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April 12, 2005 - Image 4

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The Michigan Daily, 2005-04-12

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4 - The Michigan Daily - Tuesday, April 12, 2005

OPINION

S£ p&

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
44'What they
did to get ready
to take that man
down was
extraordinary."
- Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, (D-
Nev.), commenting on an incident at the Cap-
itol Building yesterday where police tackled
a suspicious man holding two suitcases, as
reported yesterday by The Associated Press.

religion
f' y
RZ
}ice.
k,
F. %'

ALEXANDER HONKALA LMMINC [hRADE

01

Squirrel huggers
SAM SINGER SAM'S ..B

here's a reason I
shy away from the
squirrels in the
Diag. It's not their unusual
size, though even a sharp-
eyed expert would have
trouble distinguishing the
Ann Arbor garden vari-
ety from a slimmed-down
mountain lion. It's not their
daring grit either - I watched one stare down
an oncoming Chevy Tahoe, poised on hind legs,
undaunted 'til the tragic end. They're bold little
critters, but that's not what gets me.
To better understand, imagine, for just a moment,
returning from winter break to learn your bedroom
held host to what may have been the rowdiest rodent
rock party of the century - two weeks of sunflower
seed bingeing, honey-roasted peanut feasts and God
knows what sorts of squirrel-on-squirrel debauch-
ery. The room was ravaged. Hidden under a blan-
ket of empty shells, the carpet and the once-orderly
food corner were barely recognizable. Other traces
of foul play - from my comforter to my keyboard
- spread far and wide. Squirrel pellets, the last ves-
tiges of the lavish banquet, had been peppered about
the room.
How they got in was unclear. The room, equipped
with four walls and a ceiling, had always appeared
closed off to the outside world. What mattered was
that they wouldn't be coming back. No squirrel in
the right mind, I was told, would chance a break-in
with the space re-occupied. It made sense. We were,
after all, 30 times their size. But as luck would have
it, no more than a week of tranquility passed before
the intruders recovered their nerves.
It started with petty theft. A pretzel stick here,
some Cheez-Its there, nothing we couldn't make
light of. But the food raids were quick to intensify.
Our food supply was thinning, and the more mea-
sures we took to protect it, the more ambitious the
little demons became. They gutted Ziplock bags
and gnawed through cardboard boxes. Their motor
skills, which I'd bet the bank would exceed those of
the average kindergartner, were simply stunning. No
container was too strong to puncture, no packaging

too thick to penetrate. Their appetite seemed to grow
by the day, but as I learned while shuffling bleary-
eyed through my underwear drawer at eight one
morning, they weren't eating everything they stole.
A neat mound of pistachio nuts next to my favorite
pair of boxers. A carefully hidden stash of miniature
cookies below my undershirts. A week-old, half-
eaten grilled cheese sandwich lodged between my
sweaters. My dresser, which apparently resembled
the hollow of a tree, had become a personal pantry
for our stash-happy guests. That did it for me.
Pest control came with traps of all shapes and
sizes. Industrial-strength storage bins were rolled in
to fortify the food supply, and the room was rigged
with metal cages and rectangular sheets of super
glue. It may have looked like a war zone, but it was
squirrel-proof, and we slept easy.
Cut off, the invaders grew sloppier and more
aggressive by the day. Worse, our presence in the
room was no longer enough to keep them out.
As you can guess, this brought about some close
encounters (including an early-morning incident on
my roommate's bed that left him possibly warped
for life, but certainly forever terrified of anything
with fur). After a few more traumatizing run-ins,
we finally found the entry point. What had begun
with an open bag of sunflower seeds ended with a
two-by-four piece of plywood.
It all got me wondering: What drove these guys
indoors in the first place, and why, in the face of
unmistakable danger, did they insist on coming
back? So I sucked it up and did some homework.
It wasn't the most interesting research, but I think I
found some answers.
Did you know squirrels don't hibernate? It's the
truth. Much like us, they spend their winters rela-
tively inactive, though never completely dormant.
Activity during cold months is usually limited to
the gathering of previously stored nuts and seeds.
It's the harsh winters that make the foraging and
hoarding periods, which typically take place in
mid-to-late fall, so critical. A successful forag-
ing season will strongly correlate with a squirrel's
capacity to accumulate body fat during the winter.
It's a survival strategy, and in an urban ecosystem
like Ann Arbor's where provisions are scarce, it's

one that requires total optimization.
Enter the Squirrel Club. Founded in 2002, the
organization boasts a membership of more than
350. It convenes weekly (in groups of about 50)
during warm months and less often over the win-
ter, to feed on-campus squirrel populations.
I know what you're thinking, and you're right:
the act of feeding a squirrel, in-and-of itself, is
harmless. The problem comes, however, when the
process is streamlined - in this case, when fifty
kids walk around campus every week showering
squirrels with food supplements. Though undoubt-
edly well intentioned, club gatherings may have
profound impacts on the behavioral patterns of our
local squirrels, each of which run the risk of devel-
oping a dangerous reliance on student generosity.
A squirrel even marginally dependent on weekly
donations will inevitably devote less energy to forag-
ing and hoarding. Those lucky enough to avoid the
appetite cushion will be that much better acclimated
to the realities of resource scarcity, and in turn, that
much more efficient come time to forage. It is a
squirrel's ability to recover food in the winter, not
its feeding patterns in the spring and fall, that will
ultimately determine its prospect of survival.
In this light, the Michigan Squirrel Club may be
doing for campus squirrels what decades of ineffi-
cient and mismanaged welfare payouts have done
for our nation's poor: dampening incentives and con-
fining recipients to destitution. Ann Arbor squirrels
don't need a safety net, they need a reality check.
If anything, complacency with an artificial, but
by no means reliable feeding regimen will keep
recipients foraging into the dead of winter where
they are left to scour for by-and-large nonexistent
provisions. Perhaps this could explain why instead
of lying cozy in his nest, our little friend was sifting
through my bag of Snyder's Pretzels.
To members of the Squirrel Club, let me say this:
Yes, convening to feed is a kind-hearted gesture.
Yes, it's probably a nice social outlet as well. And
yes, everyone loves a novelty T-shirt. But please,
next time you're out there, think of the squirrels.

Singer can be reached at
singers@umich.edu.

LETTERS TO THE EDITOR

Undergraduate education
has independent value
TO THE DAILY:
Mr. Zbrozek makes several disturbing and insult-
ing claims in his column (We don't need no (more)
education, 04/11/2005) the most glaring and absurd
of which is the idea that the purpose of higher educa-
tion is to contribute to the economy. The assumption
that undergraduates do not contribute to the econ-
omy for four years is patently false, but beside the
point. The idea that English and philosophy majors
choose their fields in order to free up time for beer
pong is simply offensive. Both misstatements are
embedded in this larger falsehood regarding the
purpose of education. I am shocked that a person
who clearly dedicates a portion of his time to writ-
ing and analyzing the world around him would be
so dismissive of education in the humanities as to
imply that learning isn't worth it unless there is a
guaranteed payoff. People with strong backgrounds
in the humanities do in fact get jobs after college, but
this is again beside the point.
Perhaps Zbrozek's friends are sitting around
drunk, lampooning their history classes for being
too easy. The rest of us are busy taking our aca-
demic careers more seriously.
Mary Fitzpatrick
LSA sophomore
Letter writer recieves
donation in her name
TO THE DAILY:
I was glad to see, on Friday's Editorial page, that
the Daily's own writers are being put to shame by
the general student population. Directly under Jeff
Cravens's column (Time to act, 04/08/2005), which
pondered compassionate education without comple-
mentary action as invalid, appeared a bold letter
from an outraged student who demands that some-
thing must be done about Ann Arbor's homeless
population (Students should refrain from paying city's

seen," she instead turns back towards home, aban-
doning her trip to Starbucks for a hot chocolate to
take up her pen and put out the clarion call, "Get
your act together, Ann Arbor."
How wonderful to see that Cravens's words urg-
ing personal action are unnecessary, that our student
population is already walking the walk, renounc-
ing their bourgeois pursuits of hot chocolate in
favor of taking bold, concrete steps to improve the
mean streets of Ann Arbor. While this supposedly
progressive liberal town is "letting the homeless rot
away on the streets," at least one student is standing
up and saying, "No more!"
In recognition of this student's bold and self-
less action to help the homeless in the face of Ann
Arbor's callous disregard of the problem, a neglect
epitomized by the two-year-old Delonis Center's on-
site job training resources, substance abuse recovery
programs and community kitchen, I have made a
small donation to the Shelter Association of Washt-
enaw County ip this student's name. I hope this act
will shame the organization and the larger commu-
nity, which devotes a pathetic 40 paid employees and
19,000 volunteer hours to the shelter each year, into
finally stepping up and acknowledging the problem
of the homeless community.
It is with only a small twinge of regret for the
week's worth of Starbucks hot chocolates that I must
note that I have made my online donation at www.
annarborshelter.org, and I hope that my regret will be
replaced with pride as I reflect further on the way in
which I was inspired by one student's bold, personal
sacrifice of letter writing.
Richard Murphy
Rackham
Israelis, Like Palestinians,
want peace for the region
To THE DAILY:
Recent viewpoints concerning the Israeli-Pal-
estinian conflict have grossly misrepresented the
truth. I am an Israeli citizen who has been a part of
this conflict my entire life. Furthermore, I served in
the Israeli military and witnessed the exact things

at checkpoints" comment or the justifying of sui-
cide bombings in Shimaa Abdelfadeel's viewpoint,
(The real roadblock, 04/11/2005), show the distinc-
tion between the debaIte on campus and reality.
In the future, I ask that people submitting let-
ters to the Daily refrain from stating lies in their
articles. Shimaa Abdelfadeel, it is not the case
that Palestinians have had "27 years of nonviolent
resistance constantly being met by violence from
the Israeli military" as you stated in your article.
The first intifada, lasting from 1987-93, was a very
violent uprising. But, Shuster also gives misinfor-
mation when he claims that the majority of Israe-
lis "recognize the necessity of the occupation" in
his article. The only thing the majority of Israelis
agree on is the necessity for peace, an issue that is
terribly lacking in the ongoing debates on campus.
Since the day I was born I was taught at home,
school and the military the love of peace. The Israe-
li Defense Forces instilled in me morals for human
life that are lacking in many societies today. The
majority of the Israeli people would like to see a
thriving Palestinian state next to them. Israelis do
not want to look over their shoulder on the way
to school or serve three years of our lives in the
military. People on this campus should recognize
the fact that the majority of Israelis, much like the
majority of Palestinians, want to live their simple
lives in peace and prosperity.
Or Shotan
The letter writer is a LSA freshman and Chair of the
Israeli Students Organization.
Daily headline suggests a
bias against the Greeks
To THE DAILY:
Every time there are reported problems with the
Greek system, there is a front page article in the
Daily. Knowing the Daily's disdain for the Greek
system, this comes as no surprise. Rather than men-
tioning the positive social and philanthropic contri-
butions to the campus and society, the Daily seems
intent on ruining the reputation of the Greeks at the

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