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March 23, 2005 - Image 4

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The Michigan Daily, 2005-03-23

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4 - The Michigan Daily - Wednesday, March 23, 2005


~ie irlp Pti

Editor in Chief

Editorial Page Editors

Managing Editor


I realize at
times I have been
an imperfect
-Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick, in
prepared remarks prior to last night's
State of the City address, as reported
yesterday by the Detroit Free Press.




G Eo
It's not quite the undergraduate protest I was hoping for.

Support the Michigan Civil Rights Initiative


n 1964, the Civil
Rights Act was passed
in order to make racial
discrimination in public
places illegal, in addition to
forcing employers to treat
people equally regard-
less of "race, ethnicity, or
national origin." Funding
would have been rescinded
for any project that was
found in violation of this act. Unfortunately, the
intention of the Civil Rights Act has not been ful-
filled, because 41 years later, it is still necessary to
re-affirm this mandate in order to guarantee the
equal treatment of an individual. Enter the Michi-
gan Civil Rights Initiative.
Even though it has come under scrutiny in the
last 10 years, affirmative action has been policy
for over 30. The only races to receive preferential
treatment from it are blacks, Hispanics and Native
Americans. Whites receive "neutral action,"
meaning they do not receive any preferential
treatment or penalty. In the majority of schools
using affirmative action, Asians receive "negative
action," meaning they are penalized for simply
being Asian. The dropout rate at the University,
for those receiving "neutral" and "negative action"
is 17 percent, whereas those receiving affirmative
action is 39 percent. Over 60 percent of Michigan
residents support the abolishment of racial and
gender preferences. Weighing this fact against
Sen. John Kerry's victory here in last year's presi-
dential election, affirmative action must be seen

as a nonpartisan issue. Texas, California, Florida,
Oregon and Georgia have all adopted race neutral
admissions. All of the schools in these states have
achieved minority enrollment that equals or sur-
passes that of the University.
So how did they do it? These states adopted a
race- and gender-neutral admission policy called
the X-percent system. This system takes into
account that not all high schools are as rigorous
as one another, but assumes that there are hard-
working students everywhere, regardless of race
or gender. So, state institutions guarantee posi-
tions to students in a top fixed percent, usually
10 to 20 percent of each high school. This system
has been successfully proven to support diversity
and enforce a meritocracy and, when adopted in
Michigan, will do the same.
The University states that it is pursuing racial
preference programs in order to achieve diversity.
No one need argue the merits of diversity, but
at what cost? Is the University succeeding with
such a staggering minority dropout rate? Those
receiving admittance based on race and not merit
may be unprepared for the rigors of this difficult
school. The real solution to the problem is to
improve K-12 education at schools populated by
disadvantaged students. Ending affirmative action
in these states has allowed universities there to
develop outreach programs aimed at improving
minority education, even at the elementary-school
level. The previously mentioned states drastically
improved their inner-city schools after racial pref-
erences were abolished.
Opponents of MCRI are aware that the facts

are on our side, so they wage a deceptive cam-
paign designed to create apocalyptic conspiracy
theories to scare us all. Let me address a few of
them. They accuse MCRI of attempting to con-
fuse voters with its language.
So, here it is: "A proposal to amend the consti-
tution to prohibit the University of Michigan and
other state universities, the state, and all other
state entities from discriminating or granting
preferential treatment based on race, sex, color,
ethnicity, or national origin."
If you are confused by this blunt language, you
shouldn't even be voting. Next, the opponents
claim that if MCRI passes it will set the progress
of women and minorities back 50 years. Already
I have established that all race-neutral states have
still maintained the ability to achieve racial and
gender diversity equal or greater than that at the
University. The next "end of the world" theory
is that MCRI will prevent medical benefits for
women. Again, this can be simply answered by
quoting clause 5 of the proposal: "Nothing in this
section shall be interpreted as prohibiting bona fide
qualifications based on sex that are reasonably nec-
essary to the normal operation of public employ-
ment, public education, or public contracting."
Is there anything you can do to help? You bet.
Aside from voting for MCRI in 2006, you can
attend a rally in its support on April 1 at noon on
the Diag. See you there!
Shuster can be reached
at dshuster@umich.edu.


PIRGIM's predicament

tudents for Public
Interest Research
Group in Michigan
has generated a lot of sup-
* port - and a lot of con-
troversy - in its effort to
establish a funded chapter
on campus. Arguing that
a PIRGIM chapter would
fight for students on issues
ranging from textbook pric-
ing to tenants' rights, it sought $20,000 from the
Michigan Student Assembly's discretionary fund
to pay for a year-long trial period to demonstrate
results for students.
That effort has been stalled by an injunction
filed last month arguing that a PIRGIM chapter
would imperil MSA's tax-exempt status. Since
then, students following the issue have had a quick
lesson on 501(c)(3) organizations, the Southworth
cases, and other such lovely bits of tax law. The
injunction was upheld last week, and it appears
PIRGIM's funding request will be firmly bound
in red tape for the foreseeable future.
If Students for PIRGIM is able to navigate the
MSA bureaucracy and gets funding for a trial peri-
od, it will then have to seek a permanent source of
funding through student fees. Such a funding meth-
od would most likely require a student fee increase
approved by the University Board of Regents. A
look at PIRGIM's past, however, hints that trying
to fund a full chapter on campus through student
fees might ultimately be a losing battle.
A PIRGIM chapter was started on campus
in 1972 after the regents were presented with a
petition of over half the student body supporting
PIRGIM. The regents agreed to allow PIRGIM to
seek funding through the University's fee collec-
tion system from students wishing to donate, so

long as they maintained the support of one-third
of the student body. With a shift in the registration
system in 1975, the opt-in system was replaced
with an unpopular negative check-off system
that automatically assessed fees for PIRGIM but
allowed students to seek a refund.
In 1977, the regents agreed to go back to the opt-
in system, and PIRGIM soon saw a drop in fund-
ing below the one-third student support mandated
in the 1972 agreement. Seeing in PIRGIM a con-
structive alternative to the chaotic activism of the
'60s and '70s, several regents at the time actively
supported PIRGIM. They cut the minimum
required support to 25 percent and then 20 before
eliminating the requirement altogether. But by fall
term 1985, only 8.5 percent of students chose to
donate to PIRGIM, and the regents cut the group
off from the student fee system. PIRGIM sought
funds from MSA for a couple of years thereafter,
apparently in vain.
Obviously, this all happened decades ago, and
the specifics of PIRGIM's efforts to get funding
will be different this time around. What doesn't
seem to have changed, however, is the slope of the
hill PIRGIM will have to climb.
Throughout the entire time there was chapter on
campus, PIRGIM had to fight for its funding. Its
members worked constantly to persuade students
to pay the PIRGIM fee. In 1981, they mounted a
failed campaign to return to the negative check-off
fee system. In 1983, they scrambled to combat a
petition of 7,000 students opposing PIRGIM.
Funding seems to have taken priority again.
Students for PIRGIM chair Carolyn Hwang told
me that although some work is ongoing on a hous-
ing campaign, most of Students for PIRGIM's
work has been stalled because of the campaign to
gain funding for a chapter.
I support having a PIRGIM chapter on campus,

and I'd be happy to see a couple dollars of my
fees every term go to the group. But I even more
strongly support having an active group fighting
for students' rights in Ann Arbor. MSA, with its
bureaucracy, its cautiousness and the ever-pres-
ent suspicion that its members are only involved
to pad their resumes, doesn't exactly seem to be
doing the job.
Even if PIRGIM is successful in establishing
a chapter on campus, its activities will be limited
by the necessity to avoid lobbying due to MSA's
tax-exempt status. They couldn't, for instance,
lobby the Ann Arbor City Council to do some-
thing - anything - about the housing situation.
A separate student fee for PIRGIM independent of
MSA might be able to avoid this, but it's anyone's
guess if the regents would go along with it, or for
how long.
I can't fully gauge whether the benefits of hav-
ing a full chapter would outweigh the potential
restrictions on lobbying and the struggles that will
be necessary to get and keep funding. By continu-
ing to operate as an independent student group,
though, Students for PIRGIM wouldn't have to
worry about getting student fee money or avoiding
lobbying, and could still accomplish a lot. Having
a PIRGIM chapter would probably help with local
issues, but the main thing that's needed is for stu-
dent activists to invest their time, and lots of it.
Unlike many student groups focused on broad
idealistic goals, PIRGIM - whether as a chapter
or a regular student group - could bring about
real improvements for students. There are some
extraordinarily dedicated activists involved in Stu-
dents for PIRGIM, and I'd hate to see all their effort
used up learning tax codes and MSA bylaws.


Zbrozek can be reached
at zbro@umich.edu.


GEO president updates 'U'
community on negotiations
The Graduate Employees' Organization has
been in contract negotiations with the University
administration for the past four months. We would
like to ensure that you are aware of the current
state of negotiations, remind you that our current
contract has expired and appeal to you for support.
Negotiations are currently stalled, and GEO mem-
bers may conduct a one-day walkout on March 24,
followed by a possible extended strike beginning
April 4. Below, I address the main issues of conten-
tion between our union and the administration.
Graduate employees are central to the teaching
and research that make this a world-class university.
Graduate student instructors do more than a quar-
ter of the teaching at the University, but our total
compensation package costs only about one-tenth

fellowships between $16,000 and $24,000.). Our
current wage proposal makes significant progress
toward this goal, bringing us from the $14,000 per
year we currently make to $18,000 per year by the
end of the contract in 2008-09. The administra-
tion has responded with an offer of approximately
$14,250 (2005-06), $14,500 (06-07) and $14,900
(08-09) - likely not even keeping pace with cost-
of-living increases in Ann Arbor. The adminis-
tration claims that all employees should receive
similar percentage raises; however, this practice
has resulted in relative stagnation for those at the
lower end of the pay scale and ever-increasing sal-
ary gaps between employees. The 2 percent raise
taken by President Coleman this year comes out to
$9,500 - $2,000 more than I'll make for teach-
ing Sociology 389 this entire semester.
Childcare: Many people don't realize that about
one-third of GSIs are parents, and you can imag-
ine what a struggle it is to support a family on

Health care: Perhaps most disturbingly to
our members, the administration has refused
to guarantee that our health care coverage and
costs will remain consistent over the life of
the contract. While offering to guarantee zero
premiums, their team is refusing to discuss
any limits on how high co-pays will climb or
what services will be covered. In addition, the
administration has been unwilling to remove
current discriminatory exclusions on chronic
mental health treatment and transgender ser-
vices, or to protect our TBLG members' ben-
efits from legal challenge.
GEO members want to resolve these matters
through negotiations and are frustrated by the lack
of real progress at the table. We ask for your sup-
port in bringing these negotiations to resolution.
Contact the provost and president, sign up for a
picket shift or check www.umgeo.org for updates
and more ways to get involved. GEO members



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