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December 10, 2001 - Image 4

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The Michigan Daily, 2001-12-10

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4A - The Michigan Daily - Monday, December 10, 2001

OP/ED

U~be J +irbigan i+ iI

420 MAYNARD STREET
ANN ARBOR, MI 48109
daily.letters@umich.edu

NOTABLE
QUOTABLE

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 of the Daily's
editorial board. All other articles, letters and cartoons do not
necessarily reflect the opinion of The Michigan Daily.

(T(The student
body at Michigan
is through and
through just
lovable."

ENMD 0fTHE SEAESTK $Ac.~rcEs...
- 19AVfE TO STOP No PATING OR
° WATCI NG TV A~Ao SoCoUZIIM& UNTIL tD .'os O RA w RcS '
- F It OMT SLEEP TH~IS WEK., 1tMIGHT I H~A
~7 GETENOU(6H DON*E ToAWDtI sEmcoMSEF
-..i: CtIQIJE.
= _ Kk11TETU//

- University president Lee Bollinger in
Cincinnati Thurs ay when asked ifWhe had any
further comments about his experience at the
University, as quoted in today's Daily.

A call for more intellectual activism
AMER G. ZAHR THE PROGRESSIVE PEN

a

s I have watched the
most recent debates,
demonstrations, and
rallies revolving around our
landmark affirmative action
cases I see that there have
emerged three distinct
groups of people. First, we
have those who support
affirmative action, who qui-
etly voice their opinions, and many times quiet-
ly work to make principled arguments in favor
of the policy. Second, we have those such as the
Coalition to Defend Affirmative Action and
Integration and Fight for Equality By Any
Means Necessary, who are unmatched in their
loudness and ability to make a stir wherever
they choose to. And third, we have the growing
voices of anti-affirmative action activists, most
times using intellectual means, such as newspa-
per writings and quiet counter-protests. Their
impact is growing, not because of their num-
bers, but because of their methods.
The first group I have mentioned has simply
been too quiet. While it is perhaps the most
numerous, its members rarely use more intellec-
tual methods to achieve any types of gains.
Newsletters, newspaper submissions and media
activism have been neglected by this group, and
their sheer size and sure emotion for the issue
will mean nothing unless they start to get more
organized. The other two groups of people have
been able to use these methods to make their
voices more well known, many times making it
appear as if they are in fact larger than the
"silent majority" who I think probably exists, at
least on this and most college campuses. Intel-
lectual arguments for affirmative action have
been void for the most part, and pointed short-
comings of those anti-affirmative action voices
have not been distinctly pointed out.
First, however, one must make a clear state-
ment that disassociates any type of intelligent
activism in support of affirmative action from
the type of activism that is undertaken by
BAMN. While some of what BAMN does may
well educate some people and may well invigo-
rate some others, I believe they ultimately hurt

the cause of affirmative action more than help it.
BAMN's in-house attorney, Miranda Massie
(the sister of one of BAMN's leaders, Luke
Massie), made a colossal mistake when attempt-
ing to refer to BAMN petitions in her opening
statements last Thursday when the latest round
of hearings opened up in Cincinnati. After pre-
senting them, she was put in her place by the
judge telling her that was in fact a legal case and
not the forum to make fluffy arguments about
integration and the such.
He's right. Clearly, the right forums to talk
about integration and petitions supporting exist
almost everywhere, except the courtroom.
Massie's legal shortsightedness in this one
instance probably hurt the University's case
more than helping it. Send the petitions to news
agencies, politicians, students governments, but
don't commit a legal error just to get on record
in one of he most important cases in American
legal history. BAMN and others have failed
because they have refused to recognize that
their efforts are useless in a courtroom atmos-
phere. The affirmative action debate must hap-
pen in college auditoriums, newspapers, radio
stations, etc. Not until supporters of affirmative
action see this will they see much fruit of their
hard work. Attending a court proceeding does
nothing. Presenting a petition in open court is
useless. BAMN's strategies are sloppy, and
their personnel unpleasant. Those of us who
support affirmative action have to think twice
before we unwittingly support BAMN and their
rag-tag tactics.
Also, those who back affirmative action
must do more to point out the obvious short-
comings that are the foundation of the current
popular backlashes. Since, those who oppose
affirmative action are for the most part using
intellectual arguments, we should do the same.
Opponents of affirmative action distort the
meaning of the principle, ignore recent history,
and shun present realities. They incorrectly
claim that the success of affirmative action is
based on whether or not it diminishes poverty,
while it was never intended to substitute for
jobs, alleviate welfare woes, or provide food to
poor families. Opponents also misguidedly

argue that affirmative action requires a lower-
ing of standards, pointing to grades and test
scores as the real indicators of worthiness.
They can't be fully serious, since experts agree
that using test scores alone is probably one of
the worst ways to determine admissions. Crit-
ics also ask why we don't simply replace race-
based affirmative action with programs based
on poverty and economic disadvantage. The
answer to that is simple. Race is one thing,
poverty another.
The irony is that most who use this popular
-logic would not really favor a poverty-based
affirmative action; they simply use this tactic to
attempt to point out a moral shortcoming in cur-
rent policies. Policies targeted to help those in
poverty would surely be beneficial, but that does
not mean ruling out policies that are race-based.
Finally, opponents argue that affirmative action
is contrary to the American belief in individual-
ism and the struggle for a color blind society.
This argument fails because discrimination is
almost never based on individual traits (it might
then be acceptable); it is based on association
with a group. Let's eliminate group discrimina-
tion before we eliminate group remedies. Also,
our own Constitution recognized that we are not
a color blind society. Congress knowingly per-
petuated slavery of blacks, and knowingly out-
lawed it. Our whole legal system is based on
diversity and color consciousness. So, if we are
to function by the rule of law, we must be color
conscious, not color blind.
These are the arguments that need to be
made. Those who are currently too silent,
spending too much of their either complaining
about BAMN or working to oppose them must
begin to delineatethese argumerits usi;g e,
most effective outlets. We cannot let BAM N
hurt affirmative action more than it already
.has. It is incumbent upon us to take back the
fight by' ignoring BAMN, not by fighting
them, and by making intellectual arguments in
the face of a growing, intelligent anti-aftirna-
tive action movement.

I
I

V VIEWPOINT

The world wasn't watching:
Afiveaction in Ohio

q

BY ZAC PESKOWITZ AND JIM SECRETO
Waking up at 5 a.m. the week before finals
to drive to a federal appeals hearing in Cincin-
nati is not the most academically wise decision.
It is a sacrifice - and we assume our decision to
attend the oral arguments for the University's
affirmative action cases will not improve our
blue-book-taking capabilities. But our trip into
the fine state of Ohio made two ideas concerning
the lawsuits very clear: The present effort to save
affirmative action is rather underwhelming,
however, without affirmative action the nature of
higher education will be permanently altered.
We boarded a bus sponsored by Students
Supporting Affirmative Action. Sadly, despite
chartering two buses for the trip, only one bus
was filled. After an hour of futilely waiting for
more individuals to arrive, the buses departed.
Several hours into the ride, we were told of a
possible turnout of roughly 3,000 protesters and
warned that Fountain Square, the location of the
noon rally, could be dangerously overcrowded.
We were also informed that BAMN, everyone's
favorite Trotskyist front group and the sponsors
of the day's rally, had hired the Nation of Islam
for the security detail. Our immediate reaction:
Altamont - the 1969 Rolling Stones concert
where the Hell's Angels were prudently chosen
as security guards.
Once we arrived in downtown Cincinnati,
we were able to secure tickets for the overflow
court room, despite being told by a variety of
sources that people would have been "lining up
since six in the morning" for a supposedly val-
ued spot inside the courthouse.
At the square, we realized that there would
only be a few hundred individuals at the rally.
Even more disheartening was the low number of
University students, particularly undergraduates,
at the event. The crowd was dominated by high
schoolers and BAMN sympathizers.
Also, three individuals from The Michigan
Review had journeyed to Cincinnati to voice
their disapproval of the University's admission
policies. On a skywalk above the main stage
confrontation brewed as the Review kids' signs
were tom apart by high schoolers, and one writer
was physically accosted and told that he was
"going over" the rail.
After the initial incident, the Review kids
choose to return to the skywalk with more
posters. Once again, people attempted to destroy
their signs. We ran to the skywalk to closely
view the melee. After some shoving between a
high schooler and the Review kids, a girl tried to

grab one of their signs. Secreto stepped in and
prevented her from taking the sign and an older
man threatened physical violence. The situation
was diffused when an enormous man told every-
one to calm down and the police ordered the
skywalk evacuated.
The rally continued anticlimactically, and we
walked to the courthouse. After clearing securi-
ty, we tried to sneak into the main courtroom
only to be rebuffed by an officer of the court.
While the decision of the appeals court will
only immediately affect the 6th Circuit, the en
banc hearing (a case heard by all nine judges as
opposed to three) signaled that these cases are
headed straight to the Supreme Court and would
affect the application of affirmative action
nationwide.
During oral arguments all parties presented
their respective sides. It was a weighty proceed-
ing; the lawyers understood the possible impact
of their actions. Then the attorney for the Law
School student interveners, Miranda Massie,
tried to intimidate the lifetime-appointed federal
judges with petitions in support of affirmative
action - making herself and the University's
defense appear childish.
One judge took Massie to task, saying some-
thing along the lines of, "Ma'am, I know that I
speak for all of us on the bench when I say that
this is a judicial process, not a legislative one and
we are not swayed by public opinion and are
unimpressed by petitions and rallies."
The imperious image of the judges presiding
over the bench made the ramification of the Uni-
versity's affirmative action cases suddenly lucid.
And hitching a ride back to Ann Arbor with an
expert in Constitutional law did not hurt either.
We were thankful the legal director of the
American Civil Liberties Union of Michigan had
extra room in his minivan for two, tired and wet
students who did not want to endure the bus ride
home. And it gave us an opportunity to listen to
his professional opinion on the cases and the
possible impact of a ruling striking down affir-
mative action. As you would expect, the man did
a good job of putting the cases in perspective
and made it very clear to us these cases were far
more important than most, especially University
students, were treating them.
Bottom line - when these cases start in the
Supreme Court, University students, on both
sides of the issue, better recognize its implica-
tions for the future of higher education.
Peskowitz and Secreto are members of
the Daily's editorial board.

Amer G. Zahr can be reached
via e-mail atzahrag@umich.edu.

Y LETTERS TO THE EDITOR

Illinois GSIs being smothered
by Cantor administration

TO THE DAILY:
Many thanks for the Daily's fine editorial of
Dec. 4 ("Let the GSIs unionize"). Those of us at
the Graduate Employees Organization here in
Illinois look with admiration (and perhaps a bit
of envy) at the tremendous positive impact
Michigan's GEO has had on the lives of gradu-
ate employees and undergraduates alike. It is an
example we hope soon to emulate.
In our recent two-day work stoppage, we had
the support not only of graduate employees, but
also faculty members, University staff, local cler-
gy, community activists and undergraduates -
even the president of the Illinois Student Govern-
ment picketed with us. The whole University
community realizes that giving graduate employ-
ees a recognized voice in our work is not a ques-
tion of money, it is a question of justice, fairness,
and quality education for all. It is a source of
unending frustration and sadness that the Illinois
administration, including Chancellor Nancy Can-
tor (the recently-departed provost of the Univer-
sity of Michigan), refuse to recognize the simple
truth that we are workers with the right to choose
union representation.
The GEO membership is enthusiastically in
favor of further walkouts to win the right to col-
lective bargaining. We have exhausted all other
political, legal and diplomatic options, so all we
have left is our labor. Thanks again to The

Cartoonist probably
fell asleep in class
TO THE DAILY:
The editorial cartoon of Nov.27 showing
the Pope preparing to "bless" sperm is bla-
tantly offensive to Catholics. If you are going
to mock the Pope and Catholic teaching, you
could at least get it right. The cartoon says
that the Pope holds that "embryonic cells"
are "potential lifeforms." No, Catholic teach-
ing holds that embryonic cells are human life
forms, not potential. This is simple Biology
101 not theological sophistry.
Maybe the artist was asleep in class
when the professor went over this.
LOUIs GIOVINO
The letter writer is assistant to
the president of the Catholic League
for Religious and Civil Rights.
Isenberg's column on
dating a waste of time
To THE DAILY:
I'm just bored enough to spend the time
to respond to the waste of time I spent Fri-
day reading Rebecca Isenberg's ground
breaking and socially controversial ideas on
modern dating which she summarized in her
column called "Are non-relationships the
new relationship?"
Surrounded by writing concerned with
electronic privacy legislation and civil
rights, I fell upon a column that could best
be described as a sociological study in the
future of American suburbia. The sup-
posed problem Isenberg has so happily
decided to describe to Daily readers has the
depth and complexity of a primate on Via-
gra wondering if it should be "relationship-
py" with just one person/thing or if it
should "hook up" a few more times with _

FILE PHOTO
Contract negotiations between GSIs and
the University of Michigan were at an
impasse in 1999.
Michigan Daily for supporting our struggle.
DAVE KAMPER
The letter writer is the communications for
the Graduate Employees Organization at the
University of Ilinois at Urbana-Champaign.

I

Raiji clouds real issues
of affirmative action
TO THE DAILY:
It's been said that you should write what you
know. Maybe Manish Raiji has never heard this,
because in his column "The Liberal Right Turn"
(12/5/01), he makes a blatantly false statement.

sions policy is not simply the underrepresenta-
tion of minorities at the University. It is the dis-
crimination that is obviously still pervasive in
our society that the policies also attempt to over-
come.
Until we eliminate the attitudes of racism, we
cannot be blind to the issue in admissions poli-
cies, or any other facet of life. It is a myth that
life in the United States is based on a system of
meritocracy. To ask that all students be judged

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