assistants, at some point, Google some or all of their students. There are certainly professors and adjunct faculty members who Google their students. Some will actually give fair...

Dirty dealings alleged in local business

Published January 22, 2007

Could anything be so basic, so necessary to college students as a place to do laundry? So why is somebody trying to put Gopher Cleaners and Launderers out of business? Doing your own laundry is part of...

Lessons of the Purple Onion controversy

Published January 16, 2007

I vowed that I wouldn't believe the Purple Onion Café was open again until I sat there, personally, and ate a sweet, gooey bear claw. As it turned out, I had to settle for a sticky, yummy caramel...

Army recruiters tell deadly lies

Published December 11, 2006

>Along a short stretch of Washington Avenue Southeast, you can join the army, the navy, and the Minnesota Army National Guard. It is amazing to walk into a recruiter's office with thoughts of joining...

Join the Army, pay your student loans

Published December 7, 2006

This time of year can't help but bring thoughts of student loan debt hanging over your head like the blade of a guillotine, whether you're graduating in December or just registering for next semester....

Avoiding wr*ter’s bl*ck at term paper time

Published December 4, 2006

There is a particular problem which afflicts writers, and this affliction has a name, but I will not write its name. Many students have term papers this time of year, and so you might hear, more often...

A positive attitude about the University’s ad campaign

Published November 27, 2006

I confess, at first I thought the University's "Driven to Discover" ad campaign was a big waste of time, effort and $2 million. That kind of money will buy a lot of Ramen noodles. It would buy, for example,...

Fear and loathing in Stadium Village

Published November 6, 2006

On the weekend before Halloween, I told myself to stay away from Dinkytown. Even normal weekends are crazy in Dinkytown, but outlandish costumes were bound to increase insane drunken behavior. I figured...

A new drinking ritual when turning 21

Published October 30, 2006

Jason Reinhardt died at a fraternity near Minnesota State University-Moorhead of alcohol intoxication. He had consumed 16 drinks in an hour on the night of his 21st birthday before arriving at the fraternity....

Germain Vigeant: gone but not forgotten

Published October 23, 2006

There is an amazing article in October's issue of Mpls.St. Paul magazine all about Germain Vigeant, a fun-loving and big-hearted University student who fell to her death from the Bunge grain elevator last...

Who is behind the wave of assaults on students?

Published October 16, 2006

Most of us have watched popular television programs about criminal investigations, and the recent assaults are probably the most high-profile crime issue on campus right now. The urge to be an armchair...

A scary stop along the light-rail line

Published October 9, 2006

The Hiawatha light-rail line is a modern wonder and a glory of urban civilization, capable of zipping you from downtown Minneapolis to Mall of America quickly and cheaply. But the most logical point for...

Bike helmets are sexy

Published October 2, 2006

Smashing into a steel pole made me decide to finally buy a bike helmet. For a long time, I thought a bike helmet would make me look like a dork, and this was always enough to stop me cold. Everybody else...

Fear and loathing in Dinkytown

Published September 25, 2006

If I go into Dinkytown on a Friday or Saturday night, I will witness drunken madness. Perhaps I will even get caught up, involved in the craziness. Someone will need first aid. Someone will commit random...

Don’t jump, don’t jump, don’t jump

Published September 18, 2006

Some bridges are attractive to people who want to commit suicide. It appears the Washington Avenue Bridge has become that kind of bridge. Wouldn't it make sense to install some cost-effective, anti-suicide...

Boycott the Potbelly sandwich shop

Published September 15, 2006

What used to be a funky and genuine Dinkytown coffee shop called Purple Onion Café is now yet another Potbelly Sandwich Works. Despite the touching mom and pop story on Potbelly's corporate Web...

Time to get real about bike safety

Published September 11, 2006

Abidah Adam died in the street, not on the sidewalk. She was only 20 years old, a promising student of geology attending the University on a scholarship awarded by an oil company. She was hit by a truck...

Everybody gets out of here alive

Published September 5, 2006

Consider this sobering casualty list for a moment. Germaine Vigeant, 20, fell to her death from the Bunge grain elevator. Abidah Adam, 20, was killed on a bike near University and Washington Avenues Southeast...

A buffet of buses to sample and enjoy

Published July 26, 2006

So many exciting Twin Cities bus routes; so little time to enjoy them all. My recent column about experiencing the exotic world of the No. 16 bus produced responses from readers who consider themselves...

Bob Dylan lived here

Published July 12, 2006

Students come and go, but since 1913 the Witch's Hat Water Tower has stood as a pale, constant sentinel in Prospect Park. Hot and lazy days in July are like precious rubies, and a person wants to obtain...

All aboard the No. 16 bus

Published June 28, 2006

You really haven't experienced the thrilling, gritty side of the Twin Cities until you have ridden the No. 16 bus. But, like a fragile ecosystem, the No. 16 might not be around forever, so now is the time...

Yearlong leases hurt students, economy

Published May 31, 2006

College students have been cheated for too long by landlords who refuse to offer nine-month leases. This issue actually has begun to hurt the economic productivity of Minnesota, and it's time for the Legislature...

Spreading the gospel of Ethanol Dude

Published May 4, 2006

My encounter with Ethanol Dude must have been destiny. In retrospect, there was no other reason except fate to find myself at that unfamiliar gas station, my fuel gauge redlining into emptiness, and run...

Don’t be a wasteful little puke

Published April 27, 2006

If you want to get some idea what it will look like when the United States pulls out of Iraq, just check the alleys behind student housing this time of year. You could literally outfit an army with the...

The walls really can talk, actually

Published April 20, 2006

Wouldn't it be nice to transform cracked, peeling walls into neat paper patterns of paisley, English rose, or maybe a striking and modern geometric pattern? You can do it. You can deal with your landlord...

U police care about bike theft

Published April 13, 2006

This week's hottest issue is "Who cares about campus bike theft?" Writing in response to the April 5 Daily editorial "Kudos and Gripes" asserting that the University Police Department doesn't care (enough)...

Even if you goofed off all semester …

Published April 6, 2006

This is the golden hour of the semester, when some smartly applied effort can change your destiny. Or, if you prefer, you can ignore opportunity and crash in flames, black skid marks ending in the wreckage...

Expensive bikes just get ripped off

Published March 30, 2006

Seven months later, I am almost over the theft of my bike. The bike, I decided, had a destiny of its own to fulfill. My little son helped me work through my feelings about the stolen bike I call BOD, the...

Blow up Bunge grain elevator

Published March 23, 2006

It is not quite time to lay down the issue of Germain Vigeant's death at the Bunge grain elevator. Yes, the coroner has issued a report, and it appears an open-and-shut case of a person old enough to know...

It’s spring break, baby!

Published March 9, 2006

If your spring break plans include earning a paycheck, catching up on homework or other admirable plans to be productive instead of drinking and sunbathing on South Padre Island, Texas, you aren't alone. In...

The Battle of Dinkytown lives on

Published February 23, 2006

It was the mystery of gingko trees that led me to the story of the Battle of Dinkytown. Imagine if you walked by a familiar place every day and then discovered it was the site of an epic historic conflict....

North Dakotas binge drinking, now Us problem

Published February 16, 2006

It would be fair to say many native North Dakotans were not especially fond of my last column, ìHave you hugged a ëNodakí today?" One sent me an e-mail that began ìDear Craphead" and compared my critique...

Have you hugged a “Nodak’ today?

Published February 9, 2006

There is a group of students on this campus who are hiding dark, secret roots of emotional pain. No, they aren't anorexics or Muslims offended by cartoon caricatures of Islam. They aren't students waiting...

Recycle this opinion column

Published February 2, 2006

There are people who really believe in recycling. And then there are foaming-at-the-mouth religious fanatics like me. I firmly believe my fate in the afterlife will be determined not just by how I treat...

What’s behind your lunch? Part 5

Published January 26, 2006

Could anything be more relevant than where your next lunch is coming from? From cage-free eggs to Coca-Cola's syrupy taste of greed, to the saga of Aramark, what students eat and drink is hotter than hot...

Are you there, Bill Clinton? It’s me, John

Published January 19, 2006

Dear Bill Clinton, I never had a doubt you would write back to me, but what a thrill it was to receive your letter. It turned up in a pile of accumulated mail at my permanent address, somewhere between...

Out with the blue, in with the green, part two

Published December 8, 2005

It wasn't enough, apparently, to say "OUT, OUT DAMNED ZERBY" and hope the political demons that haunt Ward 2 would be gone by the power inherent in the name of City Council member-elect Cam Gordon of the...

Out with blue, in with green

Published December 1, 2005

Former City Council member Paul "Party Pooper" Zerby, Ward 2, needs to figure out how to make a graceful exit. Technically, Council member Zerby isn't a "former" City Council member Zerby quite yet, and...

What’s behind your lunch? Part 4

Published November 17, 2005

Aramark, which runs your campus dining, started its troubled relationship with our University rather like an aggressive would-be boyfriend. In fact, the romance metaphor was used in a Daily article published...

What’s behind your lunch? Part 3

Published November 17, 2005

ANOTE: This column originally ran in the November 16th print edition, but was not put online. ramark, the company that runs your campus dining service, has a long and colorful history of legal scrapes,...

What’s behind your lunch? Part II

Published November 10, 2005

The company which currently runs your campus dining service, Aramark, started as two guys in the vending machine business in 1959, keeping their inventory of peanuts in the back of a 1936 Dodge. They had...

What’s behind your lunch? Part I

Published November 9, 2005

Complaints about campus food service are nothing new. Words like dreadful and abominable can be found in the minutes of various campus committees, available over the Internet, mixed with the corporate...

Read this, win a Clinton ticket

Published October 27, 2005

Can there be any doubt the neighborhoods around the University are going to hell in a handbag? Let's review the criteria, shall we? High-speed vehicle chase and foot pursuit? Check. Family-run businesses...

Parking meters nickel-and-dime students to death

Published October 20, 2005

Small and constant pinpricks can ultimately bleed you white. That's the situation with parking meters in the neighborhood around the University and in the greater Twin Cities area. These evil shyster devices...

Are the lights out and is the music over for partying students?

Published October 6, 2005

Passions have cooled since that wild night, nearly two weeks ago, when a dozen squad cars descended on the 1600 block of fraternity row and broke up perfectly fun and traditional homecoming parties. Now...

Bikers must bend rules to survive

Published September 29, 2005

What sorts of things do you think about while riding your bike? I think about the night I met a man with a broken lumbar vertebrae. He didn't live very long after I met him. This was at an Army hospital,...

E-mail issue is red hot; Nick Burns lives

Published September 22, 2005

A passionate column about stolen bikes gets me no furious, flaming e-mails at all. "Welcome to Minneapolis" is how one person put it, so well. On the other hand, a column about how much the X.500 e-mail...

University’s X.500 e-mail, a monument to idiocy

Published September 15, 2005

I mean, naturally, the University insists the inadequate and inefficient X.500 e-mail system should be "official" student e-mail. The fact that X.500 lacks bells and whistles is understandable. Resources,...

Bike locks like udon noodles

Published September 8, 2005

If you read no more than the first sentence, heed well this prophesy: Lock up your bike with Kryptonite, or you won't be riding it very long. What, I ask you, is a sturdy chain and combination lock? One...