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February 21, 2000 - Image 4

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The Michigan Daily, 2000-02-21

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4A - The Michigan Daily - Monday, February 21, 2000

e iichio ttn ttilg

The solution to campus racial tension? Think and talk

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

MIKE SPAHN
Editor in Chief
EMILY ACHENBAUM
Editorial Page Editor

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

Cions, SOLE
Group's success shows value of activism

B ack East, we always knew a town had
dire racial problems if the Rev. Al
Sharpton paid a visit.
His 600-mile trek to Ann Arbor this
weekend speaks volumes for the racial ten-
sion on campus. For
him to step out of the Y
media spotlight in aY
New York police:
murder trial and onto
a Midwest campus,
we must have some
serious problems at
the University.F
We do. As
Sharpton eloquently
told me and hundreds
of other people who
saw him speak at the Jeffrey
Michigan Union on Kosseff
Saturday, the S
University communi-
ty has turned the New Style
other cheek to
racism.
Sharpton was speaking about
Michigamua, the senior club that's based in
the Union tower and utterly degrades the
Native American culture. He cited such
atrocities as a "scalper" plaque that hangs
in the tower.
Sharpton lamented most students' com-
placency, which allowed such a "tradition"
to continue into the civilized 21st Century.
He figured that many students would prefer
to study or party than work for an issue that
is bigger than themselves.
This student apathy has caused more
than just the problem on the Union's sev-
enth floor; it is the driving force for all

racism and prejudice on campus,
Nowadays, too many students would
rather attend a Career Planning and'
Placement session than a forum on racial
injustices or affirmative action. They think
in the paradigms of financial success. In
this materialistic world, few students actu-
ally want to affect change. They just want
to succeed along with the status quo and
live mediocre, yet comfortable, lives.
Sharpton called this laziness "intellec-
tual masturbation." Before I go on, I must
note that I have disagreed with many of
Sharpton's past divisive tactics, such as his
handling of the Crown Heights tensions.
But Sharpton, who doesn't frequent this
campus, perfectly summed up the state of
student activism on this campus. I must
give credit where it is due.
Most students don't take the time to
learn about the bigger issues around them.
They just eat in segregated residence hall
cafeterias and go out with their friends,
most of whom are the same race. Then they
leave the University after four years,
informed about biology or English or
mechanical engineering but completely
unaware of the larger social picture that
shapes their lives.
Those who fight against affirmative
action (as well as many who support it)
don't truly consider the root of the prob-
lem. They just listen to rhetoric and ignore
the centuries of injustice. They think racial
inequality simply vanished upon the pas-
sage of the Thirteenth Amendment or the
1964 Civil Rights Act. They see it as a
minority vs. non-minority issue, rather
than one of equality vs. inequality.
Most importantly, most students never

have dialogue about race. This is the most
opportune time for them to openly discuss
their misconceptions. Dialogue shatters the
stereotypes that often lead to the quiet
jokes and remarks that litter the campus.
Don't pretend you haven't heard or told
them. You look around to make sure
nobody of the targeted race is within lis-
tening distance and then you make a com-
ment or joke that disguises true hatred for
other races.
If your friends tell racist jokes, think 0
before you laugh them off. Consider why
they make those jokes. Challenge them,
and don't be afraid of being labeled "polit-
ically correct." That's a pathetically weak
argument people use when defending their
insecure and uninformed prejudices.
You also must challenge yourself.
That's the most important - and most diffi-
cult - task in fighting inequality. Where do
you get your pre-conceptions about other
races? Would you have supported the cam-
pus labor rights movement if those who
were exploited had your skin color and
lived in the United States? If you were in
Michigamua, would you have spoken out
against the disrespect shown to the Native
Americans? Why did you always end up
sitting next to people of your race at lunch?
These are all questions we must seri-
ously pose to ourselves and others.
Sharpton's visit helped spark those ques-
tions, as he reached out to hundreds of*
attendees. Unfortunately, those who need-
ed his message most did not attend. They
probably had to go to a party or study for a
killer mid-term.
- .Jeffrey Kosseff can be reached via
e-mail atjkosseff@umich.edu.
TENTKTIEL SPEAKING

G ive full credit to Students Organizing
for Labor and Economic Equality for
scoring an impressive victory for students'
voices and workers' rights. The University's
signing of the Worker Rights Consortium
on a provisional basis has provided decisive
evidence that student activism can lead to
positive change on crucial issues.
The WRC, which was developed by the
United Students Against Sweatshops, "con-
sists of a system to verify and inspect con-
ditions in factories producing apparel for
colleges and universities." The intent is to
unite colleges and universities in applying
market pressure to companies which are
given licensing contracts to improve the
standards under which their laborers oper-
ate. Currently, there are competitive incen-
tives for licensing companies to maintain
sweatshop labor.
SOLE has been working diligently to put
the spotlight on this issue and to coax the
University into taking a leadership role by
signing on to the WRC. The group's
activism led to their recent seizure and
occupation of the office of LSA Dean
Shirley Neuman and the embarrassing reve-
lation that University President Lee
Bollinger had not even read the WRC. After
much dedication and persistence, their
efforts have paid off.
A good deal of commendation is also
owed to Bollinger and the University itself.
Throughout this affair, the administration
has generally. been responsive to student
concerns. Administrators elsewhere have
not demonstrated such a progressive atti-
tude - at the University of Wisconsin, stu-
dent demonstrators were pepper-sprayed.

Bollinger has demonstrated that while he
may think it wise to take it slow with the
WRC, he certainly does not seem to want to
discourage students from voicing their
opinions.
The crusade to improve factory environ-
ments abroad is certainly a worthy cause. A
great number of laborers in developing
countries are being subjected to unaccept-
able working conditions. Apparel compa-
nies, motivated solely by profits, have often
rationalized sweatshop labor as a necessary
evil to stay competitive.
The WRC is not perfect as a legally
binding document and the University is
advised to proceed carefully. However,
the WRC is an honest attempt to change
the the incentives companies have to per-
petuate labor abuses. Many institutions
have been looking to the University for
cues as to how to proceed on this issue.
Thanks in great part to SOLE, the model
they take will be one of progress for
workers' rights.
This episode further illustrates the
potency of student activism. Apathy, youth-
ful and otherwise, is often reinforced by a
false notion of futility. Time and again stu-
dent activists have proven that vocal protest,
peaceful demonstration and civil disobedi-
ence can and do impact the actions of deci-
sion-makers and influence the course of
events.
Progress takes hard work and students
are well equipped to shoulder that burden.
The benefits are certainly worth the efforts.
Just ask SOLE. Their advocacy of the WRC
has made the University a leader in the
cause of workers' rights.

.. .. THOMAS KULJURGIS I

NS.GA,-rtqe

CAkAhlGWUG? You hg r SVVA AMWVP Vr I

R ank policy
One Florida will not maintain diversity

Another severe blow was dealt to affir-
mative action this past week, continu-
ing a national trend that could do away with
many of the advances in racial equality
gained in recent years.
The One Florida Initiative, passed by that
state's Board of Regents Thursday, seeks to
enhance diversity in state universities. While
the plan may seem beneficial on the surface,
it will in fact cause far more problems than it
solves.
The One Florida plan completely elimi-
nates race and gender considerations in col-
lege admissions. Instead, the top 20 percent
of each high school senior class will be
admitted to state universities. This seems fair
on paper - all students get an equal shot at
college, based only upon their merits, not
upon their race or gender. There can be no
bias against any specific group because of
the flat percentage. But this will not work out
favorably in the end.
The top 20 percent of high school stu-
dents are generally the ones that go to col-
lege already. This plan will not be helping
those students who deserve to go to college,
but may not be within the top 20 percent.
A good high school could have a large,
successful student body, with far more
than 20 percent deserving admission to
college. Under the One Florida plan many
deserving students could be denied
admission. The new plan takes many of
the most popular but untrue criticisms of
affirmative action and makes them a real-
ity. The new system is based even less on
merit than affirmative action, but unlike
affirmative action it does not even
increase campus diversity.

state university system. But these students
will only be admitted to lower-tier institu-
tions. Diversity at upper-level schools will
decrease.
The One Florida plan would also encour-
age families to move their children to poorer
schools, in effect a reversed form of busing.
It is possible that some parents would do this
in order to guarantee their children a place in
the top 20 percent. In the end, the same
majority students that currently go to college
would still go, but minority students would
have a reduced chance at college. A minori-
ty school would ideally send 20 percent of its
students to college under the plan, most of
whom would be from minority groups. It is
far more likely that schools would be send-
ing nothing but majority students to college
under the new plan.
The Florida Board of Regents also
approved a student profile assessment sys-
tem that will take into account factors like
socioeconomic status and high school quali-
ty. This will help the plan to address some of
the factors that it might otherwise miss. With
these added considerations, the plan does
become more appealing. But it still fails to
address the issue as effectively as affirmative
action. Gov. Jeb Bush and the Florida regents
should be applauded for at least attempting
to create a new plan rather than simply doing
away with affirmative action entirely.
Despite this effort, it is likely that the plan
will fail and minority enrollment will
decrease.
California and Texas have already elimi-
nated affirmative action. This trend must not
be allowed to continue. The One Florida
Initiative should not be adopted. Affirmative

Students for
Bradley snubbed by
article
To THE DAILY:
Jeremy Peters' Feb, 18th article
"Students critical to winning race," over-
looked the most prominent candidate cam-
paigning on campus, Students for Bradley.
Not only did this article not include com-
ments for the leaders of Students for
Bradley, it ignored the group altogether.
The Students for Bradley group has had
tables in Angell Hall at least once a week
for over two months now. Unlike many of
the other campaigns, we have also been
involved in voter registration at our table.
We have registered scores of students so far
this year. In addition, our e-mail ist easily
surpasses 200 members.
Students for Bradley sent 20 students to
campaign in Iowa on MLK weekend, and
sent another group to campaign in New
Hampshire the weekend before the primary
No other student group sent students to
campaign in the same numbers.
If the Daily is going to report on students
being critical to winning the campaign, then
report all sides of the story. Both races are
going to be close on this campus, especially
the Democraticscaucus. It will be the student
groups with the most members and organi-
zation that can deliver the Union Caucus site
to their campaign, and Peters neglected to
report on the group that leads in both cate-
gories, Students for Bradley.
ERIC FELDMAN
LSA SOPHOMORE
MSA wastes time
with resolutions
TO THE DAILY:
I picked up a copy of the Feb. 16th
Daily to read, "Marathon meeting leads to
MSA resolution." What did this resolution
concern? Tens of thousands of Michigan
students are forced to live in overpriced,
practically inhumane, slum-lord run apart-
ments and houses. Tens of thousands of stu-
dents are forced to sit in the cramped,
underlit classrooms of Denison, the East
Hall basement, West Hall and Angell Hall.
The lack of parking continues to remain
a concer ifor thousands of staff and stu-
dents. Reading the headline, my mind
began to race with visions of reading that
just one of these concerns may soon be
addressed with a workable solution. I read
on. A five and a half hour meeting! MSA
must be close to working something out
before the end of this semester! Alas, I only
had to read the first paragraph.
Why should I have been surprised to
read that MSA spent five and a half hours
debating the decorations of an obscure
office. Hey, good resolution! I enjoy the
"decorations" which continue to hang out of
the windows of the Union. Michigamua
spokesman Nick Delgado said the proposal
was "nothing more than an emotional ges-
ture." I'm sure myself and the rest of the
students who are faced with more pressing
concerns, which don't garner a five and a
half hour meetinLo wonld aklo like to nre-

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how silly it was to disrupt someone's work-
space) was how the members of SOLE for-
get basic American history.
Any study of the late 19th Century will
undoubtedly mention the Industrial
Revolution. This revolution wasn't like our
current Information Revolution, however.
It was one built on oppression of minorities
into feeding big business. I am the relative
of Czechoslovakian immigrants.
When myrgreat-grandparents came to
America more than 100 years ago, they
worked in the sweatshops of the iron mills
and textile plants because those were the
only jobs that they could get. Slaving away
in dangerous environments for meager
wages was better than starving to death on
the street. This 'oppression' occurred with
Irish-Americans, German-Americans and
many other ethnic groups. And now look,
120 years later, what America has become
as a result of the Industrial Revolution.
A country who leads the world in almost
every area of commerce, and a country that
is facilitating the growth of smaller nations
through this type of employment. Because
face it: A. worker in Malaysia would be
starving and unemployed if he didn't work
in the Gap, Nike, Adidas or North Face fac-
tory.
So despite the hardships that a sweat-
shop worker must go through, it certainly
beats the alternative.
JONATHAN JANEGO
LSA SOPHOMORE
Oslick's letter
'distorts and
falsifies'
TO THE DAILY:
Jacob Oslick's Feb. 16th letter
("Hezbollah members are terrorists, not
'valiant Maqui-) is natural and not sur-
prising. As a response to the psychologi-
cal stress generated by revealing the true,
hard and painful facts, zionists are again
distorting and falsifying them. Israel
doesn't occupy southern Lebanon to
ensure the safety of its northern settle-
ments, but to fulfill Zionist aspiration as
stated by David Ben Gurion in 1938. "The
boundaries of Zionist aspiration include,
southern Lebanon, southern Syria,
Transiordan. and Sinai."

the continuous and tireless resistance.
Zionists are being compelled to give up on
the fundamental Zionist dream ('Eretz
Israel ha-gdollah,' The big state of Israel)
because of such brave resistance and not
because of gentleness or good intention, as
could be concluded from Vladimir
Jabotinsky's statement (the founder o
Revisionist Zionism) in 1923, "A voluntary
reconciliation with the Arabs is out of ques-
tion either now or in the future."
Yet,rather than admitting the true fact
that Zionist presence in the region is simply
colonization carried out against the wishes
of the native population, as stated by
Vladimir Jabotinsky in 1923, "Zionist colo-
nization must either be terminated or car-
ried out against the wishes of the native
population." Oslick repeats the ugly justifi-
cation of the anti-human, barbaric, bruta*
Zionist colonization,
If Oslick wishes to ask Youmans ("Israel
should observe international law," 2/11/00)
to mention the fact of Syrian presence in
Lebanon to justify and legitimize Zionist
colonization of southern Lebanon, then
Nazi Germans shall ask Jewish people to
mention the fact of Jews being killed by
Zionists to justify and legitimize their non-
forgivable barbaric crimes.
Comparing Israelis to Nazis doe sn'o
mean Arabs hate Israelis. The late Prof.
Yehushoua Livovitz called the IDF Nazi
forces. I don't think he hated his people.
What one should conclude, however, is
'Arabs hate no one, but when they starve
they eat the flesh of their oppressor.' Are
you angry?
I hope God will soon heal the corrupt
souls.
SALIH MAHAMEED
ENGINEERING GRADUATE STUDEN*
Hill St. apartment
fire was severe
TO THE DAILY:
This letter is in response to the article in
the Feb. 16 Daily titled, "Fire damages Hilo
Street apartments." Stating that the apart-
ments were "damaged" by the fire is a huge
understatement. Two of the apartments in
the small building were completely
scorched beyond recognition. The four oth-
ers on the top floor had such severe smoke
and burn damage nearly all of the belong-

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