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January 25, 1996 - Image 4

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The Michigan Daily, 1996-01-25

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4A - The Michigan Daily - Thursday, January 25, 1996

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Ju-rrTIKAFKA

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01

420 Maynard
Ann Arbor, MI

Street
48109

I I

Edited and managed by
University of Michigan

MICHAEL ROsENBERG
Editor in Chief
JULIE BECKER
,JAMES M. NASH
Editorial Page Editors

University ofCalforni regents
expose myths of meritocray

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.
Cr'ying f
'Dental School 3' damagre fight against racism

The "Dental School 3" are back on the
job, one year after a white supervisor
fired them for allegedly falsifying their time
cards. Dawn Mitchell, Delano Isabell and
Theresa Atkins claimed their discharge was
the result of University racism. The three
employees filed a $1-million lawsuit. A Uni-
versity investigation revealed no racial mo-
tives on the part of the supervisor. And this
week, the two sides reached an agreement -
though the lawsuit is still pending - which
calls for the three to return to work at differ-
ent jobs in the University with the same pay
andvarying suspensions. The employees have
called the decision "a great victory." The
only "great" aspect of the case has been the
great waste of time and resources on an
empty accusation of racism.
The situation apparently has not changed
much since last year, when on Martin Luther
King Jr. Day, the University offered the three
employees jobs in other departments. The
employees refused, charging that the Uni-
versity was involved in a "cover-up," and
pressed on. However, this week's agreement
is almost identical to the University's offer to
the employees last year-the pay level is the
only major difference. Yet the employees are
still pursuing their civil suit, demanding back
pay, cleared disciplinary records and rein-
statement to the Dental School.
The University should examine any charge
of racism, and it did so correctly in this case.
University investigators concluded that the
supervisor's actions were justified. The arbi-
trator concurs with the new agreement. But
the employees have seized on a serious issue
-- racism - to further their own interests.

They are proceeding with a lawsuit that has
little foundation, and in the process, wasting
time and University money.
The National Women's Rights Organiz-
ing Coalition, a leftist group that encourages
"militant civil rights activism," immediately
responded at the time of the firing, calling the
employees' dismissal "racially motivated."
The group exploited the workers' plight to
stoke racial tensions, serving the interests of
no one but NWROC itself.
While racism undeniably exists, both in
society and on campus, the employees'
charges and NWROC's participation
trivialized the issue. When a case like the
Dental School employees' emerges, where
"racism' is invoked frivolously, it demeans
the true instances in which prejudice has
unfairly hurt members of society. The em-
ployees' attorney, George B. Washington,
celebrated this week's agreement by para-
phrasing Martin Luther King Jr.'s "I Have a
Dream" speech. Washington stated, "We be-
lieve that freedom should ring not only from
the Stone Mountain in Georgia, but at the
University of Michigan as well."
Beyond wasting tuition dollars, the case
will have further repercussions. The false cry
of racism may alter the University's future
handling of claims. The next person to stand
up to the University may be telling the truth,
but the "Dental School 3" have stolen cred-
ibility from the issue.
King hoped to make the United States
more equal and fair for all of its citizens. The
employees' false cries cheapen his intent -
and blocks the way for those who confront
racism in the future.

When the University of California de-
cided to abolish affirmative action on
its campuses, or, as its regents like to put it,
"stop using race and sex as criteria in hiring
and admissions," we all heard a great deal
about meritocracy. That's the key word in
any anti-affirmative action position: merit.
The argument goes something like this:
Instead of admitting, hiring, promoting and
rewarding people based on the color of their
skin or the number of their X chromosomes,
we should consider their achievements, their
skills, their qualifications. We should create
a society based on merit, and merit alone.
That way people won't have to doubt their
worth or question the legitimacy of their
promotions. Everything will be just and fair.
On the surface, it sounds like a good idea.
We would all like to think that we are treated
according to our merits, that we and those
around us are given the exact opportunities
we deserve - no more, no less. Turns out,
though, that even if the proverbial playing
field were level, a true meritocracy would
still be an impossible thing to create.
Merit, after all, is not measurable; it is
not distinct; it does not exist in any concrete
form. Merit is in the eye of the beholder, and
linked to all sorts of preconceived ideas and
assumptions. This is why affirmative action
was created in the first place.
If merit were judged the same by every-
one, elections would be moot - the best
candidates, based on their merits, would be
the predetermined winners. If merit came in

universally recognizedquantities, we'd never
have to wonder if we were going to get that
job or promotion -- we'd just look at the
merits of the competition and know.
But merit is subjective and, as the Uni-
versity of California's Board of Regents
confirmed last week, it cannot be the sole
criterion in making decisions about hiring
and admissions.
After reaffirming their commitment to a
euphemistically termed "new approach to
affirmative action," the regents issued ad-
missions guidelines to their nine campuses,
stating that 50 percent of applicants admit-
ted to the university system should be ac-
cepted based solely on their academic
achievement.
Academic achievement presumably
means high grades and standardized test
scores, both of which are based on the idea
of merit. Yet grades are extremely subjec-
tive and vary in meaning from teacher to
teacher, school to school. Standardized tests
are scored objectively, but contain cultural
biases and, due to prep classes and such, do
not function as they were originally intended.
But even if students' academic achieve-
ment could be accurately measured, the re-
gents' guidelines indicate that in today's
unequal society, other factors need to be
considered.
So the other 50 percent admitted to the
nine universities, after meeting minimum
academic requirements, are to be selected
based on "special circumstances." These

special circumstances include: showing un-
usual persistence, coming from a socially or
educationally disadvantaged environmentor
having a troubled family situation.
Not only are these categories ambiguous
and difficult to evaluate, but some, espe-
cially students' family situations, require
judgment calls that go above and beyond the
role of admissions officers.
Even criteria that seem simple and easy
to calculate have hidden complications. Take
economic disadvantage. It sounds as though
it would rely solely on numbers and fi-
nances, but there are some who feel distinc-
tions need to be made between the "new
poor" (i.e. children of recently laid-off par-
ents) and those who have been poor longer

1

01

and thus may be more significantly disad-
vantaged.
So now, along with considering appli-
cants' academics, admissions officers are
expected to determine their psychological
difficulties, personal struggles and the tru
depth of their families' poverty.14
Instead of "special privileges" for mi-
norities and women, the California Board of
Regents has implemented a policy of sub-
jectively determined "special circumstance"
for admissions into its schools.
Looks like getting rid of affirmative Ac-
tion wasn't so much about merit after all.
Looks like maybe it was about race and
gender.
- Judith Kafka can be reached over
e-mail at jkafka@umich.edu.

61

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MATT WMsATT

MooKI's Diu~iimv

\ (olt FSE D OFF
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000

NOTABLE QUOTABLE
'The question Is,
which Bill Clinton
will show up
tomorrow
morning?'
- U.S. Rep. Peter
Hoekstra (R- Mich.) on
the President's State of
the Union address

I

I

An ounce of prevention
States must strive to prevent child neglect

PnmSS CLdPPINGSdh b
Economic independence will help blacks

A fter three days of severe vomiting and
excessive urination, 11-year-old Ian
Lundman died of complications related to
juvenile diabetes. The well-researched and
treatable chronic illness killed Lundman in
1989, when his mother, an adherent of Chris-
tian Science, ignored medical advice and
decided to treat him with prayer rather than
insulin.
After the boy's death, his father sued the
mother and stepfather, as well as a Christian
Science practitioner and a Christian Science
nurse. His suit was successful-on Monday,
the U.S. Supreme Court refused to review the
jury's award of $1.5 million. The court's
decision was a step forward for children's
rights. Parents have the right to refuse medi-
cal treatment for themselves if they believe it
best - but if a parent fails to seek medical
treatment for a child, as Kathleen McKown
did, it extends beyond individual rights to
blatant neglect. McKown was frightened
and undoubtedly was convinced she was
acting in accordance with her faith. But her
neglect killed her son.
While the boy's parents deserve to be
punished, the court also rightly struck down
a $9 million judgment against the Christian
Science Church. Religious practices must
comply with law, but the church is free to
believe in and preach unorthodox doctrines.
How To CONTACT THEM

Adult members who follow those beliefs can
make their own choices - even ill-advised
ones - and the church must not be held
legally responsible. However, the court was
right to include the practitioner and the nurse
in the damages. Those who purport to be
"healing professionals" garner the trust and
cooperation of their clients. In advising the
parents to break the law by refusing normal
medical treatment, the pair contributed to the
parents' tragic neglect.
Nothing more can be done for Ian
Lundman. However, the Supreme Court's
decision may help other children. If a child is
already at the hospital and parents refuse
treatment or cannot be contacted, adminis-
trators can get an emergency custody trans-
fer to the state. But the boy simply told his
mother his stomach hurt. Legislators must
rewrite laws to crack down on such neglect
so that sick, helpless children like Lundman
do not suffer at the hands of misguided
adults.
Afterthe Court's announcement, a spokes-
man for the church said the ruling "leaves
four individuals to shoulder the extraordi-
nary burden of paying $1.5 million in dam-
ages for practicing their religion ... in good
faith." But any practice of "good faith" that
includes letting children die untreated must
be prohibited under U.S. law.

By Boyce Watkins
Twice a week, my best friend
and I get Together to discuss is-
sues. Nothing in particular, just
whatever is haunting our warped
little minds. This week, our topic
was something people like to call
"black separatism." I guess he
wanted a black man's perspec-
tive, but all I could do is share my
own point of view.
Due to the mostly negative
connotations of the word "sepa-
ratist,"I won't use that term. "Eco-
nomic independence" is much
more suitable. After all, short of
civil war, true separatism in
America is something that prob-
ably could not occur. Also, there
are gains to be made from a mutu-
ally respectful alliance (the key
word being "respectful").
The economic independence
topic comes to mind because there
is something very wrong with the
black standpoint in America. We
seem to have been forced to swal-
Watkins is a graduate
student in mathematics at the
University of Kentucky. This
editorial ran in the The
Kentucky Kernel on Monday.
LETTIRS
'U' heads
wrong way on
racial matters
To the Daily:
The article in Monday's issue
("Minority alliance group outlines
demands for 'U',"l1/22/96) about
the Minority Alliance group's de-
mands made me vomit. Every-
thing in that article demonstrates
that this University is not only
run by backward individuals, its

low the rotten, disgusting side of
an integrated society. On top of
that, our progress as a group has
been similar to that of a yo-yo:
Whenever we start to control our
own destiny, someone always
reels us back in.
One of the paradoxes of the
civil rights movement is the
American melting pot has simply
melted away black American val-
ues, as well as much of the eco-
nomic concentration the black
community was establishing.
Our children were integrated
into a public school system that
erodes their self-esteem, and we
married ourselves to political ju-
dicial systems that do not have
our interests at heart.
The Clarence Thomases and
Newt Gingriches of the world
have shown that we cannot rely
on easily reversed legislation and
court decisions to make a differ-
ence, and a simple shuffling of
districts is all that is needed to
dilute black voting power.
When the country goes into
one of its jealous uproars (i.e. the
"Republican Revolution"), all of
the mechanisms we've come to
rely on are swept from under us,

and we land flat on our backs.
The point is that even though
we've made strides in American
society, we are still unable to con-
trol our own destiny.
Black Americans always have
been under the false impression
that America is a democracy, and
we even believe that power be-
longs to the people! What could
be further from the truth? The
only true redemption in a capital-
ist society is money. Real money.
Not the kind you get from
playing in the NBA, but the kind
you get from owning the team.
Affirmative action will get us
jobs at General Motors, but we
may never own a major automo-
bile manufacturer.
How can we get real power in
America? How could we turn the
"highly impressionable" Bob
Dole into a black panther? Good
ol' fashioned independence.
By independence, I mean
starting and nurturing black busi-
nesses. If we don't protect them,,
who will? I'm talking about open-
ing and supporting black gram-
mar schools with black teachers
who will build up, rather than
annihilate the self-esteem of black

children.
It is sickening that manypre-
dominantly black universities are
on the verge of bankruptcy, yet
our marvelous black athletes are
earning billions of dollars fornon-
black universities every year.
Economic independence does
not mean that the races don't ,co:
operate and work together to solve
problems; in fact, it means the
opposite. By emancipating our-
selves economically, all Ameri
cans will see a new, improyed
state of relations between blacks
and whites in this country.
The point is that the relation=
ship must be one of mutual re-
spect. Mass exploitation, incar-
ceration and humiliation of black
men and women does not imply a
mutually respectful relationshi*
To be honest, it's pissing me off.
The solution is simple: When
black folks come to the table with
money in their hands, respect from
American leaders will follow,
The fact that we are only 12
percent of the American popula-
tion means that our commongcul-
ture, common struggle and gent
eral cohesiveness must be M44in-
tained at all costs..
a resolution specifically in sup-
port of the lesbian and gay mem-
bers of our community.
In a recent survey of the mem-
bership, only 6 percent of respon-
dents said that they view homo-
sexuality as a chosen behavior, a
mere 3 percent expressed the fee
ing that homosexuality is sinful,
84 percent supported (and only 5
percent opposed) the admission
of gays, lesbians and bisexhal
people as members of the church
and fully 92 percent supported
the ordination of gays, lesbians

University Regent Deane Baker
(R-Ann Arbor)
4944 Scio Church Rd.
Ann Arbor, MI 48103
University Regent Daniel Horning
(R-Grand Haven)

University Regent Laurence Deitch
(D-Bloomfield Hills)
2000 Town Center, Suite 1500
Southfield, MI 48075
University Regent Shirley McFee
(R-Battle Creek)

ternity-type houses are extremely
expensive and not too easy to
come by. Who's going to just
give you one?
Then there is the University
that continues to state how proud
it is of the fact that there are more
minority students and faculty.
How does that give the Univer-
sity the right to feel proud? If the
enrollment of the minority stu-
dents and faculty increased be-
cause there were more who were
qualified, then those individuals
have the right to feel proud, not

Christian, gay
not mutually
exclusive
To the Daily:
I read with interest your ar-
ticle in yesterday's Daily ("Gay
and Christian students discuss
stereotypes, beliefs," 1/24/96) on
a meeting Tuesday night between
gay and Christian students. I find
it amusing.to see these described
in the article as though they were

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