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February 13, 1995 - Image 4

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Publication:
The Michigan Daily, 1995-02-13

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4 - The Michigan Daily Monday, February 13, 1995

She £irbigau nai g

JAMEs R. Co

BENEATH THE PALLPsEsr

420 Maynard
Ann Arbor, MI 48109
Edited and managed by
students at the
University of Michigan

MICHAEL ROSENBERG
Editor in Chief
JULIE BECKER
JAMES NASH
Editorial Page Editors

Politicians, presidents and
the Open Meetings Act

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.
Jake Baker, revisited
Suspension justified, but questions remain

O n Thursday, Feb. 2, University student
Jake Baker was suspended under re-
gental Bylaw 2.01. Exercising his authority
to suspend or expel a student who posed an
immediate threat to campus order, University
President James J. Duderstadt suspended Baker
for posting a sexually explicit message on the
Internet. Many - including the Daily edito-
rial page - condemned the administration
for overreacting to what was mostly an e-
mail fantasy, a judgment validated by lack of
evidence to the contrary.
At the time, the administration produced no
proof that Baker posed an immediate threat.
Only last Thursday did the University back
up Duderstadt's decision by releasing e-mail
messages implicating Baker in a plot to act
out his fantasies. In light of this new evi-
dence, Duderstadt's quick action seems more
justified. While technical questions remain
about the process, it is now clear that sus-
pending Baker was a prudent decision.
There are two inescapable campus issues
related to this case. The first deals with the
Statement of Student Rights and Responsibili-
ties, also known as the code. Regardless of the
propriety of Duderstadt's decision, the role of
the code in this entire process is open to ques-
tion. If Baker was suspended under Bylaw
2.01 and is facing criminal charges, what is the
purpose of the code? The two University
policies overlap to the point where one ren-
ders the other unnecessary. The code, with its

fundamentally flawed judicial procedure, is
a poor excuse for justice. The bylaw, while
open to abuse, is necessary under certain
circumstances - and the Baker case very
well may have been one such circumstance.
If Baker is found guilty in criminal pro-
ceedings, it is obvious he can no longer attend
class while in custody, thereby rendering code
provisions unnecessary.
However, if Baker is found innocent, the
University could conveniently invoke the
code to essentially try him again - a trans-
parent violation of the principle of double
jeopardy. The role of the code in this and
other potentially criminal cases still needs
explanation and justification.
The second issue at hand involves free
speech, a gray area in constitutional law. Be-
cause this case is precedent-setting, it will have
to be left up to the courts to decide where to
draw the line. However, considering that some
of Baker's messages used actual names of
people he knew and because of actual and
implied threats in the messages, the issue tran-
scends free speech and spills into the areas of
harassment and invasion of privacy.
Baker's messages are indicative of a dan-
gerous person. In naming a specific individual
as his target, detailing how he would harm that
person, and having the access to that person,
Baker gave Duderstadt ample reason for quick
action. Beyond the questions about the code,
Duderstadt acted correctly in suspendingBaker.

T he next president of the University of
Michigan will be a politician. With
open presidential searches now mandated
by the state Supreme Court, only the tough-
est-skinned, most well-tempered politi-
cian will be able to handle the intense
public scrutiny likely in the next presiden-
tial search - unless state legislators act
appropriately now.
Last September the Michigan Supreme
Court found the University Board of Re-
gents in violation of the state's Open
Records and Open Meetings acts during
its ill-advised 1988 presidential search.
The high court ruled in an overly broad
decision that the process of selecting uni-
versity presidents could not be conducted
behind closed doors.
In what some would consider a con-
spiracy to circumvent the Open Meetings
Act, the University has paired up with
state Sen. John Schwarz (R-Battle Creek)
in drafting a bill that would permit the
state's 15 public universities to restrict
access to the names of candidates for the
position of university president. With
President James J. Duderstadt's reign at
the University likely nearing its inevitable
end, the legislation could not have come at
a better time. While the high court's deci-
sion opened the entire process to public
scrutiny, the proposed legislation is, how-
ever, too extreme: Presidential searches
should remain confidential up until the top
finalists have been selected. Final inter-
views with these candidates should be
public.
The purpose of the Open Meetings Act

was to require accountability and open-
ness in government; greater openness
would expose potential abuse and misuse
of power. But herein lies the dilemma.
How do we reconcile the rift between the
public's interest in the qualities of candi-
dates and the appropriateness of the selec-
tion process, with the interest of a univer-
sity in attracting the finest candidates for
the position?
In March, the University handed over
to the Daily reams of documents pertain-
ing to its 1988 presidential search. The
papers detail the 14-month process - a
search that cost more than $90,000 and an
additional $377,000 to defend in court. A
review of the documents revealed an eerie
picture of regents obsessed with secrecy, a
mutinous faculty advisory committee and
a search process that left no choice but
Duderstadt.
The eight-member Board of Regents
met in sub-quorum, closed-door meetings
to trim the initial 250 possible candidates
down to the 30 most qualified "potential"
candidates. When contacted, some candi-
dates voluntarily withdrew their names
from consideration, leaving 12 "actual"
candidates. Is it necessary for this part of
the ,e'rch to remain open? Of the initial
250 candidates, more than 200 were nomi-
nated by third parties and did not even
know they were being considered.
Compiling a list of names, reviewing
qualifications and identifying a limited
number of people for interviews to further
determine their interest in the position is
not public business but rather administra-

tive paper pushing.
An open selection process would re-
duce both the quality and quantity of avail-
able candidates. The position of president
of a major public university attracts highly
qualified, prominent persons. Full disclo-
sure places candidates in an uncomfort-
able position with their current employ-
ers. It merely serves notice that the candi-
date is considering other employment and
often discourages the best people from
pursuing an interest in the position. If
recommended as a finalist, the candidate
should be given the opportunity to with-
draw before the selection process contin-
ues. Candidates who consent to further
consideration, however, must be deemed
to have relinquished their right to privacy.
Fear of retaliation from a current em-
ployer or fear that they will be forever
stigmatized by the public as "weighed and
found wanting" - thereby ruining their
future careers as administrators - is the
type of intrusive invasion of privacy that
new regulations could prevent.
Concern that the bill would violate
students' rights is ill-founded if not out-
right absurd. In the 1988 presidential
search, alumni, student and faculty advi-
sory committees were involved in the se-
lection process and even participated in
final interviews of the top candidates,
though ultimate selection rested with the
regents.
Confidentiality in presidential searches
should be maintained but interviews with
the top contenders should be open to allow
full public debate.

01

JiM LASSER

SnARP AS TOAST

NOTABLE QUOTABLE

Time for action
Clinton should take lead on deficit issue

THERE ARE NO (STUNT-'DOUBLES ! r
N~r
7_ JZ
J _1/',

"I would not want
my daughter on
the streets of
Ann Arbor or
Ohio with a man
In the conditionI
believe (Jake
Baker) is in
right now."
- U.S. District Court
Judge Bernard A.
Friedman

P resident Clinton has done more than any
of his recent predecessors to solve the
problem of our nation's budget deficit. This
is chief among the reasons his new budget
proposal is a disappointment. Lack of leader-
ship from the White House, coupled with the
new political reality of the Republican Con-
gress, has put aside the difficult choices that
must be made.
The president's controversial 1993 Bud-
get Plan helped solve the problem of short-
term deficits. Until early in the next century,
the deficit should remain constant at around
$200 billion. Given the size of the U.S.
economy, that is a reasonable figure. How-
ever, soon after the turn of the century, the
deficit will rise again, surpassing $400 bil-
lion in 2005, according to the Congressional
Budget Office. Clinton saved the country
from a budget shortfall early in his term -
and he is now, regrettably, ignoring the long-
term problem.
Why will the deficit shoot up again? The
culprit is the rising cost of entitlements -
benefits the government automatically pays
to individuals, such as Medicare, Medicaid,
pensions and, most of all, Social Security,
the single most costly item in the budget.
These are worthy programs - in many re-
spects, they demonstrate government at its
finest, meeting the needs of those who have
contributed to the nation, but who are now
unable to meet their own needs. Still, there is
room for meaningful cuts in these programs.
Clinton should ask Congress to institute
some sort of "means test" for these programs
- especially the grand behemoth, Social
Security. Under the current system, many
recipients receive what they have paid into
the system within a few years, yet continue to
receive generous handouts for decades.
There is a lot of room for cutting. Institut-
ing means testing would mean that well-to-
How T0 CONTACT THEM

do recipients would see their benefits scaled
back, but they could still receive everything
they had paid into the system and then some.
The problem is that good policy is not
always good politics. Clinton realizes that no
program is better protected by special inter-
ests, and the voters themselves, than Social
Security. And even the so-called budget-
cutters in the GOP rule out cutting Social
Security. The irony is that the Republicans
claim they can make substantial savings by
cutting welfare for the poor - about 1 per-
cent of the budget - yet they rule out cutting
welfare for the wealthy. It is clearly not all
Clinton's fault; much of the blame must fall
on big-government conservatives. Social
Security has been "taken off the table" in the
debate. It is time for it to be put back on.
Knowing that the GOP will warp the
budget beyond recognition, the president is
using his plan as a political gesture and
daring the GOP to make the unpopular deci-
sions. Instead, he should be using the budget
to provide leadership in this debate. This is
the crux of the problem with Clinton's bud-
get, and it extends beyond the entitlement
issue. Consider taxes: Tax cuts are nice, but
Clinton's are too generous. And, aside from
the tuition deduction, they once more show a
propensity toward short-term solutions for
long-term problems. This is not time for the
president to rest on his deficit-cutting laurels.
Bold leadership is needed. Despite the politi-
cal obstacles involved, in fact, there may be
a window of opportunity for entitlement re-
form. When else have so many radical anti-
government crusaders held seats in the Con-
gress? Clinton could one-up the GOP by
assaulting the real welfare state.
In these unstable, yet important, times, the
president must lead. Unfortunately, with his
new budget, he does not. The opportunity
exists - Clinton should seize the initiative.

LETTERS
Baker article
full of holes
To the Daily:
I found it very interesting
that the Daily ran "Student sus-
pended for e-mail fantasy" and
"Judge rules 'U' must allow
NORML to host Hash Bash" on
the same front page (2/6/95).
Both touch upon the exact same
issue: Freedom of speech.
Baker's First Amendment right
to free speech was violated by
President Duderstadt's decision
that order can not be maintained
- if anything his decision is
causing more havoc than any-
thing Baker has ever done. Con-
sider, Judge Shelton's ruling that
the University violated the First
Amendment rights of NORML
demonstrates that Baker is
hardly alone. Shelton wrote,
"This great University appar-
ently does not understand or
refuses to accept the basic
premise of our Constitution that
a peaceable person exercising
the right to free speech may not
be restricted because of fear of
how others may react to the ex-
ercise of that right." What does
this say about this University
that our rights may be abridged
on a case-by-case basis? Tradi-
tionally, the Internet's writers
of erotic fiction have maintained
anonymity because of this kind

the article. The correct term is
"'newsgroup.'' The implication
of the word e-mail may be inter-
preted to imply that Mr. Baker
has violated our right to pri-
vacy. E-mail implies the private
communication of one person
to another. A newsgroup on the
other hand, is the Internet
equivalent of the traditional
soapbox. Anyone can stand up
and speak, but everyone has the
choice not to read that person's
thoughts. Jake Baker never
forced anyone to read his writ-
ings, and even placed a warning
label describing the contents of
his writings prefacing his story!
The wrongful use of the term e-
mail may wrongly implicate an
innocent student. Be careful.
Calvin Chu
Engineering sophomore
Librarians
dishonor their
books
To the Daily:
I was surprised to see John
Dann, director of the Clements
Library, grossly mishandling an
apparently old and rare book
(which he is supposedly charged
with preserving) while Arlene
Shy, head of reader services,
calmly observes his careless-
ness on the front page of the

Tuition
hinder

costs

education
To the Daily:
I read the Daily daily and I
would like to put my "two cents"
in.
First I would like to talk
about tuition and room and
board. Let me state that I am not
an economics major or a busi-
ness major, but I am speaking as
a concerned student and citizen
and future parent (further down
the road). Why must tuition and
other University costs go up ev-
ery year? Is this a sign of a
budget that is out of control or
what? Right now in 1995 the
highest university is already at
the $100,000 mark for four
years!
The way I see it is one, why
hasn't there been any legisla-
tive action to control the amount
universities can charge per year?
Two, if we don't do something
now, then everyone who ever
plans to have children should
start saving now while they're
in college. Maybe by the time
their child is ready to go off to
college they will have enough
to cover tuition.
Another problem that I see

with this hike every year is that
"Joe Average" will not make
enough half that amount per
year. And with a lot of people
having a rough time receiving
loans and other financial aid,
everyone will really have to
search through those scholar-
ship books. You know, the ones
that say you must have been
born in Alaska, live in Califor-
nia, but are now a resident of
Michigan living in Wayne
County having- attended
Kettering High School and
whose parents must have at-
tended the same school, double
majoring in history/anthro, with
a minor in physics, at the Uni-
versity of Michigan! But many
of us fit this description. (Yeah,
right.)
Seriously what does the fu-
ture hold for our children when
it comes to getting a higher edu-
cation? And plus nowadays you
can barely get a job with a B.A.,
so you know what that means
.- more schooling. It's tough
enough to get into a good uni-
versity, but it's worse yet when
you don't have the money to
attend. Is there anyone out there
who can help me understand
this?

Dorma Burnside
LSA sophomore

University Regent Shirley McFee
(R-Battle Creek)

University Regent Rebecca McGowan
(D-Ann Arbor)

WHAT'S AFFECTING 'U' THS WEK

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