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November 07, 1997 - Image 4

Resource type:
The Michigan Daily, 1997-11-07

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4 - The Michigan Daily - Friday, November 7, 1997

cte SirbigauB aTig

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

Editor in Chief
Editorial Page Editor

'These scantron evaluations are not perfect, but their
imperfections fall to rationalize U of M's refusal to
release data from certain departments.'
- MSA Rep. Barry Rosenberg, on several departments'refusal to
release course evaluation data to the assembly's Advice Online magazine

often equals
lack of source

Media overload


Unless otherwise noted, unsigned editorials reflect the opinion of the majority ofthe Dailys editorial hoard. All
other articles, letters and cartoons do not necessarily reflect the opinion of The Michigan Daily.
Inoring good advice
'U' should release evaluation information

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n a scale of one to five, please rank
the effectiveness of this lecture."
Students face questions like this every
semester in an attempt to castigate or
reward their instructor and his or her class.
It is an opportunity to provide insight for
the improvement of the instructor and also
to encourage or dissuade future generations
of students from taking the class. But once
this information cozies itself into a manila
envelope, many believe that it begins a jour-
ney toward eventually educating the student
body. In most cases, this is true. But when
the Michigan Student Assembly's Advice
Online committee recently requested last
winter's evaluations from several LSA
departments, it met with fierce opposition.
It is the departments' responsibility to
release this information - failing to do so
compromises the potential impact of the
surveys and violates the law.
Opposition to the surveys runs high;
there is a prevalent belief that contests the
validity of scantron-type surveys. There is
no doubt that the surveys are biased and
flawed for a variety of reasons. For exam-
ple, female professors tend to receive lower
marks than their male counterparts.
Similarly, professors teaching large lectures
receive lower average scores. It remains
divisive as to whether the positive effects
outweigh the negative repercussions, but on
the positive side, grading does not play a
role in students' evaluation of a particular
professor's merit.
This ambiguous mishmash detracts from
the support Advice Online may receive
from University officials. The departments
vehemently state that they will not release
the data for a variety of reasons - they
have even threatened to end the use of the
surveys entirely. Despite constant badger-
ing by MSA, many departments, particular-

ly English and the foreign languages,
remain firm in refusing the assembly's
request. It is vital to both current and future
students that the University release this
information without further protest.
Students are the surveys' source of infor-
mation and should have the right to access
their results.
Beyond ethical reasons, the depart-
ments' refusal violates the state's Freedom
of Information Act. A July 1997 Michigan
Supreme Court ruling stated that personnel
records are not covered by FOIA's privacy
exemption. In addition, the University
administration admitted that it would entan-
gle itself in controversy if it kept course
evaluation records private. In a memoran-
dum to deans, directors and department
heads dated Oct. 2, two University lawyers
affirmed that "this new Supreme Court
decision will require the University to
release records such as evaluations ... ." On
Wednesday, MSA sent a letter to Chief
Freedom of Information Officer Lew
Morrisey demanding that the University
cooperate and release the much-needed
information. The University clearly has
backed itself into a corner - they must
release the evaluation information or face a
There is no reason why the University
should withhold this information from
students. Without the information, Advice
Online is critically hampered due to a lack
of uniformity between those departments
choosing to cooperate and those who do
not. English, foreign language, math and
physics students would be at a great dis-
advantage compared with those in other
departments. It is neither fair nor legal to
conceal this information. The benefits
reaped award added knowledge to the stu-
dent body.

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Unfitting end
State welfare law punishes wrong parent

T his month marks the beginning of a
new and unjust period in the state's
effort to force absent parents to help pay for
raising their children. Such radical legisla-
tion has been enacted in response to a seri-
ous "deadbeat parent" problem - 90 per-
cent of welfare families only have a mother.
Under a current welfare law passed in
April, parents with children receiving assis-
tance from the Family Independence
Program who fail to help the state find a
missing parent can be kicked off welfare in
only four months. The state delegates this
tremendous authority to the individual
caseworkers and has a set of criteria the
recipients must fulfill or risk losing their
checks. Recipients must name the missing
parent, identify his or her last employer,
give contact information of someone who
may be of assistance in finding the parent,
and show up for important court hearings
and blood tests in order to fulfill the case-
workers' requirements.
The welfare recipient can only receive an
exemption from the strict rules by proving
that their child was conceived as a result of
rape or incest or by proving that helping the
FIA would place her or her family in danger.
Beyond these exceptions, the recipient's
caseworker has the power to decide whether
the parent is cooperating completely - a
judgement too subjective and powerful.
The state's intentions are commend-
able, but one caseworker should not have

would be problems - large bureaucracies
are often inefficient and recipients who try
to get money from such an institution
would have to devote a tremendous
amount of time toward that end without a
guarantee of success.
Michigan has been successful in reduc-
ing welfare caseloads. Statewide, about
143,500 families receive welfare benefits
- a record low. Legislators proposing wel-
fare reform must keep in mind that the sys-
tem's purpose is to help people get on their
feet. The state's policy should be scrapped
because it will cut families off with no other
Michigan is second only to California in
the number of children receiving child sup-
port; the number of parents making timely
payments for Michigan children is signifi-
cantly lower than other states. Federal
money that helps parents in Michigan col-
lect child support from their ex-spouses is
at risk because the state has not yet imple-
mented the computer payment tracking sys-
tem required by the Family Support Act of
1988. This is essential because 36 percent
of support payments involve a parent living
in another state.
Extreme legislation, as written under
current welfare law, reinforces the need for
all state and federal legislators to come up
with creative solutions to solve the "dead-
beat parent" problem without hurting their
children in the process. Elected officials
must not only consider the taxpayers' side
of the issue - children are growing up with
only one parent. Punishing them further by
throwing them off welfare is inhumane -

Editorial did
not have a
The editorial staff of the
Daily is shooting itself in the
foot with such editorials as
"Desperate measures"
(11/3/97). Whilean editorial
is a forum to express one's
opinion, that opinion should
be supported by a consistent,
logical argument. The failure
to do so not only reflects
poorly on the author, it leaves
his or her premise open to
The author of the article
begins with the sad story of
Kawana Ashley, a woman
who shot herself in the belly
to kill her unborn child, pre-
sumably because she couldn't
raise enough money to pay
for an abortion. This anec-
dote alone might convince
some that abortions should
be free and plenty but the
author then, in apparent
defense of this belief, states
that "The government must
look at each issue from a
more objective stance."
Were the government to
look at the issue from an
objective stance, the criterion
would certainly not be "if the
woman has a sad story, give
her an abortion"~
The authordefies all rea-
son by proclaiming that "The
federal government must stop
putting low-income women's
lives in peril (by not offering
Medicaid-free abortions)."
The implication is that the
government is killing poor
women by not providing free
abortions. Using this logic
one could say that the Daily's
editorial staff is killing poor
women by not providing free
abortions.Or that the govern-
ment is killing poor men by
not providing free sport utili-
ty vehicles (the fatality rate
of Kia Sephia owners is
much higher than that of
GMC Suburban owners).
While there certainly exist
arguments in favor of
Medicaid-funded abortions,
one wouldn't know it by
reading this article. The
author might think about
doing his or her cause a favor
- leave the writing to some-
one else.
methods are
I want to thank the Daily
for the continual coverage of

Where else can you find
rabid college students ridi-
culing themselves by using
insane and barbaric "protest
didn't seem tough enough. I
understand because in ele-
mentary school, my HI' gang
changed its name from the
"Goonies" to the "Monster
Squad" to sound tougher, too.
I wouldn't expect anything
more from the lil' terrorists
of BAMN.
I was going to write that
BAMN is an embarrassment
to the University, but they
aren't. More than 10 students
would have to be involved for
the group to be a reflection of
the school. My misguided -
but lovable - roommate sug-
gested that the organization
simply has passion. Mob thugs
share that same sort of passion
when they are using the same
Gestapo tactics that BAMN is
so proud of. However, to their
credit, no one from BAMN
has broken anybody's leg. Yet.
Although the Daily is pro-
viding fantastic play-by-play,
I still can't figure out the
exact positions of BAMN or
NWROC. They demand their
First Amendment rights to
have their voice heard at pub-
lic meetings, right? If so, the
First Amendment must only
apply to their members
because they drown out all
opposing voices with vio-
lence and profanity. It doesn't
matter if their position on
affirmative action is right or
wrong (though it is wrong),
because their plan of action
is wrong. No one can get
their way through intimida-
tion or force. This said, the
many intelligent people who
support affirmative action
cannot support BAMN
because their actions are
ludicrously stupid.
In closing, I want to say
that BAMN has two options
for the future. Either they
can continue to entertain me
and make a mockery of their
cause or they can behave
like civilized people.
Personally, I'm hoping that
they get their own TV show,
but either way, I know that
the Daily will continue the
great coverage.
Cara Spindler, in her
review of "How the Mind
Works" ("Author Pinker
explores 'Mind,"' 10/24/97),
has illustrated a few om-
monly held misconceptions
about the field of cognitive
neuroscience. In her political-

not intuitively suggest a mod-
ularity of design. Thus,
Pinker arrives at a functional
methodology - reverse engi-
In his dissection of
human behavior from the
perspective of reverse engi-
neering, Pinker necessarily
assumes the existence of
evolution by natural selec-
tion. He does not, however,
idealize the implicit 'nature'
in natural selection. In fact,
he refutes what he terms the
"naturalistic fallacy" andi
affirms that just because evo-
lution by natural selection
may have given rise to par-
ticular traits or tendencies,
'nature' should not be
thought of as good or bad.
The frequent misinterpreta-
tion of this and other similar
arguments proves only one
thing: Nature is not always
politically correct.
Since evolution requires
that organisms reproduce, a
byproduct of the discussion
of evolutionary theory as it
pertains to humans is the dis-
cussion of human sexuality.
In today's political climate,
any talk of biological deter-
minism in sex roles is taboo.
Spindler is obviously sensi-
tive to this taboo since much
of her critique of Pinker's
book entails a cynical and
disjointed synopsis of the
argument surrounding each
mention of testicles or
Ironically, the very reason
that ideas such as evolution-
arily derived promiscuity
sound so farfetched is
because genes have such a
minimal influence on behav-
ior. In order to influence nat-
ural selection, all that a gene
would need to do would be to
make it a tiny bit more likely
for a chimp or a gorilla or a
human to exhibit a particular
trait over a fewtmillion years.
Thus, the idea that sex roles
or personality characteristics
are biologically determined is
only true to the smallest
All political discussion
aside, it was certainly not
Pinker's intention to write a
manifesto on sex roles. I
believe that everyone ought
to read "How the Mind
Works" simply because it is a
brilliant, witty and insightful-
perspective on the interdisci-
plinary field of cognitive sci-
ence, and it offers insight
into something nearly as fas-
cinating: how Steven Pinker's
mind works.
GSIs don't
make $900
per week
Tn ,w nu_.

I t's the night before my deadline and
as usual, I have no idea how I am
possibly going to fill 4,500 characters
of space. So far, the best ideas I got ar
"Cheese: hey, you know I love it" and
"Reasons why
women should
date my roommate
<insert name
here>" (I original-
ly vetoed that final
suggestion, but
desperation is
upon me). So I
return to square
one, filtering
through news PAUL
sources, hoping to ERILLA
find a topical and E~
interesting issue WARFAE
or event.
Nothing in the papers.
Nothing on the Web.
Time to start flipping channels.
I start at Headline News and keep
It was somewhereinmid-channe
surf that it hit me. I think 1 may hae
realized this earlier, but I don't think
my brain fully processed the concept
until my flipping was interrupted and I
stopped on "Entertainment Tonight."
They were doing a segment on
Scientology, the group founded by sci-
ence fiction writer L. Ron Hubbard in
the '50s. There is an ongoing debate on
whether or not Scientology can really
be considered a religion. As "ET"
shoddily tried to explain, this issue has
recently come to a head because the
German government has been taking
steps through law to limit the actions of
Scientologists in that country because
it sees Scientology as simply a pyramid
scheme, not a true faith. Some of the
harsher German critics have said that
the Scientologists actually have a plan
for global domination.
Scientologists have countered tha
Germany is reverting to the tactics of
the Third Reich and is persecuting the
group for no reason but their exis-
tence. Last week, there was a major
pro-Scientology rally in Germany and
several of the group's celebrity mem-
bers attended or spoke via satellite.
While s have my own opinions on
this issue and the conduct of the
German government and the
Scientologists, that is totally immateri
al tothe real issue: What the hell was
"ET" doing covering a real news story?-
This story has been brewing for years,
The New York Times has had extensive
coverage, there was a Congressional
investigation and frankly I don't think
"ET" has any business covering a story
of this complexity (not since they lost
John Tesh, anyway).
Yes "ET" John Travolta ("Look Who's
Talking," "Look Who's Talking Too")(
and Isaac Hayes (theme to "Shaft,"
voice of Chef in "South Park") happen
to be Scientologists, but you don't send
Mary Hart to cover the Mideast peace
talks because Adam Sander made
"Happy Gilmore 11" and Kareem
Abdul-Jabar has a new infomercial.
This "ET" report is just a symptom of
the greater problem, the prevalence of
illegitimate news sources. You can
blame it on tabloid journalism for blur-
ring the lines between news and enter-
tament in search of a better profit
margin. You can point to the perennial
favorites of media critics, O.J. Simpson
and Princess Di, and say that when gos-
sip column figures jump to the front
page, there is bound to be some mixed
signals - but that is incomplete.
The truth is there are so many
options for your viewing, listing, read-
ing and computing pleasure that the
market has become flooded and every

outlet wants to become all things to all
people. In that process many programs
have just tried to take on too much and
they look foolish.
For example, I don't care what The
Weather Channel thinks about the
effect of the cold on the World Series
-just tell me if it's going to rain. I also
don't care what "MTV News" thinks
about the off-year Congressional races,
show me some videos. (Remember
when MTV had videos?)
But this question of source legitimacy
can be more serious. For the last 17
months, former ABC correspondent
Peter Arnet has been running around
saying that the U.S. Navy accidentally
shot down TWA flight 800 over New
York. He received this information from
an Internet source, one that looked very
convincing to the thousands that later
visited the site and bought into the
explanation. This week, the Web page's
author, Ian Goddard, admitted the whole
idea was fabricated to foster distrust in
the U.S. government, which he believes
has been abusing power at the price of
individual freedoms.
For months, the families of the vic-
tims o~f that horrhle accidentIhave head



I '


the authority to inflict such threatening
penalties. There is no system of appeals
for welfare recipients who feel that they
helped the caseworker to the best of their

i I

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