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October 21, 1998 - Image 4

Resource type:
The Michigan Daily, 1998-10-21

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4 - The Michigan Daily - Wednesday, October 21, 1998

irbgm 4i

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

Editor in Chief
Editorial Page Editor

Unless otherwise noted, unsigned editorials reflect the opinion of the majority of the Daily's editorial board.
All other articles, leucrs and cartoons do not necessarily reflect the opinion of The Michigan Daily.
AmneSty International petitions for human rights

'We are here to remember a beautiful life.'
- Hillel rabbi Rich Kirschen at the candlelight vigil for
LSA first-year student Courtney Cantor; who died last week
. \o

ocial activism may not be as promi-
nent at the University now as it was
20 years ago, but last Wednesday,
Amnesty International members proved
that it was far from dead. The University's
Amnesty International chapter attracted
more than 400 petitioners through a dis-
play on the Diag where members sat
blindfolded and caged. The organization
further marked "Amnesty Day" by "kid-
napping" geological sciences Prof. James
'Walker and music Prof. Steven Rush at
the end of their classes.
The purpose of the demonstration was
to collect signatures to demand an end to
the government-sponsored persecution of
two political activists. The first petition
requested the release of Tek Nath Rizal,
-"Who has been imprisoned by officials in
Bhutan for his opposition to the imposi-
tion of Bhutanese customs on the
Nepalese minority in Bhutan. The second
petition was for Leticia Moctezuma
Vargas and her family, who have endured
death threats and physical abuse because
of Vargas's vocal opposition to the
Mexican government's construction of a
golf course in the state of Morelos - land
'that the people there consider sacred.
Both the students and the two professors
who participated in the events on
Wednesday should be applauded for their
efforts to draw students' attention towards
the cases of Vargas and Rizal as well as
international human rights issues in gen-
Some might be inclined to dismiss the
Amnesty International demonstration and
petition campaign as utterly futile.
Obviously, there is no guarantee that sign-
ing a petition or writing a letter will

improve the situation of any given politi-
cal prisoner or persecuted group. The.
facts, however, indicate that there is swift
progress in about half of the individual'
cases upon which Amnesty focuses. One,
of the organization's notable successes
was the unexpected release of long-term-
Chinese prisoner of conscience Wei
Jingsheng in November of 1997. In any
event, it is apathy that ultimately legit-
imizes human-rights violations. Far worse
than working toward a futile goal is non-
action because the odds are not in one's
favor. When people's lives are on the line,
there is no legitimate excuse not to write
a letter or at least sign a petition.
Amnesty International might have
been the focus of Wednesday's events, but
the demonstration and petition drive were
also a reflection of the state of social
activism on campus overall. Hopefully,
the spirit of such events will become con-
tagious. Even in the absence of a war to
protest or massive civil rights demonstra-
tions to march in, the '90s are just as ripe
with important social issues that need to
be addressed as were the '60s. Gay rights,
affirmative action, abortion, human rights
and the Middle East - all of these are
just some of the significant issues that
demand attention in the '90s.
Kudos to the students and professors
who participated in Amnesty Day on
Wednesday for showing that apathy hasn't
overwhelmed Ann Arbor. The tradition of
social activism at the University is not an
easy one to live up to, but as long as indi-
viduals don't give up on demonstrations,
and petition drives, it will always be pos-
sible to restore the University's activist


Pearsonal eclucation

Computers should not take the place of people
tudents at universities throughout the ing is inherently subjective, and comparison
United States may soon not have to is not always a valid way to grade written
-wait very long for their grades. A new work. Evaluating an essay based on a stan-
computer grading system called the dard set by someone else's work means that
Intelligent Essay Assessor, developed at a student's original ideas may not be given
-New Mexico State University, is able to the proper consideration, not to mention
-grade student papers by evaluating their student improvement upon prior work or
"content as well as their grammar and rough drafts. Further, two extremely dis-
-style. But this program could undermine similar essays can both be equally deserv-
an important part of the educational expe- ing of an A, something that a computer pro-
rience and should not be instituted on a gram that grades papers based on a standard
wide scale throughout the beacons of model may not be able to recognize.
higher education. In addition, the use of this computer
To use this program, professors can program to give students feedback on
either feed one essay into the computer as their papers reduces the role of the teach-
.an example of what a good paper should ers' assistants in the educational process.
be or give the computer a sampling of Since it is cheaper and more efficient to
previously graded papers. This will then use a computer, professors would likely
allow the computer to "recognize" what require fewer assistants. But this step
,makes an 'A' paper, a B' paper and so on. would be detrimental to all parties
The program grades students' essays involved - graduate students would miss
based solely on the professor's submis- out on an important experience that
sions. Even though it is intended to be a teaches them how to relate to students and
:way for students to receive feedback on grade numerous papers, and undergradu-
their papers rather than a way for profes- ates would lose an opportunity to gel
sors to grade essays, this method of feedback on their writing from a person
-assessment lessens the human involve- other than their professor.
ment in education - receiving feedback Although using computers to grade
from a person is far more beneficial than essays is an innovative and efficient tech-
,getting help from a computer. In addition, nique, it should not be instituted at the
it is possible that some professors may expense of human involvement. Ever-
use the program to reduce their workload. expanding technological advances are
This system can quickly go through a beneficial as a whole to the nation's
vhole class load of papers and churn out growth, but some check should be put in
grades more quickly than a struggling place so that innovators do not lose sight
graduate student instructor, not to men- of what is important. Education is as
tion a researching professor. much about personal experience as it is
Besides the lack of human involvement about grades, and this program sacrifices
and easier grading procedure, the method some of that aspect. For this reason, uni-
the program uses to evaluate papers is also versities should not rely on the program


UWSA backs
Days of
I am writing on behalf of
the Undergraduate Women's
Studies Association to state
that we, as a group, endorse
and support the two Days of
Action in defense of affirma-
tive action. There can be little
doubt that this is a time of
rising conservatism. During
such periods of conservatism.
it is very common for there
to be an increased backlash
against feminism and
women's gains (in the politi-
cal, social and economic are-
nas). Given this negative cli-
mae for women, it is vitally
important that women work
to ensure that their progress
is not halted and regressed.
One of the best ways to com-
bat conservative efforts to
"keep women in their place"
is to take a vocal stand in
defense of affirmative action.
No one lives their life in a
vacuum. As such, we must
always be looking toward the
future with the past in mind.
Women, and especially women
of color, have never been
aforded a societal position
with as many of the privileges
and benefits as that accorded
to (white and sometimes non-
white) men. It wasn't even a
century ago that women
weren't even allowed to vote.
Today. women still make only
a fraction, on average, of what
men make. Women are still
steered away from subjects
such as math that are integral
to subsequent achievement in
high-paying occupations such
as engineering. We have never
had a woman president. What
do all of these seemingly dis-
jointed facts have in common?
They are evidence of the wide-
spread inequalities that still
exist in our country.
Affirmative action was cre-
ated to correct for such
inequality and as long as
inequality exists in our coun-
try, it will require remedy by
such tools.
It is important that we all
come to realize that attacks on
affirmative action are most
often founded on ignorance or
fear - ignorance about cur-
rent and historical inequality
between the sexes and the
races and fear of what a more
equal society might look like.
On Oct. 21 and 22, it is
important for women to come
together. Oct. 22 is also
National Young Women's Day
of Action. We urge women to
boycott their classes and to
attend workshops on both
days of action. These days
are a time to learn and fight.
In the words of Audre Lorde,
"Your silence will not protect

tive action. As faculty at the
English Composition Board,
we are concerned about a
rather widespread perception
on campus that students who
benefit from the University's
affirmative action policies
are somehow "unqualified"
to be here. Since we are
involved with the thinking
and writing of a great variety
and number of students in
Freshman and Junior/Senior
Writing classes and one-on-
one in Writing Workshop, we
believe our experiences and
perspectives could be inter-
esting to consider:
Under the University's
current admissions policies,
we seeastudents of every eth-
nicity and every soco-eco-
nomic background who chal-
lenge themselves to do supe-
rior work. That is our usual,
and expected, experience.
We also see students from
every ethnicity, every color
and every life circumstance
who struggle with our subject
matter, write poorly and fear
coming to us for help
because they don't want to
expose - or face - their
We have worked one-on-
one with white students and
students of color who attend-
ed poorly equipped high
schools in small towns, inner
cities and rural areas, and we
have seen those students
become highly skilled profes-
sionals: doctors, lawyers,
social workers, educators,
business people - all work-
ing for the benefit of society.
We have noticed again
and again that students who
have grown up with the most
privileges - financial securi-
ty, personal safety, pleasant
summer vacations and early
educational experiences in
comfortable surroundings
with the latest equipment and
the finest teachers - believe
that they got into University
solely because of their own
hard work.
We are troubled by the
difficulty that many ethnic
majority students have in
noticing the pervpsiveness of
everyday racism and in
understanding some funda-
mental concepts: how racism
is different from racial
hatred, why the concept of
"race" is no longer consid-
ered scientifically valid, how
the power to define terms
and limit access to rewards
helps maintain the racial
hierarchy and other basic
information about American
We have seen that stu-
dents learn best in ethnically
and socio-economically
diverse classes where they
are required to read material
that challenges-their assump-
tions and to listen carefully to
each other's life experiences
and points of view.
We believe that a strong
policy of affirmative action,
coupled with more discussion
of race and racism in class-

is important
On Oct. 21 and 22, many
University students will partic-
ipate in a series of marches,
rallies and educational events
centered around the defense of
affirmative action.
Additionally, Oct. 22 has
been designated as the
National Young Women's Day
of Action by female student
activists - there will be events
highlighting the history of
feminist activism of the past,
present and future, both here
and in the larger community.
While hundreds of students are
expected to take part in these
activities, there are many other
students who are unsure why
there is so much concern for
affirmative action and why
such events are necessary.
Last fall, the University's
College of Literature, Science,
and Arts was struck with a
lawsuit from two white stu-
dents who claimed that they
were unfairly discriminated
against because of their race. A
similar suit was filed against
the Law School. The law firm
handling both suits is the
Center for Individual Rights,
whose past efforts have result-
ed in the elimination of affir-
mative action at public univer-
sities in Texas.
In light of this elimination
at universities in Texas and
California and continued
attempts to eliminate affirma-
tive action in other parts of the
country, many see the outcome
of the University's lawsuits as
representative of the fate of
affirmative action nationally.
But some supporters of
affirmative action still wonder
why such actions are neces-
sary. After all, if the adminis-
tration is defending the
University's polices, does any-
thing else need to be done?
While well meaning, such
thinking misses a fundamental
point - that affirmative action
and other social gains were not
simply granted but instead
were a response to social
struggle. The University
administration has supported
affirmative action policies only
when it has been forced to do
so by social struggle.
This can be seen today by
the tepid defense of its own
policies given by the
University. Instead of focusing
on injustices and inequalities
the administration has argued
that affirmative action is good
because it creates diversity. In
and of itself this is not a bad
argument, but when the admin-
istration makes it more impor-
tant than the fact that affirma-
tive action has made a notice-
able difference in addressing
racism and sexism it shows
where it is coming from.
Instead of being interested in
fighting racism and sexism,
the administration seems to
only want to be able to main-
tain the school's reputation.

James Joyce is
15 percent better
than Ernest
W e like lists. I don't just mean we
as in we Wolverines, or we col
lege students. I mean we America
We like lists a lot. We depend
They tell us who _ _
to like and how
much to like them.
"You should go
to my broker. He's
the best. In the top
10 brokers on the
N a t i o n a I
Thieves list. Make
you a pile of
money, Bill. Then JAMES
you can get your MIL iR
kid in to the NI 1
C o n g o i adge
Academy for College Preparation and
Anal Fortitude. No. 6 on the American
Association for Exclusive Education's
list of top schools in top things. He'll
be a top kid in one of the top caree4
He'll make money. Says so right here
in U.S. News & World Report."
It used to be that lists were either
for simple things ordesigned for para-
noid, nervous people. The simple
things being sports teams and the lik&.
The Vikings are ranked ahead of the
Lionsand anyone can see why that's
reasonable, although Charlie Bath
has God and good defense on his sid.
The appeal to nervous people is a lif-
tie newer though. It has mostly to 0
with graduate schools and similar
"Get your law school rankings! Hot
off the presses! Will you be a worth-
while person at a worthwhile school?!
Can't tell without a number next to it,
can you?! Fiske Collegiate rankings?
Yes! Princeton Review? Absolutely!'.
And it goes on from there. Suburban
overachievers are suckered, their in
curities and tense parents exploited
the Standardized No. 2 Pencil
Recently, however, the list reflex has
been dripping into more and more areas
of our culture.
It startedwith the American Film
Institute putting out the 100 greatest
films of all time list.
In some ways, it wasn't that badof
an idea. It's true that movies today are
either Disney limbs or indie-Tarant*
nuggets. The AFI's list did re-awaken
an interest in movies that are worth
watching, i.e., "Citizen Kane," "The
Apartment" and so on. I'm sure the
rental rates of such classics skyrock-
ets after the list hit the major news
Then the Modern Library got into
the act. They countered with a "10
greatest works of fiction" list. Thi'
a slightly more peanut-headed is
Then The Sporting News, just 1.st
week, put out the "100 greatest base-
ball players of all-time" list. Mre
I'm not so naive or moralistic thaI I
can't see the real reason for these lits.
The AFI list sends people to the art
house theaters and the classics secten
of Ye Olde BlockBustere. The Modrn
Library list was supposed make the
high literary culture more accessibe
to the non-college set - kind of a
of crib notes, AAA's guide to fine 1146'-
Hopefully, when people go to the

bookstore for a Frappaccino and a
"Ulysses" they look for the Modern
Library label when they purchase.
Like experimental Irish fiction is an
impulse buy.
From a book nerd perspective (read:
mine), there is too much wrong with
these lists, but especially the book .
Translation problems in foreign ficti ,
lack of historical breadth, etc.
Apart from academic critiques1, l
wonder: Is this necessary? Or even
helpful? The problem with lists is that
there has to be a first and a last place.
There also has to be a differenie
between the first and second and 12th
places. I imagine Dan Deardorf and
company commenting on the books.'
"Well Dan, 'Ulysses' is definit
the book to beat out here. Joyce's
the strong semiotic content and lin-
guistic flexibility to make himself a
contender in both postmodernist and
more conventional deconstructionaliit
circles. On the other hand, Nabokov's
got one hell of a pass rush and don't
be surprised if he holds Joseph
Conrad to under a hundred yards da
the ground."
We are so obsessed with a "king9
the hill" mentality that we do stupid
things like rate books like cuts of beef
and baseball players like toasters in
Consumer Reports. It doesn't matter
that the only people who understand
"Ulysses" (people who are not me)
don't give a shit what list it's on. iIt


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