from page I
ts. Often times it doesn't seem that
you're listening a whole lot."
That was a year and a half ago. When
Talmers recalls the incident now, she
still shakes her head. What was the
Regents' reaction to her speech?
"Nothing. They just sat there. I meanj
that was the whole point of my!
statement: 'We say all these things and
you just sit there.' "
Talmers was vice president of thej
LSA Student Government back then.
She stayed for another year fighting the
same battles as president before
retiring to return to the life of a normal
student, replacing meetings with ad-
ministrators with midterms and trips to
After almost three years in student
government-of pressing to get studen-
ts onto administration committees, of!
pushing mostly apathetic students to
take an interest in their own univer-
sity-she is battle-weary and more than
a little disillusioned.
"I'm very cynical about the ad-
ministration," she said earlier this
week.-"And I'm very upset about the
way they deal with students because I
don't think they're very straight with
Dealing with the "average student"
wasn't a whole lot easier for Talmers.
"Students are so concerned about what
they're going to be doing (after
graduation) that they're afraid to make
moves unless they feel it's really, really
important, that it's really going to
make a direct impact on their lives.!
And it takes a great deal of work to
motivate people like that," she said. "I
was really frustrated with what you had
to do to motivate students, the ways you
had to pressure them to get them to do
In many ways, Talmers is typical of
the men and women who throw them-
selves into student government, who
put in 40 or 50-hour work weeks, who
practically live in the tiny offices in the
Michigan Union. After a couple or more
years of struggling to hang on to a slight
foothold in University decision-
making-and often of watching their
grades and social likfe crumble while
doing it-many student leaders say
they're not quite sure what they ac-
Being the leader of student gover-
nment has its perqs-perqs which are
often responsible for drawing students
into student government in the first
place. They get their name in the paper,
their- professors notice them in class,
they regularly get to chat with the ad-
ministrators who decide the future of
the University, and they get offices and
sometimes even a secretary. It's oc-
casionally glamourous. It looks great
on a resume. And they can make the
connections that later can get them into
a good law school or even into politics.
Leaders from the past few years have
a good placement'record. Some are in
law schools at Duke. Harvard, or Yale.
One is a congressional aide, and one just
finished managing a state senate cam-
paign in Massachusetts (although an
But despite the benefits, the job can
also become tremendously frustrating
for those who actually want to get
something done. In trying to earn
students a voice in the University
decisions that shape their educations,
student government officers say they
run up against the resistance of ad-
ministrators and faculty members on
one front and against the apathy of
fellow students on the other.
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Marc Breakstone: Fighting the administration, 1980
Progress is slow. On some key issues,
like getting students a seat on certain
administration committees, it may
take the work of five or six government
administrators before there are any
tangible results. That means a large
number of students can enter student
government as freshmen or
sophomores, put in two or three years
work at winning that seat and graduate
before ever seeing the first student ap-
"At a university it takes a long time
to get something done," said Matthew
Neumeier, who worked closely with
student government here two years
ago. "Like this Alumni Center they
built-it took them 15 years to decide to
get around to doing it and completing it,
which is about typical University pace.
And of course the student wants to do it
today. He doesn't want to wait 15 years
down the road."
Often frustrating to student represen-
tatives is the reluctance of ad-
ministrators to offer a genuine role for
students in important campus decision-
making. Although student leaders
almost always have access to top ad-
former MSA President Eric Arnson.
"But I think the other part of the
question is were they receptive to
change? Probably not very much. And
the reason is these administrators have
been around and they've seen five, six,
or ten years of student governments
come and go."j
Neumeir, who is now at Harvard Law
School, agrees : "For one thing, ad-
ministrators are career people. They
can outlast you. All they have to do is
wait four years and you're gone. For
some of the changes that we advocated,
they knew that if they could keep us on
the side long enough, they wouldn't
have to worry about things."
And that turnover of students is one of
the biggest handicaps to student
leaders who want to influence Univer-
"It takes almost your whole first
semester to get a feel for it all," said
LSA senior Mark Waters, who served
one year on LSA Student Government
before deciding not to seek reelection.
"So after your first term you see you
don't have any power, so you figure
'Why come back the second term?'''
the hedging of fellow representatives,,
they are sometimes tempted to pull out
their hair over the casual apathy of
many students at large.
"I remember spending several nights
sitting up putting together posters (to
organize students) and running around
to get them run off," said Lindsay, who
is now in graduate school at Yale
University in Connecticut. "I remem-
ber getting up every morning at seven
o'clock to poster the campus and then
going to the meeting the night it was
supposed to be held and having four
people show up - the same four people
who would show up at every meeting."
For anyone who has reason to doubt
it, student indifference to their school
governments is documented in the
miserable turnouts at campus elections
every year. About 10 percent of the
students at the University will vote in a
typical, larger election, like those of
MSA or LSA Student Government. And
that's a big turnout. The smaller school
governments are the ones with the real
In the University's graduate school,
for example, only about 1 percent of the
Rackham student body actually votes
in Rackham Student Government elec-
tions. And because there are usually not
enough candidates running to fill all the
open seats, RSG members commonly
are elected with only one write-in vote.
In 1979, Emma Goldman, the long-dead
American anarchist, was elected with
four write-in votes, which is a virtual
mandate in RSG politics.
In the larger campus governments,
low student interest presents very real
Said Waters of LSA Student Gover-
nment: "I think it tended to handicap
us somewhat because we would go in
there (to talk to administrators) and we
would know that only about 10 percent,
if that, of the students voted in our last
election. So what do we do? Do we go in
and say we want this or that and say we
speak for all the students when we know
we don't really speak for them? That
makes it kind of tough."
Others, however, aren't so sure it
makes that much difference. "Even if
you have student support, I'm not sure
that's really effective," said Dick Braz-
ee, a president of LSA Student Gover-
nment in the late 1970s. "In general,
administrators aren't particularly
swayed by that. After the '60s, most of
them became experts at handling
Ronald Shannon Jackson
8 p.m. and 10:30 p.m. Saturday,
By Jerry Brabenec
ALONG WITH such groups as the
Air Trio and the Art Ensemble of
Chicago, Ronald Shannon Jackson's
Decoding Society performs at the
leading edge of today's innovative jazz,
while hearkening back and incor-
porating the rich diversity of jazz
Nobody else, however, has succeeded
in bringing modern jazz to dancing,
celebrating life the way Jackson has.
Describing this music is difficult. As
Jackson observes, "I guess it would be
easier to map out what styles are not
present in what we do - you'll hear
everything from Hungarian and
classical (Eastern and Wester ) and
polkas to rhythm & blues, jazz, rock,
funk, and hillbilly. At the bottom of it all
is a strong beat."
Jackson's background uniquely suits
him for this dynamic melding of in-
fluences. He was born in Fort Worth,
Texas, birthplace of '50s saxophonist
King Curtis and jazz innovator Ornette
Coleman. Jackson's father maintained
and stocked the area's jukeboxes for a
living, and his mother was a church
Later, in college at Lincoln Univer-
sity in Missouri, he played in the school
band with trumpeter Lester Bowie (of
the Art Ensemble of Chicago), Julius
Hemphill (of the World Saxophone
Quartet), and roomed with John Hicks
(most recently pianist with Betty Car-
Jackson apprenticed in the late '60s
with Stanley Turrentine, Joe Hender-
son, and Charles Mingus, among many
others. After an interval that we might
interpret as going for the money,
playing bar mitzvahs, weddings, and
burlesques, Jackson became a Bud-
dhist and enlisted with Ornette
Coleman's harmolodic Funksters.
Coleman deserves a paragraph in
almost anybody's biography, as the ar-
chetype of the iconoclastic, intellectual,
confrontational jazz outlaw, scorned by
many musicians and mocked by
publicity that would reach near
unanimity in singing his praises 10
years later. Coleman's main tenet is
harmonic and rhythmic freedom; he
saw the complex harmonic structures
developed by Charlie Parker, and later
by John Coltrane, as the starting point
for a polymorphous, freely improvised
music that would incorporate these
concepts but not be limited by them.
Ornette won his initial victories over
the narrow minded through his quartet
with Don Cherry and Charlie Haden;
branched out into Third World folk
music (as well as orchestral music) in
the '60s; and by 1974 decided it was time
to make with the happy feet. Jackson
was the driving force behind these ner-
vous sounding, hyperkinetic ensem-
bles, which spawned a whole school of
harmolodic funksters, including bassist
Jamaaladeen Tacuma and electric
guitarist James Blood Ulmer.
Jackson's approach to this style tends
to stay closer to a traditional funk base
than Ornette's, although things can get
pretty bewildering at times. Electric
guitar and dual electric basses dart in
and out of the riffing framework of a
tune, tossing in improvised comments
that often merge into a dense mass of
omnidirectional funking. The trumpet
and sax blow fanfares, big band shout
choruses, and marches over the top of
everything, and the overall effect is
rather like standing in the middle of a
seven-ring musical circus.
Jackson has apparently kept together
the same unit that played Ann Arbor
last spring. This would be Melvin Gibbs
and Reverend Bruce Johnson on bass,
Vernon Reid on guitar, Zane Massey on
sax, Henry Scott on trumpet, and
Jackson on percussion. The style of the
band gives everybody a lot of room to
shine, and they do, but I would have to
single out Scott's trumpet from their
Scott has all the imagination of Miles
or Lester Bowie, and the kind of chops
one would associate with the lead
trumpet in a 20-piece big band: this guy
An interesting sidelight on the
Decoding Society's appearance in Ann
Arbor is that the whole thing is being
made possible by a
on the part of the N
for the Arts, the Wi
ter House, the Mi
business teeth at
shows back in the lz
been instrumental i
New Dreams to toi
example of a pr
enrichment that wa
founding of Eclil
of jazz and the deve
people in the relate
production and pron
It just shows tha
comes back to you;
a lot of good Saturd
down to see the Dec(
There will alsc
at the Trotter House
'There's a point when you say 'Why is this
worth it? I'm just ruining my life. I don't
have a job and I'm not doing anything that
begins to resemble academic excellence.'
And you start to wonder why.'
ministrators, students say they still feel
they often go unheard.
"I gained a much better understan-
ding of how concentrated and cen-
tralized decision-making is at the
University," said Marc Breakstone,
who was president of the Michigan
Student Assembly two years ago, "and
of how the University gives the feeling
of participation to students without the
reality of participating in decisions.
The fact is that decisions are made by a
select few, and students are given some
input, but they have no decision-making
power. That's the key distinction."'
"You can have access to ad-
ministrators and you can discuss
things. And I think for the most part
they are receptive to comment," said
Those who do decide to come back the
second term are often the ones who
work their way into leadership
positions. And, once they do, they
sometimes become exasperated with
other student representatives whose
commitment is less.
"I learned very quickly that things
never get done and that people are apt
to say they'd love to help you, that
they're interested in reforming the
tenure process or whatever," recalled
Jim Lindsay, a former vice president of
LSA Student Government. "But when
push comes to shove they all dump you
and say 'I have a paper due and I can't'
or 'I'm going home this weekend.' "
If student government leaders
sometimes throw up their hands over
Decoding Society: Jazzed up
10 Weietni'tii'' 2," t$93/..... .......$,.... v..... . . . . .. . . . . .
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