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March 01, 1970 - Image 4

Resource type:
The Michigan Daily, 1970-03-01

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rick perloff
steve koppinan

Number 25 Night Editor: Rick Perloff

March 1, 1970





Why students


WALK. PASS THE library, pass the
placards. People hurry by, girls with
long brown hair and tattered blue jeans,
people with books, people with beards. Bikes
weave in, squeeze out, and excuse them-
selves with a smile.
You've got to get that paper done. You've
got to get to class. The door is up ahead.
Mason Hall iswarm today, brush past,
around, into people, smile as you go.
Breathe deeply now, you're past the
crowds, and the Diag . . . into the audi-
torium, to the side, skipping into a seat,
dropping down the books. Waiting, wait-
ing for class. Why?
Why am I here? What am I doing? Why
did I even get up for this class? What am
I learning? And why are they all here?
Why don't they all jut drop out? Where
are they going? Why?
We wondered about these. questions, so
we asked some other people what they
thought - twenty-five undergraduates,
whose names we picked at random from
the Student Directory. We wanted to get
a better idea of what the anonymous
strangers we all pass every day on the Diag
are thinking.
W HY ARE they here? Why do they stay?
I used to think I really know why
I was here," says Bucky resitting in his
fraternity room, "but I'm not too sure any
more. I'm just going to school. It's just
the next step from high school.
Joyce P, a sophomore living in South
Quad, remains in the University even
though she says she has become depressed
by the monotony of her classes. But she
says dropping out never really occurred to
her and anyway, "I'd be afraid I wouldn't
go back to school." Nevertheless, she is
looking forward to graduate school. "My
real satisfaction will come in the future,"
she says.
David H has a more positive attitude.
"My main reason for being here is to see
and experience new things. I wanted to
get away from home, meet new people. I
come from Flint-that's a really conserva-
tive town-and I wouldn't have gotten
anything out of staying there
"If it weren't for the draft, I think I'd
skip an extra term and travel," he con-
tinues. "But I like the environment here
too much to skip more than that. Besides,
if I 'drop out too many terms, I'd be thirty-
five by the time I'd get to be a doctor."
"This is what they tell me I ought to be
doing," says Tom H, an engin sophomore.
"It's better than being in the Army. If it
weren't for the draft, I wouldn't be here."
"I enjoy it here," says Francis M, a
senior in psychology. "I really haven't
wanted to leave. Why was I here? To get
an education would be the obvious an-
swer. It's a place of transition between
home and the outside world. Being on your
own, increasing your social awareness, get-
ting broader viewpoints."
"I almost did leave," says Marshall R.
"I was going to join the Marines, because
I thought I'd get a C in this history paper.
I think I would've gone through with it,
too, but I got a B. Since then, things have
improved. Classes seem to be going better.
"But," he concludes, "I still often won-
der what I'm really doing here. I think .of
going off to a South Sea Island, or be-
coming a coal shoveller. Most of the time,
I think I'm heading toward something.
That's why I stay."
BUT SUPPOSE you're not heading to-
ward something? Do you stay or
leave? Many hang in with the expected
routine, but others drop out-some for a
few months, some for a few years, some
"I left because I couldn't see where I
was going and what I was doing," explains
Warren V, a crew-cutted history major
who dropped out five years ago. "There
just weren't things I was interested in. I
don't think there was as much wrong

with the University as with me, because
I wasn't suited for the University; I wasn't
motivated to study."
Warren says dropping out was the best
thing that ever happened to him. He says
he gained more of a direction after his
four years in the Army; he says he be-
came more future-oriented.
"It soon became obvious that if you
want a comfortable job, you need a degree.
The future, when you're out of college,
is more immediate, you're closer to it."
His attitude toward the University has

one' week, then architecture. I 'was even
going to be an anthropologist once."
Other students echo Warren's feelings-
expected to attend a university, they do.
Once they arrive, sometimes, like Warren,
they are not so glad they came. But they
stay - why?
Largely, it seems, because society re-
wards those who do.
Laura H, a freshman, answers firmly
when asked whether she has learned any-
thing her first term h e r e. "Absolutely
not," she says. "Geography was a nice
course, but I'm not interested in it. I just
studied for tests. I didn't care whether I
passed or flunked sociology-I just had a
complete lack of interest." She dropped
She seems to look forward to graduation
and becoming a nurse ("I'm here to be a
nurse and nothing else") but she can't
become a nurse until she graduates. Which
means three more years in Ann Arbor.
Kathleen C. says "I want to teach
high school and I need a teaching certifi-
cate. Now I want to get that degree and
go. I'm tired of being a student. It'll be
good to do something-rather than cram-
ing for tests, writing ten-page papers and

he sits on a couch in his fraternity house.
For Ray, there are boring classes a n d
monotony, "but they don't bother me
enough to make me quit." Ray has friends
here, and while he's not especially stim-
ulated by academia, he finds this place as
good as any to mature and learn.
"Besides, there's a million things to do
up here, going to football games, concerts
and the parties afterwards is as good as
going out of state for the weekend. "I have
more reason for staying than leaving," he
concludes, "my future is in the balance."
Is happiness the greatest accumulation
of the least amount of unhappiness?
Perhaps, implies Nancy O, a dental hy-
giene student. "I don't mind studying. How
many kids say, 'I love to study?' . . . Ed-
ucation is necessary for your future. It's
a part of your life, you might as well en-
joy it"
SO WE'RE ALL here. What are we learn-
ing? To relate with people - to define
our politics - to live in the University cul-
ture?; but what of the chief rationale for
our being here - learning, studying, ed-
ucation, getting a degree - what about

"I'm trying to find out what I'm learning all the time,"
says Tom. "I'm in engineering--I guess it's technology.'
He muses on the question for a couple of seconds.
"Nothing, really," he says. "Ninety per cent of my time is
a waste."
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?'t leave
system that friends of mine arrested in
the sit-in have come up against. And I've
met opposition from the giant lecture sys-
"I really dislike large lectures," she con-
tinues, "I don't like to be talked at. I
don't want to be an empty pitcher that
has to be filled with drops of knowledge.
I like to be able to contest, to question
what the professor says. Lectures don't
teach you to question-they don't teach
you to think critically."
But Marshall reaffirms the value of
traditional classes. "I'd say classes are
more important to me," he says, "this is
the first semester I've been here that
I've really enjoyed all my classes-that
I'm really learning something relevant in
all of them. Usually, they were courses
I had to take-requirements."
Bucky feels that while his education
has value, it can't be clearly applied to
"It's just an education with no regard
for what I'll be doing," he says. "I don't
feel I've learned anything in the last year
and a half that could' be applied to a
job. It's just a general knowledge-i t'
valuable-but it's sort of a farce. People
think it really prepares you for some-
thing, but it doesn't."
"My education is mostly technical," says
Gary N, an engin senior. "It's more job
preparation than enlightenment. The
things I learn in the classroom are job-
"Living in the dorms for three years, I
picked up a lot of experience," he adds.
"That's worth about as much as class."
And so are relationships, Joyce says..
She says she matured a lot from a rela-
tionship with a guy last year. "He didn't
like the way I was, and in order to
change myself so he liked me, I had to
think of myy relations with other people."
She bit her nails once and stared ahead.
"That was big."
And from a group, she found herself
freer and closer to people; from a sociol-
ogy course, she "was made aware of the
plight of blacks and how society oppresses
people." She believes her discussions with
dorm friends enlightened her on "the
nature of people and what makes you
tick." In addition, "I never realized how
my parents were so closed-minded on some
"I brought home a pretty radical friend
over Thanksgiving, and they wouldn't lis-
ten to my friend's ideas. They said 'I've
been here longer than you and I know
more than you'".
And she says she discovered their ani-
mosity toward a black student she is
dating. "I've screamed and yelled at the
top of my lungs and they're ideas are
static. And they're immovable."
"Yes, it's changed me," says Betsy. "I'm
a lot more self-reliant now. My whole out-
look on living has changed. I used to
think I'd settle down and raise a fam-
ily. Now I want to work, keep in the
mainstream of things."
Tom feels the combined university ex-
periences of Notre Dame last year and
the University now have affected his out-
look more dramatically. "I can't believe
in the American dream any more," he
says. "You know, the whole bit-going to
college as 'an ideal, then you make money,
get a family, go live in the suburbs."
DAVID, who grew up in the only Chinese
family in his community, and who
is intensely aware of racism directed at
Chinese-Americans, says he has had his
understanding of the problem consider-
ably increased by the University.
"Before I came here," he continues, "I


reading chapters and chapters of things
you don't really care about."
An education student expressed similar
feelings. "I take the things I have to to
get out of here I'm trying to get my re-
quirements done so I can get my degree
and be gone."
So he remains, grudingingly, to get a
degree so he can become a coach. "You
can't learn how to coach without going to
college," he says.
Gail R, a red-headed freshman, remains
in college but she is uncertain just why.
The conversation drifts with frequent
breaks. "Why am I at the University? I'm
still trying to decide. I'm here to meet
people. I'm here to learn . . . I'm not
extremely sure that dropping out is the
best thing to do. I'm going to try and
make something good of the classes.
"College is also important to me be-
cause" . . , she pauses and mentions
society's emphasis on a degree. "That's
why I'm so confused. I don't think every-
one should go to college." Her discourage-
ment seems to stem not so much from
what she learns in class, but from what she
hasn't learned - from dissatisfaction with
her classes.
The same holds for Joseph U., a Mark-
ley freshman.
"I really dislike school. There's a good
chance I'll leave the University," he says.
"Classes are boring," he continues. "I've
heard professors are not here to teach,
just research."
He finds himself pressured by school-
work, "I don't care about learning, just
abou't tests, and that's why I'd like to
quit, because I know it's not right." He
adds simply, 'I really don't want to put
up with school any more." And he is com-
ing to hate the place more and more, es-
pecially returning to his room and facing
the books he has to study.
"I'd like to travel," he says. "Just go
out west, see the states, travel, look
Betsy S, another freshman, is also con-
cerned over what she feels she's not learn-
ing. "I've seriously considered leaving,"
she says. "I'm impatient cause I'm not
learning as much as I thought I would."
But unlike Joe, she is not sure what she
would do outside the University, and she
does find the campus environment con-
genial. 'I don't know what I would do if
I were out," she says, "I could only be a
waitress or something. And I am learning,
if only to live on my own, and it's an aca-
demic environment, which I like."
SOME PEOPLE SAY clearly they want
what the University says it offers. "My
goal is to get an education," says fresh-
man Susan D, "and Michigan is one of the
best schools."
"I'll probably get married," she adds,
'but even if I don't work all my life, I
want to be more than just a housewife.

"I don't think I'm learning that much
from courses," says David H. "You learn
scientific rules, you get ideas - it helps.
But the reactions to new people is prob-
ably more important.
"For my purposes, the main thing is the
atmosphere," he continues. "It's a place
where I can be comfortable It's an atmos-
phere where it's easy to express ideas. Peo-
ple are more receptive to criticism.
"I'm happy here," s a y s Harvey S. "I
don't know whether I'm getting a good ed-
ucation. I'm assuming I am. I like it here
enough not to transfer," he continues, ad-
ding that the draft prevents him f r o m
taking a break from school for a term or
And what Harvey has disliked in his
classes is offset, he says, by the enjoy-
ment he finds from his friends in the fra-
ternity, who joke with him during the in-
terview about being a big shot now. He
has no sweeping statements to make about
classes; lectures depend on the course, he
says. Prof. Daniel Fusfeld's economics lec-
ture, for instance, he enjoys immensely,
but economics recitations, "I can do with-
out. The recitation teacher spits back in-
formation from the book.
"Some classes I need to go to. Others I
like to go to, and some I don't go to. I
guess I enjoy myself enough to stay here.
I'd like to be trained for my job, but I'd
like to be trained for other things that
don't affect me for my job."
The problem of adjusting to the new en-
vironment seems to be a primary concern
in students' appraisal of their educa-
tion. Marilyn F. feels she has now learned,
how to get along with people better. "It's
hard to pin down, it's the kind of things
you get from having a friend to confide
in," she says.
"It's an experience being here. It was
the first time I had lived away from home;
I felt more independent and more willing
to do things on my own and meet people
on my own. And that was one of the most
valuable experiences I had, not having to
call mother every Sunday."
But Marilyn can't divorce this education
from her experiences in classes, although
they have of late been disconcerting. She
is not overly enthusiastic about the Uni-
versity, admitting that it has not meas-
ured up to her expectations, partially, she
says because of the large impersonal class-
es, and partially because her expectations
may have been too high.
But she says she likes it here. "Its been
a good experience. It stimulated me. I real-
ly can't isolate this particular class as do-
ing this for me. The only way I can eval-
uate everything is in the overall picture.
I can't say I'm sorry I came here."
Tom H. expresses more doubts than
most about the validity of his classes. "I
don't know what I'm learning," he says,
"I'm trying to find out what I'm learning
all the time. I'm in engineering, I guess
it' technoloav."

most other students as "cynical liberals",
says, "I don't have the convictions. I sup-
port the causes, but I haven't gotten in-
volved. I feel sort of guilty about not doing
more about certain issues, kind of hypo-
critical about supporting them in thought,
and not doing anything about them, and
I can't explain why or why not."
"I'm pretty apathetic politically," says
Bucky S. "I'm apathetic on a lot of things.
I don't think it's right. When I think in
terms of myself in the future, I think
eventually I won't be apathetic. I'll have to
change, but I just haven't yet."
Joyce agrees that political involvement
may come in the future eafter she gets
out of school. "I'm paying my way to learn
this stuff. My studies are more important
and everyone must decide for themselves."
There's no use procrastinating, she says,
adding that, "It's very possible that once
I get out of this place, I may start striking
and being involved." She nods, "I could
see it later."
Marshall has a poster of President Nixon
up on the wall behind his bed. "I'm not
particularly active in anything right now,"
he 'says, "but I'm very concerned. Right
now, my primary concern is with getting
an education. I have strong opinions, and
in the future, I probably will play more
of a role.{
"If I felt strongly that a law was bad,"
he adds, "I could break it and get ar-
rested.But, I don't see too many things in
our society unjust enough to get arrested
BUT SOME students are faced with
greater conflict-they feel they should
be involved, but are unsure how much they
can commit themselves.
"I'm politically chicken," says Betsy S,
"but not apathetic. I get very angry-but
I'm not sure at this point that I want to
lay everything on the line, and get busted
or bashed. I don't know how much you
can accomplish through the system. I have
a lot of friends who are beating their heads

Warren, who served in Vietnam, takes an
entirely different view.
"If you provide all these other things,
you might as well provide ROTC," he says.
"The military profession is as good as any
other ... If you've have been in the army,
you know that 99 per cent is paperwork;
killing people is really a very small part
of its' job."
R EGARDLESS OF their politics, the peo-
ple we talked to were restrained in
view of what they could do to effect
changes in the overall society. But they
seemed generally hopeful that they could
make some contribution.
"I don't want to be a member of the
AMA, and live in a rich suburb where my
kids won't see racism themselves,"° says
David. "They should realize it early, where-
ever they live. I don't want to pick the easy
way. I think I'll go out and try to persuade
people about what I think is right.
"I don't think I'm goin, where I want
to go," he continues. "I don't see any ef-
fective ways of getting these ideas across.
"I'd like to see a militant Chinese group,"
he adds. "They'd be sacrificing themselves,
but they could make the society aware of
the problem. The only way I feel I could
affect society--more than just a few in-
dividuals-would be with something like,
that-throwing around pamphlets, point-
ing up the problem."
Bruce says that "I don't see myself as
being a leader in social reforms, but being
' a good and sensitive individual. As a doctor
I can make a small section of the popula-
tion sensitive, just help 'em, I just hope
to retain the idealism I have now. You
just roll with the punches, you just bide
your time.'
"I hope to do something useful," says
Kathleen. "I'm really interested in educa-
tion. I think everything's wrong with the
way English is taught. They're trying to
drum all those facts into the kids heads
and have them get good marks and good
SATs. I think high school should teach
"I want people to communicate," says
Francis. "I feel that's the key. I can func-
tion better with people now-a little less
"I know it's a drop in the bucket," he
concludes, "but there are thousands of
other people like me. It'll make a differ-
Betsy S is less hopeful. "I don't know
how much of, an impact I can have on
society," she says. "I used to think I or a
small group could, but now I don't. It's too
big a world.
"I'd really feel I'd like to be headed
toward something," she continues, "but I
just don't know what I'm headed toward."
Bucky S, echoes this. "I'd like to make
some sort of contribution," he says, "but
I don't know how I'll do that."
And Marshall notes. "I don't get up every
morning and wonder why I'm here. The
routine keeps me going."
The routine-getting up and going to
class and continuing though you're bored
because you know it's good for you and you
know you need your degree and you some-
how want to learn. You persist from build-


"I used to think I really knew why I was here," says Bucky.
"But I'm not too sure any more. I'm just going to school. It's
just the next step from high school."
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really didn't have many political ideas.
Here, you meet people hitting you con-
tinually from the left and right. Being
here has helped me form opinions."
His views on how the University en-
vironment changes peoples' politics re-
flects the views of many others. But de-
spite the continuing barrage of dialogue,
it seems many students have found ways
of insulating themselves not only from
the demonstrations and the agitation, but
even from much of the serious thought
and discussion on political questions.
Are most students apathetic? Do poli-
tical questions matter to them? How do
they feel about some of the issues that
have e onca sn nnnamnn

on stone walls-they just aren't getting
"Right now," she continues, "I'm won-
dering which way I'll go politically. My
parents have told me, if I get involved,
they'll take away my financial aid. They,
say-be in any protest you like, but run
like hell when the police come.
And it appears that students will gen-
erally commit themselves only when some-
thing directly touches them. Francis was
rent striking last year. "We were getting
bad service, and we struck. We wouldn't
strike now-we're happy here. But I'd never
rent from one of the big slumlords."

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