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September 30, 2002 - Image 4

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The Michigan Daily, 2002-09-30

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4A -The Michigan Daily - Monday, September 30, 2002

OP/ED

ale Ib'rgt iauthIl

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

EDITED AND MANAGED BY
STJDENTS 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
There is really a feeling
of despair among the
rescuers ... There's simply
not much hope left."
- Momadou Diop Thioune, of a French
funded marine center, as quoted by the
Associated Press yesterday describing the
rescue effort of the sunken Senegalese
ferry the Joola. Only 62 of the 796 people
on board are known to have survived.

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SAM BUTLER THE SoAP ox

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4!6 }--
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ersity Pre
leman, th
dressed the
last Thu
nail that
staff mer
nt leaders.
>een fals
il accoun
rs to spea
tional Stu
stine Soli
be held.
12-14 and
>ever sent
n the fram
able anti-
r e-m ail t
form the
was mos
at had be

usea mass message
mail wrong to raise divestment issue
esident Mary Sue investigation so as not to further impli-
irough an e-mail, cate the student and student group of
e entire University the hoax. No steps were taken on the by
ursday regarding the administrations to contact the stu-
had been sent to dent nor the student group accused
mbers and later to regarding the hoax e-mail. Coleman
should have gathered all the facts
ely sent from a regarding the issue at hand before
t, and invited fac- addressing the entire University in such
k at the upcoming an obscure manner.
.dent Conference In addition, Coleman used her e-
darity Movement, mail in response to this terrible incident
at the University as a soapbox to express the University's
I is sponsored by views on one of the main topics of the
the e-mail, how- October conference, divestment from
rework of extreme Israel. While the president is indeed
-Semitism. Cole- entitled to her own opinion, it was not
o the University, appropriate to mention her viewpoint in
community that the email. The offensive hoax that was
it certainly not a committed against University students
en sanctioned by should not be used as a platform in
ership. which to put forth ones views on an

Wo, t dar~ hav~e a week"fl- I'm *GmkiOeOCTo.

Taking back direct democracy
PETER CUNNIFFE ONE FOr THE ROAD

ike many states, elec-
tion seasons in
ry||g Michigan brings
street corners littered with
yard signs bearing not just
the names of politicians, but
also carrying exhortations to
vote "Yes" or "No" on vari-
ous ballot initiatives. Those
simple expressions of
endorsement or opposition to ballot proposals,
many of which carry no indication of the proposal's
subject, belie the importance they have assumed. In
many ways the ballot proposals we vote on have
become as important as the politicians we elect.
They have grown in popularity and potency as
interest groups frustrated with the legislative
process have increasingly turned to referendums to
accomplish their goals.
Allowing state codes and even constitutions
to be amended through the use ballot of initia-
tives is a relatively common practice, justified as
giving citizens a direct role in governing their
states. Unfortunately, like all elections in a sys-
tem where money and slick ads decide more elec-
tions than policy, the referendum process has
become another way for special interests to buy
the governance they want.
A good illustration is this year's Proposal 02-4,
which would amend the state constitution to
require 90 percent of Michigan's tobacco settlement
money (about $300 million per year) to be directed
to various nonprofit health care providers and foun-
dations and anti-smoking programs. While funding
such things is a reasonable enough goal, the pro-
posal would take the money from a $100 million
college scholarship program funded by the settle-
ment as well as blow a large hole in the state bud-
get currently being plugged by the tobacco money.

Let's not forget the settlement was meant to com-
pensate us for health care expenditures we were
forced to make. Why should we be forced to spend
the reimbursement on the same thing? And are we
really comfortable with a system whereby the con-
stitution can be amended by a simple majority of
largely disinterested voters?
Referendums are great in theory because they
provide a way to bypass legislatures - our own
being a prime example - that act irresponsibly, put
political interests ahead of public interests and con-
tinually fail to consider worthy legislation. Howev-
er, referendums may cause even larger disconnects
between the public interest and the laws enacted
than bad legislators ever do.
The flaw of direct democracy is the public's
lack of interest in it. Even among the shrinking
number of us who bother to vote at all, few have
any idea what initiatives we will be presented with
before we enter the voting booth. And to ask peo-
ple to consider even the simplest legislation as
they're standing there reading a summary of a pro-
posed statute, the implications of which they may
have never thought about before this moment, is a
ridiculous way to gauge what they actually think
about it. Many don't bother voting on the referen-
dums or just pick their vote randomly.
A few referendums, of course, are hot topics
and people will have heard of them and thought
about how they will vote. But often their decisions
are based on advertisements that, like all campaign
ads, have less to do with substance than with saying
anything necessary to further the interests of
whomever is paying for them.
There are also structural problems with many
proposals. Consider Proposal 02-1, which would
end straight ticket voting, require expedited vote
counting in close presidential elections, permit vot-
ers in a polling place to correct errors they make on

the ballot and create penalties for stealing campaign
signs, among other things. This proposal makes
eight different changes to existing election law with
one vote. Asking voters, largely on the spur of the
moment, to weigh these eight changes against each
other and decide if, on balance, this proposal
deserves support is asking for a sloppy decision
making process.
The referendum process doesn't always produce
bad law, but it produces a lot of law neither the peo-
ple nor the state government have any real interest
in. Legislators, influenced by special interests
though they may be, at least understand the impact,
especially the fiscal impact, of their policies.
Referendums should not be done away with
because they are often- the only thing providing a
check on some truly horrendous policies. For exam-
ple, the war on drugs, because of the overwhelm-
ingly powerful interests it sustains, has become
unchallengeable by legislators at the state and feder-
al level. Only state ballot initiatives have provided
modest softening of our unjust drug laws and they
seem to be the only hope for spurring further
change. Unfortunately, referendums are too often
nothing but cons for the benefit of a few. Changes
such as restricting ballot initiatives to making only
one alteration in the law or general campaign
finance reform would help fix the referendum
process. However, the only way referendums will
ever fulfill their purpose of serving the public inter-
est is if people pay attention to them. Voters, such
as those students whose scholarships are on the bal-
lot this fall, need to realize how important referen-
dums have become to issues with direct and
important effects on them. Goveming is an impor-
tant responsibility and one we neglect at our peril.

er, SAFE, and one particular
f the group had already been
ly accused of actually send-
ate-filled e-mail. In response,
s methodology and strategy
sing the entire University was
as a result presented the com-
th an ambiguous, unclear and
cription of the incident.
me when an investigation is
rway to verify that the e-mail
out to numerous faculty and
eaders was indeed a spoof,
's address to the University
ve addressed the details of the

unrelated issue.
The University president's ability to
send emails to the entire University
should be used moderately to address
issues that affect the entire student body
and not to expound upon tangential
subjects. If there comes a time such that
the University feels compelled to
address the issue of divestment, it
should not be done through a simple e-
mail in the framework of an abhorrent
incident. Furthermore, the President
should have awaited the results of the
investigation or clarified the incidents
details to the general public rather than

Peter Cunniffe can be reached
atpcunnfJ@umich.edu.

> Greek with caution
death indicative of dangerous atitudes

VIEWPOINT
Daily clearly clueless about processes of MSAs BPC

*

Xnthony Langas died earlier
this month after overdosing on
cocaine. His passing was a ter-
ble tragedy. Langas had been a broth-
r in the Sigma Phi fraternity, a place
vhere brothers have said that drug
sage was frequently joked about.
aced with yet another calamity, and as
he fall rush period continues, it may
e time for the Inter Fraternity Council
nd the Panhellenic Association to
nce again soberly re-examine the cul-
wre of Greek life at the University.
Substance abuse problems have
erially haunted the Greek system.
VTen attention has been paid to these
orts of issues - often accompanied
y appropriate opprobrium - typical
esponses from people like Joel Win-
ton, the President of the IFC, have
een to characterize the unfortunate
ccurrences as episodic, not epidemic.
additionally, Greek-life supporters
ave often seemed exasperated in these
efenses, flabbergasted that anyone
vould actually criticize a system
vhose sole intentions, they often
laim, are to promote community ser-
ice and camaraderie. However, now
hose voices are silent, perhaps too
shamed to make another laughable
ssertion that it is not the character of
ae University's Greek system that
ngenders such behavior.
Surely the IFC and Panhell have
rade some efforts to increase aware-
ess about substance and sexual abuse,
et these attempts at reform have fallen
woefully short. Last October, both of
hese Greek umbrella organizations
vere sponsors of a program meant to
aise awareness about date rape. The
FC and Panhell required all pledges

and 60 percent of a chapter's member-
ship to attend. No less than sixty per-
cent of the fraternity brothers had been
present at the program, but the lessons
and ideas clearly did not proliferate as
hoped.
College culture allows for irrespon-
sibility and in no way should fraterni-
ties be seen as the only places where
substance abuse is a problem. That
would be unfair and ignorant. Fraterni-
ties are, however, the most prominent
social venues on campus and they
make no attempt to mask that their
social functions revolve around drink-
ing. Any notion otherwise can be
quickly erased by walking past a frat
house yard littered with empty cups
and bottles from the previous evening.
Such a cavalier attitude about drinking
creates a mindset in which the danger-
ous consequences of alcohol and other
substances seem remote and unlikely.
While there is a clear division
between alcohol use and drug use, the
general premise that binge drinking is
a worthwhile social pastime since it
can be slept off or overcome - an atti-
tude tacitly, if not explicitly, condoned
by Greek life - must lend itself to
similar attitudes about other "harm-
less" activities like smoking a joint or
snorting a line.
Hopefully, IFC and Panhell will
take more substantial steps in curtail-
ing this behavior - promoting dry
houses, limiting who can have a party
when, etc. - so that the Greek culture
does not cost someone else their life,
as it did Langas earlier this month and
Courtney Cantor in 1998. Those now
rushing will perhaps consider them-
selves advised.

BY KENNETH STEWART
It is apparent to me, and anyone else present
at last Tuesday's Michigan Student Assembly's
meeting, that The Daily has not conferred with its
own reporter about the transparency issues
regarding student group funding (Transparent
funding: MSA, BPC, should better inform
groups, 9/26/02). As a voting member of MSA's
Budget Priorities Committee and a rather ardent
supporter of funding reforms for the same, I have
to say the Daily is dead wrong on several points.
The chair of BPC, Ruben Duran, already publicly
addressed the same issues during the same meet-
ing. However, for the benefit of the rest of the
student body I will attempt to readdress your
slanderous accusations.
As an ex-officio member of both the commit-
tee, the chair only votes in a tie with regard to ini-
tial requests and only votes on appeals if for
some reason a member of the committee must
recuse himself or doesn't show up. In the case of
the request of Young Americans for Freedom's
application, Ruben Duran recused himself. While
I myself am not a supporter of YAF or the view-
points of its members, it is my belief that his
decision was the right and a most ethical one.,
unlike The Daily's decision to imply members of
BPC were somehow involved in nepotism.
Under no circumstances did anyone on BPC
or MSA determine any allocations of funding
based upon any group's political background; by
law this is not allowed.
All groups that were zero funded were
informed directly, had ample time to respond or
appeal, and were given a very specific reason as
to why such action was taken. In many cases,

funds were tentatively allocated in hopes that the
group in question would be able to clarify its
application and do so expeditiously. Moreover,
groups were also informed that there are two
funding cycles remaining in the semester in
which they are welcome to reapply.
There are several guidelines to be interpret-
ed and applied by BPC in considering funding
applications. BPC is made up by an equal
amount of MSA members who are accountable
for funding and students at large who pay into
the funding pool. In almost all cases the BPC
ruled unanimously with only two votes going to
a tiebreaker, none of which applied to the
groups you mention in your editorial. As an
aside, juxtaposed political groups' funding in
aggregate are funded nearly equal.
In many instances groups specifically
asked for funding which BPC does not pay, for
reasons including: Holding events off campus,
requesting absorbent amounts relative to event
impact on campus, creating groups that violat-
ed code with regard to name, filling out the
wrong application, and not listing dates of
when events are held. All of these examples
create a problem for MSA's code (e.g. Fall
Assembly cannot be financially encumbered
by Spring events). In most circumstances,
these rules are clear and written out on the
forms that students must submit.
Cuts in funding may have been recognition
of a group's past underutilization of previously
allocated funds, or BPC's community wisdom
of what had previously impacted campus life
and was deemed relevant to students. Many
groups intended to give away proceeds or
expected proceeds in excess of their costs from

the production of said events. Groups who pos-
sessed more than adequate and unencumbered
capital for events were denied funding with an
understanding that such a denial would not
completely deplete their reserves.
As a representative of MSA for nearly two
years and an advocate for better representative-
ness on BPC, this was for me the best group of
people working for the benefit of student groups
one could hope for on this campus. Graduates
and undergraduates, ethnic and cultural minori-
ties, multiple genders and sexual orientations, etc.
were all represented with very few recusions due
to the diversity of both the members and appli-
cants. The Daily's statements were needless and
insulting as to the hard work and commitment of
the members of BPC. Because of just such com-
mitment and volunteerism, we were able to fund
more groups with higher allocation averages this
cycle in record time. Moreover, we will be able
to continue to do so because of the trust of the
student body and the Board of Regents who
elected last year to allow us to handle even more
of their monies. There were no misappropriations
and all of what I have stated is part of the public
record. If the editors of The Daily were really
interested in the truth they could have parlayed
any suspicions with a simple phone call instead
of spewing forth such slanderous rhetoric. Per-
haps if The Daily's editorial board was commit-
ted to doing a better job by checking the record
they themselves could in fact reform what many
have called a second-rate student paper that prac-
tices yellow journalism into a truly world-class
demonstration of student journalism.
- Stewart is an ex-officio member of the BPC.

LETTERS TO THE EDITOR

Rainbow flag on Diag would
represent 'a safe space'
TO THE DAILY:
I am very pleased with the Michigan Stu-
dent Assembly's approval of the resolution to
fly a rainbow flag below the U.S. Flag on the
Diag flagpole during National Coming Out
Week. I only hope that the University and it's
facilities will stand behind their motto of diver-
sity and raise it on Oct. 7.
This action has nothing to do with promo-
tion or advertising as Mike Saltsman (Letters to
the Editor, 9/26/02) seems to believe. The Rain-
bow Flag is a universal symbol of pride to the

is a welcome sign. JENNIFR GALLINAT Students are apathetic about
LSA fift hyear Iraq, should realize 'how
Daily's pro-choice statement interconnected we really are'
proves opinion page's 'bias'

TO THE DAILY:
Although I agree with your paper in oppos-
ing the death penalty, it seems to me quite con-
tradictory that your paper is anti-death penalty
and pro-abortion. Likewise, to state in an
anniversary article (The Michigan Daily: Turning
112 years old ... 9/27/02) that these are the posi-
tions that the paper will automatically-take is

To THE DAILY:
I cannot agree more with John Honkala's
column regarding college apathy toward a
war in Iraq (The unknown pleasures of
activism, 9/27/02). Though our generation has
views on this issue, our voices have been rea-
sonably quiet. But the motive behind this is
more than just run of the mill teenage lethar-
gy; unlike our protesting predecessors during,
say, Vietnam, most of us don't feel any affin-

i

' f G. ..

N '-N,

AW

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