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October 28, 1980 - Image 4

Resource type:
The Michigan Daily, 1980-10-28

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Page 4 Tuesday, October 28, 1980 The Michigan Daily

Edited and managed by students at The University of Michigan

Vol. XCI, No. 47

420 Maynard St.
Ann Arbor, MI 48109

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

Hey, Canham! Open up!

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T HE MEETINGS are closed-in
fact, even the time and location
are kept secret. The minutes are never
released. Even the agendas are
Some Nixon-era security council?
Almost. These are the meetings of
the Board in Control of Intercollegiate
Athletics-the ruling body of Don
Canham's athletic department.
This afternoon, the board holds its
October meeting-a meeting likely to
be of special interest to the University
The board-composed of faculty
members, alumni, and two studen-
ts-will surely discuss therecent
hazing incident involving the hockey
team. And it will certainly address
the federal investigation of alleged
athletic department sex
discrimination that is now being con-
Athletic Director Canham's reticen-
ce about any controversial athletic
department issue is well known. For
years, he has cloaked the well-oiled,
profit-making athletic department in
virtually complete secrecy.
That secrecy, however, is absolutely
intolerable at a public university. Not
even the Senate Advisory Committee
on University Affairs-the executive
body of the entire faculty-completely
closes all of its meetings. Yet Don
Canham and the Board in Control per-
sist in their audacity.
We urge Canham to open
today's-and any future-board
meeting to the public and the press, for
we believe he stands in violation of.the
state's Open Meetings Act.

Essentially, the Open Meetings Act
requires most meetings of any public
policy-making group to be open. The
spirit of the law is clear-it is intended to
open the decision-making process to
public scrutiny.
The University's attorneys, how-
ever, have claimed that the Board in
Control of Intercollegiate Athletics is
not a policy-making body because it
derives its authority from the Regents,
and therefore is not compelled to open
its meetings.
That claim would certainly appear to
represent a violation of the spirit of the
Open Meetings Act. The board, by the
powers vested in it by the Regents,
controls the finances of the athletic
department. Further, the board is
responsible for making and enforcing
most rules in the department. Finally,
it serves as a check on Don Canham,
questioning him on all facets of
Michigan athletics.
The Regents rarely, if ever, concern
themselves with the board's
operations, leaving its members free
to act as they see fit.
Any way you look at it, those details
add up to a policy-making body.
The University community, distur-
bed at Canham's refusal to levy stern
punishments against the hockey team
and worried about policies he has
adopted that may have placed the
University in violation of Title IX, has
a legitimate interest in the
deliberations of a board that is sup-
posed to oversee the athletic depar-
Open the meeting, Mr. Canham. If
the athletic department has nothing to
hide, you have nothing to fear.


Some mail from prisoners

Dear Editor:
I am a prisoner on death row
at the Arizona State Prison
and I was wondering if you
would do me a favor. I have
been here for quite a while and
I don't have any family or
friends on the outside to write
to so what I was wondering is
if you could put an ad in your
campus newspaper for me for
correspondence. If not in your
paper then maybe you have
some kind of bulletin that you
could put it in. I know that you
are not a pen pal club or
anything like that but I would
really appreciate it if you
could help me.
Since I don't know if you
have an actual newspaper I
will just make a small ad and
then if you have to change it or
anything go ahead and do
what you need too.
Death row prisoner,
caucasion male, age 34,
desires correspondence with
either male or female college
students. Wants to form some
kind of friendly type relation-
ship and more or less just ex-
change past experiences and
ideas. Will answer all letters
and exchange pictures. If in-
terested write to: Jim Jeffers,
Box B-38604, Florence,
Arizona, 85232.
Sincerely yours,
Jim Jeffers.
It's not a joke. Jim Jeffers is sitting in a cell
in Florence, Arizona waiting to die. Somehow,
he found out that there is a student newspaper
in Ann Arbor, Michigan, and like dozens of
other prisoners, wrote a desperate note
pleading for letters.
We get three or four "prisoners letters"
each month at the Daily. Most of them follow
a similar pattern: "White (or black) male

desires exchange with white (or black)
female. Send picture to . . . " We usually
discard them because they're not quite ap-
propriate for the Opinion page and the
classified advertising department does not
run free ads.
FOR THE PAST few weeks, however, I
have been saving the prisoner letters, inten-
ding to write an article about them. Jim Jef-
fers' letter was among those I stashed into a
file folder. And it is different.
I wonder if Jim Jeffers is still alive. Maybe

By Howard Witt

Media and the message

term' in a University political
science class confirmed quantitatively
what America's newspaper readers
and television watchers already
know-that the vast majority of print
and electronic coverage of the
presidential campaign has been given
over to issues like the candidates'
prospects in various states, their cam-
paign styles, and their personalities.
Comparatively little attention is paid
to more important questions, namely,
the candidates' positions on the issues.
The media frequently criticize the

candidates for dodging discussion of
the issues. And indeed, the candidates
have indulged in an inordinate number
of irrelevant barbs and slurs at each
other's expense. But news organs
would do well to look inward as well,
for they are responsible for focusing on
those more sensational, less
meaningful elements of the campaign.
Perhaps the impetus will have to
come from the reading and watching
public to produce campaign coverage
that informs voters rather than merely
entertains them.

they've shot him or gassed him or elec-
trocuted him since he wrote his letter a month
Then again, the media jump all over any
executions, so I probably would have heard
about it if Jeffers had been killed.. I could
write to him tomorrow and he'd probably get
my letter. .
To read Jim Jeffers' neatly typewritten
note is to sense a loneliness struggling to ex-
press itself in a few run-on sentences. "I don't
have any family or friends on the outside," he
writes. That's the closest he comes to directly
baring his soul, but somehow, in between the
single-spaced lines, there is a more complete
picture of an isolated man.
MAYBE I WAS struck by Jim Jeffers' letter
because of his unique choice of pen pals. He
doesn't care if another man writes him-that
sets him off from almost all the other
prisoners who write. They appear to want
only a woman's picture to fantasize about.
And he wants to correspond with college
students. To "more or less just exchange past
experiences and ideas." No other prisoner
letter I've seen expresses any similar,
thoughtful sentiment.
Jim Jeffers-or at least, the Jim Jeffers I
8 picture-is a sincere, desolate man with hun-
dreds of thoughts and feelings churning
within him. A man who, in the isolation of
prison, has no outlet for those thoughts and
emotions. And a man who, knowing each day
may be his last, has no reason to hope for any
I empathize with Jim Jeffers.
YET, JUST before I begin to founder in my
empathy, I wonder why Jim Jeffers was sen-
tenced to die. He almost certainly committed
first-degree murder, for only that crime is
punished by execution. So what about the
"past experiences and ideas" of Jim Jeffers'

victim? I ask myself. Why should I care about
Jim Jeffers when he did not care for his vic-
It is this conflict that makes the prisoner
letters most fascinating-they allow the
criminal to separate himself from his crime,
to be judged in the vacuum space of a few
supplicatory lines.
Consider the University of Michigan
graduate-turned-convict who wrote from
Jackson Prison recently. He reminisced
about the Diag and Burton Tower and Angell
Hall, indicating how lonesome he was for Ann
Arbor. Dropped into the letter almost
casually are a few obscure words about, his
sentence: "I'm serving a life term."
READING THE note, I was overcome with
images of a fellow student rotting in a dank
prison cell, fighting off those who would knife
him in the gut or rape him.
At one time he walked along State Street
with the rest of us.
And then my sympathetic reverie is sdA-g
denly interrupted, just as it was with Jim J-
fers. Why is this man serving a life sentencee'
Another Jackson prisoner, Frank Wdlfe,
wrote to urge voters not to approve ballot
Proposal E, which' if passed next Tuesday
would increase income tax slightly to provide
funds for new prisons.
This somewhat surprising letter-one
would expect a convict to favor new, modern
prisons-breaks the prisoner letter trend not
only because it addresses a political issue but
also because it directly mentions crime, and
in a startlingly graphic manner at that.
WHERE JEFFERS only mentions that he
is on death row and the former University
student only refers to his life term, Wolfe
asks: "Say I raped your young daughter an'd
came here, do you know the only thing you do
to me is take Sex away from me for I live hefre
just as good as 80% of you out there if not bet-
ter we have what ever we can afford to pay
for yea! that's right dope, Booze, so no won-
der the young that come here are saying what
the hell have we to fear from prison any way
and its a shame for they are living on you af-
ter they do a crime so what."^t
Perhaps all of these prisoner letters are in-
teresting to me because of my most horrible,
recurring nightmare. I fear more than
anything being sent to prison, confined to a
cell in a hostile, desensitizing environment.
The prisoners who reach out of their hellish
worlds by writing to a newspaper intrigue me
because they are precisely myself in my
I think I'll write to Jim Jeffers. He is a con-
demned man who needs a friend.


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Howard Witt is the
Daily's Opinion page.
pears every Tuesday.

co-editor of
His column

Tax proposals all bad ideas

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By Edward Pierce
The most common question
being asked of me these days is
what I think of the various tax
proposals. Unfortunately, they
are all fairly complicated but
they can be summarized and I
will attempt to do so in this com-
Proposal A, commonly called
the "Smith/Bullard Proposal," is
a major move because it restruc-
tures the method of financing K-
12 education. At the present time
the basis for that financing lies
with the local property tax.
Proposal A shifts the majority of
the financing to the state.
THE PURPOSE of the plan is
to make the expenditure of
mnno nnn nr nn i ckmnrA

paying because the state will
provide funding at the high level
of per pupil expenditure rather
than at the average level of
current expenditure. The money
will have to come from state tax
dollars and we will probably see a
significant rise in our state in-
come tax as the proposal is im-
have been controlled at the local
level. Though there are
safeguards for continuing local
control, I believe this will be dif-
ficult because most of the dollars
will come from the state, and
those who control the money
usually have the last say. I do
want to stress that I believe in the
equity of the bill in that one's
enaatinn chnu1d not he deter-

Proposal C results in a slight
overall decrease in the amount of
taxes we in Michigan pay but I
think on the whole the changes in
the proposal are not significant
enough to warrant this change in
our tax structure.
FINALLY, we come to the
famous (or infamous) Proposal
D-the Tisch plan. In my opinion,
this proposal, if it passes, will
seriously change the nature of
state government. This is a true
tax-cutting proposal. If the voters
think that there is tremendous
waste in state government, then I
suppose Tisch may make sense,
but all should realize what they
may be doing if they are wrong.
If at present we are running
state and local governments with
reasnahle fficiencv and if the

state will lose 60 percent of its;
discretionary spending power.
Basic state programs like higher.
education, the mental health,
system, the prison system, and:
the Department of Natural;
Resources will bear the brunt of{
the tax cut because they are
primarily financed out of tax
I cannot imagine that there is'
60 percent fat in our state gover-
nment system, but that is what:
Tisch is implying. If the people:
vote for Tisch they need to know:
what the consequences are likely,
to be. The basic arithmetic is
clear. The state of Michigan will!
lose most of the tax dollars it now.
uses to finance its programs. The.
state will have to renege on its
Primary responsibilities.


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