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September 05, 1991 - Image 28

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The Michigan Daily, 1991-09-05

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Page 8-The Michigan Daily/New Student Edition - Thursday, September 51991
PC abuses freedoms
it seeks to protect

7, t

by Brad Bernatek
It has been three years since the
University of Michigan introduced
its policy on "Discrimination and
Discriminatory Harassment" and
nearly two years since Federal Judge
Avern Cohn struck it down as un-
The policy's intentions were no-
ble and attempted to make the uni-
versity environment hospitable for
all. However, in an effort to do this,
the University administration
wanted to raze the very foundation
of the university - that quality
which make universities a market-
place of ideas - the freedom of ex-
Now, for many Michigan stu-
dents, the policy has become old hat.
It was ruled unconstitutional, and
students have become somewhat
more conscious of attempts to re-
peat the debacle of three years ago.
Meanwhile, the mainstream me-
dia has finally removed its head
from the sand. As the majority of
the Class of '95 were filling out ap-
plications to Michigan, magazines
like Newsweek and Time roared on
about political correctness on
America's college campuses. While
their warnings were warranted, they
were also belated.
F'r those unfamiliar with PC, it
is characterized not only by a strong
agenda, but an attempt not only to
reject but suppress certain ideas that
it deems to be offensive. Certainly
there' is nothing new about such
movements even in the United
States. Within a year of George
Washington's inauguration, the fed-
eralists passed the Alien and Sedi-
Change must be open
and uncoercive.
Speech codes and
other methods of
coercion are not the
tion Act which virtually outlawed
the Jeffersonian Democrats.
Similar acts were issued against
communists and socialists before
and after World War II. Most in-
famous is the McCarthy era of the
early fifties in which the House Un-
American Committee ran amuk,
calling anyone and everyone com-
munists and traitors. Today's polit-
ical Correctness does the same thing
and sometimes is even referred to as
the New MCarthyism.
Today, the main goal seems to be
a revolt against the "white male es-
tablishment" and is intent upon
ending the supremacy of Western
civilization and the ideas born of it.
At first glance, the PC crowd seems
noble enough, attacking prejudices
based upon race, gender or sexual
preference; however, it adds a new
factor: empowerment. Hence
racism, sexism, ethnocentrism and
the like are the creations of the al-

leged benefactor of Western cul-
ture: the white male establishment.
In rebelling against Western civ-
il ization 's primacy, attempts have
been made to revise many areas of
history by removing the taint of a
Eurocentric bias. As both sides of
the Atlantic prepare celebrations
honoring Christopher Columbus'
voyage in 1492, the validity of his
"discovery" has come under increas-
ing scrutiny
It is argued that a thriving civi-
lization lived in the Americas long
before Columbus set foot there.
While valid, this argument fails to
realize that, for better or worse, the
ancient civilization no longer ex-
ists. Furthermore, the culture of the
United States is distinctively Euro-
pean in character. In this sense,
Columbus did indeed discover the
United States of America for those
Europeans who colonized it.
The problem with those who
blast the hegemony of Western Civ-
ilization is that in exposing errors
of the culture, they trash the culture
as a whole. Certainly, Columbus did
not "discover" America in the
fullest sense and such a statement
must be qualified to ensure clarity.
However, members of this new
movement refuse to acknowledge
any truth, qualified or not, in such a
statement. Instead, Columbus'
"discovery" is merely a European's
subjective viewpoint or one that is
Eurocentric. Either he did or he
didn't and there can be no gray area.
Those that oppose the primacy of
Western culture default to the lat-
ter and proceed to reject the entire
Although this way of thinking is
an easy way to wash our hands of the
wrongs committed by our country
and our European brethren, this na-
tion is inextricably tied into the
Western tradition, whether that tie
be material or philosophical.
Turning our backs on our com-
mon heritage, which is common to
all Americans regardless of origin,
cannot right past wrongs or prevent
future ones. Change from within the
Western culture is the only way to
improve our country and our college
campuses. However, such change
must be open and uncoercive. Speech
codes and other methods of coercion
are not% the answer.
As the Class of '95 enters this
University, I urge you not to
wholeheartedly embrace this
movement or reject it. Its concerns
are well-placed; however, at the
same time, it goes too far, throwing
out the baby with the bath water. In
doing so, it throws out a corner-
stone of Western thought and one of
its primary contributions free-
dom of speech. As a consequence, it
subverts the very environment
which it seeks to change: our univer-
Bernatek writes a regular column
appearing on the Opinion page.

: '

Campus demonstrators protest the parental consent laws for underaged women seeking an abortion. Many contend that laws such'ati
will lead to the eventual overturning of the Roe vs. Wade decision.

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Conservative court liE

by Katie Sanders
In his last dissent, Thurgood Marshall ex-
pressed fear for the future of the Supreme Court
and America. he criticized the conservative judi-
cial activism of his colleagues, remarking that
"tomorrow's victims may bek minorities,
women, or the indigent," and fearing that new
justices, who undoubtedly will solidify the
court majority, "will squander the authority
and the legitimacy of this court as a protector of
the powerless."
Coming from the person who has stood as a
symbol of the civil rights struggles in which the
Supreme Court played a critical part, these are
sobering thoughts.
Because of the shifting political nature of the
court and the activist bent of the new majority,
it is likely that in the next twenty years
(conceivably in the next five years), the court
will roll back much of the progress achieved in
the past several decades by civil rights and civil
liberties advocates.
It is clear that protected classes of citizens
can no longer rely on the judicial branch for pro-
tection or relief in areas of criminal rights, dis-
crimination, and reproductive rights. Instead,
this responsibility has fallen on the legislatures
(where many argue it should be) to protect the
rights of minorities, women, and the poor.
Good or bad, this shift of responsibility from
the judiciary to the legislature will be an emi-
nent challenge to those who believe in the
preservation of individual rights. This challenge
is epitomized by the current abortion issue.
Whether pro-choice or pro-life, most politi-
cal observers and the Supreme Court agree that
in the next several years, the 1973 Roe v. Wade
decision legalizing abortions will either be
weakened to the point of being obsolete or sim-
ply will be overturned. Currently there are four

cases on their way to the Supreme Court- which
effectively could overturn Roe. They involve the
recent legislation in Louisiana, Pennsylvania,
Utah, and Guam that place extreme restrictions
on or ban virtually all abortions.
Meanwhile, the Supreme Court has chipped
away at Roe v. Wade by sanctioning parental
consent requirements, 24-hour waiting period
regulations, and the elimination of federal- and
sta-funded abortions. Thanks to the 1989 Web-
ster v reproductive Services decision, which al-
lowed states to impose these restrictions, Roe v
Wade is essentially already overturned for
women who are young, poor, or who live in rural
The most shocking blow to abortion rights
was the May 1991 decision of Rust v. Sullivan,
which upheld a 1988 regulation that prohibited
in federally-funded family planning clinics all
speech regarding abortion.
Not only does his regulation interference
with the doctor-patient relationship, it also cre-
ates a two-tiered health care system in which
women who can afford a private doctor will be
informed of the full range of options, while
women with lower incomes who rely on feder-
ally-funded family planning clinics will receive
only limited care and information.
The burden is now on Congress to reverse
this "gag rule," which, according to a recent
Harris poll, 88 percent of the American public
believes is an improper regulation of speech and
the doctor-patient relationship.
There is much support on Capitol Hill to re-
verse Rust, the problem, however, is that anti-
choice legislators have been successful at tacking
on restrictive amendments, such as parental con-
sent or 24-hour waiting period provisions.
(Students at Michigan should be familiar with
these kinds of constraints: in addition to a ban on

nits rights
Medicaid-funded abortions for poor women, in-'
cluding victims of rape and incest, Michigan last-
year passed a parental consent law and the state
House recently passed a 24-hour waiting period,
regulation.) These restrictions, which are per-
ceived as popular with the public, often put pro-
choice legislators in awkward political posi-
tions and therefore can scuttle the entire effort
to reverse the harsh court decision.
With a Supreme Court that is increasingly
hostile to individual rights and the right to pri-
vacy, and with a federal judiciary of which over
60 percent of the judges were appointed by Rea-
gan or Bush, the only recourse in the near future,
for those who fear he deterioration of civil
rights and reproductive rights is to exercise our
rights as citizens to lobby our representatives
and to vote.


As students and as young people, we have the''"
spirit and the resources to be a formidable"'~
power. Unfortunately, the age group in which
most university students fall has the lowest
voter turnout of all age groups (only 33.2 per-
cent of all 18- to 21-year-old Americans voted in
the 1988 presidential election).<;
Regardless of political convictions, it is crit-, of
ical that we exercise our privilege as Americans; -,
and our responsibility as citizens to participate
in our democracy.K
If the polls show that at least 60 percent of
Americans as pro-choice are true, and if the ma--
jority of Americans by the year 2000 will be,
non-white, it is critical that our laws protect -%;
historically oppressed groups of citizens and re-z:
flect the changing needs of our society.
Sanders is an Associate Opinion Editor at the'
Daily and a member of the campus American -,'
Civil Liberties Union.

HAC demands city build more low-income housing

p .

by Jennifer Hall
The city of Ann Arbor has a
housing crisis. Approximately
1,500 Ann Arborites are homeless.
Housing costs have risen dramati-
cally, more than 50 percent, in the
past decade.
The supply/demand theory of
economics points to a need for more
housing development in Ann Arbor
to bung these costs down. However,
recet construction of thousands of
housing units has not helped solve
the, problem. The rents and down
payments for these new apartments,
condominiums, and single family
homes are not affordable to low-in-
conme families, people working at
mintimum-wage jobs, and others
whose income resources are limited.
Despite an average income within
the city that has risen every year
since 1981, housing is financially
out of reach for a large number of
Ann Arborites. The result is that
thousands of people have become
homeless or have been forced out of
the city. Furthermore, many stu-
dents from low- to middle-income
families are denied access to the
University because they cannot af-
foOk. to live here.
;The development of low-income
Dousing is an obvious need within

successful campaign against city's
funding of the structure; now is the
time for the city to redirect its re-
sources toward its real need-
Last summer, HAC formulated a *
plan to convert the vacant Ann Ar .
bor Inn into low-income housing4 t
This plan's feasibility depended al-,
most completely on city support
and funding. So far, the city has not""k
looked seriously at the plan, -nor has,
it done anything to develop a long-
term housing plan for Ann Arbor,
Meanwhile, the problem gets noth-
ing but worse. HAC is continuingg
to pressure the city to take respon-.
sibility for solving the housing cr1-
s's. "
Through non-violent, direct ac-
tion, HAC has publicized housing
issues, dispelled the many myths
about homelessness, educated people
about government policies, and put.
pressure on the city to change its
HAC's tactics have included per-V
forming guerilla theater, taking ,
over a City Council meeting, squat--;
ting two vacant houses, speaking at:
City Council meetings on a regular ,a
basis, meeting with city officials
and citizens to discuss concerns that
affect the community, circulating
petitions, holding numerous

this comunity. n Ann AborRIon CANrf/U~


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