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December 02, 1981 - Image 4

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Publication:
The Michigan Daily, 1981-12-02

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OPINION
Wednesday, December 2, 1981

Page 4

The Michigan Daily

Times change

and apathy increases

By Gary Schmitz
Is apathy really pervasive among today's
students? Or is activism now merely less
obvious than it was in the 1960s? The
following is the first in a two-part series
that looks at apathy from two different
perspectives. The second article will appear
tomorrow.
What's on your mind these days? Are you
worried about the University becoming a
haven for defense research? Maybe you're
concerned with the ever-atrocious housing
situation in Ann Arbor. Or could it be that
you're wondering about the future of financial
aid?
Probably not. More likely you're worried
about next week's test, or maybe looking for-
ward to dime night at Dooley's. And as far as
financial aid goes, hell, it's too early to apply
anyway.
FOR A LOT OF students these days, student
activism means heckling preacher Jed bet-
ween classes. Student takeovers of campus
buildings are something that used to happen, a
piece of history as vague and unreal as a World
War II film clip.
What has become of student activism? Are
students indifferent to university, community,
and national issues? Have we changed so very
much in the past decade?
The answers are not that easy to find;
student apathy is a difficult subject to grasp. It

is a complex issue that demands something
more than the usual "me generation" ex-
planation.
MICHIGAN STUDENT Assembly Vice
President Amy Hartmann said recently, "the
current political and economic situation has
forced students to change their priorities."
She's right. Many parents can no longer foot
the bill for their children's education, and
financial aid is becoming harder to get. Studen-
ts are being forced to carry more and more of
the financial burden themselves. This added
worry, plus the extra demand for students'
time, leaves little room for political activism.
What little free time is left is usually given over
to the rest and relaxation that is necessary in a
high-pressure university environment.
It's possible that this new economic at-
mosphere has helped another major change in
student attitudes. Students are becoming
"more pragmatic" in the classroom. It is
becoming increasingly evident that the way
most students perceive education has changed.
Learning for the sake of learning-at least at
the undergraduate level-is almost unheard
of. Marketability now seems to be the primary
purpose of education. With the current tight job
market, students realize that prospective em-
ployers are becoming increasingly selective.
Things like GPAs and alma mater prestige
have become more important than before, and
increased competition, rather than increased
learning, has resulted.
WITHIN'THIS framework, activism and the
desire for change have become irrelevant.
Anything that looks good on your resume is
fine, but a sit-down strike for something you

0

believe won't help you get a job. And that's the
name of the game these days.
Even the simple act of voting is largely
ignored. In 1974, for example, more than 4400
votes were cast in the student-dominated
second ward. In the 1981 city council elections,
only 1,169 people from the same second ward
bothered to cast ballots.
Part of the reason for this may be that many
students simply no longer consider themselves
part of the Ann Arbor community. Realizing
that they will be here for a relatively short
period of time, students now ignore the Ann
Arbor political scene. Perhaps they are
ignorant of the devastating impact city politics
can have on their lives, especially in terms of
housing and parking. Yet students have opted
for very little say about how the city is run.
EVEN SCARIER is student ignorance of
University issues. In January 1979, the Daily
did a telephone survey of approximately 200
students "selected at random from the student
directory." The survey was compiled when the
University was searching for a permanent suc-
cessor to Robben Fleming.
It brought out some frightening results. Fully.
55 percent of the students polled did not know
who the current University president was.
About 18 percent correctly identified the acting
president as Allen Smith, but 13 percent
thought that Fleming was still in charge. In
fact, only 38 percent were unaware that there
was a presidential search going on.
Why are students so ignorant about. issues
that hit you so close to home? There are several
reasons, including the changing nature of
student responsibility mentioned earlier. But

beyond this there are at least two additional
explanations for the decline in overt student
political activity.
FIRST, THERE seems to be a per-
vading sense of powerlessness on campus.
Students feel so far removed from the decision
making process that even the selection of a new
University president seems to make little dif-
ference in their lives. The decisions that come
from the Administration Building might as well
come from Mount Sinai. As Richard Levick of
PIRGIM correctly points out, our educational
system, especially at the secondary level, does
not encourage students to learn by doing.
Theories are stressed, not their application. Af-
ter years of passive education, it is unrealistic
to expect students to step onto a campus and
take an active role in the political process.
Second, a drastic change in circumstances
explains why students in the late 60's and early
70's were able to overcome this sociological
handicap.
In the early part of the 60s students were
fairly quiet despite the ongoing Vietnam war,
and increasing civil rights unrest. The turning
point came in early 1965 when it became in-
creasingly apparent that student draft defer-
ments were no longer a sure bet; students were
warned that they would lose their deferred
status unless they carried thirty credit hours
per year.
NOT LONG AFTER the Selective Service
System announced that students who did not
meet certain academic qualifications would
lose their deferment. Suddenly the war in Viet-
nam became very real to college students. The
white middle class was finally being touched by

the war, and suddenly everyone gave a damn.
To be sure, most students did not have real
moral concerns, and they questioned the direc-
tion their country was taking. But their initial
motivation was self-preservation. As one
student during the late 60s, commented: "It
was hard not to get involved when one of your
friends was getting his head bashed in by th
Washtenaw County cops."

Today, students see no issues Liat confront
them in such a manner. That's not to say there
aren't important issues on this campus. It's
just that students' lives have not been so direc-
tly challenged. As of now, the white middle
class that dominates this campus feels no
cause for protest.
THIS IS NOT to say that there aren't any
politically active students on this campus.
There is, and the remaining student leaders
emphasize, a core of students who work very
hard for the causes they believe in.
It's just that most of us do not fit into that
category. There seems to be an overall lack of
foresight among students. Even larger cuts in
financial aid programs are on the horizon, yet
few seem to care.
By sheer numbers, students are potentially a
most powerful political group on campus and in
the city. But, for one reason or another, they
have given up their political voice. Even with
all these explanations for student apathy, you
still have to ask yourself: Is it excusable?,
Schmitz is an LSA junior.

- T ------pgt[,Y n ---~~i

Edited and managed by students at the University of Michigan

Weasel

By Robert Lence

Vol. XCIlI, No. 68

420 Maynard St.
Ann Arbor, MI 48109

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

HEY WEASEL, WHAT
ARE YOU pOIN& TONIC44T?
IVE GIST AN EXTRA TICKET
TO THAT LEGTOn OBIOMPU5
6Y DR. DWAYW DRYER !
woo?
i 1

Students and LSA-SG

--...mwm.r

R. WWAYNE DRYER .
You KNOW, WE WRaTE
SELF- HELP Soo,
%ME FI RST.
3)."
1<Q

THI-S SOcUNDS I,4rMESTIN6.
OKAI =LL,

FINE. I:'LL SELL
You MY b-KT gA
iT! KTFo R.TEN4
BUT IT ONLY
COST You FIVE l
~ZREAP THE)
BOOK

THE LSA STUDENT Government
elections were a SAID victory
indeed. The Students for Academic and
Institutional Development party cap-
tured 10 of the 15 seats in the contest,
and SAID presidential and vice
presidential candidates Margaret
Talmers and Will Hathaway were suc-
cessful in their quests for their respec-
tive positions. But now it is time for
Talmers, Hathaway, and the rest of the
new LSA-SG to build a working policy
out of an optimistic campaign plat-
form.
One of the most significant issues in
this year's campaign, justifiably, was
student involvement in budget-making
decisions. Only if students have
significant input in these decisions will
administrators grasp what the student
body needs.
But if LSA-SG under Talmers is
going to be successful in this area, it
must first convince students of the
salience of the budget-cutting
decisions and the need for all students'
involvement. The paltry turnout in last
week's elections-fewer than 1600
students voted-displayed in part that

LSA students have recognized the
relative impotence of the current
student government. True, last year
LSA-SG did manage to let the ad-
ministration know they were upset
with some of its budget-cutting
decisions, but as far as most students
are concerned, the college's student
government has relatively little clout.
LSA-SG is caught in a Catch-22 of
sorts. It will not be effective until it has
the support of the student body, but
students won't accept it as being effec-
tive until it influences the ad-
ministration. Yet LSA student leaders
have maintained they have been effec-
tive in the past. If this is the case, then
they should let students know about
their alleged achievements-not just
pat themselves on the back. Then they,
could garner the precious student sup-
port a student government needs.
Until it has the support from the
college's student body, LSA-SG will
continue to stumble in oblivion. If
Talmers and Hathaway plan to direct
an effective council, they must first
make every effort to enlighten LSA
students.

1 7 1

.ii.imma

LETTERS TO THE DAILY:
Military research articles superficial

To the Daily:
It's always disappointing when
an old friend fails to live up to
your expectations.
Maybe that explains why I was
so disillusioned by the Daily's
recent articles on military
research at the University.
When I heard that the Daily
was going to address this impor-
tant issue I had high hopes;
knowing that the Daily has a long
history of fine investigative jour-
nalism, I was confident that you
would bring forth information
valuable to all in the University
community.
But when I read Barry Witt's
series and John Adam's column, I
saw instead examples of super-
ficial and lazy reporting. This
issue-and the Daily's
readers-deserve better.
Let's look at Barry Witt's
series, the more important of the
the efforts. The obvious question
facing Witt or any other reporter
accepting this assignment is:
What kind of research does the
University do for the Pentagon,
and is it in line with the Regent's
guidelines? Witt drew his answer
to this question entirely from his
brief conversations with the
researchers themselves, who all,
to a man, stated authoritatively
that they were not making bombs
or missiles. Do these answers
surprise us? No. Are they an
adequate investigation of the
question? Obviously not. Yet Witt
pursued the question no further.
Finding out how the scientists
involved described their work is
interesting, but it is only the first
step in uncovering the facts about
militarv research. Realizing that

each project-a description far,
more likely to illuminate the
military applications of basic
research. He could have
reviewed the trade journals, such
as Aviation Week & Space
Technology, Defense &
Recognition, and Army Research
& Development.
From these and other sources
Witt could have assembled the
bits and pieces of information
necessary to present an accurate
picture of DOD-funded research
at the University.
Had Witt made it this far, he
could have then turned his repor-
ter's searchlight in new and even
more interesting directions. For
example, there are a half-dozen
classified research projects at
the University, most of them fun-
ded by the Department of
Energy. It happens that the DOE
funds nearly all basic research on
nuclear weaponry done in this
country. And it happens that
many aspects of nuclear energy
research feed directly into
production of nuclear weapons
(i.e., the Laser Isotope
Separation process recently
developed at the Livermore
laboratory of the University of
California). Witt might have un-
covered much interesting
material in this area, had he ad-
dressed his task seriously.
The issue of classified research
holds other promising avenues of
inquiry. What is the Classified
Research Review Committee?
Who is on it & what does it do?
What is its history? Why is
classified research reviewed
when non-classified DOD resear-
ch is not? Should all DOD resear-

University and the high
tech/military spinoff cor-
porations operating in this area
would demand great
clarification. The role of military
research in President Shapiro's
vision for the University would
have to be addressed as fully as
possible. And, to provide a con-
text for this discussion, an under-
standing of the U.S. military and
the meaning of modern war
would be absolutely essential.
Assembling this information is
not beyond your capabilities as
Daily editors and reporters, it
simply demands that you go
beyond superficialities.
Had Barry Witt gone beyond
the superficial in this series, he
would have done the University
community a valuable service.

As it is, we know little more about
military research on campus now
than we did two weeks ago. Until
someone does an investigation
of this order, conclusions such as
those drawn by John Adam are
entirely premature and un-
warranted.
There are many people in Ann
Arbor who care deeply about this
issue, and some of them are
working hard to learn the facts
about military research here. I
hope that the Daily continues to
interest itself on this issue and,
from now on, takes its respon-
sibilities more seriously. I look
forward to seeing a deeper, more
serious investigation of this issue
in the months ahead.
-Bret Eynon
November 30

a

Daily quicksand

To the Daily:
Seeking to correct an error in
the Daily is like pulling oneself
out of quicksand.
Prof. Saul Hymans, Director of
the Research Seminar on Quan-
titative Economics, did not say
... our forecast [for the year
1974] was useless despite the
error," as the Daily has him
saying (Nov. 25). The attentive
reader will see that the point of
that entire paragraph of Prof.
Hyman's letter is that, despite an
error of several percentage poin-
ts that year, the forecast
provided very helpful infor-

mation and was, therefore, very
useful.
The letter in which this con-
fusion was introduced had been
written, of course, to correct an
earlier confusion-the egregious
error of mistaking 19 billion
dollars for 19 percent of the gross
national product. (Daily, Nov.
22).
The Daily's first "gregarious"
errors were thus compounded by
further errors which might
reasonably be called downright
misanthropic.
-Carl Cohen
November 26

Letters

to the Daily

should be

:e':+at >,: , >'}'' . b .. ,~i. yi ; ,y + ":'7 T t -Y :>t! . . . a

.

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