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September 07, 2004 - Image 25

Resource type:
The Michigan Daily, 2004-09-07

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Ow AUd#gan INOU

Finding true
north on the
moral compass
tions class
of 2008.
You have been
accepted into the
ranks of an elite
institution. The
term "leaders and
best" is not merely
a proud expression
that fits the rhyme
and meter of a catchy fight song. It is a
statement of fact.
You, the promising teenagers reading
this column across the country will be
tomorrow's captains of industry, politi-
cal figures, scientists and great intellec-
tuals, charting society's course for
years to come.
As the writer David Brooks writes
in "The Organizational Kid," "In
short, at the top of the meritocratic
ladder we have in America a genera-
tion of students who are extraordinar-
ily bright, morally earnest, and
incredibly industrious."
And America needs your skills and
your talent. As you grow up, much
more populous countries will challenge
this nation's pre-eminence on the world
stage. Almost half of Chinese college
graduates now earn engineering
degrees, while that figure is about five
percent for U.S. college students.
Although that number isn't directly
comparable because we have more
diverse course offerings, it illustrates
that while China is focused on progress
and innovation, we're mired in a debate
about gay marriage, a costly war in Iraq
and a government stocked with leaders
who, in the words of Leon Wieseltier,
"think that French is funny."
In short, hit the books, and hit them
Brooks's piece, however, is not mere-
ly an ode to our generation. It is a cri-
tique of our superficiality, our banality.
He writes, "These young people are
wonderful to be around. If they are
indeed running the country in a few
decades, we'll be in fine shape. It will
be a good country, though maybe not a
great one." The problem as he sees it is
that "instead of virtue we talk about
He laments the passing of the days
when college administrators empha-
sized the importance of morality and
civic responsibility to an earlier elite. It
was important to instill these values in
the minds of those who would soon be
running the country.
But is it Mary Sue Coleman's job to
teach us morality and civic responsibil-
ity? What does morality mean anyway?
M Does it mean going to church, fearing
the devil, not cheating on exams, not
drinking or merely seeking the truth
with an open mind? And even if we
could agree on a definition, would any-
body listen to her? Wouldn't most stu-
dents just ignore such moralizing, as
they ignore any futile attempts at absti-
nence education?
Coleman gave the commencement
address at Albion College this past
spring. The speech highlighted the
importance of maintaining an "ethical
compass." She said, "We are facing
monumental ethical dilemmas that will
require our best collective thinking and
reasoned debate."
But does this discourse actually
accomplish anything? It may have been
a good speech - a responsible speech
- but I doubt it had any lasting

However, to say that the University
has no moral compass would be inac-
curate. There are few places with a
stronger sense of civic responsibility
than our university. Mother Jones mag-
azine regularly ranks the University as
one of the top schools for student
The cases the University argued
before the U.S. Supreme Court were not
only fought to maintain a "critical mass"
of minorities on campus, but to ensure
that minorities have the opportunity to
go to college. Choosing not to go to
class when the lecturers went on strike
last year was not only a display of sup-
port for unions, but showed that students
support the principle that University
employees be given health care and be
able to feed their families.
However, there is a larger moral test
that will confront this elite generation
of students. Last spring, The New York
Times ran a story that referenced a sur-
vey of University students showing that
more students in last year's freshman
class come from families that make at
least $200,000 a year than have parents
who make less than the national medi-
an of approximately $53,000. The Uni-
versity extols the virtues of diversity,
but in reality, it's not that diverse. With
tuition rates increasing and the econo-
my sour, there isn't a place here for
The moral quandary our elite student


Fall 2004


a"'; Y r [p


yy et's.. 2 . ...

The Michigan Daily is founded on a principle
- the principle that students, given proper train-
ing and guidance, can be trusted to manage a
great newspaper with maturity, responsibility and
good sense.
- The Daily's senior editorial staff in 1963,
upon announcing their resignations after the Board
in Control of Student Publications attempted to
select its own slate of junior editors.
These words, penned by an embattled class
of editors, ring true today in this paper's
114th year of publication. Whether under
siege on the world stage or leading the forces of
'60s liberalism that have come to characterize this
paper's editorial bent, the editorial page has not
and will not shed the lofty burden of achieving

progress on those issues affecting the University,
its students and all those whose causes we have
donated space to endorse.
There is a long history of challenges to the
Daily's editorial freedom. In 1941, University Pres-
ident Alexander Ruthven convinced the University
Board for Regents to permit him to "pack" the
Board in Control of Student Publications, the enti-
ty that oversaw, and now as the Board of Student
Publications oversees, the paper's finances. He was
able to change the ratio of faculty and alumni to
students in his favor.
In 1952, a Soviet delegate at the United Nations
blasted the Daily for "warmongering." Earlier in
that year, the Russian magazine "Literary Gazette"
accused the Daily of "a slanderous attack" on the
USSR and said the University "exists on gifts from

Wall Street and U.S. government subsidies."
In the '70s, the University attempted to weaken
the Daily by publishing The University Record on
Mondays, the day the Daily did not publish. In
1996, copies of the Daily were stolen to prevent
their circulation, and students who boycotted the
Daily in the last academic year attempted to do
the same. The Michigan Student Assembly
fanned the flames of the boycott with a resolution
supporting the boycotters. And only last year, stu-
dents called upon the University to remove the
Daily's office space.
Despite these spats, there remains no more dedi-
cated advocate of those issues that concern~stu-
dents than the Daily's editorial page. The paper is
financially and editorially independent of the Uni-
versity. We receive no funds and we will accept no

funds from MSA or the administration, and they
will not dictate what appears on our pages. We rely
on the University only to provide us with discern-
ing readers.
Borrowing from a line coined by the journalist
Edward Murrow, President John Kennedy said of
Winston Churchill, "He mobilized the English lan-
guage and sent it into battle."
As I now assume the helm of this page, I prom-
ise you, our readers, that during my tenure we will -
use the power of the pen to further our idealistic
principles: namely, social equality, economic
opportunity and our celestial goals of academic
and editorial freedom.
Jason Z. Pesick
Editorial Page Editor
February 2, 2004


Democratic presidential candidate Sen. John Kerry, (D-Mass.), left, and his running mate, Sen. John Edwards (D-N.C.), wave to the crowd during a
campaign speech In St. Petersburg, Fla., July 7, 2004.

Legislat ing
State ban on gay marriage rooted
in prejudice
November 21, 2003 -
ast Tuesday, by a vote of 6 to 0, the state
House Family and Children's Services
Committee approved a proposed amend-
ment to the Michigan Constitution. The amend-
ment would constitutionally limit the definition
of marriage to that between a man and i
woman. Proponents argue that the amendment
is necessary in order to, in the words of state
Rep. Lauren Hager (R-Port Huron Twp.) pre-
serve "marriage as it has been known through-
out the millennia."
In the past, constitutional amendments typicall
ly served the purpose of protecting and uphold-
ing the rights of citizens, not curtailing them.
With this in mind, the proposed amendment is
unusual and unfortunate. The proposal is nothing
but another effort by lawmakers to send a moral
message to constituents, and is a morally corrupt
and an unfair assault on the gay community.
In addition to banning gay marriage, the
amendment would extend to civil unions, jeop-
ardizing gay couples' ability to receive the ben-
efits of marriage, such as tax and healthcare
breaks. By eliminating the possibility of civil
unions, as well as marriage itself, the state is
sending a clear message of intolerance.
In the wake of well publicized court cases in
California and Massachusetts, gay marriage is cur-
rently on the frontburner of both the state and
national political debates. It is clear from the
nature of the dialogue that many Americans
remain uncomfortable with the idea of the homo-
sexual community receiving equal treatment, espe-
cially with respect to the issue of marriage.
While this is perhaps to be expected, it is
truly unfortunate, however, that this lack of sen-
sitivity and understanding should extend to the
upper echelons of state government. Recently
however, politicians also find themselves mak-
ing comments in reference to gays that are
degrading and offensive. In support of the
amendment, state Sen. Alan Cropsey (R-
DeWitt) commented that "a monogamous
homosexual relationship is almost unheard of
in the gay lifestyle."
This statement is morally and factually
unjustifiable. Statements such as this, from
prominent members of the state Legislature,
make intelligent debate on these controver-
sial issues impossible. Without such dia-
logue, decisions pertaining to gay rights will
continue to be biased and misinformed.
This proposed amendment is not merely a
piece of legislation for conservative legislators to
prove their moralistic credentials to their con-
stituents. Instituting a constitutional amendment
effectually condemning the
legitimacy of homo-

Why are they even rying?

MARCH 29, 2004

possibly apocryphal
story about the presi-
dential campaign of
William Henry Harrison
holds that his Whig support-
ers drummed up support for
Harrison by rolling an enor-
mous ball of tin and paper
through the country. It is a
testament to the monotony of
American life in the 1840s that a massive sphere
rolling through the streets would generate a thrill
among voters. This makeshift sphere emblazoned
with pro-Whig slogans proved to be a successful
ploy for the Harrison campaign and even made
its mark on the American vocabulary. Hence the
expression "keep the ball rolling." It's impossible
to attribute Harrison's electoral victory to this
piece of proto-political innovation - Harrison's
campaign also recognized the possibilities of giv-
ing out free samples of whiskey to potential sup-
porters, an astute decision that reveals a highly
sophisticated understanding of the American
electorate - but the ball stunt would be copied
innumerable times in coming elections.
Both the Republican National Committee and
the Democratic National Committee have made
great hay out of their efforts to appeal to voters
with a series of gimmicks that are the direct
descendent of Harrison's effort. The Republicans
have employed Reggie the Registration Rig for
the 2004 presidential election. Reggie, as he is
fondly called by the RNC, ostensibly exists for
the purpose of registering 3 million voters before
Nov. 2. This is a lie. Reggie's existence is justi-

fied by its plasma televisions, XBox gaming con-
soles and DVD players. To date, Reggie has
made appearances at a NASCAR race in Atlanta
and MTV's TRL - a two-fer that puts even the
most impressive of pop stars to shame. The
chairman of the RNC, lobbyist extraordinaire Ed
Gillespie, has now joined the likes of all sorts of
rappers he has never heard of to appear on the
popular program.
The Democrats have shied away from this
type of gargantuan effort this year, but they
refuse to be outdone in their courtship of the
hipster vote. Following the Democrats' National
Unity Dinner on Thursday evening in Washing-
ton, the party shifted to Dream nightclub where
the glitterati could converse with the politerati
on the future of the alternative minimum tax, the
military basing policy in Central Asia and male
hair care products. In an appearance at Dream
last year, Bill Clinton made his grand entrance
to the lyrics of 50 Cent's "In Da Club," an
uncomfortable juxtaposition for the former com-
mander in chief. But he proudly suffered the
slings and arrows of irony in return for the
opportunity to drum up donations for the good
of his party. While the ebullient Clinton makes
for a natural fit, to force the octogenarian Jimmy
Carter to run with the clubbing crowd seems
marginally sadistic. The last time Carter had
anything to do with a nightclub, his chief of
staff, Hamilton Jordan, was fending off false
allegations that he had sniffed cocaine at Studio
54. Why relive these dark days? The Dream
event netted a mere $250,000 in donations for
the Dems, a figure which President Bush can

reap in an afternoon in Topeka. Why all this
hubbub for a relatively insignificant fundraiser?
Bringing us to the strange case of Sen. John
Kerry. The junior senator from Massachusetts
recently took some time off from the pressures of
the campaign to recharge in the alpine splendor of
Sun Valley, Idaho, where the senator and his wife
maintain a quaint 19.5 room home. Kerry valiant-
ly chose to do double duty, turning his vacation
into a photo op. Photographs of Kerry posed awk-
wardly over a Burton snowboard graced the
papers the next day. It's surprising that Kerry's
media team would suggest that this aspiring pop-
ulist should play up his ties to the piles of gold
doubloons and precious stones that he and his wife
maintain jointly. The allure of showing Kerry's
eXtreme side must have been too promising to
pass up. The youth of America would finally see
the differences between George W Bush and John
Kerry boiled down to their essentials: a drab-brush
clearin' dolt versus a Technicolor snowboarder
who can hit the half pipe with the best of them.
Unfortunately for Kerry, the smiling pictures
of him swooshing down the slopes were accom-
panied with less flattering newspaper copy. Kerry
spent much of his trip down the slopes falling on

his back and was the victim of a na
between himself and a Secret Servic
ugly incident to which the cock
responded, "I don't fall down. That sc
ran into me." Another reminder of1
the preening politics of cool can be.
Peskowitz can be reached at zpeskowi(

sty collision

And the award goes to ...
Daily distributes traditional Edgar awards to U'

e agent. An sexual relation-
sure Kerry ships poses an
on of a bitch extreme threat to
how uncool civil rights and an
alarming tenden-
cy to alter a con- '
stitution on a
@umich.edu. political whim.
Student Voices in Action. It was '
well-intentioned but obnoxious.
The Department of Homeland
Security Edgar, for the Law
Enforcement Agency with the Most
Misplaced Priorities, to the
Department of Public Safety. Keep
handing out those MIPs!
* Terrance and Phillip Acceptable
Canadian Edgar, to Michigan Gov. Jen-
nifer Granholm.
Whitesnake's "Here I Go Again

April 20, 2004-
Returning to Daily tradition, the edito-
rial board presents the winners of its
2003-04 Edgar winners. The Edgars are
awarded to public figures and personali-
ties best resembling the qualities of for-
mer FBI DirectorJ Edgar Hoover
Condoleeza Rice Edgar for Public
Disclosure, to University President Mary
Sue Coleman for her unwillingness to dis-
close the administration's plans to handle

work to do."
Ralph Nader Spoiler Vote Edgar, to
OPP for its decisive role in the Michigan
Student Assembly presidential election.
Saddam Hussein Free Election
Edgar, to Students First for its commit-
ment to MSA's pluralistic party system.
William Shakespeare Proficiency
in the English Language Edgar, to Pres-
ident Bush.
U Three Men in a Tub Edgar, to U.S.
Vice President Dick Cheney, U.S.
'C,,rermprCourt iJustice A ntonin Scalia

ship Edgar, to Bush and British Prime
Minister Tony Blair for their unlikely
partnership. Everyone said it would
never last, but boy did they show us.
Jimmy Hoffa Edgar, to Osama bin
Laden. Is he in the caves of the Afghan
desert or on the corner of Maple and
Telegraph Roads?
Bob Dole Edgar for Most Disap-
pointing Performance to the Michigan
football team's Rose Bowl performance.
Jason Z. Pesick Unnecessary Ini-
tial Edga~r to Vice President for Stuident

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