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December 12, 2000 - Image 4

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The Michigan Daily, 2000-12-12

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4 - The Michigan Daily - Tuesday, December 12, 2000

Ulbe Sidiigan Bailg

'University committees' (or political sugar pills')

420 Maynard Street
Ann Arbor, MI 48109
daily. letters@umich.edu
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, letters and cartoons do not
necessarily reflect the opinion of The Michigan Daily.

Standardized tests ignore quality education

T he results of the 'Third International
Math and Science Study-Repeat,"
an international standardized test in sci-
ence and math, were recently released.
The test came as a response to earlier
findings that indicated that while Amen-
can fourth-graders performed well on
standardized tests as compared to fourth-
graders internationally, eighth-graders
were not as successful as their interna-
tioal counterparts. However, although
the American education system is flawed,
the public should not be overly con-
cerned about the results of something as
oversimplified as a standardized test.
Americans should be more troubled
about disparities within American
schools themselves.
Professor Michael Martin of Boston
College and one of the designers of the
test has insisted that efforts were made so
that a representative population of stu-
dents took the exam. However, many crit-
ics of international standardized testing
rightfully argue that several countries
outside of the United States employ the,
"track system" in their educational
process, in which students are chosen at
an early age to either continue their edu-
cation in an academic or trade-specific
track. It is possible that this type of sys-
tem led to only the upper tier of students
in some countries taking these tests.
The biggest problem with placing too
much weight upon results of standardized
tests is that doing so often forces teachers
to teach with the singular aim of stu-

dents' high performance on such tests.
When this occurs, emphasis is placed
only on the material covered by standard-
ized tests and other subjects, equally
important but not included in such tests,
go ignored. Teaching to standardized
tests also encourages teachers to try to
develop among their students a uniform
way of thinking, which stunts creative
inquiry in the interest of garnering posi-
tive statistics.
The cause for concern that should
come out of this study does not lie in the
disparities between the United States and
other countries, but rather in the differ-
ences in results between different demo-
graphic groups in the United States itself.
The fact that white students performed
better than both Hispanic and black stu-
dents in math and science should be of
greatest concern to American educators.
It is important that before the United
States worries about comparison of itself
with other countries that first our educa-
tors work to close the gap between the
performance of white students and
It is impossible to make a flawless
comparison between countries that
employ entirely different educational sys-
tems by both dividing students differently
and placing emphasis on different sub-
jects. There are many flaws inherent in
standardized tests themselves and there-
fore educators should not continue to
place such extreme reliance upon the
results of such tests.

It is a well-known fact that the "Close the
door" button in most elevators is a totally
unfunctional placebo, placed there just to
give the individuals the impression that they
are somehow participating, contributing to
the speed of the elevator journey - when we
push this button, the
door closes in exactly
the same time... This
extreme case of fake
participation is an
appropriate metaphor3
of the participation of
individuals in our
"postmodern " politi-
cal process
Although Zizek
was commenting Nick
on the general state of
affairs in modemn poli- Woomer
tics when he wrote the
above passage earlier
this year in the journal WOOrM
Lacanian Ink, the
"Close the door" metaphor remains equally
relevant at the micro (read: "University")
Nowhere is "fake participation" at the Uni-
versity more apparent than in the seemingly
infinite number of committees and subcom-
mittees dedicated to rigorously analyzing
actual and proposed policies.
Parents attempt to instill a sense of self
importance in young children by giving them
small, often meaningless, tasks to accomplish
("I'll bake the cookies and you can put the
icing on them!"). Likewise, University
administrators try to instill a sense of self
importance in lowly students, faculty and
staff by appointing them to a committee or
I don't mean to make a broad assertion
about the character of the University's
administration or about the importance and/or
quality of work done in every single Univer-

sity committee. What is clearly the case,
however, is that many committees at the Uni-
versity are, at best, unnecessary and at worst
cause irreparable harm.
Case in point: The Standing Committee
on Labor Standards and Human Rights,
which has been studying a proposed code of
conduct for the University to write into its
contracts with companies producing apparel
and other products bearing the University's
name or logos. University President Lee
Bollinger agreed in a policy statement back
in March 1999 (in response to a sit-in at his
office by Students Organizing for Labor and
Economic Equality) to a set of principles
regarding minimum labor standards for
But the principles in Bollinger's policy
statement have yet to become legally binding
on any of the companies that have licensing
and supply contracts with the University.
Because the code of conduct is sitting in
the Standing Committee on Labor Standards
and Human Rights, which is actually the sec-
ond committee to review the code (Bollinger
rejected the version of the code suggested by
the initial committee). Meanwhile, while the
Standing Committee on Labor Standards and
Human Rights considers the difference
between a "living wage" and a wage that
meets workers' "basic needs," the University
continues to freely enter into contracts with
licensees who can legally treat their workers
as poorly as they want to.
These types of delays send a mixed mes-
sage to licensees - "treat your workers with
humanity and compassion, but if you don't
want to, that's okay too."
On a more substantive level, while the
administration tolerates (if not encourages)
the Standing Committee on Labor Standards
and Human Rights to work at a leisurely
pace, untold numbers of workers suffer.
SOLE members say that the University will
sign around 200 new contracts with licensees

within the next two months.
Of course, no policy should be aopted
willy-nilly and - to be fair - there are
important differences between (for example)
a "living wage" versus a wage thatmeets
workers' "basic needs." Furthermore.some
good has come out of the Standing Conmit-
tee on Labor Standards and Human Ritts -
the code's provisions on collective barining
and freedom of association have acually
been strengthened.
But the University administration hould
not be allowed to sacrifice workers' inmedi-
ate needs for the sake of ironing-oit the
nuances of the code in a committee. end it
certainly should not be allowed to dag its
feet for nearly two years under the gise of
"we just want to do this right."
There are, naturally, more efficient ways
for the University administration to landle
issues as important as sweatshop labor - by
,dealing with the concerned parties diredty. If
the administration wanted to, it could have
decided to allow students concerned ibout
the issues surrounding sweatshop lator to
work directly with the General Couicil's
office (the University's legal departmeit) to
hammer-out a satisfactory code of condict in
a fraction of the time it has taken two'com-
mittees to address the situation.
Students should not allow University
administrators to be able to hide behind om-
mittee deliberations to avoid makinghard
decisions on key issues like sweatshop hbor,
the Code of Student Conduct or (recentl') the
fate of the Tower Societies. But until stulents
start holding the administration accouitable
for the "committeeization" of the University,
they will have to settle for "Close the dbor"-
style participation.
- If it was not obvious, Nick Woomer irges
Bollinger to give workers around the wo-lda
meagerfraction of what they are entitledro by
immediately signing the code of conduct.
He can be reached via e-nuil at
nwoomer@umich.edu forfurther consulttion.


'The building was actually vibrating.'

n is

- Engineering sophomore Eric Castle on the learning environment it
history class, which is held in Mason I

Bei~e restul


New inspection guidelines miss the mark

Imagine walking into your favorite
restaurant, and having no idea
whether the conditions were sanitary or
the food met standard regulations. A new
state law intends to change inspection
reports to give a narrative of problems
rather than tallying violations and pre-
senting an overall score as with the previ-
ous system. While restaurant owners are
celebrating this new process, restaurant-
goers should question the validity of
these inspections.
This plan, which went into effect Nov.
8; involves interviewing restaurant own-
ers and asking what procedures they use,
in lieu of inspecting the restaurants and
surprising the owners with a list of prob-
lems. Restaurant owners are rejoicing
and now claim that this will help them
learn rather than be penalized, because
tlp new inspections will be collaborative
and educational rather than a one-sided
attack on the part of the inspector.
From the consumer's point of view,
this change in inspection regulations
seems to take too lax of an approach.
Customers argue that these new rules

give restaurant owners the opportunity to
lie and pass their unsatisfactory kitchens
off to inspectors.
Health commissioners established a
better alternative to the Michigan law a
few years ago in California. Under that
law, each restaurant was given a grade
that the owners were, and still are, oblig-
ed to hang in the window. Restaurants
that received a grade lower than a 'C'
were forced to close down until they
brought their establishments up to par.
The threat of losing business, either from
a bad grade or by being shut down,
forced owners to clean up their restau-
rants and keep them that way.
It seems as if a combination of previ-
ous Michigan procedures, as well as con-
sideration of other restaurant inspection
techniques would be ideal for customers.
Restaurants should be examined thor-
oughly while their owners are asked
questions about procedure. Strict sanita-
tion procedures may mean some extra
work for restaurant owners and legisla-
tors, but in the long run restaurants will
benefit from a boost in patronage.

MSA does not need
an Affirmative Action
Task Force
The Michigan Student Assembly does not
need an Affirmative Action Task Force ("'U'
needs affirmative action task force,"
12/11/00). The creation of this task force will
only lead to negative consequences and its
proposed job can be done without it.
For the past two years, MSA has been
plagued with a divisiveness that has kept us
from accomplishing projects that students
want to see. Tuesday meetings have been
consumed by debates regarding the merits of
affirmative action and other divisive issues,
which has lead to MSA getting a reputation
for not doing anything except arguing. The
creation of this task force will further divide
the campus and the assembly on this issue
and will help fuel the problem that has con-
sumed the government for too long.
We, the undersigned, believe that MSA
can and should address affirmative action,
as we have in the past. With this in mind,
however, we feel that MSA needs to refo-
cus its priorities and examine whom and
what benefits from our actions. We need to
first and foremost accomplish goals for all
students, as we have done in the past with
Advice Online, increasing student group
funding and many other projects. Affirma-
tive action should continue to be addressed
through the same channels as it has in the
past, namely, the Peace and Justice Com-
mission of MSA, charged with being a
clearinghouse for campus activism.
We, the undersigned, offer this letter as
our olive branch to the Defend Affirmative

Action Party. We want to see all projects, not
just DAAP's or ours, accomplished. We ask
DAAP members to do as we are doing and
set aside their party affiliations and preju-
dices to better serve all students on campus.
We are firmly committed to getting MSA
back on its feet and to earning back the trust
of the student body and we hope you are as


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- J UST dAI WE WEEa: cEOVLEW~o CA hl Usc
- h' E0IGAT~t T© PVu. KOLuR~is.
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In inconclusive conclusion...

UiM $s. IulS qVoog
A ....
* TAyr0.
X *

was hoping to follow bizarre precedent
and make this column a blank 'think-
space,' where a lack of words and the abun-
dance of space would put the reader in a
much deserved time-lapse. For fear of com-
ing across as a pseudo-something and for
fear of evoking
expurgatory glaress
of editorial wrath, I
declined. I was
I was hoping to do
well this term. That
sort of happened, sort
of didn't. Rabid dogs
of socialism bit me
on the ass and I start-'
ed smelling decadent
class-conflict and Waj
seeing red. Other
people's girlfriends Syed
and other people's The Karachi
trust became an unre- K
solved conflict a St
overnight and foreign
mediation didn't help. Just like the death toll
in Kashmir which rose magnificently during

any other Who. He learned how to throw a
spiral and considered it impressive when he
won chugging competitions. He told a good
joke and read the sports page. Most concepts
seemed logical. Most clothes looked wear-
able. Most norms seemed acceptable. Life
was an uncensored version of Hunky Dory,
the movie. Love was inevitable and so it hap-
pened. Foreigner Who fell in love with In-
Stater Who and boy, she was worth the
culture clash and everything. Inspired by a
new found talent of cuisine preparation, he
invited her over for dinner. The dinner was
exquisitely arranged and made to perfection.
In-Stater Who came over that night. And ate.
And drank. And left.
Then, for days, nothing happened.
The dinner had been perfect, the wine had
been perfect, the music had been fucking
What went wrong? Troubled by ego and
egg-plant, Foreigner Who confronted In-
Stater Who. What was wrong, he asked? Had
the food been okay? Had she fallen ill?
In-Stater Who, who didn't mince words,
told him.
She had 17 credits and was really tied up

non White, non Christian Who. She had
lied. Soy sauce had thus become a racial
The rest is history. Although event after
event of racial implication has unfolded after-
wards, the differences have been clear since
that day. In Black and White. And Brown.
And Yellow. Here, in the town called Ann
Arbor and the place called the University, we
all have reputations to maintain. To maintain
we sustain. To sustain we adopt. In the case
of your humble narrator, the call has been
tough. All things primetime have started to
reek venom. All issues of majority, all clothes
and songs mainstream, have started to stink
of a bourgeois bladder leak. In essence, that
has been my social crutch. Generally speak-
ing, race and ethnicity awareness has become
nothing but a graduation requirement. Segre-
gation is not just rampant here; it's a bloody,*
delicacy, served every day in the residence
hall cafeterias. It might have started off with
some girl. It might not be your fault. But it is
my problem.
In a week, I leave for home. I leave for
Karachi, Pakistan. I leave for a praetorian
nation with a defunct constitution, endemic

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