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September 06, 1984 - Image 6

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The Michigan Daily, 1984-09-06

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OPINION

Page 6

Thursday, September 6, 1984

The Michigan Daily

461 . .
Edited and managed by students at The University of Michigan
420 Maynard St.
Ann Arbor, MI 48109
Editorials represent a majority opinion of the Daily's Editorial Board
A word to freshpersons:

A rotten idea goes national

Fight th
CONGRATULATIONS. You've
made it through high school.
You've become an adult. You moved
away from home and you're about to
attend one of the finest universities in
the world. You think you're footloose
and fancy free, right?
Well, maybe for the time being. But
if the University administration has its
way, you may soon be subject to
stringent laws and penalties over
which you have no say, to rules con-
trolling your personal behavior which
have very little to do with your new
status as a University student. You
may not have left your parents at home
after all.
Last year, the administration
proposed a Student Code of Non-
academic conduct. If passed, it would
create an internal court system that
gives the University the powers of
judge, jury, and executioner of studen-
ts and their constitutional rights and
freedoms.
The code would outlaw a host of ac-
tions already illegal in the "outside
world." That list includes arson,
possession of firearms, stealing,
falsely reporting a fire or explosion,
selling illegal drugs, and vandalism.
Although outlawing the commission
of felonies on campus may not sound
like such a bad idea, the proposed code
will apply to far more than arsonists
and rapists. It will, for example, give
the University a significant oppor-
tunity to interfere in student's con-
stitutionally guaranteed rights to
freedom of assembly and speech.
The University code would, in effect,
create a private judicial system, a
system which would allow ad-
ministrators to keep an unruly student
under wraps or kick him out of the
University altogether - all while
avoiding nasty inconveniences like
publicity and due process.
The code has already elicited strong
disapproval from a wide variety of
student groups. The Michigan Student
Assembly has rejected it over-
whelmingly. But the administration,
apparently undeterred, has begun the
process of overrulling the MSA
position. This fall, the administration

code

will ask the regents to approve the
code on their own authority.
A completely adequate judicial
system already exists in the com-
munity at large. The administration
campaign, if successful, will mean that
the University is willing to say, "When
we don't like society's rules, we will
make our own." The regents would be
siezing the best - or for students, the
worst-of both worlds. Students could
be tried for a crime twice; the Univer-
sity would always have the option of
choosing the most favorable forum.
The regents need to remind them-
selves of a few things before they vote:
" The University is part of the com-
munity that surrounds it. There is and
should be an exchange of services bet-
ween the community and the Univer-
sity - a very special part of the whole.
That larger community includes not
only Ann Arbor, but the state and the
nation as well. The University benefits
from the community, so should be sub-
ject to its rules.
" The University's various services
for the community all fall under the
category of education. The University
exists to teach, not to play sheriff. As
such, it should concern itself with
governing academics. The proposed
code would govern non-academic ac-
tivity. By its very title, the code is not
within the realm of academics.
" That other student conduct codes
exist does not justify the imposition of
a code here. And while a very vague
student conduct code already exists
here, the level of regulation of student
life and the punishments the Univer-
sity would have at its disposal under
the proposed code present a challenge
to individual student autonomy several
magnitudes greater than any current
rules.
The proposed code is an insult both to
students and to the principles under
which the University was founded. By
proposing it, the University ad-
ministration hasĀ°attempted to circum-
vent the legitimate protections affor-
ded defendants under American law.
Its potential benefit to the University
community is insignificant, while the
potential for abuse of students' rights
is enormous.

By Charley Thomson
The scenario must have been
repeated countless times on local
TV talk shows across the nation
this summer. The weeping
mother, her child the victim of an
accident involving a drunk
driver, sobs about how strict laws
could have saved Johnny's life.
Oh please, mister, you just gotta
understand. This carnage can't
go on. We have to do something
NOW-no matter what the cost.
Professor Harold Hill couldn't
have made the pitch any better.
It's the hook, the flim-flam-call
it what you will-but the Mothers
Against Drunk Driving have
raised this time-honored political
art form to new heights. They
have managed, either by careful
design or by sheer orgiastic fer-
vor, to separate all reason from
the debate about drunk driving
laws. The results may prove
catastrophic for all of us.
I DON'T MEAN to disparage
the gravity of the loss many of the
MADD mothers have endured,
their sincerity" in crusading
against drunk driving, or the
need for safer highways. On the
contrary, I'm outraged by the
number of drivers who have the
audacity to drink and then play
Russian roulette with my life on
the highways. I agree with them
wholeheartedly that those who
commit the crime of drunk
driving- should be
punished-severely.
But there are limits to what
government can and should be
able to do in the name of
"safety," and MADD has tried to
pushsthe staterfar beyond those
limits. The prime example, of
course, is MADD's biggest
legislative victory so far: the
nationwide drinking age.
Rushed through Congress this
summer, the national drinking
age mangles both the Con-
stitution and the civil liberties of
17 million Americans. The
damage done may be
irreparable.
BECAUSE CONGRESS and the
president have no authority to
engage in a wholesale rewrite of

27 states' criminal codes, the bill
made a sinister end run: It cut off
from the federal highway dole
any state which dares to keep its
drinking age below 21.
At one time-before a series of
similar bills which have vastly
expanded federal
authority-nearly everyone
agreed that the federal gover-
nment did not have a general
police power. Just as the framers
of the Constitution had planned,
letting the states take care of
myriad intricacies like drinking
ages had helped to encourage in-
novation and competition. The
system had allowed states to deal
with their own peculiar
problems without a brooding cen-
tral government scrutinizing
their every move. And, perhaps
most importantly, the con-
stitutional framework had made
sure that the federal government
would never use a general body of
federal criminal law as a means
to oppress the national citizenry.
It was, in short, good gover-
nment.
Now, the very term "good
government" has been stood on
its head by MADD and the so-
called safety lobby. Good gover-
nment-or soaCongress and the
president are now convin-
ced-involves actively
destroying states' control of their
own laws, overturning the con-
sidered judgment of a majority of
states, and subtly changing the
crime from "driving while
drunk" to "drinking while
young."
ONCE THE PROPOSAL for a
national drinking age set at 21
made it out of committee in the
House, the Congress fell all over
itself praising the idea. When the
shouting was over, only 16 mem-
bers of the Senate, where the
toughest, most principled op-
position to MADD was expected,
voted against the bill. "How,"
asked one bewildered Senate
staffer afterward, "can you vote
in favor of drunk driving?" The
MADD flim-flam had worked like
a charm.
The irony is that a number of
those 16 senators were strongly
committed as state legislators to

tougher laws to combat drunk-
driving. They vehemently believe
that those tougher laws will do
the most good if they come from
the state legislatures, just as they
are supposed to under the Con-
stitution.
There are, in fact, a number of
very good reasons why most
states, when addressing the
drunk driving problem, have
consciously rejected the policy
now being forced on them by the
federal government.

,.::

ter ways of dealing with the
problem. Outlawing alcohol,- as
the nation learned during
Prohibition, does not end
drinking or drunk driving.
Outlawing alcohol to teenagers
has been successful mostly it
driving alcohol use underground,
away from familial and sociAl
environments where young
people can learn to use alcihol
responsibly. Keeping the drink
from those under 21 may even
encourage alcohol use among
rebellious elements, and undoub-

Just because one class, whether it is
defined by age, race, sex, or religion
is statistically more likely to commit
a certain crime, should all the class
members be legislated against?

FIRST, STATE legislators
have expressed grave concerns
about creating a large number of
second class citizens who have all
the responsibilities of adulthood
without having the consequent
liberties. Just because one class,
whether it is defined by age, race,
sex, or religion, is statistically
more likely to commit a certain
crime, should all the class mem-
bers be legislated against? Many
state legislatures have answered
emphatically "No." Such
legislatioi against any group-be
they teens for higher levels of
drunk driving arrests or blacks
for higher levels of rape
arrests-is morally reprehen-
sible and a violation of the spirit
(if not the letter) of the Con-
stitution.
Second and more
pragmatically, state legislatures
have decided that there are bet-

tedly disparages the authority, of
the law in the eyes of the young.
Instead, state legislatures have
been engaged in exactly the sort
of innovative lawmaking contem=
plated in the Constitution. States
have tried various combinations
of provisional drivers licenses,
increaseddenforcement e :of
existing drinking laws, severe
drunk driving penalties, and - at
long last - genuinely effective
preemptive education about the
hazards of drunk driving.
But such niceties of federaliin@
didn't seem to bother MADD this
summer, as it whipped its aiti-
drunk driving campaign into' a
frenzy. Such is the nature of
safety at any cost.

Thomson, a University
gradulate and former Daily
editor; is a student at the
University of Iowa College of

Afti

Law.

.U

Advice for incoming students

By David Spak
This being the beginning of
another year at The Great
University, each student is ab-
sorbing a great deal of vital in-
formation necessary for survival
in an academic jungle. Fresh-
man particularly are hacking
through that leafy brush, unable
to see the path on which they
travel.
They may be blazing the trail
leading to law school; they may
be on the path toward chemical
engineering - it does not make
much difference. What should
make a difference is that studen-
ts seek and obtain an education.
BUT A successful education is
not the pursuit of a degree. It is
not the pursuit of the top grades.
It is not the pursuit of distribution
requirements.
Figuring out exactly what a
successful education includes is a
might more difficult. An
education must involve strenuous
intellectual exercise, preferablly
over a wide spectrum of
disciplines. Such a variance of
disciplines is precisely the idea
behind distribution requiremen-
ts. Somehow, though, fulfilling

distribution requirements has
become an exercise in
discovering the easiest way to
pad a grade point average.
Many, if not most, students
have lost sight of the challenge
derived from taking a chance on
a subject about which they know
little or nothing. Students now
choose classes based on a cost-
benefit analysis: what good it will
do, particularly for their finan-
cial future.
WITH THAT in mind, I'd like to
tell you about a recent (1982)
graduate ofbthis institution. He is,
in my estimation, the finest
writer to pass through the doors
of this newspaper in quite some
time. He did, however, have an
unparalled talent forupsetting
people, including those of us at
the Daily. In fact, some of you
older students may have used his
weekly column as a dart board.
For all his faults and talents,
Howard Witt always had
something to say worth saying.
And he said it well. Howard also
was a marvelous teacher for
those who could stand to listen to
him.
He gave some great advice in a
column just before he graduated,
advice I'd like to pass along.

"TAKE AT least one course for
yourself every semester,"
Howard wrote, "not for law
school, not for your major, but
just for fun, as an adventure. You
may not get an A, but you might
learn something."
He then gave his suggestions
for a few courses and professors
he believed virtually indispen-
sible. The courses included Art
History 102 and Shakespeare's
Principal Plays. The professors
included Gerald Linderman, with
his "incredibly sensitive under-
standing of American history"
and Douglas Dickson, "a math
professor who really cares about
his students and whose office
door is always open."
Howard ended with one more
piece of advice; Use the people
around you, professors and
students, to discover these
challenging courses and
professors - "but do something
before blindly marching off to
CRISP to take yet another term
of boring prerequisites or easy-A
blow-offs."
IN THAT spirit, I would like to
suggest a few of the courses and
professors I found particularly
challenging.
American Constitutional Inter-
pretation as taught by Will Harris

offers tremendous insight into
perhaps the most fascinating
political document since the
Magna Carta. Harris's moot
court exercise forces students t
critically scrutinize their basic
beliefs about the American
polity. Sidney Fine is the finest
lecturer I heard, winding his way
through the last half-century of
U.S. history, a period when U.S.
history was almost synonymous
with world history. Finally,
Philosophers of the 17th and 18th
Centuries takes you from the bir-
th of modernphilosphy and the
rationalist Descartes, throughb
the empiricists, to the ,-
scrutable Immanuel Kant.
If I have one regret about
Howard'sadvice, it would be that
he did not offer it until I had
finished two years of college: So
repeating and adding to it would
be of most benefit to those of
you just starting out.
But remember, a successful
education is not straight A's. I
can thank Howard Witt-
helping me learn that.

The Daily's
editorial policy

Spak is a University
graduate and former Daily
editor.

,,;

THE DAILY'S Opinion Page fills an
important role in the exchange of
ideas both at this newspaper and in the
University community. But the
Opinion Page, though it carries our of-
ficial policy, is not limited to those
views with which we agree.
Editorials appearing on the left side
of this page represent the majority
opinion of the Daily's Editorial Board.
Unlike many other newspapers, our
board is made up of all current Daily

Because the Daily is financially in-
dependent and managed entirely by
students, no outside publisher dictates
its thoughts or philosophies. Not even
the editor-in-chief may veto a vote or
overrule the editorial board's
decisions. Yet this 'independence
carries with it an added responsibility
which Daily staff members take very
seriously.
The right side of the page is open to
any of our readers of staff members
for comment on topics of general in-

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