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December 01, 1983 - Image 4

Resource type:
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Publication:
The Michigan Daily, 1983-12-01

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OPINION

Page 4

Thursday, December1, 1983

The Michigan Dail

q

'

-student contract

By Robert D. Honigman
Second of two articles
Courts nowadays say that the
relationship of students to their univer-
sity is contractual. Studies have shown
that students generally come to major
universities with high expectations
which are .often unrealistic. They ex-
pect warm nurturing environments
which are intellectually stimulating,
and instead encounter a cold imper-
sonal environment where the individual
is ignored.
Thus, students enter into a contract
with the university without a full under-
standing of what they are getting.
Moreover, there is no bargaining over
terms. A university offers itself on a
take-it-or-leave-it basis to each student.
THE CONTRACT itself is rather one-
sided, which is to be expected when one
of the parties is a naive inexperienced
17- or 18-year-old, and the other party is
a large scale enterprise staffed with
layers of administrators, distinguished
deans, legal counsel, etc. Contracts
such as these are called contracts of
adhesion, and courts will not enforce
them unless satisfied that they are fair.
The contract between students and
this university has an additional
wrinkle. Since the University is a trust
being operated for the benefit of studen--
ts, the contract is, in effect, one bet-
ween a trust and the trust beneficiary.
In ordinary law, when a trust makes a
contract with its beneficiaries the trust
is obligated to provide independent
counsel and experts for the

beneficiaries. It is not assumed that the
contract is fair, especially where ad-
versarial interests are present. This
element of independent counsel and ex-
pert advise is missing from the univer-
sity-student contract.
There is also a strange duality in the
university-student contractual
relationship.'The University claims to
be serving students, but says that
students are mature adults who must
take upon themselves the responsibility
for their own education. The University
gives them freedom, and this freedom'
is premised upon intellectual and
emotional maturity.
TYPICALLY, STUDENTS who com-
plain of the University's impersonality
are dismissed as immature and
not ready for the adult environment
a university. On the other hand, when
students attempt to play a role in
guiding University policies through
their collective agent, student gover-
nment, they are dismissed as immature
and inexperienced. The University
assumes a parental role in making
these policy decisions for students.
Please understand that we are not
here talking about the daily operations
of the University which indeed must be
left in the hands of experts. We are
talking about policy decisions which in
virtually every sphere of our public life
are made by non-experts. Civilians sit
on water board commissions. A non-
expert president controls the military
- even in times of war. Non-expert
regents supposedly control the Univer-
sity itself.
Thus, at one place in its contract with
students, the University admonishes

students to be adults and take respon-
sibility for their educational lives, while
at another place in the contract, the
University requires them to be depen-
dent on their elders and betters for the
decisions which affect their education.
THE KEY to this duality of approach
is fairly simple. The University is less
concerned with logic than with

legal,.
durance with no pensions of accident
insurance - their individual contracts
with the factory owner obviated the
need for collective bargaining.
Moreover, when workers complained
that factory owners were being
inhuman, the owners responded with a
familiar defense of their humanity:
"We would like to offer you higher

'At one place in its contract with students,
the University admonishes students to be
adults and take responsibility for their
educational lives, while at another place in
the contract, the University requires them
to be dependent on their elders and betters
for the decisions which affect their
education.'

not equitable
(i.e., discover new knowledge) and thus owners.
pursuing their selfish ends they enrich In that case, the contract between the
society. They are brighter and more University and students is really a con-
resourceful than the average person tract between master and servant
and deserve to be rewarded and en- but students and faculty are th
couraged. The weak, the lazy, and the masters and University officials are the
stupid want to wreck everything by servants.
taking the resources needed to form It would be interesting to see what
new capital and spending it on them- would happen if student government
selves. We must reward our elite and suddenly realized that it was the agent
not feel any sympathy for those who of one of the owners of the University
complain about the competitive and it passed a series of resolutions, for
struggle because otherwise we will example, freezing tuition increases,
destroy incentive and free enterprise." vetoing tenure appointments, setting
Thus, the arguments against student guidelines for research, and appointing
collective bargaining are virtually and removing the various adJ
identical to the arguments used against ministrators in charge of student ser-
worker collective bargaining in the 19th vices. The regents would probably
century - freedom of contract and ignore any such resolutions as they
capital formation. This is not a mere have in the past. But then I think
coincidence. The University is a capital students would have the right to hire
forming enterprise in competition counsel at the University's expense and
with others for scarce resources. Thus, go to court to enforce their ownership
all the arguments made on behalf of the rights in the University. A contract dic-
University have a plausibility and grain tated by a stronger to a weaker party,
of truth to them. by a more experienced party to a more
But the University is not a business. naive and inexperienced party will n~t
It is not owned by its managerial elite stand if it is unfair; and a contract di4
- nor is it owned by distant tated to by a trust agent to a trus.
shareholders. It is true that the regents beneficiary must surely fall if there is
hold legal title to the University. But no acceptance.
the law recognizes two kinds of title, But what would be most interesting
legal and equitable. Legal title is the would be to see the courts struggle with
name on the deed, but equitable title the question of who is the master and
has always been awarded those who are who is the servant in the University. It
supposed to enjoy the benefit of the just might be time to change the law of
property. A fair case can be made that university-student relations from one of
both the faculty and students are the contract to one of community.
equitable owners of the University,
with only a residual interest remaining Honigman is a Universit
in the state. The University is thus a graduate and an attorney in Sterlini
community whose members are its Heights.

rationalizing the status quo. Students
are allowed to make individual "route"
decisions which have little effect on in-
stitutional policies, while University of-
ficials retain control of policy decisions.
The University has adopted the same
arguments with regard to students that
19th century capitalists used with
regard to wage earners. Each worker
made his or her best contract with the
factory under a theory of individual
freedom of contract; and although they
received subsistence wages, unsafe and
unsanitary working conditions, and
were worked to the limits of their en-

wages (i.e., lower tuition and less
crowded classes), but we are in com-
petition with others and can't afford to
do this without losing our competitive
position. If workers (students) had the
right to interfere with our policies, they
would prevent us from accumulating
capital (i.e., doing research and hiring
famous name faculty). They would
wreck the whole enterprise and
ultimately be the end losers.''
EVEN THE rampant social Dar-
winism of the 19th century is alive and
well in the University: "'Capitalists
(i.e., research faculty and University
administrators) create new capital

Edited and managed by students at The University of Michigan

Vol. XCIV-No. 70

420 Maynard St.
Ann Arbor, Ml 48109

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

Shakey ADVICE

HE MICHIGAN Student Assembly-
published ADVICE booklet went
through some changes this term, not
all of them for the better.
The booklet, published once a term,
presents student evaluations of LSA
courses and teachers which are offered
in the upcoming term. The evaluations
are obtained from student surveys in
registration lines.
For*the first time in several terms,
however, ADVICE this term published
old student surveys instead of ones
collected the previous term. ADVICE
was forced to use the old answers
because new surveys were not conduc-
ted last April, when students would
have been evaluating their winter term
courses, according to Richard
Layman, ADVICE coordinator.
Although past surveys are relevant,
showing how professors have perfor-
med over time, more recent infor-
mation is at least of equal importance
and was ignored completely in this
issue.
Another problem this term is that the
guide was not available until the
second day of registration. This is not
only makes it impossible for students
registering on those days to use the
book, but it also inconvenienced
students who wanted to determine
their schedules in advance. To be ef-
fective, ADVICE should be distributed
at least a week in advance of the first
CRISP appointments.
The third change in ADVICE's for-
mat will not take effect until the next

issue, although it was announced this
term. Instead of soliciting its own
course evaluations in the future, AD-
VICE will now put its questions on the
course evaluations which professors
hand out in classes each term.
The new method will give ADVICE a
larger and more thoughtful pool of
surveys because more students will
respond to the questions and they will
have more time to fill them out.
But the method has one major
drawback - professors can refuse to
be evaluated by ADVICE. And just
under one-half of them have, according
to Margaret Cole, a research assistant
at the Center for Research on Learning
and Teaching, which conducts the
evaluations.
If the booklet can only offer
evaluations of half the classes it wants
to, the quality of ADVICE will be
seriously hampered. And at the same
time, professors who know they are
poor teachers can simply refuse to be
evaluated. The result could be a
booklet which shows only the good side
on the University's curriculum and
teachers.
Despite its problems, ADVICE has
been a great asset to students. It is one
of MSA's most useful projects. The
booklet does have problems, however,
especially because Layman, its coor-
dinator for the past two years, is
graduating after this term. In the
future, we hope MSA is willing to
provide the funds and personnel
necessary to run this project, and run
it well-as it did in creating the guide.

LaBan
-
GOT 30[iLIW)IG
oil? G o
-r
"qj

4

LETTERS TO THE DAILY:
Student blue over gold tier tickets

i

To the Daily:
Have you ever wanted to work
for a big corporation? Have you
ever thought that you could ad-
just a wrong in this world? Did
you ever just want to change
something? Well let me tell you a
story about trying these things.
I was not fighting for the "im-
portant" things of today like
fewer missiles, fewer nuclear
power plants, or more human
rights. My cause, which is impor-
Cerebrum,
cerebellum
To the Daily:
We "mindless apathetic
students" may have nothing hid-
den in our cerebellums, but the
authors of the Week in Review
item "Brain Ban" (Daily,
November 20) seem to have
poorly functioning cerebrums..
Perhaps if they spent less time
protesting just for the sake of
protesting, and more time ob-
fni" ,e a .-- - in th w .-II

tant, was for better student
seating at basketball games. I
was young, idealistic and with the
right motivation felt that I would
get the good blue seats. However,
I failed.
I helped form a group of
student athletic boosters to help
the athletic department relate.
better to students.
I did as the athletic department
asked. I ushered at football
games risking my neck to keep
students in their right sections,
for some reason. I went to our
meetings to find out what I could
do for the department. I gave my
ideas and gave feedback o
possible athletic functions. I
signed up people at
preregistration and what did I get
for all this: group season tickets
in the gold, 33 rows up, and away
from the student section. Thank
you ticket office.
As my ideals remained high, so
did my efforts. I cleared aisles
and signed up people. I pushed
InW Mu .

Michigan Basketball because it
was a good cause. I wanted
everyone to enjoy our new win-
ning tradition. That was my
problem, everyone decided to en-
joy it.
Through my efforts and the ef-
forts of others, 900 more student
season tickets were sold this year
than last, that means $40,500 ex-
tra in the Athletic department's
pocket. A $40,500 donation would
get an alumni a couple of seats in
the blue, but not me.
Maybe I was young and too
idealistic. Maybe I thought that
being elected as an officer,
secretary, would give me some
power, possibly I'd run some
meetings, have some social fun-
ctions. No these were just ideals.
It's a weird feeling this being
used. Everyone kids about it but
it's really frustrating. Being led
on and all the sudden it's as if
they just don't love you any more.
Sure I enjoyed it for awhile. I
thought I was having an impact

and loved finding out the inside
scoop at the athletic department.
It's a bitter pill to realize that the
belle of the ball was just an arm
decoration for someone. I've
decided that things done just for4
the sake of appearance really
aren't worth it.
In case you haven't figured it
out yet Don Triviline (ticket
manager for the department),
I'm resigning. It's frustrating to
work so hard and receive so very
little in return.
Before I undertake my next
battle for a cause I'll remember
my lessons learned here. I won't
be so idealistic or expect great 4
results. It's true you really can't
change the status quo.
P.S. I want all my ushering
money. I no longer make
donations to the Athletic depar-
tment. --Craig Miller
November 12
Miller was the secretary for
the Maize 'n' Blue Student
A thletic Council.

Getting along with Geac

WHO SAID computers wouldn't
make life at the University more
pleasant? Because the University's
new library computer system, Geac,
isn't up to snuff yet, those with overdue
books are not being charged for their
A, _ --%ft - V~f

them for that last minute term paper.
Students can be just like a few
professors who are allowed to keep
library books in their personal
libraries indefinitely.
Of cnurse. bonk-hording students

N!f it AliLA I AA' N

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