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September 08, 1999 - Image 25

Resource type:
The Michigan Daily, 1999-09-08

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Section B
September 8, 1999

michigandaily com
hetorw and
"Wa the hell is a SCUGA factor?" I shouted as I
V leafed through the University's admissions poi-
s a news reporter at the Daily in 1997, I covered the
of one of the most infamous chapters in the
niversity's history - the lawsuits challenging affirmative
ction admissions policies in the College of Literature,
cience and the Arts and the Law School.
For one semester, I spoke to rabid politicians, students
nd professors on both sides of the issue. I attempted to
ake sense of the information they gave me and provide a
oherent report to the Daily's readers.
I tried, but I didn't.
When looking at affirmative action,
t is easy to be fooled and fall into
of clever catch phrases and Kosseff
ing statistics. Darrell Huff's clas-
ic 1954 book, "How to Lie with
tatistics," should be updated to
nclude the sly tricks affirmative
ction proponents and opponents use
o fool the masses.
There are many challenges in
nderstanding affirmative action, with
he most significant being its defini- SWT
Ame define it as quotas. Some
: he it as door-openers for disadvan-
ged groups, like minority scholarships. Some define it as
latant reverse racism.
But actually, Lyndon Johnson was the first to se the
hrase in a 1965 executive order, which required federal
ontrctors to "take affirmative action to ensure that appli-
ants are employed, and that employees are treated during
mployment, without regard to their race, creed, color or
ational origin."
It's not just about contractors anymore, baby.
,fler having written many dozens of articles on affirma-
Waction, I still can't tell you one definition. And I've seen
liticians hurl vicious insults, students protest and profes-
ors profess over the topic.
I don't think I'm alone. If I were a gambling man, I'd bet
hat the majority of the campus does not have a solid defini-
ion. If they do, then they probably didn't think enough
bout it.
I've thought about it a lot. I've thought about preferences,
quotas, set-asides, door-openers and equalizers.
I've seen pretty color pie charts that claim minorities
need to be breathing to gain admission to the country's
U prestigious colleges.
I've seen poorly scrawled picket signs that call for an end
Sthe "re-segregation."
Affirmative action is not the only concept people don't
nderstand. The University admissions process, which
;eems to change every semester, is less understood than a
100-level calculus class.
I learned about the admissions process the hard way. At
10 p.m. on the day the LSA lawsuit was filed, my editor
iecided that we should run an article detailing the
University's admissions procedures.
Unhappily, I called Walt Harrison, who was then vice
ident for University Relations. Walt loved the Daily, but
ie didn't love dumb questions. Let me try to replay the dia-
logue of our late-night conversation:
Me: Hi Dr. Harrison. I'm doing an article on the
University's admissions policies, and I'd like to find out
iow the admissions systems works.
WIt: Now?
Me: Yes.
Wat: You probably want to find out about it in 10 min-
e: Well, yes.
It: Do you know anything about the admissions sys-
Me: No.

Wit: And you expect me to tell you now?
Me: Well, uh, yeah.
Luckily, Walt was nice enough to give me a concise, 10-
inute run-down of the admissions system. When I wrote
he article, I didn't really understand it, so I just quoted him
lot - always the mark of a good journalist, or activist.
Most people don't have a Walt in their life to explain
:he intricacies of such a complicated subject. So they
# rt to building on other people's misconceptions.
ome people claim there are no admissions officials -
ust mainframe computers that swallow SAT and GPA
nformation and spit outa verdict. Others claim the admis-
ions officers are militant racists with their own political
I doubt either of those theories are correct. The
Jniversity's admissions procedure accounts for race while
ilso considering numerous other factors. But for my semes-
er covering the lawsuits, I wasn't able to confidently deter-
nine the magnitude of the effect race plays in admissions
Affirmative action is bound to come up in your
:lasses and discussions with friends. Before you take a
tand on the topic, do some research. The most danger-
>us mistake is to be influenced by someone else's unin-
formed opinion.
Oh yeah, I finally found out what SCUGA stands for -
school, Curriculum, Unusual, Geographic and Alumni fac-
ors. At least I learned something. -
-Jeffrey Kosseff is the Daily's editorial page editor and an
LSA senior. He can be reached over e-mail at

Youwon't be spon-tifed your education

By Ryan Do Pietro
Daily Editorial Page Writer
A word to all incoming first-year stu-
dents: Don't believe everything you've
heard about the undergraduate experience
at the University.
By now, you're familiar with the myth;
the University simply doesn't care about
its undergraduates. You know the clich6s:
At the University, you'll be just a face in
the crowd - one student in a 500 person
lecture. And even when you do break off

into smaller groups for classroom discus-
sion, you will only be taught by (gasp!)
lowly graduate student instructors.
Fueled by the misleading hype sur-
rounding college rating systems like the
one published in U.S. News and World
Report, the popular opinion, especially
within the state of Michigan, is that the
level of undergraduate education at the
University pales in comparison to the
quality of graduate studies. So, do you
have something to be concerned about?

Not really.
The truth is, your undergraduate experi-
ence at the University can be exceptional.
But it's up to you to help make it so.
There is no way to avoid the fact that
the University is a large research facility,
nor is this a fact that needs avoiding. As
incoming students, you need to accept the
University for what itsis. The University is
not a small, liberal arts college. In some
classes, the student-to-teacher ratio will
be high. But also realize that with the

drawbacks of attendingta research institu-
tion, you will also enjoy the benefits.
Due to the reputation of the
University's graduate programs, the GSIs
that help teach many of your courses will
be amoing the most qualified graduate stu-
dents in the nation. 'taking a course in
political science? Your GSI may be
enrolled in the University Law School,
consistently considered one of the nation's
finest. Enrolled in that infamous first-



The Administration's headquarters, the Fleming Administration Building, has been a target for many student protests against the Code.
Unneeded Code steps on students' rgAts

By Nick Woomer
Daily Editorial Page Writer
Events in Ann Arbor during the turbulent
Vietnam War era spawned a popular con-
ception of the University as a progressive
institution. The accuracy of this notion is
really in the eye'of the beholder, but before
a person decides that the University is the
be-all and end-all of forward thinking
places, they ought to examine a few of its
policies. '
Gone are the days of an exclusively male
Michigan Union and an exclusively female
Michigan League, of curfews for women,
and of separate dorms. In retrospect, trash-
ing those types of policies seems like the
obvious and just thing to do. Today, only the
most backward colleges and universities
retain similar rules. But old habits die hard
and the University continues to espouse the
same doctrine that was used to justify its
long-dead policy of sexual segregation, itsis
a principle that is so old, it is said in Latin:
In loco parentis, which means "in lieu of
Protesters in the '60s more or less told the
powers that be at the University where they
could put their beloved doctrine - and it
disappeared for a number of years. Ten
years ago, in the name of ingraining "high
standards" into the University community,
the University Board of Regents resurrected
in loco parentis in- the the Statement of

Student Rights and Responsibilities. Thanks
largely to the efforts former University
President James Duderstadt's administra-
tion, that edict evolved into what is now the
Code of Student Conduct.
Within certain bounds, it is perfectly fine
for an academic institution to impose "high
standards" on its students - so long as
those standards are academic. But the Code
regulates social behavior, and when an aca-
demic institution, much less a public one,
attempts to hold its students to standards
higher than those of the American legal sys-
tem, it has stepped way out of line. At the
same time as it wages a legal battle to keep
higher education racially and culturally
diverse, the University continues to push a
policy that essentially promotes a morally
homogenous student body. The philosophi-
cal problems inherent in imposing specific
morals on students arejust the tip of the ice-
berg however - the Code's practical flaws
are just as bad.
In order to implement the Code, the,
University created its own internal legal sys-
tem of sorts, managed by the Office of the
Vice President for Student Affairs a panel
of students serve asjury members and a fac-
ulty member or an administrator plays the
role ofjudge. The similarities between Code
proceedings and those of a normal trial are
far from striking however - individuals
prosecuted under the Code are conveniently

denied the right to have a lawyer present
during the proceedings and any witnesses
need to be agreed upon by both sides.
Early last year, the University placed six
sanctions on Jason Brooks, an offensive
lineman on the football team for an earlier
incident involving a female student. The
sanctions' imposition was a clear violation
of the fundamental legal doctrine of "double
jeopardy" since Brooks had already
resolved the fourth-degree criminal sexual
conduct charges brought against him in the
Washtenaw County court system.
The Code is essentially an excuse for the
University to deal with students whose
behavior it deems unacceptable independent
of tihe legal system. Under the flawed ratio-.
nale that the Code resolution process is
"administrative" and "educational" rather
than legal, the University has also been able
to circumvent such essential mantras of the
American legal system as the right to legal
counsel, the appeal to precedent, and the
burden of proof
The University has used the Family
Educational Rights and Privacy act as an
excuse to keep all Code cases highly private
- everyone involved in a proceeding is
required to sign a contract swearing them to
secrecy. Of course, these sorts of policies
make it near impossible for anyone outside
of a specific case to determine how effective
the Code is in resolving problems. Students

are expected to simply take the administra-
tion's word for it, and assume that the Code
is actually working. This secrecy makes it
equally impossible for there to be any sort of
uniformity with regard to punishments or
procedure since it is impossible to turn to
precedent for guidance.
During their February meeting, where the
regents were supposed to reform to the
Code in the wake of damning reports,
responsibility for amendments was instead
shifted to University President Lee
Bollinger. The regents made their decision
based on a recommendation by then-Vice
President of Student Affairs Maureen
Hartford. Under the recommendation, pro-
posed amendments will be thoroughly
reviewed by the Student Relations
Committee of the Senate Advisory
Committee on University Affairs. After
review, the amendment, along with a rec-
ommendation, will be forwarded to
Bollinger who will have to make the final
decision on whether to adopt it or not.
As a First Amendment legal scholar,
Bollinger would do well to refer to someone
who he is certainly familiar with - nine-
teenth century utilitarian philosopher John
Stuart Mill, who wrote more than 140 years
ago: "I am not aware that any community
has a right to force another to be civilized."
Nick Aomer can be reached via
e-mail at nwoomer clumich.edu.

4ew to e-mail? Check out this guide to People either worry too much or too little Inevitably, conversations among frst-year
Jniversity e-mail etiquette - or risk being about their own money. The secret is to students run out of steam. Keep things
axposed as a greenhorn. worry just enough. moving by telling embarrassing sex tales.
Page 7B Page 2B Page 5B



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