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March 31, 1984 - Image 4

Resource type:
The Michigan Daily, 1984-03-31

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Page 4 Saturday, March 31, 1984 The Michigan Daily

The myth of



By Barry Witt
Every couple of months, the Daily
receives a letter from a man in Ohio
who claims he is God. He expounds for
a page or two on some political issues in
hopes that the paper wouldn't possibly
reject the chance to print God's
With little reverence for this fellow's
work, the editors of this page regularly
toss his letters into the trash can, never
to see print. Out of curiosity, one Daily
staffer several years ago tried to find.
something but about this correspondent
and discovered that he is a former men-
tal patient, who apparently hasn't
The Daily feels no obligation to print
the ramblings of a deranged individual,
and Mr. God is not the only such person
from whom the paper regularly
receives mail.
Oddly enough, this obscure little
story leads me to a more pressing issue
on campus - that of military research
- and if you'll bear with me for a
moment, Lthink you'll see why.
According to University President
Harold Shapiro, academic freedom is
the fundamental issue in the campus
debate on military research. At last
month's forum on the topic, Shapiro
went to great lengths to caution against
undue infringements upon academic
freedom, though he didn't go so far as to
say that respect for such freedom
necessarily overrides the possibility of
restricting military research.
But Shapiro did present a rather
narrow view of academic freedom,
stressing that the University must be

wary of attempts of one group to stifle
the work of another. Unfortunately, the
president failed to explore very deeply
what the notion of freedom means, and
I'm left believing that his - and many
other's - consideration of the issue is
still rather shallow.
The problem with Shapiro's analysis
is that he considers freedom in absolute
terms, rather than with regard to its in-
constant nature.
Researchers are not free to do ab-
solutely anything they wish under
anyone's conception of freedom. They
are bound, at the very least, by the laws
of society, which place any number of
restrictions based on propriety.
They also are restricted by the
resources to which they have access. If
they can't find sponsors, they can't af-
ford to pursue an interest. In a similar
vein, the concept of academic freedom
is meaningless to most people -
especially to those outside academia.
For if you're not an academic, you lack
not only financial resources, but also
-perhaps intellectual and professional
resources as well.
A parallel argument could be drawn
for First Amendment freedoms.
Freedom of speech and of the press
means much more to a newspaper
columnist than to the man on the street
because the writer has greater access
to vehicles of expression. Just as many
faculty members are fighting to protect
academic freedom in the debate on
military research, I would be likely to
take a strong stand on an issue of press
freedom, as it is of extreme importance
to me.
Which brings me back to the man in
Ohio who thinks he is God. I never did

mind very much denying this guy space
in the newspaper, though I'm undoub-
tedly inhibiting his freedom of ex-
If the Daily can restrict this person on
the grounds that his writing is inap-
propriate for publication, then why
can't the University restrict certain
professors on the grounds that their
research is wrong? The faculty mem-
bers wouldn't be denied their freedom
to do the research they preferred; they
just couldn't do it in Ann Arbor. They

Freedom, then, can be measured as a
function of resources. At the public
forum, President Shapiro responded to
one question by saying that the military
research debate is not a financial mat-
ter because few dollars on campus
come from the Pentagon in relation to
the total volume of research done at
the University.
But Shapiro fails to see the broader
implication that money - as an impor-
tant resource - has on freedom. In the
particular instance of academic

'Whether it is the federal administration
shifting money from one scientific foun-
dation into the Pentagon, or the University
administration shifting money from one
social science department into some
technical institute, freedoms are being

has a certain arbitrary nature about it.
Just because a majority of the public -
if in fact that's what national policy
represents - has established a certain
set of priorities at a certain time, does
that make those values correct ones for
all? In speaking of freedoms, the
national agenda rather arbitrarily
defines what it will support or won't
support. A professor conducting
military-related research might not
find the funding he needs as available in
a country just as democratic as the
United States but less interested in
national defense.
As resources shift - as a matter 'of
policy - a researcher's ability to work
in a given area can be affected
dramatically. Whether it is the federal
administration shifting money from
one scientific foundation into the Pen-
tagon, or the University administration
shifting money from one social science
department into some technical in-
stitute, freedoms are being restricted.
Certainly geography professors feel
they are less free to do research at the
University today than they did three
years ago before the department was
eliminated. And likewise, the genetics
engineer or computer scientist feels
more free today than several years ago.
Like it or not, external forces will
continually have an impact on resear-
chers' ability to do their work. The
distinction between a researcher who is
'free" to do his work, even though he is
prohibited from doing it by a lack of
resources, and the researcher who is
physically prohibited, regardless of
finances, is insignificant. Not only is the
net effect the same, but the intent is
also. In 1981, President Shapiro and the

regents of the University specifically
said they wished to limit research' in
geography on campus when they axed
the department. In 1983, they said they
couldn't limit military-related work
because it would inhibit academi
In contrast to Shapiro's statement
last month that the issue is not finan-
cial, rather it appears that when
University pocketbooks are at question,
academic freedom can be swept aside.
Nowadays, when students take over
research labs, Shapiro and many others
on campus invoke the "principles' of
academic freedom" to denounce the ac-
tion. Professors have the right to pur-
sue their legitimate research interests
they say, and no protest should be
allowed to prohibit that. But one must
imagine that if the faculty on campus
were unionized, and they voted to strike
over some wage or other issue - "as
other faculties have done - criese of
academic freedom would not be soun-
ded while just about everybody's
scholarly activity was shut down.
No, research itself is not sacred;and
the issues surrounding it tak
precedence. If one looks at militar)W-
research as a contribution to Athe
world's tendency to destruct itself
through World War III, a paltry cry of
academic freedom hardly rings, as
And this, I suppose, brings me back to
the fellow in Ohio who says he is God,
because I think I'd prefer him these
days to some of the politicians who
want that role for themselves.
Witt, an LSA senior, was th*
Daily's 1983 editor-in-chief.

could set up their own research shop, or
much simpler, go work in a place more
sympathetic to their views.
I myself feel less "free" to express
my views today than I did only a few
months ago. As editor of the Daily last
year, I had the ability to get in print
just about anything I wanted when I
wanted it. But now that my term has
ended, I'm at the mercy of the new
editors to accept my work, or I'm left to
standing on a Diag bench screaming
my lungs out to get my point across.

freedom and military research, money
plays a very large role.
The primary reason professors on
campus can work on military-related
projects is that the federal government
is willing to pay for it. And the gover-
nment is wiling to pay for it because its
policy calls for a strong national defen-
But relying on national policy to
define what research will be supported
financially and what won't be presents
its own problems. National policy itself

Edited and managed by students at The University of Michigan







Vol. XCIV-No. 144

420 Maynard St.
Ann Arbor, MI 48109


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



easier around this time of year is
much appreciated. The term drags on,
finals approach, and the long lines and
short tempers of CRISP are just
around the corner. During times like
these, partial relief is spelled A-D-V-I-
ADVICE, the Michigan Student
Assembly's instructor and course
evaluation guide, is published once a
term and presents student evaluations
of LSA teachers and courses.
Last term's ADVICE didn't make
anyone's life easier: it arrived after
registration had already begun, and
published old data rather than more
relevant current data. The problems
arose largely because of a shift to in-
class data collection from student sur-
veys in registration lines and a bit of
poor planning.
This term's effort, while .far from
perfect, marks movement toward an
extremely valuable student tool.
The booklet, time schedule, and
course guide arrived simultaneously
for the first time in recent memory.
The importance of the early arrival
cannot be underemphasized - after
all, what good is advice if it comes too
late. Even those able to register during
the coveted first days of CRISP will be
able to comfortably plan ahead.
The shift to in-class data collection
that caused so much difficulty with last
term's issue payed off in much more

meaningful statistical samples. In-
stead of 10 to 20 percent of a class com-
pleting the evaluation, this issue
routinely provides samples of 90 to 100
percent. ADVICE has succeeded in
providing a much more meaningful
compilation of data - that is where
data is provided.
The problem with the latest issues is
that some departments have not in-
stitutionalized the in-class collection
procedure. While 104 courses and sec-
tions in the English department are
evaluated, only one in art history
managed to get reviewed. This is a
major difficulty. It is a difficulty,
however, that will probablf be solved
in subsequent issues as departments
implement the evaluation procedure.
Another improvement is the addition
of "Actual Grade Data" which allows
one to measure past performance
against the rest of the class, and
provides the grade-conscious with the
facts about a course's curve. It
shouldn't matter, but unfortunately it
does. It also makes you wonder about
how strenuous a course like "Inter-
mediate Tagalog" can be if it's got an
average grade point of 3.925.
ADVICE is definitely moving in the
right direction. All of the data collected
is more relevant, there just needs to be
more of it. Departments and individual
professors need to conscientiously im-
plement an evaluative -system that
provides such needed and appreciated



' ;
II :

T . ..........





MSA elections: A complete farce

To the Daily:
After reading the Daily this
morning, I pinched myself to
make sure I wasn't dreaming
about Guatemala or El Salvador.
This year's MSA elections have
been a complete farce from
beginning to end. "Voting snags
mar first day of MSA race"
(Daily, March 28).
For starters, the election dates
were moved up several weeks
(unconstitutionally) to "increase
voter turnout". This move took
many potential candidates by
Campaign violations have been
plentiful in the past few weeks.
MSA election guidelines ex-
plicitly forbid adhesion campaign
stickers and the posting of cam-
paign materials on glass (i.e.,
window panes in the Fishbowl).
The MSA'selection coordinator,
Dave Surovell, was excessively
lax about enforcing these rules. I
fNnWi hi racial C itwip nnnilin

wearing IOU stickers. In my
view, this amounts to less than a
conspiracy, yet more than an ac-
cident. IOU's ties to the current
MSA should not have interfered
with the election.
What most people do not realize
is that Surovell gets paid $500
(five-hundred dollars) as, MSA
To the Daily:
Each year at this time, another
senseless mass slaughter of baby
harp seals occurs. Many hunters,
mainly from Canada and Nor-
way, take their sealing vessels
and conduct the search for their
innocent victims. Once the hun-
ters reach their destiny, they
proceed to club the seal pups. The
carcasses are then stripped of
their pelts; and all in the name of

election director. It is abundantly
clear that he has failed in his
duty. Regardless of the election
results, I think that Surovell
should be fired (with no pay) and
that a new election should be held
in the Fall.
I call on any and all members
of the student community to

protest this invalid, ridiculous
election. We deserve, at the very
least, a legitimately elected
student government.
Jonathan Koenig
March 2
Koenig was a candidate on
the RAP ticket.


of seal pups


-30T 't4 1 ,
60 WVC T©

. -- -


Greenpeace, a nationwide
organization, is fighting to stop
this cruel act. Greenpeace volun-
teers from all over the world
work around the clock during the
yearly hunt, protecting the seal
pups from devastation. The
magnitude of the hunt has
decreased somewhat in recent
years, but more work needs to be
done. It has been proven that

thousands of the seal pelts are not
even needed; they are stored in
warehouses, unable to be sold or
used. Also, many economies n(
longer depend on seal furs as
their main source of income. So
why must the hunt continue?
Nancy Hawker
March 21

Hawker is

a Greenpeace

by Berke Breathed

50 TW W , OF" THE I

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