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March 13, 1970 - Image 4

Resource type:
The Michigan Daily, 1970-03-13

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Seventy-nine years of editorial freedom
Edited and managed by s+udents of the University of Michigan

GM: An example of

excessive power

420 Maynard St., Ann Arbor, Mich.

News Phone: 764-0552

Editorials printed in The Michigan Daily express the individual opinions of staff writers
or the editors. This must be noted. in all reprints.

FRIDAY, MARCH 13, 1970


Lifting of the suspension:
A temporary victor

LSA DEAN William Hays' decision yes-
terday to revoke the summary suspen-
sion of SDS member Robert Parsons con-
stitutes only a temporary victory in the
fight for democratic judicial procedures
at the University.
The struggle for the permanent estab-
lishment of the rights of students to due
process and trial by a jury of their peers
must now be continued.
Hays' decision to revoke the suspension
of Parsons was made only under the pres-
sure of a sit-in by 300 angry students, and
only in the light of new evidence that
Parsons was not the demonstrator who
struck engineering Prof. John Young at
the demonstration against General Elec-
tric recruiters Feb. 18.
The kind of dramatic student action
used yesterday should not have been nec-
essary to insure Parsons his right to fair
treatment. And his guilt or innocense of
the charge is basically irrelevant to the
issues at hand.
No single person - Dean Hays or any-
one else - should have the power to sus-
pend a student (or a faculty member for
that matter). And no group of individ-
uals -certainly.not the executive com-
mittee of the literary college - should
have the power to order a suspension

without giving the accused a fair hear-
Nonetheless, all of these horrors were
perpetrated against Bob Parsons. A n d
while Parsons' suspension has been re-
scinded, Dean Hays has refused to re-
nounce the mechanism which m a d e it
THE RIGHTS of every student remain
in jeopardy as long as these repres-
sive powers remain in the hands of the
d e a n s and governing faculties of the
schools and colleges.
In the University community, only stu-
dents should be allowed to try other stu-
dents on charges which do not directly
relate to academic competence.
Continuance of the present powers of
the faculty over student conduct will only
mean the perpetuation of a system which
allows professors to impose their non-
academic values on the students.
Students - and those faculty members
with a sense of justice - must continue
their constant vigil over the rights of
students. And they m u s t continue to
press for a re-ordering of University dis-
ciplinary procedures that gives the stu-
dents control over their own conduct.

(EDITOR'S NOTE: Ralph Nader will be
speaking at the University Saturday in con-
nection with the Environmental 'Teach-in.)
TODAY is announced an effort to develop
a new kind of citizenship around an
old kind of private government-the large
corporation. It is an effort which rises
from the shared concern of many citizens
over the role of the corporation in Amer-
ican society and the uses of its com-
plex powers. It is an effort which is dedi-
cated toward developing a new constitu-
ency for the corporation that will harness
these powers for the fulfillment of a
broader spectrum of democratic values.
Ours is a corporate society. Corporations
produce, process and market most of the
goods and services in the nation. They con-
stitute the most powerful, consistent and
coordinated power grid that shapes the ac-
tions of men in private and public sectors.
Yet, far less is known about the actual
operations of the giant corporations than
any other institution in America, includ-
ing the national security agencies.
The diverse impacts of corporate actions
on citizens, however, are being felt and
described in their torment. These impacts
are not catalogued in company annual
reports whose style of aggregate, numerical
evaluation of company gains and losses
has been mirrored by similarly parochial
governmental and scholarly' assessments.
Instead, corporate imprints are reflecting
themselves in growing violence to our air,
water and soil environments, in imbalanc-
ed consumer and producer technologies
that harm their users and dehumanize
" their operators, in the colossal waste and
depreciation of consumer goods and serv-
ices and in the moloch-like devouring of a
society's resources to the detriment of
,sane and humane allocation of these
resources to meet the needs of all the
people by superior distribution and in-
novation. In other negative ways-through
the power of avoidance - corporate power
centers can condition or determine whether
other forces will unjustly prevail over the
expression of weaker but more legitimate
interests in peace and justice.
For most citizens there can be no re-
jection of nor escape from the corporate
embrace. There can only be submisison or
control in varying degrees. The choice is

between increasing predation or increas-
ing accountability of corporate power to
the people. As a bureaucratic structure,
the corporation is here to stay and whe-
ther it comes in private, public, utility or
Comsat-type dress is less important than
the dynamic relationship with its total
constituency. The paramount foci should
include the establishment of enduring ac-
cess for affected social and individual in-
terests, and through remedy against un-
just treatment.
THROUGHOUT THE past century, the
major forms of curbing the excesses of
corporate power have been external pres-
sures and stimuli from government and
labor. As confronting organizations, how-
ever, government and labor groups did
not possess the stamina, motivation a n d
generic nourishment that the corporation
displayed to keep its opponents at bay or
accommodate their vulnerabilities.. While
overcoming the regulatory state and ad-
justing to the narrow goals of organized
labor, the modern corporation increased
its direct power, and, through an im-
balanced use of complex technology, its
indirect power over citizens. Now m e r e
inaction, mere forebearance, and w r e a k
havoc on the health, safety and well-
being of people.
The corporate quest for control of its
operating environment has led industry
ana commerce to narrow or virtually elim-
inate the range of quality competition in
contrast to non-price and/or trivia-in-
dentured competition. The same quest has
led to endemic violation of anti-trust and
other economic laws and produced great-
er and greater concentrations of corporate
power. The intricate evolution of the legal
structure of the corporation permits the
increasing exercise of personal p o w e r
accompanied by institutional, not per-
sonal, responsibility at the most. The cor-
porate shield absorbs the rare enforce-
ment of the law, not the official(s) whose
decisions or negligence led to the vio-
lation. In addition, the ownership and
management of the corporation have be-
come separated and the ease of even the
largest investors in exiting reduces any
remaining incentives for owners to exer-
cise voice and guide or discipline man-
agement. Clearly the gap between cor-

porate performance and corporate respon-
sibility is steadily enlarged by these afore-
mentioned patterns. Just as clearly, a new
definition of the corporation's constitu-
ency and its activation is needed.
WITH ITS MASSIVE size and pervas-
iveness, General Motors is a leading can-
didate for the attentions of its assertive
constituency - consumers, labor, dealers,
suppliers, insurance -companies and all
citizens who experience the forced con-
sumption of its air pollution and o t h e r
environmental spillages. Nearly a million
and a half -of these citizens and insti-
tutions are shareholders in the company.
In theory they own the company: in fact
they have about the same rights as the
owner of company debentures. The pro-
cedures, the information, the organization,
the manpower and the funds are manage-
ment's to deploy. But the fiction of share-
holder democracy continues to plague the
reality. By highlighting the fiction a new
reality can be borne that will tame the
corporate tiger.
And verily, a tiger is General Motors.
By virtue of the engines it produces and
the plants it operates, the company con-
tributes about 35 per cent of the nation's
air pollution by tonnage. Its hourly aver-
age gross, around the clock, of $2.4 million
has not discouraged the company f r o m
spending last year, less than $15 mililon
on research and develoment for less pol-
luting engines. Grossing more than any
single governmental budget, except that of
the USA and the USSR, GM, with its 1969
gross of some $24 billion, still cannot find
the will to build the greatly safer auto-
mobiles that can be built economically
by free engineers.
The company continues to lead the way
in designs that pile up enormous and
avoidable property damage in low speed
(under 10 mph) collisions' and increase
its aftermarket replacement sales as a
result. The company is a charter member
of the highway lobby that has opposed
successfully the development of m a s s
transit systems and pushed h i g h w a y s
through cities and suburbs in the most
indiscriminate manner of land use plan-
ning. The market power that is synony-
mous with GM has propelled the in-
dustry toward attenuated competition or

WHAT IS EMERGING from closer study
of companies such as General Motors is
that the most intractable obstacles to
change for man are not technical at all
but are more often associated with rigidi-
ties of a beaucratic and personal nature
rather than an economic incapacity of loss.
The half 'century of delay in installing
a collapsible steering column was q u i t e
probably due to the vested interest of
an authoriarian psychology than to the
more conventionally adduced reasons.
When the decision was made for the
1967 model cars that the collapsible steer-
ing column was "in", it was finally de-
cided that in any collision between man
and column, prudence dictated that the
column should give, not the man's rib
cage. This microcosmic episode illustrates
the enormous power in the hands of
those who decide manufacturing priorities
and product designs (the ramrodding
steering column is estimated to have fat-
ally injured over 200,000 American since
1900). They need assistance in making
such decisions along the entire continuum
of impacts on people. A few years ago,
the company produced many advertise-
ments with the headline "GM IS PEO-
PLE". It is time to amend the caption to
"GM IS FOR PEOPLE." In addition, GM
is continually violating laws, including air
pollution and safety laws, and it is time
for shareholders to voice their concern
here. For as has been said, shareholders
are harmed as consumers and citizens by
the very activities that they own in part. ,

collusion over d:sign and marketing prac-
tices. Innovation has been creatively
stayed to the consumer's harm and eco-
nomic detriment. GM's huge financing
arm. General Motors Acceptance Corpora-
tion, according to Conmressional testimony,
engages in deceptive, usurious and exploi-
tive practices in its service to the parent
corporation. Secrecy, obfuscation and con-
tracts of adhesion characterize the tech-
niques used to render consumers impo-
tent in remedy for their complaints.
These are only the surface references to
GM's imprint but they suggest a fero-
city of acquisitiveness which c o u 1 d ren-
der an optimist euphoric at the prospect
of transforming such motivational velo-
cities for man instead of against man.




GM belongs to the people

Students condemn

Honors Convocation

demic.institution, it does not stand
aloof from the influence and power of
the au omotive industry. Unlike the hun-
dreds of 'thousands of families in South-
eastern Michigan whose livelihood is di-
rectly dependent on the fortunes of cor-
porations like GeneralMotors, the Uni-
versity has a great deal more freedom.
However, ties do exist, albeit in a more
subtle form.
In financial terms alone, the Univer-
sity is a major benificiary - and depen-
dent - of the automotive industry. The
University owns - at current prices -
about $2,485,000 in automotive stocks,
including approximately 28,000 shares of
GM and 12,500 shares of Ford Motor Co.
Moreover, auto makers presently contrib-
ute $39,028 for various University re-
search projects. Another $152,635 has
been contributed by other organizations
for research dealing with automotive-re-
lated problems.
It is obvious that the existence of cor-
porations like General Motors effects the
interests of the. University.. It is also ob-
vious t h a t the University, as a major
shareholder of GM and other automotive
stocks, should actively assert itself in the
formulation of GM's policy. This is a re-
sponsibility which the University has
either refused to accept or has simply
THIS SHIRKING of responsibility can
no longer be tolerated. While the Uni-
versity has passively accepted GM and
other automotive stocks as a "good in-
vestment," GM has actively - and inten-
tionally - persued policies which are de-
structive to both mankind and the en-
According to consumer expert Ralph
Nader, GM, "by virtue of the engines it
produces and the plants it operates.
contributes about 35 per cent of the na-
tion's air pollution by tonnage." Further-
more, the $15 million the company
spends each year for research and de-
velopment of less polluting engines rep-
resents less than a drop in the ocean of
mammoth GM - whose 1969 gross of $24
billion was larger than the gross national
product of many nations in the world.
BUT GM IS MORE t h a n an environ-
mental menace, it is a people menace
too. Aside from having its share of de-
fense and weapons contracts, GM often
acts against the interest of its own work-
ers and citizens at large. Nader points
out that "GM's huge financing arm, Gen-
eral Motors Acceptance Corporation, ac-
cording to Congressional testimony, en-
gages in deceptive, usurious and exploit-

General Motors has a history of oppos-
ing innovations which would be in the
consume's' interests. GM has resisted de-
signs which would insure the safety of
automobile drivers and limit the amount
of damages incurred in low speed col-
lisons. GM has resisted the development
of mass transit systems which would al-
leviate urban congestion and air pollu-
tion and also the tremendous drain on
the nation's resources which the building
of superhighways demands. GM resisted
the implementation of collapsible steer-
ing columns for fifty years - whose ab-
sence in automobiles until 1967 is esti-
mated to have fatally injured over 200,-
000 Americans
Furthermore, says Nader, "the market
power that is synonymous with GM has
propelled the (automotive) industry to-
ward attenuated competition or collusion
over design and marketing practices."
ASSUMING this institution does not
wish to divest itself of its GM stock,
doesn't the University, w i t h its 28,000
proxies want to voice any opposition to
GM's policies. Apparently not. According
to the administrations investment officer
R. G. Griffith, "normally we vote accord-
ing to the company's policies-we've had
no occasion to depart from the policy in
the past."
At a time when increasing numbers of
people are taking moral stands on politi-
cal issues, it seems odd that the Univer-
sity community finds itself unwilling to
protest GM's activities.
As long as the University continues to
passively assent to GM's policies, it must
share in the guilt t h a t are the conse-
quences of GM's actions.
Nader and a number of other individ-
uals have begun a project known as Cam-
paign GM which is appealing to the near-
ly 1.5 million GM shareholders to u s e
their proxies to reverse the destructive
direction which the' corporation's pres-
ent directors are intent on persuing.
Campaign GM, run by the Project on
Corporate Responsibility, is trying to in-
fluence GM from the top down -- a rel-
atively small group of people hope to
wrest control of the management of the
corporation. They then hope to change
GM's charter to limit the business pur-
poses of the corporation to those activi-
ties which "are not detrimental to the
public health, safety and welfare."
If it is possible to stop the damage GM
does to this country without changing its
fundamental corporate s t r u c t u r e -
whether it is a private or public corpora-
tion - remains to be seen. Perhaps the
very concept of a corporation is no long-

To the Editor:
The following is a copy of a
letter sent to Pres. Robben Flem-
FRIDAY, MARCH 20, is the
date of the University's annual
Honors Convocation.The purpose
of this assembly is to honor
scholastic achievement and suc-
cess. With this purpose lies an as-
sumption that a high grade point
reflects acquisition of knowledge.
The University means well in
honoring such achievement,tal-
though it is somewhat ironic that
in order to recognize classroom
success, it cancels the very classes
in which learning is assumed to
have taken place. We believe that
what the Honors Convocation does
indeed do, however, (besides mak-
ing various parents happy and
proud) is to give recognition to
those students who, by socializa-
tion or natural inclination, are
able to perform well within the
system. Such performance is far
from being synonymous with
greatest knowledge or learning.
Further, even those of us who
find the system of testing, grad-
in, etc., adequate for ourselves,
recognize that such is not the situ-
ation for many others and feel the
University must find other ap-
proaches and greater flexibility.

An area of especially high priority
is that of minority admissions.
We therefore urge the abolition
of the convocation. The purpose
of this request is two-fold:
-To demonstrate that those
who achieve high grade-points do
so secondarily, their purpose being
to learn; and
-To demand a re-ordering of
academic priorities. We believe
that the energy and money (in-
vitations, programs, tea, etc.) used
for the convocation could better
and more meaningfully be used in
a financial aid fund: those who
have benefitted from the system
giving the same opportunity to
The Friday morning when class-
es are cancelled would be an ap-
propriate time for an open forum
on the many problems facing the
University community: recruit-
ment policies, minority admissions,
etc., etc. Serious debate on these
issues is certainly more important
than a self-congratulatory honors
-Ellen P. Aprill '70
-Andrew Hoffman '71
-Jan Maisel '71
March 12

To the Editor:
have wondered why we cannot
have a federal referendum, but.
there seems to be no provision in
the U.S.Constitution for such a
referendum, which everyo'ne no
doubt would like to use to get us
out of the Vietnam mess.
Because Nixon wants us to stay
in Vietnam (he doesn't say that,
but we know it anyway), it seems
necessary to devise a practical way
to secure a Vietnan referendum
privilege; it seems to me that we
ought to use the Michigan Ini-
tiative Petition facet of our State
Constitution to order all of our
Congressmen (and C o n g r e s s
women) to submit a law to our
National Congress for such a ref-
erendum ordering the soldiers to
be brought home immediately;
and in addition, that all of our
Congressmen be ordered to vote in
support of it in the name of the
people of the State of Michigan,
irrespective of their personal feel-
I did write Sen. Phil Hart some
time ago and he seemed unwilling
to delegate such a privilege to
ordinary people.
-Lewis C. Ernst
March 11

- I I

"... Because our bombing runs over North
and South Vietnam were so successful
in containing Communist aggression .


Fasting: An alternative to disruptions?

Daily Guest Writer
rTHE UNIVERSITY has been unable to
handle its problems any better than
society has been able to handle its own.
It has not been, because it has not tried
to handle them any differently. Inside and
outside the University, we converse polit-
ically in threats, slogans, police charges,
bricks and jail sentences.
The University is no more able to han-
dle its problems today than it was two,
three, or four years ago. Indeed, like so-
ciety, it's today less able to than it used
to be. Robben Fleming, who began his
presidency as a mediator, a man of per-
suasion, has become an administrative
soldier, a man of force. Students, w h o
once tried to treat humanely those they
confronted for their rights, have become
almost as cruel, instrumentalist, and wart-
like as the administration they face, with-
out patience, empathy or respect for hu-
man weakness.
I have written against this degeneration
several times, I've had people compliment
me on my articleshand letters, say they
agreed with what I said, and then go off
to dn the ou Af ite of what they agreed

pany to help pass the time, especially the
long evening hours.
I will be carrying a sleeping bag because
I w a n t to sleep in the Administration
Building at night (and because I want a
soft place to sit during the day). I do not
intend civil disobedience, and I will not be
violating any SGC rule, since I won't be in
anybody's way. I won't be guilty of tress-
pass unless some administrator orders me
to leave. If I am asked or ordered to leave
the building at any time, I will respectfully
refuse. But if I am carried from the build-
ing, I won't resist and won't go farther
than I am carried. Then, as soon as I can,
I will return to my place inside the build-
If arrested, I won't resist, won't coop-
erate, and will continue the fast in jail. I
ask that, if I am arrested, no one, student
or faculty, bail me out. If I am sent to jail
by order of an administrator then I will
stay in jail until the jailers get tired of me
or until the administrator who ordered my
arrest regrets it.
I WILL BE FASTING to win approval,
without substantial change, of the student-
faculty-proposed Chapter Seven of the Re-
gental Bylaws. I've chosen this issue for

Third, the issue is important for the
University. The battle for the substance of
Chapter Seven has gone on nearly a de-
cade. Students and administrators are los-
ing their composure. Since students can
not be expected to renounce their rights
as human beings, either the administra-
tion will adopt Chapter Seven or confron-
tation will get rougher and more frequent.
Violence here would be good for nobody,
but it would be especially bad for the Uni-
versity, shattering what remains of' our
sense of community.
Fourth, it doesn't seem likely the Re-
gents 'will pass Chapter Seven as pro-
posed, unless students intervene in the de-
cision making in some way. The amend-
ments the Regents have so far proposed
to Chapter Seven indicate little under-
standing of the University, or show a con-
servatism so unreflective that no amount
of mere talk could shake it.
Fifth, the intervention students are like-
ly to engage in now - a mass confronta-
tion in which ,each side treats the other
as a sworn enemy - is exactly the sort of
political activity I want to find an altern-
ative to. The Regents need help, not a
shower of stones,

-Fasting can be done individually; and


-Fasting has symbolism that is appro-
priate to the issue. I'll fast because my
rights as a human being are at least as
important to me as food.
I AM NOT undertaking this fast lightly
(though, in spite of being five-foot-ten, I
only weigh a hundred-thirty-five pounds).
I have thought about it over a month, tried
shorter fasts, and know this fast is going
to be hard. I do not expect to. be comfor-
table sitting and sleeping on brick, cov-
ered by a sleeping bag.
But I do undertake the f a s t without
complaint. It is an experiment to s e e
whether there are alternatives to violence.
If the Regents do not respond as I hope,
I will have learned something, though not
what I wanted to. If the Regents do re-
spond as I hope, I will have learned what
I wanted to and will have made the Uni-
versity a better place at the same time.
Either way, I will have tried to live outmy
beliefs in practice and be more certain of
myself for having tried.
I hope others will join me in one way
or another. We are all looking for a way
out-of an absurdity and persuasive actions

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