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January 17, 1982 - Image 4

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The Michigan Daily, 1982-01-17

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OPINION

Page 4
Edie mdtdegan Bai1
Edited and managed by students at The University of Michigan

Sunday, January 17, 1982

The Mchigon Doily

4

420 Maynard St.
Ann Arbor, MI 48109

Vol. XCII, No. 88

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

Wasserman
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Gay discrimination

at an MSU
VEN IN TIMES as supposedly
enlightened as ours and at a
place as supposedly enlightened as a
university, homosexuality remains an
awkward subject for many people. In
many respects it seems to be the last
vestige of a moral consciousness that
all but disappeared years ago. It's a
vestige, however, that is still capable
of evoking bigotry,, hatred, and
hypocrisy.
In a way, therefore, it was not sur-
prising that a fraternity at Michigan
State University last week suspended
one of its members after it became
known that he was a homosexual.
The fraternity-Delta Sigma
Phi-won't actually say that the man
was suspended because he is gay; they
have only a vague statement saying he
was suspended because "his lifestyle
was incompatable with the members
of the house and he was getting exten-
sively involved with an organization
whose goals and methods we don't
agree with." The organization to which
the fraternity statement referred is the
MSU Lesbian-Gay Council.
But despite the r fraternity's
statement, it appears clear that the
member has indeed been suspended
because of his sexual orientation, and
that the case the member has filed
with MSU's Anti-Discrimination
Judicial Board has some validity.
The fraternity's house is owned by
MSU, and should, therefore, fall under
the university's jurisdiction. MSU's
anti-discrimination policy states that
a person cannot be discriminated
against or harassed on the basis of
sexual preference. It also states that

fraternity
an individual's access to housing may
not be restricted. From a strictly legal
point of view, the member should be
reinstated in his fraternity. If the
fraternity refuses to readmit him,
MSU officials should immediately take
action against the fraternity.
But beyond the dictates of the anti-
discrimination policy, MSU should
seriously consider throwing the frater-
nity off the MSU campus on strictly
moral grounds.
A university should not propagate
any form of discrimination. Univer-
sities were created to inform students
of all sides of an issue, not to nurse the
bigotry of a nation's youth. A college
experience should broaden one's
horizons, not cloister a student within
the narrowminded precepts of
ignorance. The attitude that
homosexuality is incompatible with
the full development of a person's
potential is inbred ignorance.
Homosexuality is merely a sexual
preference, not a human abnormality.
A university should not be a party to
such closed-mindedness by continuing'
to allow the group to use its property.
But the situation in East Lansing
is not without its irony. We understand
that Delta Sigma Phi fraternity has a
list of seven principles which they hold
as ideals. Goal number seven states
that a Delta Sigma Phi member should
strive for a spirit of brotherhood with
his fellow man. The irony involved in
this statement and the fraternity's ac-
tion at MSU are ridiculous; a person is
no less a human being because of his
sexual preference.

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Refined destruction

N A WORLD already plagued with
the possibility of nuclear holocaust,
it comes as an unwelcome shock that
the Reagan administration wants to
supplement the U.S. arsenal with a
nerve gas with horrifying potential.
Reagan is currently considering an
administration proposal to begin
production of an experimental nerve
gas, an untested chemica4 weapon. The
gas is composed of two chemicals that
form a lethal mixture when triggered.
The potent substance can kill within
minutes by- paralyzing the body's
muscles.
Plans to introduce this terrifying
weapon subvert a traditional
American repugnance toward
chemical warfare, first demonstrated
when the United States signed an in-,
ternational treaty in 1925 banning its
use. Since 1969, the United States has
furthered the spirit of this treaty by
banning production of any chemical or
biological weapons.
Some Pentagon officials advocate
resuming production of such weapons
to counter a recent Soviet chemical
weapons buildup. But arguments of the
weapons' necessity are feeble at best.

The United States already shelters a
stockpile of 150,000 tons of chemical
weapons, enough to wage a constant
chemical war for three months that
would annihilate the population of the
Soviet Union. And clearly the United
States already wields enough destruc-
tive potential with its nuclear
capabilities to make the introduction of
any other type of weapon dangerously
superfluous.
The production of nerve gas should
not be halted merely on the basis of its
impracticality, but rather because of
its inevitably inhumane consequences.
The binary nerve gas is designed to
spread easily, and to penetrate even
sophisticated shelters. Its effect on
civilian populations would be as
widespread and devastating as a
nuclear attack.
The United States is already bur-
dened with a shamefully long list of
destructive methods at its disposal.
The current administration should
devote its future toward devising new
ways to preserve and improve life, and
neglect further efforts to refine its
destructive potential.

AMSTERDAM, NETHERLAN-
DS-Much of the activism now
sweeping Europe, bringing hun-
dreds of thousands out to demon-
strate against everything from
nuclear weapons to airport ex-
tensions, grows out of a
phenomenon that would seem to
have little to do with such
causes-the squatter com-
munities that have spread
through many cities in recent
years.
Because of the desperate shor-
tage of affordable housing, many
thousands of people, most of
them young, have moved
illegally into vacant buildings,
especially in the Netherlands,
Denmark and West Germany.,
MOST WERE strangers when
they came together, sharing only-
the need for a place to live. But by
occupying a common shelter,-
working to make it livable and
fighting to keep it, they and their
supporters evolved into a cultural
and political catalyst for other
forms of activism.
"We are the spring in the Ger-
man autumn," proclaims a ban-
ner fluttering from a bleak old
building in Berlin's Kreuzberg
section. "Survival must not be
enough," reads another. Such
slogans, and the optimistic feel of
the movement, recalls the ac-
tivism of the 1960s. But the
phenomenon also may be a.
preview of what might occur in
U.S. cities later in the 1980s if the
economy continues to contract.
Puerto Ricans already are
squatting in abandoned buildings
in New York; and poor black
families, especially those with
many children, have been doing
it in Philadelphia and Chicago,
with support from community
groups.
BUT IN EUROPE the squatter
movement is far more
widespread, more powerful and
more diverse. Demographics, in
part, explains why.
The surge in the youth
population that occurred in the
United States in the 1960s has
only recently hit most European
countries, because the post-
World War II baby boom oc-
curred later here. Unlike the
youth of the 1960s, however, the
Europeans are becoming adults
in a society of diminished expec-
tations, where choices of work
and living space, as well as social'
welfare programs, are shrinking.
"The wonder economy is
over," remarked an official in the
employment bureau in Hamburg,
Germany, after giving a reporter
the latest statistics on
joblessness. "It will never again
be that good."
"PEOPLE OVER 30 are in the
sun, those under 30 and in
shadow, and for those under 23 it
is beginning to rain," said Teert

Empty rooms
sh elter
Europe 's
new activism
By Rasa Gustaitis

Mak, who writes on youth issues
for the Netherlands' weekly,
Groene Amsterdamer.
As squatters, young people who
are spurred by a lack of alter-
natives have begun to create
some themselves. Their
movement is characterized by
self-reliance within close-knit
cooperative groups and a prac-
tical approach evolved from ex-
perience rather than dogma.
Those same characteristics also
are central to the Solidarity
movement in Poland.
The experience of Erica and
Servaas is typical of how the
squatter dynamic works. For
three years, they lived and fought
to stay in a building that faces the
famous Reijks museum in Am-
sterdam..
AFTER ERICA'.S parents
divorced, it was decided that she
would live with her father in a
separate apartment until her
graduation from high school. But
they could find none to rent in
Amsterdam.
However, there were many
vacant old buildings in the
city-as there are in Berlin,
where squatters occupy about 175
structures. Some were vacated
for redevelopment that never
happened; others were kept em-
pty by speculators who wanted to
replace cheap rentals with more
profitable, expensive units.
To call attention to what they
saw as a waste of living space in
the midst of a severe housing
shortage, Dutch activists
proclaimed a National Squatting
Day on February 24, 1978, when
certain buildings were to be oc-
cupied by demonstrators.
ERCA, then 17, and her father
took part in the move on the han-
dsome old building facing the
museum. It had been designed by
the son of the museum's famous
architect and harmonized with it
in style, but was owned by a man
who wanted to replace it with a

new office-garage structure.
Once inside, Erica and. her
father, along with about 30
others, decided to stay. He left af-
ter she got her diploma, but she.
remained and reenrolled in a
cabinet-making school.
Servaas, a university student in
philosophy, came later. "I really
knew nothing about the squat-
ters; I just needed a place," he
said. "But you find that a lot of
things need doing, and.that is how
you become an active squatter."
THE HOUSE had no water or
electricity and only a few of its
rooms could be heated. "A lot of
people think you live for free
when you squat. But people who
have little money have to spend a
lot to make such a place livable,"
said Erica.
"We were very different
people," observed Servaas.
"Some had more education and
could write technical things;
others could build. We learned
from each other. There was
always someone who could do
what needed to be done."
The more they worked on the
building, the more they felt they
belonged there. But though city
officials assured them they did not
like the owner's plan to demolish
the handsome, historic structure,
they lacked the power to stop it.
WHEN THE owner won a court
order for eviction last December,
the residents barricaded them-
selves inside while supporters put
up barricades on the street. When
police came-a force of 2,000, ex-
pecting trouble-the squatters
gathered inside and watched the
street action on TV. It took police
four hours to reach them.
"When you see you can do
things together-when 2,000
police come to get out 35
people-then you see you have
strength," said Servaas.
"Also, you can trust," added
Erica. "I don't want to leave

these people now."
EVENTUALLY, the city's
housing bureau found a legal
home for Erica and Servaas and
their extended family. They now
rent a former hospital facility,
which they are remodeling into
living and work spaces, including
studios for photography and
graphic arts.
"The new houses are only for
sleeping, eating, watching TV.
But living in a house is more
than that," said Erica. "And a
house is not just the owner's who
has the money to buy it. It also
belongs to the people who live in
it."
The squatters have set up con-
sulting offices and published" a
handbook on how to find a homfe
-and stay in it. As most habitable
old structures already have been
-taken over iti Amsterdam, they
now are squatting in the over-
built, empty, new offices and
condominiums.
MANY WHO started like Erica
and Servaas, just looking for
shelter, have become involved in
other activities, especially in the
peace movement and various
alternative small business and
social service ventures. The
squatter communities have
played the catalyzing role that14
universities did in the 1960s. But
they are outgrowths of down-
to-earth needs rather than
idealism, and they are diverse in
a way the student movement only
aspired to be, bringing together
students, unemployed workers,
punks, immigrants and activists.
Academics and clergy come in as
advisers and advocates.
Among the squatter com-1
munities here and in Germany
are some composed of mental
patients, who get support from
sympathizing psychiatrists;
some of juvenile runaways, who
are protected by youth workers.
Authorities have tried to get
tougher. So have property
owners, who have ripped roofs off
occupied houses and destroyed
plumbing to get squatters out,
despite laws forbidding such
vandalism. In Berlin, police
prevented recent squatting at-
tempts.
But in Amsterdam, at least,
Servaas thinks that "to set out all
the squatters is impossible. Too
many people depend on this to
live. And more and more have
nothing to lose.
"The moment you have nothing
to lose you can do everything,"
said Erica.
Gustaitis wrote this artice
for Pacific News Service.

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