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March 24, 2005 - Image 4

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The Michigan Daily, 2005-03-24

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4A - The Michigan Daily - Thursday, March 24, 2005

OPINION

* £

JASON Z. PESICK
Editor in Chief

SUHAEL MOMIN
SAM SINGER
Editorial Page Editors

ALISON GO
Managing Editor

EDITED AND MANAGED BY STUDENTS AT
THE UNIVERSITY OF MICHIGAN SINCE 1890

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

NOTABLE
QUOTABLE
He has to be
bogus, a pro-life
fanatic."
- Ronald Cranford, the doctor who testified
to a series of Florida courts that Terri Schai-
vo was in a permanent vegetative state, com-
menting on William Cheshire, a doctor who
declared yesterday that Schaivo may be mini-
mally conscious, as reported by CNN.com.

COLIN DALY TH~f NICICIAIAN Ii. -
LIFE 1S
SA CE Poi
(IN'SE~RT'NEEDLESS DEPNT14HERE)-

Harvard, Harvard, Harvard
ZAC PESKOWITZ THE LOWER FREQUENCIES

he New York
Times, among
other esteemed
institutions in American
life, has a Harvard fetish.
In the past few months,
the Times has entered the
rarefied world of Harvard
sorority life, mulled over
Harvard Business School's
response to an admissions scandal, profiled two
separate Harvard economists, David Cutler and
Roland Fryer, in consecutive weeks of The New
York Times magazine, and provided inordinate
commentary and analysis on a man named Law-
rence Summers.
In addition to these dispatches from the banks
of the Charles, The Times makes sure to offer
its readers liberal dashes of expert opinion from
the Harvard professoriate. I've read everything
from Lawrence F. Katz's thoughts on black head
coaches in the National Basketball Association to
Harrison G. Pope Jr.'s on steroids. By combining
the simple words "Harvard" and "assistant profes-
sor," instant gravitas is conferred to even the most
thinly-sourced and poorly researched stories.
The Gray Lady would go to great lengths to
deny the existence of this infatuation, but I'll let
the record speak for itself. Lexis-Nexis tells me
that The Times has run 181 stories with the word
"Harvard" in the past month. This compares to the
156 articles that have appeared in the paper in the
same time period with the word "Michigan." This
is not the University of Michigan, just Michigan.
This includes everything from a story that men-

tions Iraq war protestors on Chicago's Michigan
Avenue to a story that refers to the connections
between Michigan's Saginaw Chippewa tribe and
lobbyist Jack Abramoff. But it's been an especial-
ly tempestuous month at Harvard, so doesn't this
render this altogether imprecise experiment even
less rigorous? Fine. I performed the same exercise
for March of 2004 and found remarkably similar
results. Harvard garnered 179 distinct mentions
and Michigan gets a dispiriting 155.
What accounts for this fascination? While
Harvard is rich, powerful, old and has some very
smart people working for it, there at least half
a dozen universities in the United States with
equal credentials and are far more impressive in
some dimensions than Harvard. Unlike some of
its brethren, Harvard is located in the heart of a
metropolis, so the university's easy access pro-
vides a distinct advantage to the lazy journalist.
The University of Chicago, Stanford and Cal Tech
are every bit the academic institution as Harvard
and are each within a relatively easy drive to a
major airport. Maybe these schools get short shrift
because they're not located on the East Coast.
So I can't explain this obsession beyond stating
Harvard gets so much ink precisely because so
many people think Harvard is important because
it gets so much ink and on and'on in a recursive
loop. But what I do know is that when reporters
use Harvard as keyhole to the world of the Ameri-
can undergraduate, their efforts end in farce.
Two days ago, The Times ran a story examining
criticisms that a cleaning service run by Harvard
students exacerbated elitism at the school. Where
most people would see an impressive example of

undergraduate entrepreneurialism, the Harvard
administration and the campus newspaper limn
class conflict. This is a controversy that simply
could not exist at any other school in America.
Nowhere are faux meritocrats so entrenched that
such poorly-reasoned arguments could gain trac-
tion. Instead of getting data on American under-
graduates, we get dada.
The most noxious variant on this format is the
Harvard undergraduate as the apotheosis of the
American life story. The most dreadful example
in The Times is Warren St. John's report on soror-
ity life at Harvard. To quote St. John's staggeringly
vacuous prose at length: "But while Harvard soror-
ities share the same Greek letters as their party-
hardy sister chapters at Michigan, Texas and Ole
Miss, their social agendas are startlingly whole-
some, perhaps giving new meaning to the phrase
Harvard Square. They hold kickball tournaments
and pajama parties and take apple-picking trips.
Their recruitment meetings take place not at bars
but at the local Finagle a Bagel and Au Bon Pain.
And far from being catty and exclusive, they strive
to welcome any woman who might hope to join."
In addition to his credulous portrayal of Harvard
sororities as bastions of openness, St. John has an
acute inability to recognize that his description of
Harvard sorority life is indistinguishable from that
of any other school.
Harvard University, a place that neither war-
rants nor needs its outsized place in the American
imagination.
Peskowitz can be reached at
zpeskowi@umich.edu.

el

LETTERS TO THE EDITOR

Uim i~isgui irg real
wuge cuffs fir GSIs as incrases
To THE DAILy:
Why does one accept one wage and the asso-
ciated job and not another? What is the value
of a teacher? Matt Nolan's letter to the editor
(GSIs must re-examine motivations for walkout,
03/22/2005) demonstrates a substantial igno-
rance of the answers to these questions.
When one attends an undergraduate institution
or a professional school, there is an understanding
that they are borrowing from their future income
to pay for this. Surely Nolan, an aspiring lawyer,
understands this fact, as do many of the students
at this university. Unlike Nolan, many of us will
not be making exorbitant wages as lawyers and
cannot afford to go into such debt. Examine the
professional schools at which a majority of the
people pay their tuition and then examine their
subsequent wages. Then ask yourself, would I be
willing to do that if I were to earn the wage of an
assistant professor until I am well into my 30s?
Should academia exist at all?
Others transform our wages into full-time,
year-round equivalent wages and often come up
with amazingly large numbers. Graduate student
instructors often argue with these calculations,
but maybe we should not. How much value do
we produce? The average economics graduate
student instructor teaches two 30-person dis-
cussion sections each semester. In-state tuition
is $8,535, and out-of-state is $26,754. Let's say
that the average revenue per student is about
$11,758, and each student takes four classes. This
is derived by assuming average tuition is about
$15,458 (assuming 60 percent of undergraduates
are in-state) and the average scholarship award
is about $3,700. Suppose now that the GSI and
the instructor split the teaching duty for that sec-
tion and that 40 percent of revenue goes towards
buildings and equipment, calculations show that
the average GSI generates approximately $53,000
a year for the University. Is $14,000 plus benefits
and a tuition waver that unreasonable? Maybe we
should not be asking why GSIs earn so much but
rather why students have to pay so much.
Finally it is worth noting that the current con-
tract gives GSIs nominal pay raises of an average
of 2.5 percent a year. This is equal to the average
rate of inflation in the Ann Arbor-Detroit-Flint
area since the year 2000. The administration is
proposing average nominal pay raises of 2.25
percent in this coming contract. This is a real pay
cut and not a raise.
Peter Morrow

Whatever could warrant such a frivolous waste of
resources? That's right kids, it's the 43rd Annual
Graduate Student Instructor Strike/Weenie Roast.
For reasons known only to the higher power, I
read your flyer. Standard fare, up until a fascinat-
ing nugget you snuck in at the very end. I quote:
"Crossing a picket line is actively siding with the
University against us."
I tried to comprehend the phenomenal arro-
gance it takes to write a sentence like that, but my
ears started bleeding. To lighten the load on my
hemorrhaging brain, I did some math: $22,000
dollars a year for tuition. Two semesters. Four
classes a semester. Twenty-seven meetings of each
class. Flip the two, carry the one, work the shaft
and lo and behold, I came to a figure of $100. One
hundred dollars that I pay for every class I attend.
Two classes on Thursday means (Wait, could one
of you meet me at Espresso Royale to help with
the figures? My hours are 11:30 a.m. to 11:33 a.m.)
$200 that you're asking me to forfeit by staying
away from Angell Hall.
"Crossing a picket line is actively siding with
the University against us." Funny, and here I
thought crossing the picket line meant not throw-
ing $200 into the toilet. Two. Hundred. That's two
week's pay for me. Could one of you, preferably
the one with the goatee and the bullhorn, please
try to explain to me why your money is more valu-
able than mine? You're the invaluable educators,
so please try to explain that otherwordly math to a
lowly English major. You want my help? Fine, but
all I ask in return is 200 bucks and that 12 of your
burliest follow me to my professor's office hours
and loudly demand that he not lower my grade for
missing class. Maybe we can print some flyers.
Those things always work.
"Crossing a picket line is actively siding with
the University against us." No matter who you are
or what you do, if your boss is giving you a hard
stiff one, I urge you to fight back. I commend you
for doing that. But to spout off some tripe like the
above sentence, guilt-tripping the hard-working
and high-paying students of this University into
doing your work for you is inexcusable. If none of
you geniuses are creative enough to come up with
something better than an Angell Hall picket line,
then maybe you should walk, because I sincerely
doubt you have anything to teach me.
Matt Sheehy
LSA senior
TS%,w ho are:cia: to the
deew fr lac acid ratnt
To mtiE DAILY:

and in order to hone their teaching skills. Most
of the time, this is a fairly natural and symbiot-
ic relationship, with GSIs getting needed fund-
ing and experience, and the University getting
more than 25 percent of their teaching com-
pleted without spending more than one tenth of
1 percent of their instructional budget.
At the moment, GSIs are renegotiating their
contract with the University because, after
three years, it has expired. Renegotiation gives
GSIs the chance to address aspects of their rela-
tionship with the University that are no longer
symbiotic because of inflation, the rising cost
of living in Ann Arbor and the changing legal
and political climate in the United States.
Specifically, in the new contract, GSIs want
their wages to be adjusted for inflation. They
want, given Ann Arbor's high cost of living,
to be given a raise so that they might be able
to afford rent and other necessities (Ann Arbor
ranks 140th out of 187 cities in terms of afford-
ability.) They also want to protect students'
ability to insure their partners, regardless of
sexual orientation.
A letter to the editor (GSIs must re-examine
motivations for walkout, 03/22/2005) charac-
terized many of these concerns as frivolous
and greedy. The underlying assumption in this
letter was that GSIs have it easy and don't earn
what they're paid or deserve the right to ask
for fair treatment. That the position of GSI
exists is something we are grateful for, but that
gratitude doesn't absolve the University from
providing us with the resources we need to
maintain a good quality of life.
It is not frivolous to ask that: our families
have health insurance, international students
be treated fairly, the University keep old prom-
ises about child care subsidies, our wages keep
up with inflation, that we are able to afford safe
housing and healthy food or even to ask that
hourly wages be constant, whether a GSI works
20 hours, 10 hours or two hours a week.
It's in the best interest of not only graduate
students, but the University as a whole, when
teachers stand up for their rights. Contrary to
what was suggested in the letter to the edi-
tor, the Graduate Employees' Organization
works hard to negotiate with the University
and only considers a strike when there are no
other options. As teachers, GSIs don't take
canceled classes lightly. While a strike may
stop classroom learning for a day, it is intend-
ed to be the impetus for positive long-term
outcomes, which in the long run will benefit
learning for all.

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Rossie Hutchinson

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