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March 19, 2002 - Image 4

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The Michigan Daily, 2002-03-19

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4 - The Michigan Daily - Tuesday, March 19, 2002

OP/ED

U be +ikigau &dlg

420 MAYNARD STREET
ANN ARBOR, MI 48109
letters@michigandaily.com

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

JON SCHWARTZ
Editor in Chief
JOHANNA HANINK
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.

NOTABLE
QUOTABLE
"These are the
forgotten people ... the
underprotected, the
undereducated,
the underclothed,
the underfed.
- A March 18 article in The Nation, quoting
Edward R. Murrow's historic documentary,
"The Harvest of Shame, "about agricultural
workers in Florida. The article concluded,
"Unfortunately, little has changed since then."

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SAM BUTLER Tim SOAPBOX

40

My education is more important than your children
AUBREY HENRETTY NEUROTICA

he Graduate Employ-
ees Organization's
latest contract negoti-
ations and last week's
dugout-style chants for soli-
darity-in-the-face-of-the-
evil-oppressor have been
wildly entertaining. It's been
delightful to see the Univer-
sity searching in vain for a
subtle way to call GEO organizers whiny little
brats, the undergraduate GEO cheerleading squad
insisting that depriving graduate student instruc-
tors of childcare is a crime against humanity and
the vocal opposition voicing insightful words of
dissent (e.g. "GSIs suck!"); I could hardly decide
who to laugh at first.
I am pro-GSI; I recognize the contributions
they make to my education. I am pro-union. I am
pro-GSIs-having-unions. There's nothing better
than a group of people whose express purpose is
to damn the Man (or the University, as it were)
whenever it sees fit, even if the Man/University in
question is benevolent and not in need of damn-
ing. The Man and the University tend to be honest
more often when they think others are watching.
Unions have high self-esteem. Unlike indi-
vidual workers, who are small and weak and
mumbly, unions do not ask nicely. Unions
demand. But once the demands surpass a cer-
tain level of absurdity (a completely subjective
level which only I and others I deem of com-
parable intellectual prowess are capable of
identifying), the battle hymns start to sound
suspiciously like whining.
Stifling student
GEOFFREY GAGNON G-oLO

Ask any 22-year-old waitress who is paying
her own rent and tuition and taking out her own
loans if she thinks GSIs should have access to
free childcare. She will say, "Childcare? They're
going to graduate school for free. Cry me a fuck-
ing river. And hand me that ketchup while
you're over there." Is it because she lacks a full
understanding of the plight of the downtrodden
GSI? Does her blase attitude toward profanity
prove that she is not only simple-minded, but
also bitter and morally bankrupt?
Maybe. But maybe she has a point. Remem-
ber that her working conditions are horrifying
compared to the GSI's slightly cramped com-
munal office space and that she earns less
money per year than the average GSI, even if
you don't count the tens of thousands of dollars
in tuition, the resume filler and the personally
edifying teaching experience the GSI gets. With
her meager income alone, the waitress must also
eat and finance her education. From her per-
spective, GSI Joe has a pretty sweet deal.
You can (and many will) blow this argu-
ment out of proportion. You can say, "So, what
you're saying is that anyone born into a rela-
tively stable household should not strive to
improve her life just because she has it so much
easier than that the kid down the street with the
dead mother, deranged father, alcoholic older
sister and schizophrenic younger brother" as
smugly as you please, confident in the knowl-
edge that you are better than me.
Of course that isn't what I'm saying. Weren't
you paying attention before when I was going on
about how great unions are?

It's just that when GEO starts shaking its fist
about its right to unionize and its entitlement to
free childcare, it starts looking like the multi-mil-
lion-dollar-apiece cast members of marginally
funny sitcoms striking because their lattes are
always cold by the time the star-struck intern can
run them across the street from Starbucks.
Easy on the hyperbole, you say. This is differ-
ent. This is not about lattes or millions of dollars.
This is about children. Don't I think everyone has
a right to free childcare? Would I like to tell little
Jimmy why I don't think mommy's school/work
should pay for him to go play with the other kids
and expand his brilliant little mind while mommy
is working and going to school?
This is not about children. It's not. If it were
only about children, GEO zealots would suck in
their guts and take out a loan like everybody else
before crying injustice at the University. All
things considered, they would still probably
graduate in shallower debt than people who paid
their own tuition. GEO framed its demands in
terms of children so it would be harder to dis-
agree with .them. (What? Are you saying you
think people who have children should not have
equal access to education? You worm!).
I am not saying that and I am not a worm. I
am a student who has not lost sight of how lucky
she is to be here despite the daunting tuition bills
that periodically show up in her mailbox. I like
children and unions and GSIs. But I can't stand
people who whine.

I

Aubrey Henretty can be reached
at ahenrett@umich.edu.

activists contrary to free speech

s Palestinian stu-
dents rallied in
demonstration last
Friday at the Ann Arbor fed-
eral building or as graduate
student instructors clamored
in the Diag in recent days
F for a fair contract, it's likely
that few on campus gave
any thought to the freedom
they exercised. Protests and demonstrations may
be time time-honored Ann Arbor traditions, but as
they come under attack elsewhere, few are sound-
ing the battle cry for their defense forcing some to
question what universities value these days.
The fact is student freedoms are facing a
fight of their own on college campuses all over
the country. The Chronicle of Higher Educa-
tion reported last year that the battle over stu-
dents' rights to free speech is more than a war
of words - it's fast becoming a fight waged
with policies that silence protest and minimize
the rights of student groups. The publication
reported that Georgetown, Kansas State, the
University of California at Berkeley, and the
University of Mississippi, just to name a few,
had all enacted rules regulating how, when and
where students can exercise free speech.
According to some of the policies in place at
schools like the University of West Virginia,
administrators can decide that demonstrations
are allowed only in designated "free speech
zones." Such policies that create special areas
for demonstration are required to control traffic
and noise that would disturb the school.
Yet, the absurdity of a policy that silences
demonstration for the supposed good of the

campus ignores the obvious damage such
policies have on the very essence of a univer-
sity community.
Fear of student activism is as old as student
activism itself and certainly nothing new to this
campus, or perhaps any other. And while one can
only hope that the type of paranoia that spawned
the University-sponsored infiltration of student
groups undertaken here in the 1960s is merely a
historical tidbit relegated to a by-gone era, fear of
student protest is alive and well on other campus-
es. So much so that conventional idea that acade-
mia should value ideas, discussion, dissent and
free speech is being turned upside down.
Consider the alarming news that rolled out of
East Lansing last spring when labor activists at
Michigan State learned that one their own was
actually a university police officer placed within
the group in order to monitor its activities. The
Michigan State group, Students for Economic
Justice, had been targeted by campus and police
officials who were smart enough to figure that
there could be trouble when World Bank Presi-
dent James Wolfensohn spoke at the school, but
too dumb to realize that their "student" mole
should stop patrolling the campus as a police offi-
cer if she was to be an effective informant. In the
end an embarrassed administration had botched
the "undercover" portion of their undercover
investigation when the officer was spotted, and
subsequently photographed in full uniform.
In a story that has likely forced many in
Michigan State President M. Peter McPherson's
camp to question what makes them look worse -
foiling their "undercover" operation, or launching
it in the first place - the realities of the situation
are easily lost in the comedy of the affair.

McPherson has made no bones about the fact that
he authorized the investigation to thwart any
attempts the group might have planned to disrupt
Wolfensohn's speech. And what's perhaps most
alarming is the fact that the debacle didn't put an
end to the practice of infiltration.
Citing the need for a policy on the matter,
the school's board of trustees decided that
they'd better end the controversy by making it
very clear that deceiving student groups to
keep an eye on their activities is appropriate if
the president deems it so. The board's Septem-
ber decision came after 59 members of the
school's faculty expressed their shock to
McPherson in a letter that called the practice of
infiltration "contrary to basic principles of
political association and free speech."
I'd echo the sentiments of these educators and
go a bit further. Regardless of constitutional
notions of assembly or speech, the board of
trustees - a group of elected state officials -
have given the green light to those who seek to
trample the sort of sacred foundations that higher
education should uphold.
The community of a university as a place of
intellectual engagement centered on the free
exchange of ideas suffers at the hands of those
who dismiss the importance of protecting basic
notions of assembly and free speech. For a uni-
versity to send a message to students that margin-
alizes the importance of informed debate or
restricts dissent is more than just wrong - it's
downright damaging.

Geoffrey Gagnon can be reached
atggagnon@umich.edu.

LETTERS TO THE EDITOR

4

BAMN failed to respond to
real critiques of itself
To THE DAILY:
Agnes Aleobua and Ben Royal, members of
the Coalition to Defend Affirmative Action,
asserted in a viewpoint yesterday that their orga-
nization's "divisive rhetoric" and "radicalism"
are the main sources of The Michigan Daily and
the general campus community's criticism
against them.
What Aleobua and Royal referred to when
they wrote of "a trend of negative coverage"
against BAMN is actually an awakening of the
campus community as to the true nature of their
organization - that is, BAMN is a front group
for the Revolutionary Workers League, a Detroit-
based, sectarian, Trotskyite organization.
This awakening began in fall 2001 when stu-

ters on the group's sectarian nature and its adher-
ence to the socialist philosophy espoused by
Leon Trotsky. Yet, the efforts to diffuse its influ-
ence on campus activism rests on two issues: The
control of BAMN by individuals who are not
University students and BAMN's frequent
attempts to speak as the sole voice of minority
students. The discovery that BAMN is run by
two non-student, socialist organizers - specifi-
cally Luke Massie (age 31) and Shanta Driver
(age 46) - has serious implications in reguards
to who represents activism on campus. Also, the
fact that Miranda Massie, lead attorney for
BAMN's student intervenors is the sister of Luke
Massie is not without significance.
But the most salient point comes from
BAMN's repeated attempts to act as the sole rep-
resentation for minority students on campus
through their oft-heralded "new civil rights
movement."

rest of the campus community.
JIM SECRETO
LSA senior
Secreto is the co-chair of the American Civil
Liberties Union, aformer Daily editorial board
member and former MSA vice-president.
$1 feel wid help the AATU
help student-renters
To THE DAILY:
Yesterday's editorial about the importance of
the AATU on campus (Voting matters) was right
on point. The vast majority of students here at the
University will rent at some point during their time
in Ann Arbor. These renters need to be able to
count on the AATU being there when they run
into unforeseen difficulties with their landlords or
management companies. I want to personally

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