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October 18, 1991 - Image 5

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The Michigan Daily, 1991-10-18

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The Michigan Daily-

Friday, October 18, 1991 - Page 5 '

Where have Michigan's
protesters gone?

decided purposefully not to help be-
cause I'm a conservative. I can't
prove that but it seems funny to
Organizing rallies is nothing
new for MSA Rep. Amy Polk, who
has been on campus since 1985.
"What the University has been
doing is eroding student rights bit
by bit. That's their goal. That's
what happened," she said. "Even in
the academic arena, the student voice
is being taken away."
Polk says the problem is a lack
of leaders.
Rackham Rep. Max Ochoa echoes

board member of the Ella Baker-
Nelson Mandela Center for Anti-
Racist Education. "But nopwhere did
it write about the protester's
replies. That definetly stunned us
for a while, but I don't think it has
stopped any of us."
The backlash against PC, or pol-
itical correctness, has had a chilling
effect on activists but has not
stifled them, Maurer says.
Karima Bennoune, a second-year
law student and PSC member, says
she agrees that PC has cast a shadow
over activists.
"The irony about the so-called
PC issue is that the very point it

by Purvi Shah
and Tami Pollak
Daily Staff Reporters
Fall 1987: Hundreds of students,
"mod by the United Coalition Against
Racism (UCAR), call for increased
minority enrollment and faculty
hiring. The movement culminates in
a boycott of classes and a march,
with the protesters demanding the
day off for Martin Luther King's
Fall 1988: Hundreds of students
protest the inauguration of Univer-
*ity President James Duderstadt on
the steps of Hill Auditorium,
attacking the process by which he
was selected.
Fall 1989: Hundreds of students
march through the streets of Ann
Arbor, joining the Latin American
Solidarity Committee (LASC) in
support of El Salvadoran revolu-
tionaries. Pro-Palestinian students
rally on the Diag.
* Fall 1990: Hundreds of students
take over the front lawn of Duder-
stadt's South University home,
staging a sit-in to protest the
deputization of campus police.
Fall 1991: Hundreds of students
are teargassed by local police offi-
cers on the eve of the Notre Dame
football game. No one protests.
The emergence of the anti-PC
Anovement, the disillusionment
Vrom the Persian Gulf War, and the
declining effectiveness of the
protest process have combined to
create a campus that is uncharacter-
istically silent.
Is Michigan's left - known na-
tionwide for vocally opposing wars
and the status quo - lost on the
road to social change or is it just
taking a new direction?
Linda Kurtz. Tom Abowd. Corey

People leave campus," she said.
Tom Abowd, a graduate student
who worked with the Palestinian
Solidarity Committee (PSC) and
has been on campus for more than
five years, says that the left is not
shrinking. He cites the "thousands"
of people who participated in the
anti-war movement last year.
"I don't think that there was
some magic three years ago. That po-
tential for activism is still avail-
able today," he argued. "Just be-
cause things haven't exploded this
semester, I don't think that's a rea-
son to say the left is in decline or ac-
tivism is dead."
Indeed, Abowd's answering ma-
chine message claims he and his
housemates "are off fermenting a
Although Kurtz believes the
campus left is at a low point, she ar-
gues that the movement will soon
reemerge through education.
"Protest has become passe ...
What we need is creativity. There
has to be a new way to do things."
But, she grimly adds, "In the end
protest is necessary. What moves
people is shame or embarrassment
or economic constraints. If the
University is going to lose monetar-
ily or be humiliated, things will
Last year's anti-deputization
movement tried to do just that -
humiliate the University through
rallies, teach-ins, chalk-ins and sit-
ins. But Corey Dolgon, former chair
of MSA's Students Rights Com-
mission (SRC), which led the
protests, now admits these tactics
may be unproductive.
"The ability to get what you
want from embarrassing the admin-
istration may be a thing of the past
- it's time to move to a much

Van Valey, currently a resident ad-
visor. "People get bored of demon-
strations and sit-ins - you have to
be creative, and I think that's where
a lot of the activists are right now,
trying to think of some new ideas.
"The lack of activity this year is
not necessarily stemming from dis-

illusionment. It does have a lot to
do with time. A lot of people who
were very active last year made a lot
of sacrifices in their personal life,
their academic life, their financial
situation. At some time you have to
try to find a balance between your
politics and your personal life.
"We on the left too often feel
personally responsible to change
what's going on. I feel I'm still be-
ing active. Any one person cannot
affect change.
"But," Van Valey added, "I do
feel things would be different this
year if last year's SRC was still
But this year's SRC chair, third-
year law student Michael Warren,
says it is not MSA's place to ener-
gize students around issues.
"Why is it the commission's
duty to find out who was the big
villain and publicize it?" Warren
asked at the first meeting of an SRC
subcommittee investigating the
South University teargassing. Three
students attended the meeting.
"It shouldn't be necessary for
MSA to get people concerned,"
Warren said, adding that he intended
the SRC to be "an organizational
group and not a group that actively
goes out.
"Last year's SRC used half
truths and sensationalism to get
people to demonstrate. We're not
about to run out crying 'The police
Maced everybody without justifica-
tion!' because the last thing I want
to do is misinform and alienate stu-
dents," he said.
Warren admitted that he could
neither explain nor rectify the lack
of student concern.
"I am one of the most conserva-
tive students around and I am very
concerned about (the tear gassing
incident). I don't know why other
people aren't responding. Maybe it's
a problem of publicity. Maybe
people aren't aware of the issues.
But there has to be ways other than
demonstrations to inform them,"
Warren said.
"Part of the problem is that the
people who are interested, the ac-
tivists from SRC last year, like Jeff
Hinte, and Todd Ochoa, are no
longer donating time. I would love
to have Todd Ochoa on my commit-
tee," he said. "But it's like they've
Top: Michael Phillips, then
president of the Michigan Student
Assembly, protests the Oct. 6,
1988, inauguration of James
Duderstadt as University
president. (File photo by Robin
Above left: Scores of students
stage a sit-in on Duderstadt's

Polk's concerns, adding that the
main issue concerning the campus
left is the lack of a student voice in
University policymaking. Ochoa
says students must establish power
instead of relying on the administra-
tion to grant rights.
Polk does not think that the
University community has become
more conservative, even though the
Conservative Coalition (CC) now
leads MSA.
Rackham Rep. Jeff Hinte, a
protest veteran who jokes that the
police lock him up even if he just
steps into the station, agrees that
the SRC could be doing a better job.
"I think (SRC members) are act-
ing slowly, yet responsibly. Where
they're most lacking is trying to
bring information to students and
empower them," he said. "Now it's

criticizes - controlling freedom of
speech - is what they are doing,
trying to shut people up, scare peo-
ple so they won't voice their opin-
ions," Bennoune said. "I don't think
it's worked very effectively, but it
has succeeded in creating a tension."
Bennoune added that the disillu-
sionment following unsuccessful
Gulf War protests has put a damper
on activist spirit.
Jeff Hinte agrees. "Most people
I know are a bit over-stressed.
People are a bit traumatized by the
increasing groundswell of support
and apathy toward the war," Hinte
said. "I was surprised the way peo-
ple uncritically accepted the war.
I'm just traumatized by that. It's
much more un-American now (to
"It's funny. The left is always
criticized for protesting, and when
we're not out protesting they think
we're not doing anything. Things
like education and coalition build-
ing are as important as demonstra-
tions," Bennoune said.
Polk says Monday's rally about
police brutality signals a new be-
ginning for the left. "It was a really
big deal for me," she explained -
such a big deal that she cancelled of-
fice hours.
"Even though there were only 75
people there it was very focused.
The purpose of the rally was very
clear. It was to educate people about
what was going on and to provide a
student point of view. It was very
clear that we're not going to change
any administrators with this rally.
We're going to educate ourselves,"
Polk said.
"Last year's protests were to
change something - to try to em-
barrass the University into changing
its policies," she added. "But I think
we've realized that the University
has no shame and will not be embar-
rassed into changing policy."
Dolgon says that although the
left isn't sure where to turn, it is
still moving.
"The people who have been in-
volved in the issues are still there,"
he said. "The left hasn't gone

Just one
Mr. President
"If you could ask the president
of the United States just one
question, what would it be?"
I hate that question. It irks me
as much as,
"If you had a
million Stephen
dollars and a
day to live,
how would
you spend
it?" or, "If
you could
have dinner
with anyone
you wanted,
who would it
would you
ever be in a situation to interview
the president, and only get to ask
one question? It sounds much
more like a fifth-grade writing
assignment than a serious,.
thought-provoking challenge.
But that's exactly the way it
was posed to me this week - as a
My orders came from the
editors at the APME Gazette, a
publication circulated among the
attendees of the Associated Press
Managing Editors' convention.
APME held its 57th annual
gathering in Detroit this week,
and I had the opportunity to work
for the paper on Wednesday and
On Thursday, President Bush
held a teleconference with the
convention via satellite from
Washington, D.C. I was told that I
would cover Bush's address, and
could ask the president a question.
- one question.
The first - and quite possibly
the last - chance I'll ever have to
ask the president a question,and I
only get ONE?!? Better make it-
I decided pretty quickly that it-i
would be inappropriate to ask him
what I really wanted to:'"What 4
the hell do you think you're
doing, George?" I was going to -F
have to find something a little
more specific and intelligent.
I posed the problem to a few
friends to get some outside;
perspective. A quick poll of my
housemates didn't turn up many
good ideas. Most of themoffered
questions similar to my first one,
but added a few more expletives.
One even suggested I take the
opportunity to ask about the
president's wife, Barbara.
Oh, that'd be good. My on&
chance to nail the president with a
pointed question, and all I can
come up with is: "Where'd you
meet Barb?"
One of the news editors at the
Daily said I should ask Bush
something seemingly benign,
maybe about the last book he
read. The idea, she said, would be
that his answer to a question like
that would be more telling than
the answer to a political query; h,
wouldn't be able to cloud it in a
lot of political mumbo jumbo.'
I took that as pretty sound
advice and kept asking around.

But by far the most interesting
recommendation I got was from
the Editor in Chief here at the.
Daily. He suggested that bring
up a part of the Declaration of
Independence he thought would
be fitting.
The document says that when
the government fails in its
purposes and pursues undesirable
ends, "it is (the people's) right to
throw off such government and to
provide new guards for their
He said it would be interesting
to hear Bush's views about this
part of the Declaration in the
context of the country today.
When I thought about it, and
thought about the dissatisfaction I
see and hear with our country, I
realized how appropriate that
question would be.
A lot of people are wondering
just how effective our elected
representatives are. We see
members of Congress stealing
money, bouncing checks and
getting away with it. Our presi-
dent seems to be much more
concerned with big guns and big
wars than schoolbooks and school
dollars. And we have a Supreme
Court that acts as though it's bent
on eroding every individual right;Y
we have.
Most importantly. we don't

very much internalized to the com-
mittee, which is not very good.
They're definitely not acting, so
what can I say?"
Ochoa agrees, but recognizes the
limitations of protest.
"We have to establish a student
voice in a way that won't make the
regents close down MSA," he said.
"I think protest definitely has its
place, but you can't protest to the
point where everyone shuts their
ears, particularly the people you're
trying to reach."
"When Bush came to this campus
and ranted and raved about PC, the
next day The New York Times
printed the entirety of his speech,
plus a summary," said Rackham
graduate student Pattrice Maurer,
an active member of the Aids
Coalition to Unleash Power and a

These people represent members
of the founding family in contem-
porary leftist campus politics. The
national media has labeled them the
"usual suspects," borrowing a term
coined by the administration.
The "usual suspects" have wit-
nessed the fluctuations in campus
activism and agree that education
and not protest is now the key to so-
cial change.
Kurtz, who has been on campus
since the fall of 1985 and is cur-
rently a staff member for the
Institute of Continuing Legal Edu-
cation, protested as a member of the
Lesbian and Gay Rights Organizing
Committee (LaGROC) during the
period when UCAR served as an
umbrella organization for a panoply
of radical causes.
In her activist heyday, "people
were more interested in really try-

broader strategy," he said.
Dolgon says the lack of active
protests this year does not surprise
him. He thinks a broad-based coali-
tion must consolidate and educate
itself before rallies and protests can
again be effective.
He believes the new Ad hoc
Committee Against Police Bru-
tality and Harassment, which was
formed this week in response to
allegedly racist police actions,
might provide an impetus for such a
coalition. "I am excited about this
- it's still small, but it's a very
broad-based group," he said.
LSA senior Jennifer Van Valey,
former MSA president, worked in
tandem with Dolgon on student
rights issues last year, particularly
the anti-deputization protests.
Van Valey attributes the de-
crease in activist outcry this year to

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