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March 27, 2001 - Image 4

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The Michigan Daily, 2001-03-27

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4 - The Michigan Daily -luesday, March 27, 2001

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420 MAYNARD STREET
ANN AiPBoI, MI 48109
daily. letters aumich. edu

The Code: Different perspective, same conclusion

NICK WOOMER BACK TO THE WOOM

EDITED AND MANAGED BY
STUDENTS AT THE
UNIVERSITY OF MICHIGAN
SINCE 1890

GEOFFREY GAGNON
Editor in Chief
MICHAEL GRASS
NICHOLAS WOOMER
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.

niversity President
Lee Bollinger
thinks you are an
N idiot - or at least too stu-
pid to decide what charac-
ter traits you do and do not
admire in your peers.
"Civility, dignity, diver-
sity, education, equality,
freedom, honesty and safe-
ty" - these are the "values" of the University
community. That's what the Code of Student
Conduct - now renamed (in traditional
Orwellian "newspeak") the "Statement of Stu-
dent Rights and Responsibilities" - says any-
way, along with its paternalistic supporters like
Bollinger. In fact, these values are so important
that the University had to establish a disciplinary
mechanism to coerce students (and only stu-
dents) into upholding these supposed "values of
the University community."
Question one: Where did these values come
from? More specifically, who decided that these
are the values of "the University community."
What makes the person or body who/that makes
the aforementioned decision qualified to do so?
Question two: Why these values? This par-
ticular selection seems arbitrary to the point of
being ridiculous. Why is "safety" an explicitly-
stated value of the University community and
not, say, "tolerance" or "courage"?
Assistant Principal ... I mean Office of Stu-
dent Conflict Resolution Director Keith Elkin,
whose sole duty is to ensure that students
behave (that has to be a rewarding job), doesn't
even know the answer to this question.
"I have to plead some ignorance in that I
joined the University after the values were set,"
Elkin said when he spoke before the Michigan
Student Assembly about the Code earlier this
month.
Question three (this is the most important

one): What constitutes a violation of the above-
mentioned values and why? And what happens
when two or more of these values conflict?
How do we determine which value "wins"
when we have to choose between, for example,
"freedom" and "safety"?
Despite any claims Bollinger or Vice Presi-
dent of Student Affairs E. Royster Harper might
make about how students are deeply involved in
the recommendation process, students have
absolutely no substantive authority to decide
what our own values are supposed to be and
how those values should be enforced (or if they
should be enforced at all). The ultimate authori-
ty to modify the Code rests in Bollinger's hands,
not students or even a democratically appointed
committee composed of students, faculty, staff
and administrators.
For the sake of argument, let's assume
(wrongly) that we need a Code in the first place
and that the arbitration process is fair.
Let's temporarily accept the contractualist
argument presented in the Code's Introduction,
that "When students choose to accept admission
to the University, they accept the rights and
responsibilities of membership in the Universi-
ty's academic and social community. As mem-
bers of the University community, students are
expected to uphold its values by maintaining a
high standard of conduct."
Let's further assume that even though the
Code purports to promote the values of the
entire University community (which I suppose
is composed of students, faculty, staff and
administrators) it is okay for the Code to apply
solely to students.
If students are supposed to be upholding the
University community's values, values we --
along with faculty, staff and administrators -
supposedly hold collectively, why do we have
absolutely no power to help decide (not suggest)
what those values are and what constitutes a

breach of them?
Because the values enforced by the Code
have not be democratically determined, the
Code is not just structurally flawed (in that it
systematically denies students their basic rights)
it is fundamentally self-contradictory.
To illustrate my point: Most students are
"educated" (there's another Orwellian
euphemism) under the Code for underage drink
ing in the residence halls. OSCR determines tha
this is a violation of the Code - the rationale
probably being, we may suppose, that underage
drinking violates the University community's
value of "safety," or maybe "honesty."
It is difficult to see what is so unsafe or dis-
honest about underage drinking, and even if
some OSCR bureaucrat could give you decent
answer, there's no question that the "safety"
value is selectively enforced - otherwise
OSCR would also be prosecuting students who,
say, ride motorcycles. Particularly with under
age drinking cases, students should feel offend-
ed that the University is prosecuting their peers
in the name of "community values" when
almost no student thinks that there is anything
wrong with drinking before one's 21st birthday.
There also seems to be an internal contradic-
tion in prosecuting first-year students enjoying
some cheap beer in Markley under the premise
that this activity is "unsafe" or "dishonest"
when, apparently, another one of the Universi
community's values is "freedom." How a
Elkin and his cronies to resolve this?
They can't, the Code's theoretical founda-
tions can't possibly be coherent until all students
get to decide for themselves what their own val-
ues are and ifhow to enforce them.
Nick Woomer's column runs every
other Tuesday. Give him eedbackat
www.michiandaily.com/rumor via
e-mail at nwoomer@umich.edu.

Hughes' Code case
shows hypocrisy of
discipline policies
To THE DAILY:
I applaud the Daily for its ongoing coverage
of the Code of Student Conduct - this issue
affects every student here at the University, and
everyone should be concerned. As the Student
Rights Commission co-chairs, Michael Simon
and I continue to fight for student rights in the
code process, and with students' help, we are
confident changes can be made. The Ryan
Hughes case ("If DPS isn't pressing charges,
why should 'U'?", 3/20/01) offers a unique
chance to explore the underside of the Code, if
he is guilty of the charges levied against him or
not.
Whether or not you believe Ryan Hughes
was justified in the alleged spray-painting of the
protester's signs, all students can agree that
charging him under the Code violates his basic
rights to due process. According to the Code,
"Students at the University have the same rights
and protections under the Constitutions of the
United States and the State of Michigan as
other Citizens." If this is true, why is Hughes
being charged when neither Department of
Public Safety nor the protesters have pursued
legal charges? The administration counters that
their Code is "educational," but this leads to yet
another inconsistency.
The University claims the Code is an educa-
tional process - but the Code includes both
educational and disciplinary punishments: any-
thing from alcohol workshops to expulsion. To

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an attentive observer, the University uses the
Code for both disciplinary and educational pur-
poses - whatever they see fit.
What's disturbing is the hypocrisy in the
Hughes case - the administration's use of the
Code blatantly conflicts with the text of the
document. According to the Code "Any stu-
dent, faculty member, or staff member may
submit a complaint alleging a violation of the
Code." Although DPS officers are technically
University staff members, to my knowledge
they have never pursued Code charges. In virtu-
ally all other cases, DPS only provides informa-
tion for cases. The Code process itself is
designed for a complainant and defendant- if
this case gets to an arbitration, who will sit in
the complainant's seat? A DPS officer?
Although this might seem ridiculous, it might
happen.
The Daily's recent coverage of the Code has

been exceptional, and the administration's
silence in response to the coverage telling.
When the administration cannot defend them-
selves against full-page editorial criticisms,:stu-
dents must conclude that injustice is afoot. A
few simple changes can vastly improve the
Code: limiting its scope, setting a consisted
standard of proof and applying it consistently.
With the students' help, we can do these
things. In the meantime, let the administration
know what you think- email
code.complain@umich.edu to contact the Uni-
versity Board of Regents and other administra-
tors involved with the code. Follow the Hughes
case, and remember, the Code applies to every
student.
ROB GOODSPEED
The letter writer is co-chair of the Michigan Student
Assembly Student Rights Commission and is
incoming LSA representative to the assembly.

Whatever happened to the ass-whippin'?
DUSTIN J. SEIBERT TIE MANIFESTO

couple of months
ago, I was walking
through the Target
^ store right outside of Saline
and I witnessed a young
child, maybe seven years
old or so, running from his
mother screaming what he
wasn't going to do as loud
as he could through the
store. All eyes in earshot are directed on this kid
as if he were putting on a free concert compli-
mentary to the patrons of the store. But that's
not the worst part. The mother is actually plead-
ing with this kid, attempting to bargain with him
for his silence. Pleading with him! "Come on
now, honey ... if you behave yourself, I'll let
you play with your Pokemon/Teletubby/Zoo-
boomafoo when we get home!" I was absolutely
awestruck: I wanted to grab the kid myself and
hurl his little punk ass across the Menswear sec-
tion. All that ran through my mind during this
occurrence was the brutal corporal punishment
that I would have received had that been me cut-
ting up like that.
Now I completely realize that I am young
still, and many may argue that if am not yet at
the point in my life when I can talk about this,.
but I will be damned if things haven't changed
since I was a child - I like to think that I was
riding on the coattails of that "old-school" era
of discipline that seems to have disappeared
with the turn of the '90s. I read stories of kids

When I was a young buck, my mouth often
wrote checks that my narrow high-yellow ass
could not cash. Everyone that knows me well
can attest to my incurable smart mouth - one
that often got me in a world of trouble. It was
no thing for me to get a whack across the
mouth or a thump in the temple ... if I were
lucky. My parents covered both sides of the
spectrum: My mother was the intimidator -
her tone of voice and piercing stare alone often
straightened me up enough to save the skin on
my behind. My father, however, spoke vol-
umes with his leather belt. Those of you who
feel me can attest to the fact that the belt is one
of the last things you want to connect with
your skin at high velocity. Heaven forbid I
made him angry enough to the point where he
blindly got me with the buckle part. (We all
make mistakes, Dad ... I still love you, man)
Grabbing the belt in mid-swing? Bad idea. He
would drag me into arm's reach like Scorpion
from Mortal Kombat and take it from there.
"Get Over Here!" Flawless victory..
I knew to go to all lengths possible not to
make my mother mad enough at me to have to
break me down, though like all humans, I would
falter. She would call me at my father's house
and warn me days ahead of time about the hell
that I was gonna catch when she saw me next. I
would just wait in frightful anticipation, praying
that she forgot about it. Yeah right. She would
whip her moccasin, complete with small cleats,
off of her foot and just have at it, swinging after

titled the "Board of Education" (those cynical
bastards), and drag an insubordinate in front of
all their peers and proceed to disperse a Gree
style punishment. Imagine that! In front of
classroom of friends!
I promised myself that I would never subject
my children to corporal punishment... I imagine
that we all made that claim at one point during
the healing process following a thrashing. Yet I
see now that sometimes it is the only way to get
the point across. I mean, what does "time out"
really accomplish? What groundbreaking genius
of a parent came up with the brilliant idea of
putting a kid in a corner for five minutes to
make him or her "realize what they have don*
wrong?" You don't think that they are sitting
that corner plotting on some more shit to get
into when they get free? Not to incite bad mem-
ories, but ponder if you will on the worst beat-
down you ever got from your folks. Now,
whatever it was that provoked that journey into
new realms of pain, did you ever do it again?
Ever? Yeah, I didn't think so. You equate the
crime with the punishment and you make if a
point to never catch yourself making that same
mistake twice.
I was never abused, nor am I promoting
child abuse here; there is a thin line between
discipline and abuse, and a good parent knows
not to tread that line. I-am simply tired of see-
ing roles reversed between parent and child: I
will never get used to hearing a child curse out
his mother (instant death in my family), and I

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-it rae o tha

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