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February 07, 1995 - Image 4

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The Michigan Daily, 1995-02-07

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4 - The Michigan Daily - Tuesday, February 7, 1995

abe igan ailg

V.

JEAN TWENGE

THE ERASABLE PEN

9

420 Maynard MICHAEL ROSENBERG
Ann Arbor, MI 48109 Editor in Chief
Edited and managed by JULIE BECKER
students at the JAMEs NASH
University of Michigan 7Editorial Page Editors
Unless otherwise noted, unsigned editorials reflect the opinion of a majority of the Daily's editorial board All
other articles, letters, and cartoons do not necessarily reflect the opinion of The Michigan Daily.
Policing the nternet
'U' misconstrues bylaw to suspend student

F--k! and other words not
to utter in good company

niversity sophomore Jake Baker has a
rather active imagination. In fact, he and
his imagination concocted some graphic sexual
fantasies and posted them on the Internet. On
Jan. 9, he posted a story with a woman's name
as the title. An attorney and University alum
living in Moscow read the story from a file of
sexual postings and protested to the Univer-
sity. Now Baker has been suspended under an
emergency order from University President
James J. Duderstadt under regental Bylaw 2.01
- and faces expulsion from the University as
well as FBI charges.
This case raises delicate - and as yet
unanswered -questions about Internet
"crime." In the near future, officials will be
debating censorship vs. free speech on the
Internet and whether including the woman's
name constitutes harassment even though it
was not sent directly to her. The University
wrestled with a similar dilemma last spring
when one or more University students distrib-
uted racist e-mail over the Internet. Although
no perpetrator was identified in the incidents,
University officials said at the time that posting
racist e-mail to a generic message group -not
to a specific person or group - did not legally
constitute harassment. In this latest case, the
FBI has charged Baker with distributing ob-
scene material. This will be one of the first
cases to fall under Congress' new computer-
trafficking pornography law.
The major point of concern is not Baker's
imagination or even the free speech issues, but
-as usual-the administration's handling of
the case. Admittedly, the person in question
may be dangerous. Certainly there is enough
doubt to further investigate the matter before
tossing him out into the street. After postpon-
ing a second meeting with housing officials
due to an exam and his lack of legal counsel,
Baker was accosted after class, notified of his
suspension, and allowed into his dormitory

roomonly long enough to snatch some clothes.
He had to sleep in a hotel room Thursday night
and is barred fromclass. As Capt. James Smiley
of the Department of Public Safety put it, "He
was asked to leave and he's outta here" -just
like that.
Baker was put through all of this because
somehow the administration deemed him a
danger to order at the University. Bylaw 2.01
allows Duderstadt to take whatever actions are
necessary to maintain order on campus. It is
likely that Baker needs professional help -
but is he an immediate threat to the safety ofthe
University community? Although the mes-
sage was posted Jan. 9, Baker was not sus-
pended until Feb. 2. Almost a month passed
and no one was physically harmed. This situ-
ation hardly merited the urgent steps Duderstadt
took to remove Baker from campus. David
Cahill, Baker's attorney, believes that "the
University has taken on the job of literary critic
and decided it's a campus emergency. I think
they've overreacted ... "Duderstadt's maneu-
ver clearly violates the spirit - if not the letter
- of the bylaw. The University must not have
the power to throw students out on whim- it
must be positive that it is an emergency situa-
tion before acting.
In addition to the careless haste with which
this case was handled, the administration has
fumbled badly by contradicting its precious
Statement of Student Rights and Responsibili-
ties, otherwise known as the code. Duderstadt's
implementation of Bylaw 2.01 shows the hy-
pocrisy inherent in the code-and then the use
of a bylaw to circumvent it when convenient.
Ironically, both the bylaw and the code require
the decision of one person to seal a student's
fate. This action conflicts heavily with the
code, a "provisional" policy in which the ad-
ministration has just demonstrated its lack of
faith. Ifthe administration has no confidence in
the code, why should the students?

O ver Christmas break, my little brother
reprimanded me for swearing.
"Cursing is the crutch of conversational
cripples," he told me. I hadn't heard that one
since junior high school, and I laughed.
Problem was, he was serious. "If you swear,
you limit your vocabulary," said the kid
who used to call me "shithead."
"So then why did I do so well on my
verbal SAT?" I countered.
"Because you didn't swear so much in
high school."
On that, I had to admit he had me. When
I was 4, my mother told me that "dummy"
was a bad word, and I believed her. Teach-
ers told me for years that smart people didn't
swear: As a 16-year-old, I had the impres-
sion that swearing was reserved for the kids
in the corner who wore Megadeth T-shirts,
smoked suspicious-smelling cigarettes, and
said things like "I'm not fuckin' going to
class." Saying I was "pissed off' was about
as far as I went in high school, and my
mother outlawed even that in the house.
Then I got to college. My first day of
orientation at the University of Chicago
began with a welcome meeting in a large
Gothic hall. At one point an administrative-
looking person (actually a member of the
campus comedy troupe) told us to note
some changes in the test schedule: For in-
stance, the swimming test would be held
tomorrow instead of today. "Aw, fuck!"

exclaimed a troupe member stationed in the
aisle wearing a Big Bird innertube. I was
amazed. This was an official meeting-and
the guy had just said "fuck"! This was going
to be different! This was going to be true
freedom! This was going to be a school
without hall passes!
Sure enough, one of my professors talked
about "shitwork" during the second week of
class, and another gave an entire lecture on
social sanctions after he (intentionally) said
"Shit, I forgot my notes!" Sure, my dad had
talked to me about "bullshit"jobs one sum-
mer, but that was around the same time he
started listening to the oldies station and
wearing his bell-bottoms again. But these
were professors far beyond their mid-life
crises, and they said "shit" as casually as
they would any other word.
Plus, all of my college dormmates and
friends swore like sailors - and that was
when they weren't talking about sex. By my
first Christmas home I had to stop myself
from telling my mother that the turkey was
"really fuckin' good." (Do NOT do this.)
It almost felt like I'd taken a course in
swearing, a la George Carlin. "Fuck! It's
the police!" is beginning swearing, Carlin
says. Intermediate swearing: "It's the
fucking police!" Then there's advanced
swearing: "It's the po-fucking-lice!"
Courses or not, college is a strange ha-
ven for swearing. College papers don't cen-

sor many words, I suppose on the premise
that young, easily influenced children (not
to mention old, easily pissed-off senior citi-
zens) do not read college papers. This is a
good thing, because otherwise this column
would consist almost entirely of dashes.
Other publications are not so lenient in
their use of invective. One conservative
publication went so far as to blank out the
word "dick" when quoting a (gasp!) safe-
sex pamphlet. A tabloid I saw quoted a
woman as saying "She's a dog and my
husband is a b-d." Since dashes are 4
really nothing more than an invitation to
play "Wheel of Fortune" and guess the
word, I decided to tax my brain and go for it,
right there in the checkout line. "Bitchhead?"
No, too many letters. "Boogerbrained?"
No, still too many letters: I wanted to buy a
vowel. "Behaving like Dan Quayle's brain
... uh ... and head?" No, way too many
letters.
I finally had to flip inside to the article to
find out that the word was "bastard." This
paper can print unabashed lies, pictures of
two-headed monkey-tailed alien babies, and
people's sworn statements that Elvis is alive,
but it can't print "bastard" on its cover.
So does swearing really limit your vo-
cabulary? I doubt it. It's phrases like "Con-
gressman Sonny Bono" that really begin to
undermine mental acuity, and I strongly
recommend against their use.

01

11

1

JuM LASSER

SHARP AS TOAST

A TALE OF TWO HOLOCAUSTS
(ho'lo-caust: a thorough destruction especially
involving loss of life.)

ya

correct rememberance:

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OPEN TO PUBLIC
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NOTABLE QUOTABLE
"There is no rule
forbidding anyone
from just being
disgusting."
- David Cahill, attorney
for LSA sophomore Jake
Baker, who was sus-
pended after posting a
sexually explicit message
on the Internet

.

"

I

Opp, 9pqmp-mwm

V

Electronic tether?
Restraint needed in tracking students

11

A South Quad resident was recently appre-
hended for pulling a fire alarm. The evi-
dence against him? University records showed
that he had swiped his identification card into
the door near the alarm just before it was
pulled. This incident raises some serious legal
and ethical issues. Of course, few would find
fault with the use of student identification card
records to catch the South Quad prankster.
However, the University must take steps to
ensure that its power to track students is not
abused.
At first glance, some may question the
seriousness of this issue. Who would argue
with controlling crime? But serious principles
are at stake here. The University is a de facto
government: It levies fees, provides services,
maintains a police force and holds judicial
hearings. Is it right for a government to hold
such power over its citizens? Should people's
privacy be so seriously infringed upon, with no
real system of checks on the government's
(University's) actions?
These are not mere philosophical abstrac-
tions. If this technology had been available in
the late '60s, does anyone realistically believe
that the University would not have taken ad-
vantage of it to monitor student activist lead-
ers? Today, a professor could ask for access to
the records to see where a student was during
class - and there is no rule on the books that
would keep the administration from releasing

the records.
The expansion of Entr6e Plus off campus
will enhance student life, but ominously it will
allow the University to monitor students even
off campus.
Of course, the record-keeping serves useful
purposes. It can trace criminal suspects. Very
importantly, it can rectify situations arising
from lost or stolen ID cards. The system should
be retained, but with safeguards.
Records should not be released without
student consent or court order. The records of
student movements should be treated as the
private property of the individual students -
not as public domain. If someone were ques-
tioned about their movements by an authority,
they would be protected by the Fifth Amend-
ment from being forced to offer self-incrimi-
nating evidence.
In instituting these changes, the University
must create strong regulations. It is not un-
healthy skepticism to distrust the ability of the
University to carry through on "good faith"
promises - not because the University is
inherently menacing, but because any free
government must have adequate checks on its
power.
The compilation of records of student move-
ment by the University provides some benefits
to students, but the University must relinquish
the dangerous powers it affords. Otherwise,
Big Brother looms large at the University.

LETTERS
Provost errs in
interpretation
of 'U' defense
policies
To the Daily:
Students and members of the
faculty will want tobe clear about
the liability to which they may be
personally exposed if, serving on
University "harassment" boards
judging other students or faculty,
the constitutional rights of the
accused are unfairly infringed.
Provost (GilbertR.) Whitaker and
the general counsel (in their let-
ter to the Daily of 1/19/95) called
attention to the University's "De-
fense and Indemnification"
policy according to which the
University will pay for legal de-
fense and damages assessed
against an individual implement-
ing or enforcing a University
policy (such as the Sexual Ha-
rassment policy) if that action is
"in good faith and in the perfor-
mance of his or her University
responsibilities." Their report is
accurate, and I am certain that it
is sincere.
But that policy cannot relieve
members of the faculty, or stu-
dents, of all anxiety in this arena.
Federal courts have held that if
"clearly established statutory or
constitutional rights" have been
disregarded, individual students
or faculty may not be immune
from personal liability. This the
provost and general counsel do
not contest. If in some future case
. _s _ 1ll~ ! '0 ~f M

they contend (and determine) that
individuals at risk had not been
implementing University policy,
or had not been doing so in good
faith. Much would depend, in
such circumstances, upon Uni-
versity judgments whose sub-
stance cannot be predicted with
confidence.
It is therefore correct to re-
port, as I did to the community in
my earlier letter to the Daily (1/
11/95) that faculty members and
students who serve on sexual
harassment boards and the like
may be subject to "substantial
personal liability" if the rights of
the accused are unfairly abused.
The claim of the provost that my
report is "not true" is simply mis-
taken. It is an honest mistake, no
doubt, based, I infer, on the
provost's personal conviction that
the University would never fail
to support a faculty member or
student in distress. But prudent
members of the University are
well advised to be thoughtful
about the boards on which they
serve, and about the codes they
are willing to help enforce.
Regarding the personal liabil-
ity of individuals who enforce
harassment codes the provost and
I disagree, but there is a far more
important matter upon which I
know we are in full agreement:
The University of Michigan
ought to be a place where argu-
ment is civil and respect for
people and talent is given by all
without reference to or regard for
sex or race. But when arguments
become heated, and push comes
to chn,,. wa, theI n,,;,e...,,

judgment on words or conduct is
not our business as a University,
we do it very badly, and we will
be a better University when we
stop trying to do it at all.
Carl Cohen
Professor of Philosophy
Lofts pose
hidden danger
To the Daily:
As the parent of a Michigan
first-year student, I have some
serious concerns and complaints
about the building of lofts in the
dorms. The University very of-
ten puts students in a room called
a "converted triple." Since these
rooms were meant for two and
now accommodate three stu-
dents, many of the students have
lofts built. There are also many
lofts built in regular double
rooms.
Nobody takes responsibility
forthe safety of these lofts. There
seems tobe no building code, nor
any inspection performed on
these lofts. The loft built in my
daughter's room (by a company
called Hungry Student Builders)
collapsed on the seventh day.
She was taken to the hospital by
ambulance and missed the first
day of class. Theemergencyroom
staff said they see several inju-
ries each semesterfrom accidents
cause by lofts.
Icalled the University Hous-
ing Office (and spoke to a secre-
tary) while my daughter was in
the hospital. I was upset that she
was injured and concerned about

room, they thereby increase loft
business in Ann Arbor. By tell-
ing the students that they must
take the lofts down at the end of
the year and put the rooms back
with the original furniture, they
create a new demand for lofts.
Either they should keep a double
room to simply two people, or
the University should build loft
and keep the room that way, so
that three people can live in ad-
equate space.
In any case, I think it is ap-
palling that we let our students
live in lofts that do not have to
meet any safety code and that do
not have any required inspec-
tions. I hope that more parents
and students become aware
this situation before any more
injuries take place.
Hopefully, some good will
come out of our experience if
some standards or inspections are
created.
Diane and Scott Brown
Deerfield, IL
Cartoonist is 0
creatively
exhausted
To the Daily:
In their parting words, Flint
Wainess and Sam Goodstein ex-
pressed their thanks to their "re-
silient" editorial cartoonist, J'
Lasser. Perhaps a more fittin
word would have been "redun-
dant." Thursday's depiction of
The Union proudly flying the
Nike flag is Lasser's third or
fourth commentary regarding

University Housing Division
Alan Levy, associate director
. ,- L C .. -..J & A..:. ! - n .,I .,,,r . 4 A 03

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