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April 12, 1989 - Image 4

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The Michigan Daily, 1989-04-12

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Page 4

Wednesday, April 12, 1989

The Michigan Daily

Edited and managed by students at The University of Michigan

Boycott elitist English class

420 Maynard St.
Ann Arbor, MI 48109

Vol. IC, No. 132

Unsigned editorials represent a majority of the Daily's Editorial Board. All other
cartoons, signed articles, and letters do not necessarily represent the opinion
of the Daily.
U.S. policy in Indochina:
Return of the Khmer Rouge

THE UNITED STATES has opened the
door for the Khmer Rouge's return to
power. Pol Pot's Khmer Rouge originally
took over Kampuchea (Cambodia) as a re-
sult of the destruction of Kampuchean so-
ciety during Nixon's bombing campaign
there in the early 1970s. Now Pol Pot
may once again return to massacre the
Kampuchean people, if the United States
does not participate in a political solution
that takes into account the present-situa-
tion there.
In 1975, the Khmer Rouge ousted the
U.S.-backed Lon Nol regime in Kam-
puchea. Pol Pot then murdered approxi-
mately one million Kampucheans. Over-
thrown in a Vietnamese invasion in 1979,
the Khmer Rouge could now take power
once again.
U.S. policy toward Vietnam contributes
to the possibility that the Khmer Rouge
will return to power. Vietnam invaded
Kampuchea after a series of brutal Khmer
Rouge attacks against Vietnamese villages
along their common border. The Khmer
Rouge now operate as a guerilla force in
the Kampuchean countryside and in
refugee camps inside Thailand, where they
routinely enslave and "disappear" people.
Using the Vietnamese occupation of
Kampuchea as an excuse for continuing a
trade embargo against Vietnam, the United
States has coerced Vietnam into a hasty
withdrawal from Kampuchea, whose pre-
sent government may not yet be strong
enough to resist the Khmer Rouge gueril-
By strengthening the Khmer Rouge and
placing an economic stranglehold on
Vietnam, the United States can undermine
peace, and economic development
throughout the region. Making an exam-
ple of Vietnam, the United States seeks to
dissuade other Third-World countries from
resisting U.S. domination.
The United States and its allies have
also voted for the Khmer Rouge, rather
than the present Hun Sen government, to
be seated as Kampuchea's representative to
the U.N. As a result, all forms of U.N. aid
PRESIDENT JAMES Duderstadt's three-
page letter to all students last week is a re-
hash of similar pieces he's written re-
cently, but it's worth examining, if only
because he has now decided to command
the attention of the entire student body.
In measured tones, we are instructed to
strive harder for "reason, balance, and re-
spect," to try to build "mutual understand-
ing, tolerance, and respect" for each other,
and to promote a climate of "reason,
tolerance, and civility" as members of an
academic community.
These are moderate and apparently rea-
sonable requests, but they do little to il-
luminate what the President is trying to
say. To help sort out the less obvious
messages, we offer the following transla-
Duderstadt says: "There are many ways
to discuss and tolerate differences and to
learn from one another without recourse to
irrational accusations, recriminations, and
litigation." He does not explain whether
he considers only certain accusations or
recriminations to be irrational, or what
criteria he uses to determine the legitimacy
of a given charge. Regardless, this is a re-
statement of his previous plea for an end
to "character assassinations," which -
looking at recent University history -
must be perceived as referring to attacks
on the administration, himself included.

This ties in very closely to the next key
Duderstadt says: "While I understand the
pressures we all feel from time to time, I
strongly believe we will achieve our goals
only if we keep our eyes firmly focused on
the prize ahead and resist calls for an im-
mediate reactive stance on every issue that

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The following is an open letter to the
University community regarding John
Aldridge 's course description for English
539, "The Classic Contemporary
Novel," Fall 1989.
Given the current debates about what
determines the canon of "great" literature,
many of us were disturbed to read of a
contemporary fiction class with a syllabus
composed entirely of white male authors.
But our distress is nothing compared to
the anger we feel at the caveat used to jus-
tify this reactionary exclusion:
.these particular writers have been
chosen not on the basis of their sex
(all of them happen to be male partly
[?] because strong female and ethnic
talent did not surface in this country
until the Seventies and Eighties),
their race, or their religion but be-
cause they are generally considered by
critics and scholars to be the most
important writers of the period.
Even if we could ignore the chronologi-
cal gerrymandering that removes all the
fiction written in the last 19 years from a
definition of what is contemporary, we
must still protest this attempt to deny the
talent of such writers as Ralph Ellison,
Doris Lessing, Paule Marshall, and the
numerous other women and people of

color writing within Aldridge's prescribed
time frames. Aldridge's self-conscious and
defensive posture forces us to question his
motives, and the intellectual honesty of
ducking responsibility for these sexist and
racist exclusions by deferring to invisible
and thus unanswerable "critics and schol-
By what criteria are these "classic" writ-
ers "...generally considered...to be the
most important...?" What "critics and
scholars" are responsible for this secret
canonization process -- presumably not
those who awarded the Pulitzer Prize to
Toni Morrison or the National Book
Award to Maxine Hong Kingston. The
language of Aldridge's course description
pre-empts any debate or discussion: "...as
classics, their work is particularly
illustrative of some of the most important
developments in the novel form..."
(translation of this tautology: they're great
because they're great because they're
great.) His clinging to undefined categories
such as "classic" are more unfortunate
given the English Department's "New
Traditions" requirement and President
Duderstadt's recent proclamations
concerning the Women's Agenda and the
Michigan Mandate for diversity.
We do not advocate censoring course
content or forcing instructors to teach

from a prescribed list of texts; we, how-
ever, need not consent to his vision of lit-
erary history. Therefore, we encourage
students to boycott English 539, "The
Classic Contemporary Novel."
Graduate Students from the departments of
English, American Culture, and
Comparative Literature:
Chris Bass, Peter Blickle, Christine
Blouch, Brian Burt, Yoshi Campbell, Chris
Cernich, Tim Chin, Camille Colatosti,
Nancy Cho, Michael Delahoyde Susan De-
spenich, Corey Dolgon, David Edwards,
Mike Fischer, Annee Fisher, Karen Fisk,
Thomas Fujita, Karin Fuog, Simon Glick-
man, David Halsted, Susanmarie Harring-
ton, Christine Haydinger, Sharon Holland,
Robin Ikegami, Helen Kim, Cynthia Koch,
Haromi Anne Kuno, Jill LeRoy-Frazier,
Elisa Lichtenbaum, Susan Marren, Matthew
Marrin, Shawn Maurer, Tracy Mishkin,
David Mitchell, Sherri Moses, Wendy
Motooka, Duane Niatum, Catharine
O'Connell, Tina Parke-Sutherland, Jeanne
Paul, Lisa Poneck, Lisa Rado, Ranu
Samantrai, Matthew Schultz, Christina
Shea, Sharon Snyder, Donald Ungar, An-
gela Winano, Susan Whitlock.
And the English Minority Student Coali-
tion, the U-M Asian Student Coalition, and
the United Coalition Against Racism.


to Kampuchea have been cut off, with the
exception of food delivered to Khmer
Rouge-controlled refugee camps along the
Thai-Kampuchean border. This has kept
Kampuchea poor, underdeveloped, and
vulnerable to a Khmer Rouge takeover.
Even more disturbing, the United States
has undertaken a policy of malicious neg-
ligence on its allies' military assistance to
the Khmer Rouge. The United States has
permitted Thailand, a country friendly and
subservient to U.S. interests, to serve as a
weapons conduit for Chinese-supplied
arms to the Khmer Rouge. The United
States has raised no objections to Chinese
military aid to Pol Pot either. As a result
of this military aid, the Khmer Rouge
now ravish the Kampuchean countryside,
where it continues to brutalize the peas-
The people of Kampuchea, as well as
Vietnam, have suffered terribly as a
consequence of U.S. policy toward In-
dochina. Out of the most elementary prin-
ciples of decency and humanity, the United
States should reverse its policy and take
whatever political action is necessary to
ensure that the Khmer Rouge do not bring
terror to Kampuchea again.

How great is Great Books ?

By Rebecca Novick and
Marcia Ochoa
This is an excerpt from a letter written to
Professor Cameron by two students in his
Great Books class fall term. All Honors
students must take Great Books.
We are both first-year students in your
Great Books class. We have been deeply
disturbed by the emphasis of your lectures.
You must certainly be aware that the
whole concept of "Great Books" is a con-
troversial one. While we appreciate the
undeniable value of Greek literature, we
cannot ignore the ethnocentricity of an
English requirement including only books
by white men in a Western culture. Nor
can we as women help but feel profoundly
marginalized by this university's curricu-
lum. We believe that women's perspec-
tives and the workings of the female char-
acters must be examined to a much greater
degree in Great Books. As the professor of
a class that by definition perpetuates ex-
clusionary methods of thinking you have
the choice either to continue what Toni
Morrison called the conscious process of
erasure, or to stop it - to consciously
bring women back into literary analyses.
What is required from you is a compen-
satory effort to counterbalance the one-
sidedness of the curriculum.
In one of your first lectures you said, "If
you're looking for feminist issues, don't
read Greek literature." This is clearly false.
The Lysistrata is about women's struggle
for power, and we fail to understand how
you could adequately discuss it when ap-
-proaching it with the belief that it con-
tains no feminist issues. It is becoming
frighteningly clear that you should have
said, "If you're looking for feminist is-
sues, don't take my class." Furthermore,
we resent your equation of "feminist" with
"woman." We are not particularly con-
cerned with the fact that Greek women
couldn't vote; women's issues go beyond
Rebecca Novick and Marcia Ochoa are
Opinion Page staff members.

the political. We are interested in women's
thoughts and in their unique perspectives.
There are certainly women's issues in
Greek literature, you are just ignoring
For example, your treatment of
Clytaemenestra's character has been un-
sympathetic. You devoted a great deal of
time to justifying Agamemnon's murder
of Iphigeneia and to establishing Orestes'
right to vengeance, but you did not exam-
ine Clytaemenestra's motives. Rather you
characterized her actions variously as pas-
sionate, irrational, unwomanly, and those
of a jealous woman. You are perpetuating
the stereotypes surrounding empowered
Even when you do include women in

The blame for this is not all yours. The
association of seas (birth-waters) with dyes
(women's work) with death, is Aeschylus'
misogyny, not yours. However it is no
longer adequate to say: well, Aeschylus
was sexist, Shakespeare was anti-Semitic,
but we and they exist in a cultural vacuum
in which we are meant to just "appreciate"
their work. We need to make clear that
while we do appreciate the greatness of
these works we must not accept all their
values unchallenged. You need to explain
Aeschylus' imagery and then point out its
misogyny, to point out Aeschylus' vindi-
cation of Orestes and then explain what
this means about Greek ideals of justice.
We recognize that the complexity of the
internal structure of a work of literature

'In one of your first lectures you said, "If you're looking for
feminist issues, don't read Greek literature." ....It is becoming
frighteningly clear that you should have said, "If you're look-
ing for feminist issues, don't take my class."'




take an active and public position on the
important issues which face the University
now. Should the University "keep [our]
eyes firmly focused on the prize ahead"
while a highly-qualified Black woman so-
ciologist is turned away with no explana-
tion? Should the president remain silent
while a requirement for the study of race,
ethnicity and racism is rejected and racist
incidents flourish on campus? How better
can we "learn from one another" than in
the classroom itself? Duderstadt is, in ef-
fect, asking students to read the Michigan
Mandate and shut up.
Duderstadt's calls for a more moderate
debate are not surprising. Public demon-
strations and expressions of outrage have
consistently been required to force the ad-
ministration to accept change. The recent
failure of the administration and faculty to
support a race, ethnicity and racism gradu-
ation requirement illustrates the impor-
tance of student activism to achieve the
progress Duderstadt only talks about.
If the president were seriously concerned
with maintaining as "civil" an environ-
ment as he claims he could work to
diminish the presence of military death-
and-destruction research on campus. If the
president really wanted to stop the flow of
racist hate materials distributed on cam-
pus, he could offer to waive tuition for a
semester for any student whose informa-
tion leads to a conviction of these crimi-
nals. If the president really wanted to
achieve the goals he is so quick to pro-
claim he could stop dishing out patroniz-
ing advice to the University community
and start accepting his own responsibility.
Instead, Duderstadt offers only a word of
quiet to the vocal discontent of activist

your lectures, your language is degrading.
In describing Achilles withdrawing from
the battlefield you said he watched the
battle, "Like a little girl playing with her
dolls." This is a very sexist image. When
you analyzed Nausicaa's character you
dismissed her careful planning as schem-
ing for a husband and then called her a shy
maiden, once more trivializing women's
motivations. Throughout the Odyssey,
you described the women as temptresses
and seductresses and showed Odysseus ac-
quiescing helplessly and a little gleefully.
You then called this a "male fantasy." It
may very well be, but forced seduction is
not one of our fantasies. The concept per-
petuates societal attitudes linked to rape
and to men's perceptions of what consti-
tutes rape.

sometimes precludes placing it in its cul-
tural context. We are not trying to deny
you this prerogative, nor to imply that
Greek writings are irretrievably weighted
down by the prejudices of their authors.
However, when we are told that a body of
literature represents the ultimate distilla-
tion of what it means to be a human being
- the epitome of human reasoning -
when on the first day of class you tell us
that the study of Classics will ennoble our
thought, the fact that this literature and the
analysis of this literature completely ex-
cludes women threatens our perceptions of
ourselves as human beings. The Greek
Golden Age is tarnished; we are asking for
a recognition of this, for an end to the de-
ification of a system of thought stained by
sexism and ethnocentricity.


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Letters to the editor


cussion on, "Myth of Terror:
the Turkish-Armenian Ques-
tion" (Michigan Daily, Mon-
dav. Anri lOR89_n_)

fate which the Armenians suf-
fered at the hands of the Ot-
toman Turks.
AsfanArme~nian. I can mcuire

the U of M Armenian Club, I
can assure you that no member
of this club, nor any of the
A rmcnin hitnr-,n nnt ~

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