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September 23, 1982 - Image 4

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The Michigan Daily, 1982-09-23

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6

OPINION

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Poge 4

Thursday, September 23, 1982.

The Michigan Daily

S aedfRt bdts gatn v aty
Edited and managed by students at The University of Michigan

Sinclair

.7

Vol. XCIII, No. 13

420 Maynard St.
Ann Arbor, MI 48109

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

Ignore the issue:
It's only your school

TWENTY-ONE people gathered in
Regents room yesterday for their
one big chance to defend the program
at which they work and study, a
program which is up for possible
elimination. But instead of using the
precious little time they were allowed
to fight for the program, many of the
students and faculty members from
the Institute for the Study of Mental
Retardation and Related Disabilities
used the time to attack the review
process.
It is true that there are many
problems with the way that ad-
ministrators go about reviewing a
program for cutbacks. The process, as
ISMRRD's director correctly pointed
out yesterday, is too secretive and does
not allow sufficient opportunities for
public debate. But when ad-
ministrators finally do open up the
process and hold a public hearing, as
they did yesterday, it should not be
wasted.
Like similar hearings before it-for
the geography department and the
physical therapy program-not many
people cared enough to show up for the
chance to speak directly to the men
who will decide the program's future.

And of those who did come yester-
day, many of them spent more time
complaining of how few chances they
had been given to speak, than actually
exploiting the one finally given. The
result was that few, if any, new
arguments were raised for saving the
program.
Many of the criticisms offered about
the review process are legitimate. But
the argument for opening up the
process is weakened when the few op-
portunities offered to participate are
missed or wasted.
Students and faculty members
deserve a greater voice in the
decisions shaping the future of this
university. But they deserve those
chances only if they are willing to sieze
them.
Public hearings on the futures of two
other threatened programs are
scheduled for the next two weeks.
Defenders of those programs-the
School of Natural Resources and the
Institute for Labor and Industrial
Relations-should show up in force and
use the hearings to let administrators
know that they expect a full role in
deciding what happens to their
educations.

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Generation gap remains,
but 'old' still isn't bad

AMERICANS HAVE A distorted
view of the elderly, the director of
a New York center on aging reports.
Today's youth, especially, associate
growing old with loneliness, poor
health, and dependency.
The director's bleak conclusions are,
sadly enough, hardly controversial.
And nowhere are they better
illustrated than right here at the
University. This artificially-created
haven for youth sometimes makes Ann
Arbor seem like one giant ad for the
Pepsi generation. A stroll through the
Diag is enough to fool anyone into
thinking that the best of all worlds -
young, healthy, attractive, energetic
--is right here on campus.
How many senior citizens interrupt
this illusion of eternal youth?
Relatives, perhaps, although the
nuclear family has effectively shuffled
grandparents and great-aunts and -
uncles aside. Or maybe a bag lady on
the street? The most frequent contact
any student is likely to have with the
elderly is in a clessroom - where
professors over 60 are often written off
as stuffy and doddering.
What does such isolation between the
young and old - on campus and
throughout the nation - accomplish?
It merely serves to waste the vast
potential of the elderly and to reinforce

fears the young have of growing old.
How can it be corrected? The Un-
versity suffers more acutely than the
outside world from the Madison
Avenue-inspired glorificaion of youth,
it's true, but it also has the best
solution for such distortion right at
hand - a good, long look at an elderly
person.
To clear up any fears that being old
means being feeble, one need only take
a look at a veteran professor.
Professors, like fine wines, age very
well. The wealth of knowledge they've
had time to accumulate, the sense of
history they are able to impart, can
add up to one of the most rewarding
experiences of undergraduate life.
Their talent and superiority help stop
any worship of youth dead in its tracks.
Any undergraduate who - after
measuring himself up against the
talents of a professor emeritus - can
call himself the better man is either an
extraordinarily gifted person or an ex-
traordinarily pompous fool.
Aging is a process of growing old, but
it also can be so much more. It's a
process of learning, expanding, and
reflecting. It's the getting of wisdom,
too.

By Phil Primack
Passenger trains, presumed
just a year ago to be headed for
the final roundhouse under
proposed cuts by the Reagan ad-
ministration, now are running
solidly back on the mainline.
Despite bad publicity from two
rail disasters in which three
passengers were killed, ridership
this summer reached record
levels in both Canada and the
United States.
At the same time congressional
support for Amtrak has remained
solid as company executives
have lobbied for continued
budgetary support.
PROPOSED cuts in Canadian
train service also havemet fierce
political opposition. "We
proposed to eliminate one train
which carried only 5,000 people a
year," said Emery LeBlanc, a
spokesman for VIA Rail Canada,
"and we got a petition supporting
it signed by over 20,000."
Revivial of passenger train
service has occurred more in
spite of, than because of, official
policy. Amtrak, which inherited
both outdated equipment and
hostility from 22 private
railroads in 1971, still is
recovering from its early
operations when trains ran late
or not at all. Perennially starved
of capital under each of the last
four administrations-President
Carter tried to cut more than 40
percent of Amtrak's routes in
1979-Amtrak has been sustained
largely through its friends in
Congress.
VIA, created in 1977 and also
the inheritor of old equipment
and bad tracks, has similarly suf-
fered from official neglect or
worse. Canadian rail supporters
note that the senior official in
charge of passenger rail service
today is a former lobbyist for the
bus industry, a longtime foe of
passenger trains.
"WE HANDLED our cutbacks
very poorly," concedes LeBlanc,
a strong rail supporter himself.
VIA ridership had increased 41
percent in five years, with no new
equipment and not much
aggressive marketing. "People
wanted trains, and it seemed we
didn't. We have a lot of negative
image to correct."
Even in the United States,
Reagan officials may have lear-
ned not to tamper too much with
passenger rail service. For the

Daily Photo by JACKIE BELL'

Ann Arbor passengers board the Twilight Limited bound for Chicago.

Sometimes
old professor
a youngster's

it just takes a doddering
to knock some sense into
head.

thur Lloyd, a railroad veteran
who heads Amtrak's west coast
communications office, Lewis
had a speaking engagement set in
Albuquerque. Sen. Pete Dominici
(R-N.M.), who had been
receiving heavy constituent mail
opposing Amtrak cuts, persuaded
Lewis to stop at the local train
station to inspect some of Am-
trak's much ballyhooed new
Superliner equipment.
BY COINCIDENCE, Lloyd said,
the Southwest Limited pulled into
the station right on time. And
filled.
"Lewis asked me if we'd set
that up," Lloyd recalled, "but he
picked the time. Like a lot of
other officials overkthe years,
Lewis had been hearing from the
highway lobby that Amtrak was
running a bunch of rattling old
trains for a few foaming rail buf-
fs." Dominici, Lewis, and other
formerly hostile officials may not
love Amtrak now, but they no
longer are anti-train.
In a day when hard sales num-
bers are everything, Amtrak's
statistics do seem impressive.
Nearly 21 million people rode
with the system in 1981, making it
the nation's sixth busiest inter-
city transportation company.
That is a 60 percent increase in
riders since 1971, and Amtrak
projects 48 million riders by 1990.

Amtrak already has made
major layoffs in its own non-
operating personnel; cooked-to-
order dining car meals have
disappeared along with them.
To many of the company's
friends and critics alike, Am-
trak's success is mystifying. The
simplest explanation is that there
are vast numbers of Americans
who just love trains. They like
walking around and chatting, and
feeling unhurried, when riding
them. They like the views which a
train window offers without the
interference of concrete and
exhaust and gas pumps and
check-in metal detectors.
MORE SPECIFIC reasons also
are apparent, however. Amtrak's
biggest ridership jumps came
during the fuel embargos of the
1970s. Significantly, even as gas
prices went down this spring,
Amtrak ridership held. When the
next wave of fuel cost hikes
arrives, possibly as early as next
year, some analysts predict both
Amtrak and VIA will likely face
even more demand.
Capital costs for maintaining
passenger trains also pale com-
pared to current projected repair
bills for the aging interstate
highway system. In 1982, more
than $8 billion was authorized for
federal road and bridge work. In

comparison, Amtrak's budget
request for 1983 was $788 million.
The federal government spends
$1.5 billion just to operate the air
control system, which is only part
of the massive federal subsidy to,
the airline industry. Yet many
train riders are refugees from the
airlines-those who live in non-
competitive route cities where
air fares have skyrocketed undei
deregulation. Some isolated
areas have lost air servie
altogether, making buses and
trains their only public transpor-
tation link.
"Everyonecomplains about
spending public money opi
trains;" LeBlanc said in his Moe
treal office. "But no one thinks of
the airlines or highway subsidies.
You've never seen a bus com-
pany build a highway."
To be on par with what has
been publicly spent for buses and
planes, a government should
build a whole new roadbed just
for passenger trains-something
the Canadians in fact are con-
sidering.
Primack, who recently
completed a coast-to-coast trip
by rail, wrote this article for
Pacific News Service.

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