Tuesday, October 3, 1989
The MAkhigan Daily
A problem of control:
By Mark Weisbrot
The University is a wonderful micro-
cosm of the world around it, where many
of the contradictions between our society's
mythology of freedom and democracy and
its reality (corporate control, plutocracy)
can be observed in exaggerated forms. Like
,a modern corporation, the University is
run from the top down, with almost no
rights for workers. Unlike the corporation,
.owever, the university's avowed purpose
is not the accumulation of capital but of
knowledge. So the students, whose osten-
sible reason for being here is to absorb
some of this knowledge, cannot be por-
trayed, in the mythology of academia, as
mere inputs into a giant sausage-machine.
Hence there must be an appearance of
student input into the affairs of the univer-
sity. There is the general student assembly
(MSA), the student governments of the
rvarious colleges (LSA, Rackham, etc), and
student members of various committees.
Under the by-laws of the University, the
student assemblies have no power, and the
students on committees are always safely
outnumbered (when they can vote). Like a
grotesque caricature of the outside world,
we exercise the forms of democracy while
those who hold power make all of the de-
There is one exception to this pattern of
untrammeled administrative control: that
is the student newspaper. Unlike its typi-
cal analog in the larger community, the
Daily is not controlled by a corporation.
In fact the editors are elected by the stu-
dents who actually work at the paper, in
violation of all modern journalistic prac-
This little breathing space has proven to
be an unending source of annoyance for
University presidents and regents. Until
1967, the Board of Student Publications,
whose chair is appointed by the president,
would formally approve the Daily's edi-
tors. In that year, a student named Roger
Rappaport was chosen by the staff as edi-
tor-in-chief. Rappaport had earned the
Regents' ire by his investigative report-
ing, which had forced Regent Eugene
Power to resign because of a financial con-
flict of interest. The Board voted not to al-
low Rappaport to take his position as edi-
The Board subsequently reversed itself as
a result of public pressure and a threat by
Daily staffers to shut down the paper.
From then on, it has not attempted to in-
terfere in the selection of Daily editors,
but remains in control of the paper's fi-
According to a witness who requested
anonymity, Rosenthal met with Regent
Phil Power (son of Eugene) and Duderstadt
last semester and discussed the possibility
of shutting down the Daily for a week.
Now all this could be just coincidence,
but my own experience at the last three
Board meetings makes me a little wary.
You see, I was appointed to the Board last
April by MSA to fill a vacancy. At my
first Board meeting (April 12) Rosenthal
ruled that since he had not received an offi-
cial communication from the assembly,
my appointment (along with two other
pointment had been for that meeting only!
And this time he wasn't taking any
chances: I asked that the Board be allowed
to vote, and he flatly refused.
It must have been fascinating to an ob-
server at the meeting to see how low a dis-
tinguished professor would stoop, violat-
ing every established norm and rule of par-
liamentary procedure, to avoid even the
mere formality of student input. He went
so far as to summon campus securtiy
guards, threatening to have me removed if
I would not leave voluntarily. After nearly
an hour of standoff, a vote was taken, but
the deck had already been stacked.
Like his predecessor Fleming,
Duderstadt has been under tremendous
pressure to "do something" about the
Daily. He has received hundreds of calls
about the Daily's editorials on the Middle
East. And of course it's probably not too
pleasant to have the Daily raise the obvi-
ous questions about his commitment to
increasing minority admissions, while the
obedient Ann Arbor News sticks to the
party line (e.g. last week's article blaming
declining Black enrollment on the tough
"competition" for "qualified" students).
But direct interference with editorial pol-
icy would cause a very serious "image
problem." So for now, the administration
will probably have to be content with a I
hostile board controlling the Daily's fi-
nances. For the present, at least, the Daily
will continue to be the most independent
daily newspaper in the state of Michigan.
Mark Weisbrot is currently a mamber of
the Board of Student Publications.
'Somehow the minutes of the last meeting had been fixed to say
that my appointment had been for that meeting only! And this
time he wasn't taking any chances: I asked that the Board be al-
lowed to vote, and he flatly refused.'
But things are looking a bit ominous
lately. Last March, President Duderstadt
warned the Daily in a letter that with their
independence "comes the traditional re-
sponsibility of the press in a free society
to report the news accurately and thor-
oughly." The Chair of the Board,
Professor Amnon Rosenthal, publicly ex-
pressed his hostility to the Daily in a
Detroit News article the following May.
And this month, the only two
University professors who have taken the
trouble to stop by the Daily last year and
yell at editors, were appointed to the
Board. One of them, Professor Raymond
Tanter, a former member of Reagan's
National Security Council (NSC), visited
the Daily last April to threaten a multi-
million dollar lawsuit against the paper.
He succeeded, just a few minutes before
the midnight deadline, in scuttling an in-
vestigative article concerning the circum-
stances of his departure from the NSC.
students) was illegal.
At the next meeting (May 3) I placed
the letter from the MSA president in his
hand. He proceeded to argue, like a lawyer
pleading in the alternative, that there were
at least three reasons based on his personal
interpretation of obscure Regental by-
laws, that my appointment was "illegal."
In the course of the discussion it became
clear that his opposition to my taking this
position was politically motivated. A
Board member objected, but to no avail.
Finally I asked whether the Board could
vote. Rosenthal replied that the board
couldn't vote unless there was a student
member. At this point several Board
members began to groan, and the chair
I returned to the next meeting (Sept.
27), and to my surprise, Rosenthal had de-
cided again that I was no longer a Board
member. Somehow the minutes of the last
meeting had been fixed to say that my ap-
Michigan Student Assembly
Student government advocating student concerns at The University of Michigan
DATE: October 2,1989
TO: The Board of Student Publications
FROM: The Michigan Student Assembly
SUBJECT: Student Appointments to the Board
This is to certify that Mark Weisbrot was appointed to the Board for
Student Publications, in accordance with Regental By-Laws, to serve a
complete term that began in April, 1989. He is to remain on the Board as a
student representative for a complete term of two years, or until a new
graduate student is elected by the students during an MSA general election.
Michigan Student Assembly
Edited and managed by students at The University of Michigan
420 Maynard St.
Vol. C, No. 19 Ann Arbor, MI 48109
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.
Palestinians buried alive:
By the MSA delegation to
the Occupied Territories
Four Palestinian young men were buried
alive at the beginning of 1988. The de-
tails of the incident can be read in an affi-
davit. It reads:
"On Feb. 5, 1988 at about 2:30 in the
afternoon I was arrested in my home in
Kufur-Salem, and beaten up inside the
house, with batons, by kicking, with rifle
butts and with steel helmets.
"There were many soldiers, perhaps
more than ten. They ordered me to clear
the stones from the street. I did as I was
told and was beaten all the time.
"There were three others with me, they
are present here, and they were also beaten
harshly all the time while the stones were
being cleared. The soldiers ordered us to
shout 'Golani, Golani' [Golani is a noto-
riously vicious elite army unit]. After we
finished clearing the stones we were
ordered to put our hands on our heads.
Then with the others, I had to kneel down,
put my palms on the ground, lower my
head, and then the settler Nisim Habah
kicked me in the genitals from behind. He
did the same with the others.
"Then we were ordered to move to the
army jeep and there we were beaten by the
soldiers with batons, rifle butts and
"I fell on the ground and was again.
beaten all over my body. I was beaten
with a stone on my right leg. Then they
To the Daily:
So the AAUP proposes that Mark Nickerson and I, 35 years after the U of
M Regents fired us, be given "honorary reinstatement" ("Faculty fired
during Red scare may be reinstated" Daily, 5119/89).
Honorary reinstatement- sounds nice. Whatever it means, it sounds like
a gesture you could appropriately make
T HIS LETTER from Professor
Chandler Davis of the Mathematics
Department of the University of
Toronto makes an excellent point.
Y During the1950s Davis and another
University faculty member, Mark
> Nickerson, were fired from their
teaching jobs because they refused to
cooperate with McCarthyite witch-hunt
investigating committees that were
seeking to drive suspected leftists out
of college and university life. Other
faculty and students were persecuted
for their views, and either left volun-
tarily or suffered in other ways.
Numerous scholarly studies, such as
Ellen Schrecker's No Ivory Tower:
McCarthyism and the Universities,
have documented that the academic
victims posed no threat to national se-
curity or their students, but were
merely scapegoats for right-wing polit-
ical demagogues trying to advance their
own careers and to institute a con-
formist spirit on the campuses. Under
the leadership of ex-president Harlan
Hatcher, after whom our graduate li-
brary is named, the University of
Michigan became one of those univer-
sities that co-operated in purging first-
rate scholars who were among the mi-
nority of professors who had shown or
were showing the kinds of political ac-
tivism that is, in fact, necessary for a
Aipmnrtir emrinto nA ivorePn rn-_
to a victim of an honorary firing.
that "honorary reinstatement" to the
University faculty does not correspond
to a "real firing." Instead, Davis and
Nickerson, and perhaps others should
be offered their jobs back as well as
full economic compensation for years
of unemployment outside academia and
other hardships. In the likely event that
they will feel that it is too late in their
lives and careers to pack up and return
to the University, an alternative should
One suitable alternative might be the
establishment of several positions at the
University as "Activist Scholars in
Residence," to be held by individuals
who have demonstrated a combination
of political and intellectual achievement
in the tradition of those who resisted
the McCarthyite repression. These
women and men would be invited to
the University for various periods of
time in order to teach as well as write
and continue their activism. They might
be chosen internationally from inside
and outside academia, and likely candi-
dates would include leaders from the
anti-racist movement in the United
States, the anti-Apartheid movement in
South Africa, the Palestinian movement
for self-determination in the Middle
East, the movement for women's re-
productive rights, and so on.
Through this form, the
"rnmn-ncntinn" fnr dpnrivinc mir
ordered me to return to where I was before,
but I could not move. They forced me to
walk, but I kept falling.
"When I eventually reached the place
they demanded that I should lie down with
my face on the ground.
"A soldier trod on my body and on my
head, and my mouth was filled with earth.
I saw that the other three were also lying
next to me.
"Then I heard the sound of a bulldozer
approaching and I felt the earth falling on
me and I believed I was going to die.
"From that point on I remembered noth-
ing until I regained consciousness when
water was splashed on my face. I saw
women near me and the men who had
pulled me out of the ground.
"For twelve days I was unable to stand
or to walk. I am still in pain. The earth
was wet and heavy."
(Felicia Langer, An Age of Stone, p. 171)
According to Abdul Latif, one of the
victims that we interviewed, the four vic-
tims were taken to a hospital in Jericho,
and not to the closer one in Nablus be-
cause that city was under curfew. Eight
months after the incident soldiers came
into his house, and he was subsequently
"beaten," and consequently both his hands
were broken. He spent several days in the
hospital, and he had to undergo seven4
months of further treatment for his broken
hands. "Beatings" is a euphemism for the
savage treatment at the hands of the Israeli
soldiers which usually includes broken
bones, especially broken hands.
Today Abdul Latif not only has some
problems with his hands, but he carries a
psychological scar. After his latest beating
he could not walk for a long time, and ev-
ery time soldiers come to his village his
legs shake and he must hide for hours.
Charlie Danino, the officer that com-
manded the bulldozer that buried the young
men at Kufur-Salem, was recently pro-
moted in the Civil Administration in
Nablus. Civil Administration is a
euphemism for "military occupation." It is
also not clear to any of the bulldozer vic-
tims that any of the soldiers involved in
the incident have ever been in prison.
Abdul Latif's experience was not an iso-
lated incideant. Aleander Cockbhurn renorts