The Michigan Daily - New Student Edition - Fall 2004 - 7B
Hello, Mr. Connerly; goodbye civil rights.
STEVE COTNER My BACK PAGES
JANUARY 12, 2004
strange is happening
in the state of Michi-
gan. An out-of-state black
man named Ward Conner-
ly is sending out can-
vassers, press releases,
s dinner-party invitations
and belated Christmas
cards, all in order to ingra-
tiate himself with our fellow residents. He is
telling our state that he has something we want:
the Michigan Civil Rights Initiative, which will
amend the state constitution to end race-con-
scious programs once and for all. And, in a way,
he's right. According to the Detroit Free Press,
roughly two-thirds of Michiganders say they sup-
port the initiative. To be sure, the University
opposes it; the Daily's editorial page opposes it; I
will even go so far as to say most people of a
well-cultivated conscience will oppose it. But the
rest just need a little spooking: Tell them that
"equality" is at stake, say buzzwords like "prefer-
ential treatment." That's Connerly's plan, and he's
going to succeed. The rest of the state just won't
know what they're signing, and they'll ruin high-
I say it's strange, not only because it is a com-
plete upheaval of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, but
because it represents a remedial version of popu-
lar democracy, something like kindergarten's
"heads down, thumbs up" referendums where
every child has equal say, whether they can write
their letters or not. In a sense, you might say that
it is a movement of the people that seeks to bring
everyone into the process. But when I think of a
popular movement for civil rights, I don't think of
a0 state ballot initiative for reinstating segrega-
tion. I don't think of anything inside mainstream
politics, really. What I think of is BAMN and
other radical groups - the people who get derid-
ed all the time for being too extreme. Real
change on civil rights will not be welcomed by
the majority, because it will put all kinds of privi-
leges at risk.
What Connerly offers with the MCRI is the
opposite: a comfort to all the baby-boomers who
still reminisce about removing their bras in the
'60s, but who would now rather watch an "Amer-
ican Dreams" episode than stop to consider what
was really asked of them 40 years ago. These
people are tired of wondering whether their
underachieving son will get into college, and they
are convinced that a minority student will take
the spot, not another white student who happens
to be smarter than their kid.
But enough of that. The important question
is how to oppose a ballot like this. It's such a
sneaky process, but the end result will be an
amendment, and those things don't go away.
Alright then, BAMN is always on the cutting
edge of opposing things; what would they do?
"Defeat Ward Connerly - Protest on Jan. 19."
Well what good is that going to do? Oh, but
they're doing something today, too:
"URGENT! Picket at Anti-Affirmative Action
Ballot Initiative Press Conference." That
sounds more promising; maybe they'll get on
camera on a few news stations.
But this is a statewide thing, and we have to
consider how things might be perceived by a
snowmobile repairman and his arts-and-crafts-
dabbling wife in Alpena. Remember, everyone
can put their thumb up this time. A mob of angry
minority students won't convince these people;
that's what they're scared of in the first place. The
Daily has recommended that the University advo-
cate against the ballot. But that won't convince
these people either. They won't listen to Mary
Sue because they don't like the University. It's
full of liberal sodomites.
Poor us! Is there room for reasoned debate on
a knee-jerk ballot initiative? Can a struggling
state institution gather enough funds to counter
Connerly's millions invested in the campaign?
Will the Channel 2 Problem Solvers come to the
rescue? My guess is no, maybe and no. That two-
thirds statistic seems rock solid. With other kinds
of issues - the environment, for instance -
activists can make change by ignoring popular
opinion and simply solving problems themselves
through smarter design. Science beats social
norms every time. But with the issue of race, it is
all socially constructed; the people cannot be
ignored, because the people are the problem. If
there is any opportunity for smarter design, it is
in the admissions process, and maybe the Univer-
sity can come up with a miracle in that regard.
But otherwise, it will just be about the money and
the repetition of the message. Maybe General
Motors and other companies will make their
advocacy of affirmative action better known in
the coming months. Maybe BAMN and other
activists will sound elegant and reasonable. Or
maybe we're all screwed.
Cotner can be reached at email@example.com.
LETTER TO THE EDITOR
Cotner needs arguments
TO THE DAILY:
January 13, 2004 -
In response to Steve Cotner's column (Hello,
Mr: Connerly; goodbye civil rights, 01/12/04), I
urge opponents of the Michigan Civil Rights
Initiative to ponder this: The Michigan Daily
has long been known as a fervent, proclaimed
supporter of all things democratic.
How can you possibly justify, then, your
efforts to influence the University to oppose an
initiative that is in and of itself the epitome of
democracy - a grassroots initiative that
would allow taxpayers to vote on what policies
are enacted by their hard-earned tax dollars?
Your beliefs are undeniably hypocritical,
in that you want popular consensus in so
many policies, i.e. presidential elections,
but not in another. The University is funded
by taxpayers, why shouldn't those taxpayers
be given a choice in whether their money is
used to enact an inherently racist policy? I
ask Mr. Cotner to try implementing a coher-
ent argument against MCRI next time he
writes about it, rather than simply ranting
and falsely claiming that the people of
Michigan are socially ignorant, racist and
afraid of minorities.
SRAVYA CHIRUMAMILLA WEAVING THE HANDBASET
APRIL 8, 2004
Within two months of my
time here at the Univer-
sity, I made a life-alter-
ing decision: to live in a house with
six other people. As a freshman, I
naively signed at the dotted line,
sure that my new residence would
deliver all the promises of late
night talks, movies and roommate
bonding. It was due to this opti-
mism that I failed to understand
that landlords, especially those in Ann Arbor, will do
everything to screw a tenant out of money and comfort.
My housemates and I should have come to this conclu-
sion soon after we moved into our home because the carpet
had not been cleaned. Though some unseemliness is
expected during move in, there is an agreement that the
landlords professionally clean the carpets. Because ours
failed to do so, one of my roommates stepped on a nail and
had to be taken to the hospital. - during the first week.
Our troubles continued since we had no furnace for two
months. To ease our cold, the landlords dropped off some
space heaters, which in turn blew out our electricity. It was
around this time that the landlord told its emergency line to
stop accepting phone calls from our residence.
Unfortunately, this was not a rare occurrence. Recently,
a friend's home was ransacked and looted, which is com-
mon during breaks. Though no claims have been filed, it is
with utmost coincidence that soon after the landlords came
for maintenance, the apartment was pillaged. Even without
that consideration, her landlord has failed to perform
because they have yet to fix the window and lock through
which burglars did and can still enter.
The curse of no heat found me in a new home with a
new landlord, leaving us in the cold once again this yeat.
The fear of theft is especially high in our new home
because the main doors of our apartment building
remained open for weeks on end. Also, there is no ade-
quate lighting, which makes dodging the puke in the hall-
ways, left uncleaned from weeks ago - a formidable task.
The blame clearly lies with the building manager, who,
taking a cue from his experiences as a Michigan Student
Assembly president, has done nothing to improve the qual-
ity of the filthy building.
It is not just through maintenance that landlords take
advantage of students; it is in the very leases themselves.
To move in early, a landlord often charges a prorated
amount for the extra days. However, though most leases
end mid-August, tenants have to pay a full month's rent
even when they are not permitted to live there.
Until last April, students had an ally. The Ann Arbor
Tenants Union was a group that fought for our rights,
demanding that landlords provide adequate information
about our rights and care for our residences throughout
our tenure. Due to both the University Board of Regents'
refusal to increase tuition by $1 to support MSA-funded
programs and the MSA Budget Priorities Committee's
superfluous allocation of funds, this program ended. The
BPC stealthily stopped funding AATU between semes-
ters, using trickery usually reserved for Jimmy John's
Now that this service is no longer available, students are
forced to turn to either Student Legal Services or the Hous-
ing Information Office. Though both specialize in the serv-
ice they provide, neither can coordinate both legal and
housing aspects. Thus, we are left to live in homes that are
old (and not in that wow-look-at-the-history-in-this-city
way), poorly maintained (trust me, there are plenty of sto-
ries like finding flies in showers and small fires due to
wiring) and over-priced. Because we are transient residents
in this city, we have very little say about the conditions that
are thrust upon us. For this reason, landlords understand
that they can take full advantage of our situation, hiking up
prices on shoddy homes and ignoring major problems.
It is embarrassing that while there was a 6.5 percent
tuition hike this year, the regents couldn't part with $1 per
student for programs like AATU. It is even more disheart-
ening that BPC could not save a program that actually ben-
efits most students, instead of squandering funds on
groups that just host shows.
Daily, I trudge past the President's House at 815 S.
University Ave. and often wonder how she would like
living at my home, which happens to be at another 815
South address. It is comical to consider such an arrartge-
ment because she obviously cannot live in such squalor.
So, the question remains: If she can't live there, then
why should we?
Chirumamilla can be reached firstname.lastname@example.org.
LETTERS TO THE EDITOR
A residents should vote
'yes' on Proposal B
To THE DAILY:
October 28, 2003 -
Ann Arbor voters should pass Proposal B
on Nov. 4, which among other things, will
authorize funds to preserve and protect the
parkland in and around the city of Ann Arbor.
Ann Arbor isn't now, never has been nor
ever should be a city like other major urban
centers. New York, for example, is known
for its sprawling metropolis of skyscrapers,
shops, restaurants and businesses. It is not
known for its beautiful green fields and
diversity of plant species. Ann Arbor, how-
ever, isn't New York. Ann Arbor is a differ-
ent kind of city that prides itself on its
preservation of green space, beautiful flow-
ers. and diversity of all kinds. This proposal
the liberty to vote like I do?
This proposal will also protect things far
more important than my Sunday afternoon
run through the Arb. It will first of all do the
city's part in preserving the diversity of
plants in the United States. While people
may say our city cannotmake or break plant
diversity in the world, the United States or
maybe even in Michigan, this is simply not a
reasonable argument against the proposal. If
every city in this country went through this
same thought process and voted down simi-
lar proposals, this would change the makeup
of plants in our country dramatically. It is
probably true that Ann Arbor alone cannot
change plant diversity in the United States,
but Ann Arbor alone can and must do its
part to preserve it.
perhaps he should reconsider his rationale.
This measure will have nothing whatsoever
to do with his "Sunday afternoon run
through the Arb."
Secondly, city planner Frederick Law
Olmsted and the millions of people who
visit Central Park, Battery Park and New
York's other green spaces every year would
be shocked to find that they were mere fig-
ments of that famous New Yorker imagina-
tion. As a matter of historical fact, Central
Park has been a model that city planners
have followed for over 100 years. New York
prides itself very much on its green spaces
within a dynamic city environment.
What is certain is that Proposal B will
hurt opportunities to build more housing in
Ann Arbor, and that rents within the green-
belt will go up. Lots within the belt will be
further subdivided, and building height will
increase. Fewer University, Pfizer and other
employees of local industry will be able to