Bloomington Herald-Times Articles
December 12, 2007
IU getting gift of $69 million
Lilly Endowment donation will benefit schools of music, law
By James Boyd
December 12, 2007
Indiana University President Michael A. McRobbie is expected today to announce a $69 million gift to the university that will benefit both the School of Law and the Jacobs School of Music.
The Lilly Endowment is giving $44 million to the Jacobs School of Music — believed to be the biggest single donation to the school in history — and $25 million to the School of Law.
According to a summary of the donation provided by IU officials, the money is slated to build a new studio facility for both faculty and students, giving them access to a technologically advanced building designed to rival the best conservatories and music schools in the world.
The $44 million will allow the Jacobs School of Music, already internationally renowned for the quality of its students, staff and facilities, to provide space for its newest class of top-notch faculty.
Violin virtuosos Joshua Bell and Jaime Laredo, pianist Andre Watts, vocalist Sylvia McNair and conductor Leonard Slatkin have all joined the school in the past three years. The new "North Studio Building" — which will provide them and other faculty members large practice rooms and academic space — could be completed in 2010.
Its presence is expected to help the Jacobs School entice even more distinguished artists, scholars and composers to IU.
The Lilly Endowment gift will complement the $40.6 million gift to the school in November 2005 from David H. and Barbara Jacobs. That money has gone toward supporting endowed scholarships, faculty positions and fellowships.
The $25 million gift to the School of Law is expected to allow the school to hire and retain more world-class teachers and other legal scholars, with the eventual goal of raising its profile to one of the top public law schools in the country.
It already ranks among the top 15 public schools nationwide, but the ability to attract and keep renowned faculty could help boost the school's rankings, the summary said.
Its strategic plan, adopted in 2004, calls for a commitment to be a "highly visible and influential law school" that will "advance knowledge, justice, and the public good in the state, in the nation, and around the world."
The gift is expected to allow Indiana School of Law students to receive an education that allows them to continue pursuing those goals.
IU's School of Law is already well respected for its clinical programs, and for its multidisciplinary centers like the Center for Applied Cybersecurity Research and the new Center for Constitutional Democracy in Plural Societies.
More details about the gift and what it will be used for are expected to be revealed at 1:30 p.m. today at the Musical Arts Center, where the official announcement is scheduled to be made.
What does the Comcast takeover mean for viewers?
Territorial trade won't mean big changes for cable customers — also won't make IU games available
By Andy Graham
December 12, 2007
The more the ownership of the cable operation changes, in this case, the more it stays the same.
Comcast is set to take full ownership and control of local cable service from Insight Communications Jan. 1. But Comcast already has 50 percent ownership of the operation and subscribers aren't likely to see many meaningful changes anytime soon.
"We expect it to be a very smooth transition," Mark Apple, a Comcast vice president of communications, said Friday. "Customers should not expect any immediate changes to either the channel lineup or programming."
The transaction, essentially a swap of territories, gives Comcast sole ownership of cable systems serving 1.2 million homes in Illinois and Indiana, including Bloomington, Anderson and Lafayette/Kokomo.
Insight will take over cable systems serving about 1.3 million customers in Kentucky, Evansville and Columbus, Ohio.
"We'll be sending a letter in the first week or so to all customers to notify them of the changeover," Apple said.
Comcast will start making a few simple branding changes next month. "The first thing people will notice is that the bill will say it's from Comcast instead of Insight," Apple said. "In time, employees will have Comcast-labeled uniforms, signage at the offices will be replaced, the logos on the sides of the trucks changed and that sort of thing."
The first shift of any significance, several months down the road, is the change of Internet subscriber e-mail addresses from "insightbb.com" to "comcast.net" accounts.
"Sometime, probably in late summer or early fall of 2008, we'll begin a transition to comcast.net addresses, but we'll have a transition period where the insightbb.com and comcast.net addresses will both work," Apple said. "That will provide time for subscribers to notify others."
Indiana University telecommunications professor Herb Terry isn't surprised that no major changes are planned with the ownership switch.
"In the deregulated environment of cable today, the switch from Insight to Comcast may not be all that significant," Terry said via e-mail Monday. "In some of its service areas, Comcast has problems with customer service (missed appointments, impossible to reach customer service human beings, etc.) but in other communities they test out about average. Of course, since they are such a large segment of the industry, they help set industry norms."
Comcast is already the largest cable supplier in Indiana and the nation, with about 87,000 employees and more than 24.2 million subscribers in 39 states. It gained its previous 50/50 ownership share of the Bloomington market, as part of what was called the Insight Midwest partnership, when it acquired all the assets of AT&T Broadband in 2002.
A recent report on ConsumerSearch.com — noting consumer surveys conducted by J.D. Power and Associates and PC World — said in part: "In subscriber surveys, owners are less satisfied with Comcast cable service than others. Comcast receives below average scores in all four regions of the U.S. in J.D. Power's survey. In PC World's satisfaction survey, Comcast does a little better, bagging an 'average' rating."
Some customers can get very unhappy. Just two months ago, for example, 75-year-old customer Mona Shaw, who had been subjected to a futile two-hour wait at a Comcast office in Manassas, Va., walked into that office three days later with a hammer to bang away at Comcast equipment.
And then there is media-issues columnist Bob Garfield's new blog, "ComcastMustDie.com."
But Apple feels Comcast's size is a strength, rather than a detriment to customer service.
"Because of our size, we feel that gives us the ability to serve customers a little bit better, actually," Apple said. "If all the customer service people in Bloomington are busy with other calls when you phone in, we can send calls to our Indianapolis or Fort Wayne offices and probably make sure those calls are answered more promptly.
"We'll bring a little bit more programming, too, eventually. Digital cable customers will have more video-on-demand availability and be able to watch high definition programming on demand, which I understand wasn't readily available with Insight."
Apple said Comcast prefers to allow its local operations considerable autonomy. "We are a national company, but we are very decentralized," he said. "We allow our local management to make decisions best for their market. We know what works best in Chattanooga may not work best in San Francisco."
Many of the people who've made decisions locally for Insight could be doing the same for Comcast. "The people (currently working at Bloomington's Insight office) have been offered a job with Comcast," Apple said. "We're running the same type of operation that Insight has. We'll still need people to answer phones, do installations, do trouble-shooting, so we still have the same need for all those people that Insight did."
Duane Busick, president of the city's telecommunication's council, was pleased to hear that.
"We've been hopeful that, essentially, the personnel will stay the same and it's just a matter of now having Comcast on the letterhead," Busick said Monday. "The Insight people have been great to work with, from our perspective, very responsive to consumer complaints and cooperative regarding things such as our 'emergency override' situation (in which local agencies can break into cable programming in event of civil emergencies)."
State law requires cable providers to give 5 percent of total revenues to support local cable access and community services — such as CATS in Bloomington — and Busick said the council does have some concerns that a loss of subscribers due to Comcast's decision not to offer Big Ten Network programming in its basic package could significantly affect that funding.
But IU telecommunications professor David Waterman doesn't see the Big Ten/Comcast impasse ending anytime soon, given the price the Big Ten has demanded and the fact other athletic conferences and cable companies are watching.
"It makes some sense for (Comcast) to take a hard line," he said.
Our opinion; Grammys have local flavor with four nominees
December 12, 2007
Once again, Bloomington is celebrating its status as incubator and haven for talent worthy of Grammy nominations.
This year's Grammy nominees include IU Jacobs School of Music faculty members Leonard Slatkin and Carol Vaness. Conductor Slatkin was nominated for Best Classical Album, Best Orchestral Performance and Best Classical Contemporary Composition; singer Vaness was nominated for Best Opera Recording. IU instructor Patrick Feaster landed a nomination for Best Album Notes for the Archeophone CD "Actionable Offenses: Indecent Phonograph Recordings of the 1890s."
While these nominations may not be as visible to the general public as those earned by Jay-Z and Kanye West, they represent an outstanding achievement by current and former members of the Indiana University family — a level of excellence worthy of our collective congratulations.
In a completely different musical genre, local resident rocker John Mellencamp received a Grammy nomination for Best Solo Rock Vocal Performance for his song "Our Country." This latest nomination, coupled with the veteran singer-songwriter's recent announcement that he will be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in March, confirms Mellencamp's status as a rock 'n' roll legend who keeps expanding his creative endeavors — to the delight of his Bloomington friends and fans.