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March 06, 2003 - Image 13

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The Michigan Daily, 2003-03-06

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12B - The Michigan Daily - Perspectives - Thursday, March 6, 2003

Ann Arbhor's

bau\ diversity: A new economics

By Joseph Litman
Daily Staff Writer
In the Michigan Union yesterday, I
spoke with several MUG custodial
employees, wondering if they had a
few moments to discuss their respec-
tive experiences working in Ann
Arbor. Unfortunately, none of them
had much spare time (they were on
duty and I was likely a nuisance),

but, I was able to gather some infor-
mation. Their most provocative dis-
closure was that none of the
gentlemen with whom I spoke were
Ann Arbor residents. Instead, they
lived in nearby places like Ypsilanti,
forced to commute to work because
living closer to the Union was too
expensive.
That these men resided beyond the
boundaries of our fine city piqued

my interest because the University
has championed diversity as a neces-
sary condition when establishing a
community in which people can
learn. And I agree with that asser-
tion, because my contact with "oth-
ers" - non-New Yorkers, non-Jews,
non-whites, non-sensicals - has
enhanced my college experience, and
I will graduate next month having
gained far more than just a better

understanding of the what motivated
the authoring of John's apocalyptic
vision. Yet the diversity I have come
to value exists in a fishbowl of sorts,
restricted from flowing out onto Lib-
erty street or running down the hill
toward Jackson road: Is Ann Arbor
really diverse?
My sad findings at the Union sug-
gest otherwise, and that unfortunate
circumstance illustrates that the
diversity from which our municipali-
ty derives fame is perhaps mostly
ersatz - enhanced solely by the
presence of the University communi-
ty - or,
worse, wholly
fictitious.
There are
the more tra- -a
ditional (and
given this uni-
versity's ongo-
ing litigation, I A
more notable)
indices, like racial composition of the
population, that prove this point. For
instance, the 2000 U.S. Census found
that black persons in Michigan com-
prise 14.4 percent of the state's overall
population. In Ann Arbor, blacks are
only 8.8 percent of the populous. How-
ever, the lacking diversity of which I
speak is economic.
Surely, one can find a wide array of
people walking down State Street any
given day - preppies, neo-hippies,
professorial types, myriad others -
yet that range of appearance is a super-
ficial indicator and does not equate to
economic diversity, income diversity,
wealth diversity. Perhaps the child of
two University Hospital doctors is
going through a phase right now.
Better indicators of Ann Arbor's
cloistered nature are the median-
average price for a home in Ann
Arbor Township and the income dis-
tribution of Ann Arbor's working
professionals. The Census lists the
former as $345,000. (For compari-
son's sake, the highest average in the
state, Bloomfield Hills, stands at
$854,000, while the lowest, Ahmeek
Village, in Keweenaw County, is

$27,100.) As for the latter, 56.7 per-
cent of the city's workforce earns
$75,000 or more annually; more than
half of the individuals who hold jobs
make $33,00 than the average Ameri-
can household.
Statistics don't always tell a full story
and obviously, there are other factors
that influence who lives where and why.
However, the figures enumerated above
paint a bleak picture for those like the
MUG employees who would prefer to
live and probably raise families in the
area yet can't.
The University community, particu-
dents, should
also concern
itself with Ann
Arbor's not-
so -varied
y demographics.
While students
from a broad
spectrum of
financial backgrounds matriculate here,
there are a noticeable number of kids
who have lived comfortably for most of
their lives. College is routinely cited as
an opportunity to go beyond one's com-
fort zone, one's standard routine. And
Ann Arbor, with its abundant cultural
amenities, is often extolled for provid-
ing students with an endless supply of
entertainment possibilities. However, if
the city is not the melting pot it is
rumored to be, then how does exposure
to its people really challenge and edu-
cate the students?
America's economy and social
structure are predicated on class strati-
fication, and, more crudely, not every-
one gets to be the boss. Thus, I did not
leave the Union yesterday with a
defeated spirit having abandoned
some quixotic dream of a perfectly
egalitarian American utopia. However,
I also was forced to reconsider Ann
Arbor's distinction as a diversity
breeding ground, a mecca of variety.
People can refer to the city as
"diverse" as much as they'd like, but
without a greater mix of economic sit-
uations among the population, such a
title is a misappropriation.

Call or write to:
Fr. Dominic
4500 Xavier Drive
Franklin, Wisconsin 53132
E-Mail: frdominic@hotmail.com
Phone (414) 421-0831
Web: www.xaviermissionaries.org

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