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January 26, 1984 - Image 4

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The Michigan Daily, 1984-01-26

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I

OPINION

Page 4

Thursday, January 26, 1984

The Michigan Daily '

Edited and managed by students at The University of Michigan

Stewart

ELECTION

YEMR

Vol. XCIV-No. 96

420 Maynard St.
Ann Arbor, MI 48109

Editorials represent a majority opinion of the Daily's Editorial Board
A foot in MSA's door

THE MICHIGAN Student Assembly.
Remember them? How many things
can you name that the student gover-
nment has done so far this year? Well,
let's see, MSA put out a course
evaluations guide, except that it was
distributed after CRISP had begun, so
it had no value to some students. What
else? The group hired a "volunteer
coordinator" with student money just
to keep people wdrking for them. And
don't forget about the big Housing Fair
on Super Bowl Sunday. Missed that
one, huh?
So the student government hasn't
accomplished much. That's not so
bad, since nobody really cares about it
much anyway. Recognizing the
problem, the good representatives did.
a little soul searching recently by
completing an evaluation of the work
they've done. Among the objectives:
"To have constructive interaction in
an environment of cooperation and ob-
jectivity." Ooh, that sounds deep.
In fact, their little bit of introspection
was so deep, MSA apparently felt the
rest of the student body couldn't quite
appreciate what it was doing, so the
good representatives locked the doors
Tuesday when they were discussing
the results.
So much for the MSA constitution,
which states all of the body's meetings
shall be open to the pupdic. So much for
the spirit of democratic government,
in Which a representative body is
responsible to its constituents.
;Maybe all those ideals are too much
to the good representatives. Maybe
the move they pulled on Tuesday
demonstrates just how far student
government has fallen.
MSA President Mary Rowland
defended her group's actions yester-
day by arguing that the represen-
tatives "felt they wouldn't be honest,
wouldn't say what they really wanted to
say" if a Daily reporter - and
presumably other members of the
public - were allowed in. "If people

were negative (in their evaluations of
MSA), I wanted them to be honest
about it," she continued.
As it happens, "nothing really
negative was said," the good president
reported, "nothing I would have really
minded people hearing."
From this statement, two con-
clusions can be drawn: MSA members
are too blind to see they are wholly
ineffective; and it's okay if the student
body hears nice things about MSA, but
not the not-so-nice stuff.
.Something tells us that if the Univer-
sity regents were to close their
meetings, arguing that they would not
be sufficiently honest in their
discussions if people could listen in,
MSA members would be - and right-
fully so - up in arms. (And the Daily
would probably take the regents to
court for violating the state's Open
Meetings Act.) But now that MSA
decides to do it, the good represen-
tatives don't seem to see anything
wrong with it. (No, the Daily won't go
to court on this one; MSA is hardly
worth the trouble.)
Rowland described Tuesday's
evaluation as a "retreat" in which no
official business was being conducted,
and therefore, she believes that MSA
wasn't obligated to keep the meeting
open. She also said the discussion
didn't involve "the student body or
money"' or any of those other things
students really need to be concerned
about.
Rowland is missing the point. The
thing students should be concerned
about is the effectiveness of their
student government - exactly the
issue involved in MSA's self-
evaluation. If the elected represen-
tatives don't feel they can be "honest"
when they're speaking in public, then
maybe they ought to abdicate.
The next time MSA examines itself,
it better start by reading its con-
stitution.

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Last in a series

Idiot box junkies

What do americans do better than
anyone? Well, we're no longer
the most efficient industrial producer
in the world, South Americans are
growing more and more soybeans, and
the Japanese have proven consistently
that they are more technologically in-
novative. But even though our past
superiorities are now fading, there is
still something that we do better than
anyone else - watch TV.
America's television pulse-taker,
A.C. Nielsen, proved this video ascen-
dancy conclusively this week when it
announed that in 1983 Americans broke
the seven hour barrier. That's right,
the average daily' TV viewing per
household now exceeds seven hours.
Other countries can only dream of cat-

ching up. The rest of the world is for-
ced to take notice since not. only was
that barrier broken, but last year also
tied the largest single-year increase in
viewing time ever - 14 minutes, set in
1964. Yep, America's pride sure is
showing.
It's hard to say why we're watching
so much more television. But it was
also difficult to understand just what it
was that drove Americans to conquer
the frontier and rise to be the world's
champion of peace and freedom - it's
just one of those things about our
national character.
So all the other countries can have
their industrial, agricultural, and
technological strength, because we've
always got re-runs of Gilligan's Island.

Sponsored research began af-
ter World War II with a simple
philosophy. If you gave enough.
scientists enough money and
enough time, eventually they
would produce something of
value. This philosophy carried
university research through the
boom years of theh1960s, but by
the 1970s things had begun to
change. The Vietnam War and
the Great Society programs of
Lyndon Johnson began to drain
the national budget of spare cash.
Riots on campuses called atten-
tion to the neglect of the univer-
sity's educational mission. And
Congress began to look at the
research programs of the univer-
sity and ask for something back
in return for the money being
spent.
In terms of responsible gover-
nment and wise investment
policy, it made sense for elected
officials to begin to select resear-
ch programs and projects that
promised the greatest return for
each dollar invested. Thus, in-
vestments became focused on
health,, technology and military
power, and throughout the 1970s,
federal research support in
major universities became in-
creasingly targeted.
Goals and timetables were set,
accounting and auditing
requirements established, and
results were carefully evaluated.
Increasingly, sponsored research
began to require multi-
disciplinary teams, huge invest-
ments in equipment, ad-
ministrative coordinationand
controls and close monitoring.
WHAT IN THE beginning had
been simply grants given to
scientists to pursue whatever
lines of research appeared in-
teresting, now became more and
more a business investment with
. its own logic and logistic
requirements that increasingly
cut across departmental lines of
organization and academic
freedom.
As early as 1968 some federal
bureaucrats were asking: "And
what of academic freedom?
How are we to define it - as
liberty or license? . . . Does it
relieve scientists from the
obligation of being responsible to
their superiors and benefactors?
Is it always, in fact, a guarantee
of better scholarly performance?
... Yet there are some scientists
who seem to feel that their calling
entitles them to immunity . .
from subjection to ad-
ministrative review and ap-
proval, from conformance to
policy and regulation, and from
strict adherence to agreement,
and from reasonable accounting
for the nature and results of their
activity."

By Robert Honigman

that this transformation of the
university from an autonomous
educational institution into a
research business dominated by
the needs and goals of federal
agencies has proceeded quietly.
He says, "It is unlikely that a
formal declaration of the univer-
sities' role as insturments of
national purpose for the
achievement of federal objec-
tives will ever be made. Such a
declaration would unnecessarily
create dissension over traditional
American principles . . . Never-
theless, federal spokesmen are
making increasingly frank
statements of their intent to exert
control on specific issues."

an addiction, and like all ad ic-
tions, the subject swears that
there is no addiction and that
everything is under control.
Things seem alright because
after all, we still live in a
democracy and the federal
government is honest, fair and
even handed. But the problem is
that life offers no guarantees as
to what future governments will
be like, and the university instead
of preserving its role as an in-
dependent educational system
and neutral observer and critic of
social values and problems, has
instead become piart of the
system of power politics. An "in-

Are universities
instruments of

national

goals?.

passion for money 'or power."
The great research universities
in their quest for money and
public support have to promise
that their research will pay great
dividends in health care, military
power and technological
development.
But this appeal to a lust for
power, wealth and security that
powers the research machine is
not a disinterested desire for
wisdom or knowledge that lies at
the heart of true research. It is
simply the sale of a commodity,
with power brokers in charge, not
researchers. Sponsored resear-
chers are just hired guns. They
sent rockets up, as Tom Lehrer
once observed. Someone else
determines where they come
down.
There is nothing wrong with
sponsored research as a business
seperate and apart from the
university.. If it is a tool, it is a
useful and valuable tool, and it
won't:be crippled simply because
it is separated from the univer-
sity. The health and vitality of
many non-profit laboratories and
institutes shows that scientific
research can exist and thrive on
its own. It's a specialized branch
of human industry that merits
respect and support; but it
doesn't deserve a -leadership
position which dominates and ex-
ploits the university.
Sponsored research has little t
do with the aims, goals or values
of a true university. Its sponsors
want a real return, on their in-
vestment, and students, instead
of being ends in themselves,
become tools of theresearch
game. This is the same path that
another great university system
took, one that ended in tragedy.
Brubacher and Rudy wrote,
"After the birth of Imperial
Germany in 1871, the concept of
the university as an instrument
dedicated to the service of the
state was developed to a high
degree. In the age of Bismarck
university research and training,
especially in the natural and
medical sciences, produced fm:
portant dividends of power and
wealth in all aspects of public life
.... .In the process, they lost
whatever administrative in-
dependence they possessed and
were subordinated to the state."
The power and wealth that
sponsored research brings is
worse than useless without the
wisdom and maturity that a true
education should provide. We
can't afford to travel the same
path as the German university
system.. Unfortunately, that is
the path we have chosen.

'It is unlikely that a formal
declaration of the universities' role as
instruments of national . purpose for
the achievement of federal objectives
will ever by made. Such a declaration
would unnecessarily create dissension
over traditional American principles.'
- Dael Wolfle
historian of research
in universities

. At4V REACc-r'ao W MA 6
DPWA~n~C I?+EIa 'OKS W "R N1}E
4.VAICAN ...NO ALLY.
/ p.

THE UNIVERSITY is being
sold, piece by piece and inch by
inch - all done quietly with
frequent assurances to alumni,
studentsand state officials that
nothing has changed. It is not so
much a coercion by the federal
government as it is an addiction
by the upper echelon of the
university to federal power and
influence. The federal support is
BLOOM COUNTY

strument of national purpose" is
another way of saying that the
university is simply a tool to be
used by those in power.
I don't think a true scientist is
fooled by this. Albert Einstein
once said, "The competition of
big brains ... has always seemed
to me to be an awful type of
slavery no less evil than the

Honigman is a
graduate and an
Sterling Heights.

University
attorney in

by Berke Breathed

/VIA~_K /.

i

/QIl9C / 1.1L/a[

I II

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