4 - The Michigan Daily - Tuesday. October 12. 1999
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Welcome to planet Earth: Now serving 6 billion
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University of Michigan
r, .: , Y S":::
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Editorial Page Editors
Unless otherwise noted, unsigned editorials reflect the opinion of the mjority of the
Daily s editorial board. All other articles. letters and cartoons do not necessarily reflect
the opinion of The Michigan Daily.
Students should make use of office hours
I'd like to be0n this week with a wel-
come to our six billionth person.
F-or those 0f you wonderinz. I am not
talkinc about my growing readership. \Mx
eo doe not explode: the population does.
Ix isited the
\\ebsite a few days
ago to find out today
Oct. 12. 1999, is the
day the world's popu-
lation hits six billion
people. I grant you
it's no 70 home runs,
but it's pretty impres-
Perhaps like me.
you just got used to .
five billion people.
Changing over is like Wallace
trying to write out a
check in January. Trx
last year's date.
And it was a quick change. According to
the statistics available on the Website
rlnth: 1r-uspophi7.< ruhlon'blnnim)
the jump from five to six billion people
took 12 years.
Numbers and milestones sometimes
prove difficult to comprehend. I don't real-
lv know what to think, so dumb thoughts
cross my mind. I picture a sort of Jerry
Lewis telethon tote board. Jerry says.
"Show me six billion. nice lady!" Bang.
bin . the board lights up and the band
kicks in. Then it cets a blurb on the news.
and everyone forcets about it.
The other ridiculous thought takes place
somewhere Ike "tmzania. A child is born.
and suddenly balloons and banners drop
proclaiming the child number six billion.
A crazy emcee awards the child a Cadillac.
It is the same scene as the one millionth
customer through a grocery store check-
I have these ideas because a billion is a
hard number to seriously appreciate. When
I think of billions. I think of Bill Gates's
pocket change or the hamburgers served at
Wow. Six billion. That's six billion peo-
ple needing education. Six billion people
needing shelter. Six billion people needing
Britney Spears concert tickets.
I still cannot grasp the idea of six billion
people. You might be saying, "Dave. I
threw a house party last weekend, and a
population of six billion doesn't surprise
me. I'd say most of them were there.",
Now. I too have seen tests of maximum
occupancy. The number of people
crammed into a house party on any given
Saturday provides an encouraging
metaphor for our relationship to the world.
Yes, come in, we'll find a way to fit more.
But I also think of the times I can't move
at a party, where I have to push everyone a
little or step on someone to get out the
Six billion people needing water. Six
billion people needing food. Six billion
people reading John Grisham novels.
To get a gauge on just how big that num-
ber is, write it out: 6,000,000,000. Looks
pretty big, doesn't it? Take a long look.
Hmm. What do I see'?
Well, just like the actual, breathing pop-
ulation, the number itself has a lot of zeros
in it. Marking a place and taking up space.
What else of the number? It looks like a
long line. No wonder we all spend much of
our day waiting in line - at the post
office, the store, even to get into Michigan
Stadium. At the current rate, there are
three more of us every second.
Six billion people needing work. Six bilo
lion people needing health care. Six billion
people watching -ER" on Thursday nights.
Seeing the number and thinking about
how large it is can make you feel little
more than a face in the crowd. Any person
giving a moment of thought to his or her
place in a six-billion-strong world at
some point questions his or her impact.
Can you make one? Who does make an
impact. and how do they get in that posi
tion? Aren't our heroes and leaders cho-
sen somewhat arbitrarily, a product of
timing and luck?
Thinking this way, I feel as small as a
star in the night sky. But then I start to
brighten, just a little.
Still weighing on my mind are six bil-
lion people needing plumbing. Six billion
people needing electricity. Six billion peo-
ple buying "Star Wars" merchandise.
But I hear the smallest vibrations
resound across the world. Who we vote f*
in the next presidential election, the poli-
cies we support, echo down the world's
Six billion people needing transporta-
tion. Six billion people needing immuniza-
tions. Six billion people with a Gap ad
stuck in their heads. Something has to be
Who we teach. and who they subse-
quently teach sprawl out as much as any
urban center. In the end, we live in a worlk
advanced enough that we can see it from
space. We can put the planet on a TV
screen smaller than us. And we can see and
talk to anyone.
Six billion people wanting contact. Six
billion people wanting compassion. Six
billion people affected by you.
David Mallace can he reached ovei
e-mail at davidm(a umich. eda.
Without knowledgeable, hard work-
ing professors and Graduate
Student Instructors, a university cannot
be considered a top school. Luckily, the
University does not have this problem;
the faculty consists of many professors
who are leaders in their fields. The
University has a different issue - not
enough people make use of the school's
As part of their effort to help students
succeed, most professors and GSIs offer
open office hours at set times during the
week. At these times, students may come
to ask questions, prepare for exams or
simply to learn more about a topic that
Sounds like a great opportunity, does-
n't it? Students are able, at no additional
fee, to get advice and extra help from
some of the top educators in the world.
There is no drawback - no one is graded
during office hours. Students embar-
rassed about asking questions in class can
do so in a private, one-on-one setting.
Office hours alleviate many of the prob-
lems that large lecture halls experience,
such as the normal lack of interaction
' with an instructor.
Students lead incredibly busy lives. In
addition to classes, they study, participate
in sports, clubs and interest groups, shop
for themselves and sometimes even sit
down and just relax. Amidst all these
demands, students should not forget
about the opportunity to meet with
instructors. Despite having busy sched-
ules, there is always time for utilizing
"There are a number of benefits (for
students) to seeing professors and GSIs,",
Joe Henderson, an LSA academic advi-
sor, said. "One of the main benefits is get-
ting to know their instructor and letting
their instructor get to know them.
Students need letters of recommendation
and references. Faculty who work with
and know students are in a good position
to provide that to them."
As an out-of-class activity, participa-
tion in office hours should certainly not
be mandatory - but it should be highly
encouraged. Some students breeze
through class and have little reason to
visit their instructor other than to chat or
learn some additional information for
their own personal benefit.
But some students have difficulty with
class. These students have little excuse
not to seek help. The professors and GSIs
are here for students, to help them and
educate them as best they can. Those stu-
dents who have difficulty with a class
should seek out help during office hours.
Some departments offer special help ses-
sions or have rooms dedicated to free
tutoring for those who cannot make the
Prof. Walter Gray said he believes that
these kinds of alternatives, such as the
one offered by his own physics depart-
ment, are a very useful resource for stu-
dents. "The physics help room is designed
for students and manned by faculty and
GSIs"" he said. "It is open in the evenings.
A student can come in and get help. To
some extent. it relieves the pressures of
office hours in the office."
Office hours are a fantastic opportuni-
ty for students. By not making use of
them, students are throwing away an
incredibly useful tool in their education.
Even if you are receiving perfect grades
in your classes, visit your professors and
GSIs from time to time. It can only help,
and you might even learn something.
.. .. ... :h..? R. ..t
What is art?
Exhibit raises First Amendment questions
n recent weeks, the New York City art
world has been divided by controversy.
Offended by certain works displayed in
the Brooklyn Museum of Art's
"Sensation" exhibition, New York City
Mayor Rudolph Giuliani refused to pay
the city's $7 million subsidy to the muse-
um. In addition, Sen. Robert Smith (1-
New Hampshire) has sponsored a non-
binding resolution to end federal funding
to the museum, and New York City filed
suit to remove the museum from its cur-
rent city-owned location. These actions
overstep the government's boundaries in
dealing with the arts.
The most talked-about piece in the
exhibition is Chris Ofili's "The Holy
Virgin Mary," an African-style represen-
tation of Mary, surrounded by elephant
dung and pictures of female genitalia. It
is this painting in particular that has
drawn the majority of criticism, inspiring
pickets from groups such as the Catholic
This is also the painting that prompted
Giuliani's threats to the museum. But
even potentially offensive works such as
Ofili's "The Holy Virgin Mary" should
not be barred from view by public offi-
cials, through the denial of funds or oth-
erwise. While the painting's message may
be dubious, the artist must retain his
right to freedom of expression.
The First Amendment clearly gives
artists the right to depict whatever they
Brooklyn Museum of Art is a threat to
freedom of expression, however indirect-
ly. Despite the controversy over the
Sensation exhibit, its artists must still be
free to display their work. In a free soci-
ety, public officials should not have dis-
cretion over what the public may see. Art
is not an area in which the government
should be allowed to intervene.
The fact that a controversial exhibit is
being funded by public money makes the
issue all the more important. Though
opponents of the exhibit use this as
grounds for censorship, the distribution
of public funds by the government is not
a cause for enforcing arbitrary moral
The government should support free-
dom of expression - not deny it. Though
the works in the Sensation exhibit may be
shocking and offensive to some, they
should not be censored on those grounds.
Standards and taste are not universal, and
it is wrong for officials to impose their
own standards on artists. People who do
not wish to see things that offend them do
not have to do so.
Controversy surrounding an artistic
exhibit can be a good thing for society: It
can spark debate about morality, religion,
sexuality or any number of weighty
issues. This should not be stifled because
some officials view a work of art as
offensive. And the First Amendment pro-
tects even offensive or tasteless work.
include all parties
TO THE DAILY:
Last Friday's Michigan Daily included
an interesting announcement in the micro-
scopic events calender on the bottom of the
third page. It was for "The .S-Israeli
Relationship & Peace in the Middle Last. a
panel sponsored b" the College Democrats
and The Michigan Israel Democratic
Caucus. It took place Sunday. October 10th.
It was not well-publicized on campus and I
only found Out about it through the calen-
(One question troubles me: How can
there be a discussion of "peace in the
Middle East' if one of the parties - the
Arabs is not exen invited to contribute
speakersor to come in the first places
Anx real discourse on peace necessarily
includes both sides. unless it is a devious
peace envisioned: One that includes the sus-
tenance of an imbalanced status quo.
A state of zero resistance to Israel is
exactly the type of euphemistic peace the
Israeli government insists upon. When
apartheid presides. with decrepit and
fenced-in shanty-towns as the occupied ter-
ritories. third-class citizenship for Israeli
Palestinians and refugee camps in sur-
rounding areas. all is not vell. Nor will it be
so if these conditions remain.
A one-sided peace is inevitable if the
conxersation is homogenized and the dis-
course monoplized: usually this is the result
of overwhelming power disparities. The
contest for influence in this country is dom-
inated by the Pro-Isreali contingent.
However. it is this domination that stands in
the way Of true peace.
Understandin the realities that lobbyist
money cannot buy is the key: equal dis-
course is necessitated. Then, both sides will
come to a fair agreement. As
Congresswoman Lynn Riers explained it
so eloquently, we must embrace the Israelis'
overwhelming sense of fear and the
Palestinians' overwhelming sense of injus-
tice if we are to make headway towards real
Good and bad are
not clear concepts.
TO THE DAILY:
I read Aaron Woell's column from the
Iowa State Daily. "No apologies for what
happened in South Korea" in last Friday's
It seems to me that Aaron Woell lives in
a dream world where the United States can
do no wrong and where the end justifies the
means. In the same war, Gen. Douglas
MacArthur wanted to drop nuclear bombs
yea A%, waQi1 t,
ar A9S rcki;v'
(o . z .9 GL..K. rto*- Ae +.
War 11 was drawing to an end. One witness
is a friend of mine, who is now a U.S. citi-
zen and loves the United States.
But in 1944 or 1945. at the age of 19,
while alone in the country one day walking
to a farm for food, she was attacked by a U.S.
fighter plane. Fortunately, she wasn't hit.
Others weren't so lucky. There was no
legitimate military objective for such
attacks. Pure hatred and the feeling of
power over the helpless are two obvious
Of 'course we Americans never hear
these negative aspects of our wars, and most
don't want to hear them. For we are, of
course. totally good and can do no wrong.
and the enemy is totally bad. Dream on!
Homecoming is a
time for alumni
TO THE DAILY:
Once again, this aging old fart had a
wonderful time revisiting Ann Arbor and
the University during homecoming week-
end. With increasing passion, I relish the
opportunity to view the autumn campus.
breath the crisp air and sample the excellent
eats (Blimpy's, the fragel, the Fleetwood
and the Count's Twists).
I'd like to thank the student body for its
gracious perpetuation of the ancient, general-
seating "policy" at the football game - and
for not jackin' us for (much) more than twice
the face value on our section 26, row 90 seats.
I brought my wife this time and she had
an absolute blast in the Big House - noth-
ing like the games at the University of
Arizona. We also relished strolling Main
Street and surveying the taps at Ashley's.
I say all this in part to memorialize our
retrospective experience this weekend, but
also in part to share with and teach all of you
young, vibrant and seemingly immortal
Michigan students that one day you too will
walk in my shoes - fondly revisiting "your"
bars, marvelling at the evolving architectur-
al scenery, groaning in front of the place
nice to feel welcome, or at least not unwel-
come. It is energizing to wander about, like
one in the cosmopolitan student crowd.
And, despite the roots you naturally come to
establish a decade after leaving college. g*
ting married and signing a mortgage, it is
nice to go back and oddly feel as though
you've some how come home.
To the University administration: in an
effort to recognize these sentiments from
your alumni base, it would sure be nice if
you could partially loosen the platooning of
the aisle Nazis -- at least within the recog-
nized student sections.
My fellow "Big Chillers" that joined my
wife and me for this weekend's journ
from different parts of the country, did ma
age same-section tickets, but could not get
the same row as us. While they proceeded to
their lower rows (30-40), we were directed
up (row 90). It was slightly disappointing
that we could not cheer against Purdue
I submit that the student section's gener-
al-seating code is well ingrained and cour-
teously maintained, of all things, by the stu-
dents. Please at least consider the reco*
mendation to compromise (enforcing sec-
tions, not rows). Keep up the high stan-
dards, keep wide the broad horizons.
relax and enjoy
TO THE DAILY:
I am a Michigan State student and I
would like to comment on the numerous
complaints from Michigan students about
the recent painting of the Diag.
I think that each and every person who is
complaining about it as an act of disrespe
and bad sportsmanship is taking it way t
seriously. This is a big rivalry and the paint-
ing of the Diag was just a part of it.
It's all part of the fun that can come from
a rivalry. We do it to Michigan, Michigan
does it too us. There was no physical or
emotional harm done, and the Diag looks