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September 22, 1981 - Image 4

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The Michigan Daily, 1981-09-22

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OPINION

Page 4

Tuesday, September 22, 1981

The Michigan Daily

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r

Edite a dse an Mi
Edited and managed by students at The University of Michigan

Vol. XCII, No. 11

420 Maynard St.
Ann Arbor, MI 48109

For thi
Hebrew 201. The course description says,
"No previous knowledge of Hebrew is
assumed."
It ought to add: "It is taken for granted."
On a lark, I decided to try Hebrew this
semester. I had never learned it as a
child-my family is not at all religious-and
I figured, what the hell, if there is a God, it
couldn't hurt to speak one of His languages.
Besides, I thought, after seven years of
German and two years of French, how hard
could Hebrew be?
I learned the answer to that naive question

Editorials represent a majority opinion of the Daily's Editorial Board
Safety at the stadium

I

took

T WAS AN unnerving situation.
Throngs of people jammed several
section entrances at Michigan Stadium
as they tried to get to the seats for
which they held tickets-jeopardizing
their safety and well-being in the
process.
Once the game began, some crowds,
still outside the stadium, began to get
somewhat violent as people pushed
and shoved and started "rushing" the
various entrances. Fortunately, no one
was injured, although the potential for
being trampled was certainly evident.
Allan Renfrew, Athretic Department
ticket manager, said one reason for the
problem was the late starting time of
the game. "People, tailgated too long
and came later to the stadium," he
said.
P OLITICS IN Britain took a hopeful
turn last week when the Liberal
Party voted overwhelmingly to form
an alliance with the Social Democrats.
For the Liberals, the pact may mark
an end to nearly 60 years of political
obscurity. But for the Conservative
government of Margaret Thatcher, the
pact may mark the beginning of the
end.
The Thatcher government has very
nearly brought Britain to its knees
economically, and the emergence of
the Social Democrat-Liberal coalition
could prove to be a formidable menace
to the government's continued rule.
Bitter infighting had left the Labor
party opposition severely divided, and
had put the militant leftists in control
of the party machinery. The Social
Democratic Party, in fact, was formed
last March by a group of dissident
Laborites.
Before the Social Democrat-Liberal

Unfortunately, the situation inside
the stadium was not much better. The
aisles were filled with people who
could or would not go to their seats.
Had an emergency arisen in any sec-
tion, it would have been virtually im-
possible to get an emergency crew
through the waves of people.
Whatever the reason, the athletic
department should not allow such a
problem to arise again. The depar-
tment should make every effort to
monitor the flow of people into the
stadium so that there is no need for
crowds to be stuck outside the stadium
when the game begins and so that
people will not be cluttering the aisles.
It's fine to be part of the "largest
audience watching a footballgame in
America," but not when it endangers
people's lives.
~ftward shift
pact was formed, the infighting ap-
peared to have dramatically increased
the difficulty in fighting the Conser-
vatives. With the new alliance,
however, prospects for unseating the
present government seem to have im-
proved considerably.
A public opinion poll last week in-
dicated that more than 40 percent of
Britons questioned expressed support
for the Social Democrat-Liberal
alliance, compared to 31 percent for
Labor and 25 percent for the conser-
vatives.
Although the next elections will not
come until sometime in 1984, the
changes in Britain are encouraging.
They seem to point to the possibility of
replacing the anachronistic That-
cherites with a more progressive
government. The events might even of-
fer a glimmer of hope for American
liberals-who are having their own
problems with an archconservative
administration.

Howard
Witt.

didn't know much about the subject matter.
Last term, for instance, I took Bio
123-Human Sexuality. I passed with a C-
minus.
But this is the first time I've been ab-
solutely, positively the worst student in a
class. And I don't like the feeling.
EVERYONE FALLS three or four weeks
behind in a course now and then. But have you
ever been three or four years behind?
I knew I was in trouble that first day when
the instructor asked everyone for his or her
Hebrew name. "Moshe," said one guy.
"Rivka," said a woman. One large, bearded
fellow in a peasant cap sang out, "Tevye."
(Just kidding.)
Then it was my turn. Hmmm ... Hebrew
name .. Hebrew name.. * Gosh, mom and
dad never told me I had a Hebrew name. No,
wait a minute ... my parents always used to
call me "schlemiel." Maybe that was it. Or
"schmuck." I get called that a lot.
I finally-had to concede that I didn't think I
had a Hebrew name. But I promised to think
of one. The next morning, pulling on my jeans
and pondering my middle name (Louis), I
decided on "Levi."
AND THIS HEBREW alphabet-you'd
think it was based on hieroglyphics. (It is
based on hieroglyphics, I've been told.)
At first, when I heard there were only 22 let-
ters (instead of the usual 26), I thought I was
in for a bargain. Oh 'goody, I said to
myself-an easy A.
Oh ho. Not so fast there, a voice from above
intoned. First you have to learn what the 22
letters look like in print (a mass of confusing
lines and curves and squiggles). Then you

have to learn what the 22 letters look like in
cursive (a second mass of confusing lines and
curves and squiggles that bears absolutely no
resemblance to the first).
Then you learn there are two different ways
to get the "v" sound, two ways to get the "t'"
sound, and three ways to get the "k" sound:
And no rules governing when to use which.
(AT LEAST GERMAN had rules. Lots of,
rules. So did French-but you could talk real
fast and slur the words together so no one
would know if you were following them.)
Then comes the big surprise-sometimes
you use vowels and sometimes you don't. How
do you know if you are reading something
with vowels? If you see a speckling of ran-
domly placed dots and dashes-those are the *
vowels.
To top it all off, everything is written back-
wards. Right to left. No wonder they wouldn't
believe me at Ulrich's when I told them my
Hebrew book was defective.
Talk about being behind-here I am just
trying to learn my alef, bet, gimels (that's
abg's for you uninitiated) while the rest of the
class is drafting bills for the Knesset.
Oy vey. (That, by the way, is Yiddish, not
Hebrew. The two have little in common,
which means my intensive study of The Joys
of Yiddish this past summer was for naught.)
Well, I have to be getting off to the language
lab now, so I bid you "Shalom." Which means
both "hello" and "goodbye."
Great. Just great.
Witt's column appears every Tuesday.

on the first day of class. Everyone was
speaking, like, aforeign language!
OUT OF SOME 16 students there, only
two of us had never had any Hebrew before.
That afternoon, one of us dropped. Express.
That left me somewhere near the bottom of
the class. An astute observer might say last.
Everyone else had gone to Hebrew school as a
kid; they were all bar- or bas mitzvahed.
Most of them have been to Israel. Twice.
They're taking the class "just to brush up."
Or "because Hebrew 202 might be too hard."
Or "because I need a gut."
Now I've taken courses before where I

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By Robert Lence

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Stocking American prisons

"H ERE IS THE ANSWER- WHAT ARE
YOUR QUESTIONS?
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If the proposals of a special advisory com-
mittee to the Reagan administration are ac-
ted on, a simple remedy will be tested on the
problem of crime in America: More people
will go to prison.
Among other things, the Attorney General's
Task Force on Crime has recommended a $2
billion prison federal program to help states
construct prisons, the elimination of parole in'
federal cases, and new limitations on habeas.
corpus petitions from state prisoners.
THE UPSHOT IS not only the likelihood of
more Americans winding up in and remaining
in prison, but also the aggravation of a
problem which already beleaguers prisons
and prisoners alike.
In ever greater numbers, prisoners are
suing their keepers to gain relief from over-
crowded conditions, guard brutality, medical
neglect, racial discrimination, and mail cen-
sorship. Yet, with rare exceptions, their at-
tempts to air their complaints through the
legal process-as opposed to bloody
riots-are doomed to frustration.
Before the Supreme Court's landmark
criminal procedure decisions of the 1960s, the
courts took a "hands off" attitude toward
prisoner complaints. In practice, prisoners
had no rights enforceable in court; the rule of
law did not penetrate prison walls. Ar-
bitrariness, corruption, and occasional
brutality by prison officials simply went
unquestioned.
THE WARREN COURT'S rulings opened
federal courthouse doors to prisoners trying
not only to reverse invalid convictions, but
also to sue state officials over uncon-
stitutionally oppressive conditions.
The result has been a relentless upsurge in
prisoner cases in the federal courts: Civil
rights cases alone grew from 218 in 1966 to
12,397 last year. Prisoner petitions are not the
largest single category of federal civil
litigation.
Some say this volume threatens both ef-
ficient judicial administration and the
possibility of justice in individual cases. In-
deed, it is difficult to identify meritorious
cases in a wordy sea of prisoner-drafted
pleadings.
IN THEORY, nevertheless, even the least
favored persons in our society have access to
the courts to complain of unconstitutional
behavior by state officials.
But increasingly, the theory is not tran-

By William Bennet Turner
IN AN OHIO overcrowding suit, the court
declared that "prisons cannot be free of
discomfort" and decided that it was per-
missible to confine two prisoners in a cell
designed for one. By outlawing double-celing
the court would have condemned conditions in
a majority of state prisons, compelling some
serious reconsideration of the need to incar-
cerate bad check artists, car thieves, drug
possessors, and other non-violent offenders at
tremendous taxpayer expense.
Most recently, the court exempted state
pardon and parole officials from disclosing
any reasons whatsoever for their decisions.
Expanding on a doctrine it had developed in
other cases solely for the purpose of denying
relief to prisoners, the court in this case
denied prisoners any due process protections
unless they are about to lose a liberty or
property interest "rooted in state law."
This new doctrine creates an unfortunate
paradox: The more a state legally limits the
behavior of its officials, the more prisoners
may invoke due process to require fair treat-
ment. But if the state gives wide and
unregulated discretion to the officials, it
completely escapes judicial review.
MOREOVER, EVEN when the validity of
prisoner claims is acknowledged, they often
meet a dead end in the trial courts. Such cases
are generally not heard by judges and juries.
There are seldom trials, with witnesses and
arguments. Instead, prisoner complaints are
screened at the outset by court clerks, and the
overwhelming majority are rejected sum-
marily. A prisoner who believes he is sending
his petition off to a judge for his day in court is
hopelessly naive.
A major problem is that states generally
provide no legal assistance to prisoners.
Those which do not offer legal services
programs find that fewer suits are filed, as
lawyers resolve many prisoner problems

administratively and advise against frivolous
litigation.
Elsewhere, prisoners fend for themselves
as best they can, against the opposition of
resourceful and well-financed state attorney
general's offices. Cases that survive initial
screening languish on the court's docket. The4
prisoners have neither the knowledge nor the
means to move their cases to trial. Having a
lawyer is the key to the courthouse door, for
there is no effective judicial review of.
prisoner complaints without one.
There are other, and doubtless better, ways-
to resolve at least some prison disputes. In-
prison grievance arbitration is a promising-
alternative, provided that outside impartial-,
arbitrators are used. But 'prison systems
resist this idearperhaps because officials fear
the introduction of outsiders might unsettle
existing guard-prisoner power relationships.
Thus, cumbersome and sporadic as it is,
judicial review provides virtually the only
outside scrutiny of what goes on behind the
walls. The prison reform movement of the
early 1970s has now largely disintegrated.
Prisons absorbed early court rulings
upholding prisoner rights simply by
bureaucratizing. Rules and regulations
replaced seat-of-the-pants decision-making,
adding to the depersonalization of imprison-
ment while making little dent on prison
reality.
In the meantime, the new conservatism,
together with fear of crime and criminals,
discourages citizens from taking an interest
in what happens to people after conviction.
The prison remains a closed world, with har-
dly any inquiry into unspeakable crowded
conditions or the broad exercise of power by
state bureaucrats.
Turner, a San Francisco-based attorney '
and former Harvard Law School instruc-
tor, wrote this article for Pacific News
Service.

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