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September 08, 1988 - Image 42

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The Michigan Daily, 1988-09-08

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Page 6 - The Michigan Daily - Thursday, September 8, 1988

ISSUES

'U 'struggles wi
tarnished image aa

BY JIM PONIEWOZIK
t may seem surprising that the University - na-
tionally and internationally known, highly touted for
its academic and research programs - may have an
image problem.
S But, during the past year, newspaper readers and
television news viewers have been exposed to what
could well be scenes from an admissions officer's
nightmare - a picture of a University blanketed with
racist fliers, wracked by student protest, and accused by
some of neglecting its duties as a public institution.
"I THINK YOU have to accept certain realities
- some things are news, some things are not," said
Keith Molin, University director of communications,
of the unwanted media attention focused on the
University last year during a series of race-related inci-
dents.
Last winter, the University made local headlines
twice within three weeks: once when students held a
26-hour sit-in in the office of LSA Dean Peter Steiner
-, whom the students said had made racist remarks -
and again when more than 100 fliers saying Blacks
"belong hanging from trees" were found posted around
c~mpus - ironically, on the first day of Black History
Month.
These incidents also generated nationwide publicity,
including a front-page article in the April 17 New York
Times and an episode of PBS's "Frontline" documen-
tary series titled "Racism 101."
"I don't think (the publicity) is anything singly
damaging to the University," said Molin, noting the
PBS documentary also mentioned racial incidents at
peer universities, including Dartmouth and the Univer-
sity of California-Berkeley.

BUT THE MEDIA attention may be more than
embarrassing, some educators say. It may scare some
minority students away.
"I'm quite sure that some people haven't come (to
the University) because of it," said University Vice
Provost for Minority Affairs Charles Moody. Moody,
whose department is active in recruiting minority high
school students, said the question of campus racism has
come up several times during meetings with high
school educators.
But Moody said he believes most minority high
school students aren't deterred by the headlines. "I try
to deal forthrightly with people" when addressing the
racism issue, he said. "There's racism here, but it's
something that's throughout the world."
Audrey Lester, a counselor at Detroit's Renaissance
High School, said some Black students thinking of at-
tending the University have raised concerns about racial
harassment, but, for the most part, "they seem to think
they can handle whatever you've got to offer," she said.
THE PARENTS of the students have shown
more concern, Lester said. "They'll say, 'I don't want
my babies going up there where people are going
through that sort of thing,"' she said.
Counselors at other Detroit-area schools, including
Cooley, Mumford, and Henry Ford high schools, also
said students had raised concerns about the racial atmo-
sphere at the University.
Similar apprehensions arose among many minority
high school students the previous year, when winter
term saw the most campus racial unrest since 1970.
The protests drew attention from network news crews
and prompted a campus visit from Rev. Jesse Jackson,

Flight attendance KAREN HANDELMAN/Doily
Survival Flight pilot Jim Kettles checks his equipment before taking off. Now in its fifth
year, Survival Flight serves the University Hospital and regional hospitals by transporting
patients in critical condition. During flight the patient lies on a stretcher to the pilot's left.

who helped mediate between the University ad-
ministration and student activists angered by alleged
racial harassment.
"It sounded like they were lynching Blacks up
there," said LSA first-year student Robin Black, a high
school student in Chicago at the time of the 1987
protests.
BUT MOODY said the attention given to campus
racism could also benefit the University by forcing it
to improve its racial climate.
"I think (the PBS documentary) could have a posi-
tive effect," Moody said. "I think we can take a lemon
and make lemonade anytime."
Coupled with the negative perceptions of the Uni-
versity's racial climate has been a growing image
among Michigan citizens that the University stands
aloof from its constituency.
"At the state level, there is a perception that the.
taxpayers pay for the University and everybody else
uses it," said Molin.
This impression was reinforced in 1987 when state
legislators began complaining about the growing ratio
of out-of-state to in-state students at the University.
Many claimed the administration purposely tried to
boost the ratio because out-of-staters pay higher tu-
ition.
And despite University efforts over the past year to
raise in-state enrollment, some still aren't satisfied.

"WHEN I'VE GOT people calling me up, say-
Sing they've got a student with a 4.0 and he can't get in
because of out-of-state students, that's going too far,"
said Rep. Lynn Owen (R-Maybee), a member of the
State House Higher Education Appropriations Sub-
committee.
As of fall term 1987, Michigan residents made up
63 percent of the total enrollment on the Ann Arbor
campus and 69 percent of the undergraduate population,
according to statistics compiled by the University's
Academic Planning Office. The University's goal is to
raise the undergraduate in-state figure to 70 percent by
1991.
Owen said the question of whether the University
has done enough to serve Michigan residents has come
up in appropriations discussions. Last year, the Uni-
versity received the one of the lowest percentage in-
creases in state funding compared to other state colleges
and universities.
Molin, however, defended the University's com-
mitment to its home state. Because the University at-
tracts researchers from around the world -researchers
whose work benefits industries - it can help provide
Michiganders with jobs, he said.
"The man who has a job in Ludington today because
there's a new company there... his job is directly re-
lated to things we did," Molin said.

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