Page 4 Tuesday, February 19, 1985 The Michigan Daily
Edited and managed by students at The University of Michigan
The mediocre American way
Vol. XCV, No. 116
420 Maynard St.
Ann Arbor, MI 48109
Editorials represent a majority opinion of the Daily's Editorial Board
A victory for students
By Brian Leiter
It's the American way. Quality rises to the
bottom. And, of course, you know what sinks
to the top.
And so we come to Ronald Reagan who, for
those of you who might have missed it, still
reigns and continues to befuddle the press
periodically with his ground-breaking con-
ceptions of English, sentence structure.
Asked if the Soviets enjoyed military
superiority, the President, always one to
think on (with?) his feet, retorted:
"The-and we have been for quite some
time-we have fewer, for example, nuclear
Now wait, you say, this is a cheap shot:
surely we all boggle the language now and
then. Surely, when speaking about-we have
trouble-we don't always, that is, in using the
language-use it properly. But with Ronald
Reagan, the hyphenated sentence (that
euphemism in print for the boggled thought or
LAST FRIDAY'S regents' meeting
was a milestone in the develop-
ment of one of the most important
student organization on campus. In a 6-
1 vote, the University regents ter-
minated a special funding contract for
the Public Interest Research Group In
Michigan (PIRGIM). While PIRGIM
and its supporters are convinced the
decision is a serious blow to the group's
funding, termination of its funding con-
tract was justified and in the best in-
terest of PIRGIM and the entire
PIRGIM's contract with the Univer-
sity previously had allowed the group
to use the class registration process as
a method of reaching University
students for funding. After the March
registration, however, PIRGIM will
once again have to present the regents
with petitions totalling 50 percent of
the student population to regain their
spot in the CRISP lines.
PIRGIM has consistently failed to
garner enough student support to
warrant special treatment by the
University. The group was first placed
on registration forms in 1972. At that
time, PIRGIM easily met the 50 per-
cent requirement. University by-laws
stated that the group had to keep the
support of one-third of the students in
order to remain elligible for the special
process. In 1978, however, that
requirement was reduced to 25 per-
cent; then later to 20 percent; and
finally the requirement of student sup-
port' was waived entirely. In their most
recent petition drive, PIRGIM-
managed to get the signatures of just
over 11 percent of the students.
To its credit, PIRGIM. has
established a record of service that
clearly surpasses that of any student
organization on this campus.
* It has done comprehensive con-
-sumer surveys of area banks, grocery
stores, and textbook prices. One year,
members even compiled a comprehen-
sive directory of area physicians com-'
plete with information about doctors'
individual attitudes toward, and
methods of, health care.
* The group has researched methods
of energy conservation in Ann Arbor.
* Members have advocated several,
programs for women's safety.
PIRGIM co-sponsored several "Take
back the night" protests and called for
an emergency outdoor phone system
" It fought for tenants' rights and set
up a grievance board to serve renters
in the community.
* In 1983, PIRGIM lobbied for a five)
dollar penalty for alcohol consumption
by 18- to 21-year-olds. This proposal
was made in response to Michigan's
reinstatement of the 21 drinking age..
" The group opposed rate hikes by
o Members continue to address en-
vironmental concerns. Currently,
PIRGIM supports the Right To Know
act, which would require employers to
inform their employees and the com-
munity of potential harms due to toxic
, PIRGIM even assisted in efforts to
register student voters in last year's
Despite an industrious and often
fruitful past, PIRGIM's removal from
student registration forms is a victory
for the University community. The
consensus on what constitutes "public
interest" that existed in 1972 is clearly
no longer present on campus. Only 11
percent of University students are
willing even to contribute two dollars a
term to the cause.
PIRGIM may suffer from the regen-
ts' decision, but it will suffer no more
than any other student organization on
campus. The decision will force
PIRGIM to do what it has needed to do
for a long time: to actively solicit funds
from students. In doing so, the group
will certainly get a better idea of what
students want from the campus'
leading public interest organization.
PIRGIM should look on this decision
as a shot in the arm, a chance to truly
get the mandate of the University
community by being allowed to ac-
tively pursue it. If PIRGIM is a worthy
cause in the eyes of the student
population, the group will have no dif-
ficulty gaining support - with or with-
out the help of the University..
than the rest of you." A lot longer. But age
doesn't deserve all the blame. During his
gubernatorial days, Reagan delivered quite a
few memorable (mis) statements as well.
And surely we know older folks with more
wits than most of our peers. No, no, there
must be something more.
I think those people who regard Reagan as
an "evil" man have missed the point. Ronald
Reagan, once displaced from his Presidency
and plopped down at a bar, in an office, or as
someone's senile grandpa at the head of thF
table on Thanksgiving Day, takes on his r'al
dimension. Ronald Reagan is a mediocre
man. He is a witless drudge propelled by the
moment to a place that is totally dispropor-
tionate to what he is.
If Ronald Reagan perpetuates inequities
and hardships it is because he can only
operate within an infantile conceptual
framework unable to handle anything more
than talk about "hard work" and "individual
effort." If he cuts funding for the arts and
slashes support for education it is because he
himself is intellectually vacant and culturally
undeveloped. If he places unbounded and
unrealistic faith in the business community it
is because that is what he knows: he was
brought to power by businessmen, he
socializes with them, dines with them, lives
with them-he sees the world from that
narrow and biased corner. Being a witless
drudge makes it tough to escape one's
limited perspective to a new one.
To be a mediocre person in the way Reagan
is mediocre is not an "immoral" state: if
anything, it is pathetic. But it certainly takes
on new dimensions when one's witless and
one-dimensional vision is elevated to the
status of national policy. Sympathy is
displaced by disgust (or laughter depending
on the degree of irony in one's humor). Yet
still, what we see all about Ronald
Reagan-the intellectual poverty, the concep-
tual simplicity, the degradation of the worth
and sense of language-is the natural
outgrowth of being leadby a witless man.
One must laugh about it sometimes. If a
man thinks less people should go to college, if
he would encourage his own son to skip
college and start his own business (when
business failures are at their peak since the
Great Depression), if he wants to slash
federal loans on the theory that everyone who
reaches the magic income level of $32,500 can
now afford college if they would only stop
blowing those dollars on T.V.'s, stereos and
vacations-well, then, naturally we make this
person Secretary of Education. But if he held
the view that there should be less public parks
and that public lands should be given over for
private use and exploitation-then, naturally
he should be our Secretary of the Interior. On
the other hand, if he had served as an
executive with a major defense contractor,
then naturally he should be Secretary of
Defense (who better to determine the need for
military hardware?) If he was a two-bit
lawyer for his rich friends and with barely
even a local reputation, then naturally he
should be Attorney General. And when he
leaves, we'll be sure to find someone with
It's the American way. Quality rises to the
bottom. Some will say that this is just a mat-
ter of political prejudice. But it's not.
Reagan is witless, he is surrounded by
visionless and narrow people, and almost
everything they say stinks of its own
hypocrisy and vacancy. If you don't see it,
I'm sure I can't "prove" it to you (whatever
that means). To paraphrase what Louis Ar-
mstrong said when someone asked him what
jazz was: Man, if you don't know, you ain't
never gonna understand.
The Reagan years are American in the ex-
treme: quality has risen to the bottom, fled to
the outskirts. Men without honesty, charac-
ter, or wits reign.'Some will be infuriated by
these claims. But the bottom line is that the
imputation of mediocrity is always most
deeply resented by the mediocre.
stunted articulation) has assumed a new
stature. Just look at any transcript of a
Reagan press conference. We are witnessing
the dying stages of a human mind.
Reagan, himself, hit part of it on the head
the other day in The New York Times:
"If-and we've seen, I've just lived longer
Leiter is a graduate student in law and
IN ;MY 5oYEhl2S OF PUBLIC LIFE, I'VE
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I LOVE To SIT BACK AND WATCH
PIR GIM objects to Daily coverage
MIDST THE controversy around
PIRGIM's spot on the Student
Verificaiton Form for CRISP
registration, the other side of the SVF.
has been entirely neglected.
That "other side" is a survey put out
by the Office of Student Services on
behalf of the Office of Ethics and
Religion. It is entirely optional and it
asks students to put down their
religious preferences. The information
is used strictly by the Office of Ethics
The survey has been a part of the
SVF since CRISP was first implemen-
ted, and the University conducted a
similar survey in the days of the first-
come, first-serve registration in
In spite of its history, it may be time
to stop the survey. It is inefficient to
ask essentially the same students the
same question each term. If a student
chooses not to answer it one term, it's
doubtful he'll choose to the next.
.' 1 . - - T . A .c.
a part of every student's life that the
University is hardly supporting it by
offering students an opportunity to
express their religious preference.
Nonetheless, there are other aspects of
student life - bars for-one - that con-
cern more students than church, and if
.the sole reason for permitting the sur-
vey to be on the SVF is one of
popularity, students should have a vote
to determine its existence.
The survey does potentially benefit
students, however. There are many
students who are concerned about
maintaining religious practices in
their college town, and the Office of
Ethics and Religion can provide them
with the necessary information when
they request it. The best course would
seem to be to find a new way to provide
religious information to interested
Other universities let students
choose whether they would like their
To the Daily:
I'm writing in response to the
February 16 Daily article,
"Regents Turn Down Pirgim".
There were several points which
were never mentioned in that ar-
ticle concerning - PIRGIM's
representation at the Regents
meeting and on campus and even
some innaccuracies in the repor-
ting in that article.
First, the words of Regent
Deane Baker and graduate
student Steve Angelotti received
a greatly disproportionate
amount of publicity by Daily
reporters. Baker and Angelotti
were the only two people present
who spoke in opposition to
PIRGIM. The words of PIRGIM
supporters Professor Richard
Mann and MSA president Scott
Page, as well as those of two
other students supporting
PIRGIM were ignored. Mann ex-
pounded on PIRGIM's
educational value and Page
yoiced the MSA endorsement of
PIRGIM's proposed funding ex-
tension as well as PIRGIM's vir-
tues as seen by a student leader.
Regent Baker was the only
regent not in support of the type
of activities engaged in by
Another fact which should be
made known to the 'University
community is the overwhelming
support PIRGIM's proposal
received from students, student
organizations, faculty, and com-
munity organizations. PIRGIM
Concerning the actual
agreement reached by the regen-
ts, PIRGIM was not actually
"turned down.': The regents
voted in favor of a modification of
PIRGIM's original proposal. This
includes a one semester exten-
sion of the current funding
system during which time
PIRGIM must gather con-
siderable student support in or-
der to continue the use of its fun-
ding mechanism. We at PIRGIM
feel this is a fair compromise on
our original request of a one year
funding extension. Furthermore,
it doesn't change our plans for ac-
tivity on the University campus.
Our plan remains to increase
student participation in the
organization and continue work
on forward-moving issues.
We at PIRGIM feel that the
Regents presented us with a
workable proposal and are op-
timistic. about the future.
Through our petition drive we
gained several new enthusiastic
volunteers. We want students to
understand that this organization
belongs to them. Any student can
come to PIRGIM and work on
existing projects or initiate a new
project on some issue which con-
PIRGIM will continue to act as
a service to students and a chan-
nel through which they can make
their voices heard. There is more
new life and enthusiasm in the
organization at this point than at
any other time I can remember.
- Phillis Engelbert
Engelbert is a member of
PIRGIM's board of directors.
Letters to the Daily should be typed, triple-
spaced, and signed by the individual authors.
Names will be withheld only in unusual circum-
stances. Letters may be edited for clarity, gram-
mar, and spelling.
by Berke Breathed
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