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February 05, 1999 - Image 4

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The Michigan Daily, 1999-02-05

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4 - The Michigan Daily - Friday, February 5, 1999

ez AhdCi tl u ttnattg

Postal Service's project raises questions about history

420 Maynard Street
Ann Arbor, MI 48109
daily. letters@umich.edu
Edited and managed by
students at the
University of Michigan

HEATHER KAMINS
Editor in Chief
JEFFREY KOSSEFF
DAVID WALLACE
Editorial Page Editors

Unless otherwise noted, unsigned editorials reflect the opinion of the majority offthe
Daily's editorial board. All other articles, letters and cartoons do not necessarily reflect
the opinion of The Michigan Daily

The immovable '
2.5-percent GEO increase is unacceptable

T he first assignment in my high school
AP American History class was an
essay answering the question, "What is his-
tory?"
My thesis: the biography of all people.
History is happening around us now. We
may be more acutely
aware of this insight at
this particular
moment than usual, as
we watch a Senate:
impeachment trial and
count down to a mil-
lennium. Eventually, '
these and currently
less noticeable events
and people will join
history.M
But still, "What is Megan
history?" Schimpf
History is made Presctiptions
over time. History is
composed of those
events, people and circumstances that pre-
vail and maintain connections to those
before them and those following them.
History has passed beyond the day-to-day
realm of journalists and political scientists
and into the arena of those who see within a
framework of what has gone before.
By now most of us have learned rather
gratefully that history is more than mem-
orizing state capitals or filling in blanks
about who the first president was or -
shudder - why we fought the American
Revolution. As our own lives have grown
steadily more complex, it is easier to
sense how intricate and fascinating histo-
ry is.
There are theories, there are facts, there
are motivations, there are secrets, there are
deals, there are lies, there are triumphs,
there are gambles. Anything so simple as to

be described in a sentence deserves more
investigation.
So "What is history?" is probably the
most intriguing, impossible essay we wrote
all year. And it is a question that everyone
with a microphone, museum or printed
word is attempting to answer as we stand at
our self-appointed crossroads.
The U.S. Postal Service has chosen to
answer the question with a series of 10-15
images per decade. Its program, Celebrate
The Century, claims education as "corner-
stone" in its effort to mark the most impor-
tant events or people of the 10 decades. The
stamps will be released gradually between
February 1998 and June 1999. The choices
for the decades up through the '50s were
made by an advisory committee, the others
by public vote.
Through April, you can vote on stamps
for the 1980s on the Postal Service's
Website, www.usps.com. If you do, you will
be embarrassed at the selections from that
decade for being shallow and silly com-
pared to the weighty moments from earlier
decades.
Was the first decade most students
remember that vacuous? For all its reputa-
tion, most likely it was not. The fall of the
Berlin Wall is one of the choices, and other
selections merit inclusion for what they still
mean. But even beyond the ban on honoring
living people, the Postal Service's selection
pool is limited because of "What is histo-
ry?"
We can look at the stamps from earlier
decades and agree that these major events
shaped the remainder of the century. We
cannot say the same for some of the '80s
options, including "Aerobics."
The choices for the '80s, and most likely
the '90s, are bland because the events of
those decades are not ready for history. We

can tie them to the past, but we lack enough
present to make them the past. History
thrives on connections and interweavings in
both directions. These events and people
are not developed yet, regardless of their
existence at a time in which most find his-
torical significance.
We can agree, for instance, that the
Beatles belong among the history of the
'60s. But what -to do now with Bruce
Springsteen? Yes, Babe Ruth. But Mark
McGwire is not the property of history yet.
Few would argue that the Human Genome
Project - run by Francis Collins, who is
on leave from the Medical School - may
supercede the polio vaccine, but the
genome mapping is incomplete and its
ramifications are only beginning to be
realized.
If we had grown up in the '10s or '30s,
would we regard those choices as equally
shallow? We look at them with nostalgia,
but would those people see these things as
peripheral to real life, just as we regard
"minivans" or "Cats?" If we refuse to let
this list of memorabilia define our '80s,
perhaps we should think before doing the
same for that seemingly impressive list
from the '30s.
The Postal Service counts its stamps
among the "historical archive of the major
events, people and achievements that have
shaped this country," according to its
Website. Yet the stamps show a very mid-
dle-school level of history, that of static pic-
tures and inadequate depictions of complex
events.
They are not a vibrant tale of intrigue
as is history. (Whatever history is, of
course.)
- Megan Schimpf can be reached over
e-mail at mschimpf@umich.edu.
Happy Birthday, Tim.

*1

"Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me
twice, shame on me."
T he Graduate Employees Organization is
well aware of this old cliche, and that is
one of many reasons it has not yet signed a
new contract with the University. As of today,
the nearly 1,600-member union is working
without a contract, looking to avoid signing

compensation for hours worked is inevitably
important.
Graduate employees are busy with their
own classes, research, dissertations and lead-
ing undergraduate discussion sections. An
increase in appointment status might entail
teaching another discussion section, leaving
less time for office hours and individual con-

one similar to their 1996 deal. That
contract gave them small salary
increases that did not even come
close to meeting the high cost of liv-
ing in Ann Arbor. While the
University will not adjust their 2.5-
percent wage increase proposal,
GEO has lowered its wage increase

. o

tact with undergraduate students.
Graduate student instructors are the key
link between students and instructors.
They offer the individual contact that
helps maintain an open academic
atmosphere. And many GSIs work on
their own time, meeting with students
and answering their questions outside

0

request from 37 percent to 9 percent. The
University must stop playing mathematical
games and offer a real wage increase that
compensates graduate employees for the inte-
gral role they play on campus.
Rather than offering a real wage increase,
the administration is basically offering more
work hours for more money. In the guise of a
compromise, the University administration
has only offered a fractional recalculation of
graduate employees hours. Graduate employ-
ees are paid based on the proportion of hours
they work per week compared to a full-time
faculty member. For example, if an employee
works 40 percent of a 40-hour week, they will
be classified as a .4 appointment. The only
concession the University is willing to make is
to move .3, .35 and .4 employees to a .5
appointment. This fractional recalculation will
mean more money overall for graduate stu-
dents, but it also means more work -
between four and eight hours per week,
assuming departments make the graduate
employees work the full number of hours.
On the surface, this proposal sounds
promising, but this plan is rife with problems.
The most prominent flaw is that in many
cases, the real hourly wage will decrease.
While graduate employees should not be
viewed as time clock punching workers, the

of class and office hours.
The University administration is unwilling
to address the lack of compensation for inter-
national GSI training. These GSIs attend about
120 hours of unpaid instruction. International
GSIs help diversify the University, and they
must be treated respectfully.
This weekend, GEO will send out ballots
to all its members to help determine the GEO
steering committees strategy. If the majority
of members feel action is necessary, GEO will
hold a mass meeting within the next few
weeks to discuss its options, which include a
walk-out or strike. This could be extremely
detrimental to undergraduate education, sub-
sequently damaging the University's reputa-
tion. The University should use the next few
weeks to its advantage by making concessions
- something it essentially has not yet done in
the contract negotiations.
GSIs are not looking to profit from leading
undergraduate classes. They simply want to
earn a living wage while fostering a rich aca-
demic environment. It is unfair to expect them
to take out full student loans for endless hours
of work. Higher pay will attract better GSIs,
which keeps the University's academic reputa-
tion strong. If the University continues its
stubbornness, all students, as well as the
University, will suffer in the long run.

CHIP CULLEN

GRINDING THE NIBO"

i

Caught in a web
State Police should not list sex offenders

This week visitors to the Michigan State
Police Website may have had a very diffi-
cult time accessing the site. The reason -
thousands of visitors were trying to get a look
at the list of names and addresses of convicted
sex offenders that the state has recently made
available. This list was created by a law passed
in 1995, and has been a source of conflict in
recent months. The American Civil Liberties
Union filed a lawsuit last November on behalf
of Detroit-area residents whose names appear
on the list. And not only is the list inaccurate in
some places and constitutes a violation of per-
sonal privacy, it also runs counter to the
Constitution's decree against double jeopardy.
Although the purpose of the list is ostensi-
bly to enable parents to protect their children,
at the same time it intrudes on the rights of
former sex offenders. These people have paid
their debt to society and are entitled to live in
privacy. Making their names available to the
public exposes them to the risk of job dis-
crimination and vigilantism, limiting their
chances to lead a more productive life, and it
means that they continue to be punished even
after serving their time in prison. This is clear-
ly unconstitutional.
Supporters of this list - and similar mea-
sures like Megan's Law, a New Jersey statute
requiring former sex offenders to notify com-
munities of their past conviction - claim that
it is necessary because many people convicted
of sexual misconduct are not rehabilitated in
prison, and are most likely to become repeat

offenders. But effectively allowing the public
to add to their punishment is a misguided
attempt at solving the problem. Rehabilitation
is the goal of the penal system; in theory,
inmates should be able to become productive
members of society on release. If it is failing to
achieve that goal, the government should take
steps to remedy the system's shortcomings
rather than giving the general public the oppor-
tunity to ostracize or mete out punishment to
people who have served their time. Instead, the
government should focus on rehabilitation
and alternative methods of treatment for sex
offenders.
In addition, the list does not take into
account the different degrees of sexual mis-
conduct, or the amount of time since the
offender's conviction. Another problem with
the list is that it is not entirely accurate - in
fact, among the plaintiffs in the ACLU's law- -
suit is a couple from Ann Arbor whose
address is on the list because they live in a
house formerly occupied by a convicted sex
offender. In this case, not only do former sex
offenders suffer unfair and extraneous punish-
ment, but completely innocent people can be
stigmatized as well.
Publicizing the names of former sex
offenders on the Internet infringes on the
rights of people who, in the eyes of the law,
have paid their debt to society. If there is a
problem with the process of rehabilitation,
then it is the responsibility of the government
to ensure that it is corrected.

P rofs' greatest
contribution comes
in classroom
To THEDm r.
Following Harold Bloom's publication
of "Shakespeare: The Invention of the
Human," I went to the library to look up
what some of the University's "big name"
professors have published. I was surprised
to find that many highly esteemed profes-
sors were under-represented on the Mirlyn
screen next to such worthies as Harold
Bloom and Burton Watson.
What do our professors have to show for
their work, I thought, and why do we esteem
them as highly as we do? 1 am one to usual-
ly scoff at the professors turned prophets by
the droves of zealot students clamoring at
their sides for a morsel of obscure wisdom,
and these professor's lackofepublication
brought a smug grin to me face.
But after some thought, I wondered,
"What does make a good professor?" and
came to the conclusion it certainly was not the
amount that he or she had published. I frankly
do not care about an insightful reading of
Antigone published in an obscure academic
rag, and I do not feel alone in that opinion. I
do though appreciate a thought-provoking lec-
ture on Antigone presented enthusiastically by
a man or woman with a thorough understand-
ing of the subject and discipline.
I think we often lose sight at this "major
research institution" that the reason why we
are here is for students to learn and for teach-
ers to teach. So. my compliments to Bloom
on an interesting book; I hope your students
are equally satisfied in your teaching.
JAMES FIDLER
LSA JUNIOR
Letter recognized
School of Music
event
TO THE DAILY:
I would like to express my thanks to Aaron
Boyle for his thoughtful comments on the
School of Music's Collage Concert ("School
of Music concert was 'phenomenal,"' 2/2/99).
In a campus environment where School of
Music events often go unnoticed by the stu-
dent body and student publications, your
words are very encouraging.
TOM SINAS
LSA JUNIOR
SCHOOL OF MUSIC
Miller was correct
in appraisal of
B.A.'s usefulness
TO THE DAILY:
James Miller's column "Have degree, will
travel, grovel, beg, eat dirt" (2/3/99) brings me
backa f ewvers A.Afterraidtin with ia

tions, he may need to add another chapter to
the ongoing saga "How to Keep Busy With
Your B.A." with chapters by waiters, bus dri-
vers, temps and baristas everywhere. My only
wise words to Miller -- eat this column and
take some computer classes. Slam the estab-
lishment at happy hours and weekends, but
watch those words in cover letters and inter-
views. Corporate human resources doesn't
come with a corporate humor.
JOSH GERSTMAN
UNIVERSITY ALUMNUS
MSA resolution
changed nothing
TO THE DAILY:
I have but one question for those students
who wanted the Michigan Student Assembly
to pass the resolution to lift the sanctions off
the people of Iraq. Hasanything changed?
MSA has passed your resolution - neither
the Clinton administration nor the United
Nations seems to care. Why not take your
seemingly boundless energy and lobby your
congressman, senator or president? Better yet,
why don't we all focus on the real problem -
Saddam Hussein.
I don't think there is a student on this
campus who wants the innocent children of
Iraq to suffer. The fact that this is America
almost signifies a tacit understanding of
that. You must realize though that there are
thousands of students on this campus who
are baffled by MSA's latest drive into for-
eign policy. I believe I was elected to help
with student issues; issues like lowering
tuition, a coursepack service and most
recently the plight of disabled students.
In all of the countless hours being spent on
this issue, thousands of letters. phone calls and
e-mails could have been sent to legislators, the
president and U.N. offices. Tick, tick the min-
utes pass, children are dying, and Amer Zahr
("Opponents of MSA resolution should not be
re-elected," 2/4/99) has all this time to attack
MSA.
Zahr has asked the students not to vote
for me, and if they are so appalled by my
view of a student government's roll - then
I don't mind losing. -,
RORY DIAMOND
LSA MSA REPRESENTATIVE

condoning the lifting of sanctions on Iraq
and opposing the scapegoating of fraterni-
ties by the AAPD - signify a new willing-
ness of MSA to confront controversial
issuestand take brave stands for students'
interests. We are proud of MSA's stance
against the U.S. government's genocide of a
people. We are proud to have gotten MSA
to stand up for students' rights and against
the AAPD policy of scapegoating Phi Delta
Theta. We fought for a resolution with more
teeth, but we are glad that even the substan-
tially weakened language received a major-
ity of the assembly's votes. We feel MSA
must be the defender of student rights and
student interests.
Issues of international justice and
issues of students rights and interests are
not counterposed. In fact, the assembly
members who fought hardest forthe anti-
sanctions resolution also fought hardest
to oppose the scapegoating and harass-
ment of students by the AAPD. Ten
assembly members voted against oppos-
ing the sanctions on Iraq. Six of these 10
also voted against standing up for the stu-
dents who are being scapegoated by the
AAPD (one of the remaining three
abstained).
The job of student government is not
just to provide services or to administrate
the distribution of money for student groups
- we must also be the voice of students on
the campus, and to the country and the
world.
Students around the world, including the
University student government, have played
a historically important and progressive role
in society. At the University the student
government supported the freedom rides
against segregation in the AmericanSouth
in the early '60s and spoke out against
apartheid and the U.S. war in Vietnam.
Students in this and other countries have
built movements that were essential compo-
nents of or even initiatorssof national move-
ments for far-reaching social change -
including playing a leading role in bringing
down the unspeakably brutal U.S.-backed
Suharto dictatorship in Indonesia this sum-
mer.
Thank you to all the students who came
to MSA meetings and e-mailed their repre-
sentatives to help win these victories for the
student body, especially the members of
Prevent, the Arab-American Anti-
Discrimination Committee and the various
fraternity members and their supporters.

err.,, _
.

~r
". r
"
cowAH~N'ANA

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