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May 11, 1971 - Image 4

Resource type:
Michigan Daily, 1971-05-11

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420 Maynard Street, Ann Arbor, Mich.
Edited and managed by students at the
University of Michigan
Editorials printed in The Michigan Doily express the individual
opinions of the author. This must be noted in aol reprints.
Tuesday, May 11, 1971 News Phone: 764-0552
An instructive lesson
WHEN STUDENTS at a local junior high school were de-
nied permission to hold an anti-war program in their
auditorium last week, organizers of the assembly claimed
it was a violation of their First Amendment rights. While
this point is debatable, the circumstances surrounding
this arbitrary administrative decision suggest improprie-
ties whose basis is less subject to question.
The school, Scarlett Junior High School, has a chap-
ter of the Student Mobilization Committee which has reg-
ular status as a student group, including a faculty advisor,
Gail Reed. R e e d says SMC received permission to have
the program several weeks ago and that there was never
any question about the program's approval until last Wed-
nesday, when principal Joseph Vachon denied the group's
Vachon claimes the request was invalid because it
was never "formally" submitted to him in writing. Yet in
recent memory, written requests for assemblies have nev-
er been required. In addition, Vachon cites school regula-
tions requiring parental permission for any students to
attend an assembly and the need for submitting cost esti-
mates. However, all evidence indicates Vachon made no
attempt to inform Reed or her group of these rules or the
degree to which they would be applied. While admitting
that the group would have had to send flyers to every
student's home for written parental approval, Vachon
made no move toward assuring materials or equipment
would be provided for this operation.
As'if to make these bureaucratic hurdles more formi-
dable, Vachon remained silent and pleasantly aloof until
it was too late for SMC to comply with the regulations.
Vachon knew whatever costs incurred for the program
were going to be met by a student bake sale - the school
system's secondary council (of which Vachon is a mem-
ber) had approved the bake sale weeks before with the
understanding that SMC was likely to use this money for
paying program costs. Yet Vachon did not issue his order
denying permission for the assembly until last Wednes-
day, two days before the program.
PERHAPS VACHON'S machinations become more under-
standable in light of the beliefs of the program's main
speaker, Peter Camejo. Camejo is a prominent socialist
and anti-war activist who was in town for a campus con-
ference. As it became more clear Camejo would be able to
come and speak - including planned talks at a t h e r
schools - school administrators became more nervous.
Pioneer High School principal Theodore Rokicki received
a newspaper clipping from an obscure eastern newspaper
which attacked Camejo. He forwarded it on to Vachon.
Then, Vachon says, "my suspicions were certainly
aroused." Aroused so much he sent copies of the article to
other faculty and was used in his announcement of his de-
nial to SMC members. And, although he said the decision
to bar Camejo was his alone and affected only his school,
the note he sent to Reed said the ban was effective "sys-
If the decision to b a n the assembly was Vachon's
alone, how could the ban be effective (as his note states)
And, if Vachon's denial was based only on the lack of
"adequate" information in his students' request, how is
it that Vachon's note to Reed announcing his decision at-
tributed the denial to new "information" that reached his
One can only deduce that, despite Vachon's denials,
his decision to prohibit the assembly was a political one -
one which was implemented effectively but one which
nevertheless underscores a basic lack of honesty and de-
mocracy in school decision-making.
FOR THE YOUNG students denied the right to h e a r
those they wish, last week's decision should be one of
the more instructive lessons at Scarlett.-

Suimner Editorial Staff
Co-Editor Co-Editor
ROBERT CONROw ..... . ................... ............. Books Editor
JIltSJUDI~S .............. .... ....... ... ...Photograpihy Editor
NIGHT EDITORS. Roan Sue Berstein, Mark Dillen, Jonathan Miller, Robert
Schreiner, Geri Sprung
ASSISTANT NIGRT ECITORS: Juanita Anderson, Anita Crone, Jim Irwin,
Alan Leohoff, Curia Parks
Summer Sports Staff
RICK CORNFELD... ................ ........Sports Editor
SANDI GENIS........................... Associate Sports Editor
Summer Business Staff
JIM STOREY... . ......... Buiness Manager
JANET ENOL.......................... ........ Diaplay Advertiasang
FRAN HYMAN ... .......... .................... . . .. Classified Advertising
BECKY VAB TDYKE............................. Circuitaion Department
BILL ABBOTT.............................. ..OGenerai Office Asitant

Railpax: Knight or dragon?

WHILE MOST OF THE city slept, the Norfolk
& Western's Wabash Cannonball pulled out of
Union Station in Detroit at 6:15 a.m. to begin her
last run to St. Louis. Only about 100 were present
for that final boarding, a mixture of nostalgic old
men, kids who had never before ridden a train, sea-
soned railroad buffs, employes, and a few news-
men. The formerly luxurious Cannonball, which had
weathered many battles to remove her in the past,
left the station with only two coaches, one dinette
car, and an engine. She was beaten at last.
THE WABASH CANNONBALL, along with about
S20 other of the nation's passenger trains, was re-
moved from- the tracks on May 1 as Norfolk and
Western became a member of the newly formed
government National Rail Passenger Corporation,
otherwise known variously as Railpax and Amtrak.
As a result of the changeover which occurred in
most American railroad companies, about half of
the country's inter-city rail passenger service is gone;
with six states now totally without passenger service.
Many major urban areas have been similarly de-
prived. Fifteen cities in the lower peninsula of
Michigan now have no passenger service, with only
one inter-city route remaining open, a Detroit-
Chicago run, which includes stops in Kalamazoo,
Battle Creek, Jackson, and Ann Arbor.
All of these changes have come about as a result
of the government's efforts to create the nation's
first unified coast-to-coast system of passenger serv-
ice. Railpax, created by Congress last year, has
established the policy that the government will save
railroad passenger service even if it means running
it themselves. To this end, it intends to eliminate
the financial losses of privately owned railroads on
inter-city passenger lines, and concentrate rail serv-
ice on large urban areas.

presumably promoting national advertising and new
innovations in railroading, inter-city passenger serv-
ice is currently reduced by one-half and there are
no promises being made as to the interval which
the public will have to wait for the return of "re-
tired" runs. Six states and many major urban areas,
most notably Cleveland, are left with no inter-city
passenger service whatsoever.
Ostensibly, this will give Railpax the time and
financial resources to better publicize their facili-
ties and attract many who would otherwise resort
to other modes of transportation. Actually, how-
ever, this will probably discourage rather than en-
courage people to travel by rail. With few routes
offered, poor connections, and the possibility of over-
night stopovers in small rural hamlets, it is doubt-
ful that the best advertising scheme could persuade
the American public to take the train.
In order to compete successfully with the car and
the airplane, trains must offer cheap, punctual
routes that lead to places where people want to.go.
As it is, rail travel is the most expensive type for
long-distance travel. While Railpax has definitely
committed itself to providing speedy service, no
promises have yet been made as to the quality of
that service, nor has any mention been made of the
role of the passenger in routing of trains under the
auspices of the corporation.
The current route system designed by Railpax will
definitely be inconvenient for long-distance r a i1
travel, with few provisions for effectively changing
that condition. "You can't get there from here," will
be a cliche frequently mouthed by, ticket takers
around the country if, indeed, the public is even
ambitious enough to ask.
The formation of Railpax and the implementation
of its plans have not gone unquestioned, to say the
least. Many people, especially those railroad em-
ployes displaced by recent changes, claim that the


The procedure planned for achieving these goals
was a relatively simple one. The government-ap-
pointed Railpax board decided which inter-city pas-
senger lines had to be retained. Railroad companies
which then joined Railpax were permitted to dis-
continue all rail passenger service except that deem-
ed essential by the Board. Losses sustained by
companies on these lines are to be absorbed by
Railpax: ICC approval is no longer necessary for
the discontinuance of passenger service of member
companies, while all companies which are not mem-
bers are required by ICC regulations to maintain
their passenger service in its present status until
1975. Because the dues for joining Railpax are
considerably less in most cases than the projected
financial losses of continued passenger service, most
of the nation's railroad companies have joined and
passenger service has been cut to approximately
that prescribed by the Railpax board.
It is still possible for passenger service not
prescribed in Railpax's projected routing system to
be added or maintained by railroad companies. But
on these lines, Railpax will absorb only one third
of the loss. Service will be supplied if a state, region,
local agency, or city will agree to absorb two thirds
of the deficit incurred by it.
"It lays the foundation for what in my opinion
is destined to become the all-time comeback in the
history of American transportation," says David
Kendall, chairman of Railpax board and former
Chrysler executive. Kendall is hoping that Railpax
can deliver better service on what remains of the
railway passenger system, attract more passengers,
and thus make rail travel a more popular and
lucrative mode of transportation.
ALTHOUGH RAILPAX appears at first to
be a chivalrous knint in shining armor
for the languishing. railroad companies of
the United States, it's possible that it may
be just another dragon in disguise. While Railpax is

railroad companies are not really losing money on
passenger service as they have frequently claimed,
but are instead figuring their losses so it will appear
that way. This way, they would be free to turn to
freight, a more lucrative pursuit.
Others, while admitting the need to salvage the
country's passenger service, object to Railpax on
other grounds. Railpax succeeded, they say, in draw-
ing members not through any promises of restoring
the American rail system to greatness but through
offering a successful method for members to escape
the jurisdiction of the ICC and thus cut their fin- ~
ancial losses. Now neither Railpax's fares nor its
service is subject to the ICC or to any other agency.
The Secretary of Transportation instead has the
ultimate authority to specify routes and service. He
mayoverrule the Railpax board, and his decision is
not subject to change by Congress or review by
More serious accusations have been levelled against
Railpax for a variety of reasons, the most note-
worthy of those by Senator Mike Mansfield (D-
Mont.). He called Railpax an "outrage," adding "I
think Railpax is going to increase unemployment, de-
crease revenue for local governments in such states
as my own, and add to the gravity of the (economic)
situation." Mr. Mansfield's state of Montana is now
one of six states in the nation with no passenger
IT IS obvious that the rail passenger service in this
country has been severely jeopardized by a great
many factors since the days of its prime. Railpax
is to be lauded for its intentions to save this facet
of railroading, but not for the methods of salvation
offered thus far.
It appears that Railpax has created for itself
problems as great as those which it ariginally con-
fronted. Whether it will be able to surmount them
remains to be seen.

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