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September 07, 2005 - Image 24

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2B - The Michigan Daily - New Student Edition - Fall 2005


Unreasonable demands


MARCH 23,=2005

When the Lectur-
ers' Employee
walked out for a day in the
winter of 2004, few people
questioned the validity of
the lecturers' grievances.
It seemed genuinely unfair
that the University was treat-
ing instructors with doc-
toral degrees as temporary
workers - choosing to provide neither job secu-
rity nor just compensation. When the Graduate
Employees' Organization held a one-day strike
in March, however, graduate student instructors
didn't even unite behind their union. Considering
the impracticality of GEO's demands, it comes as
no surprise that a good number of undergradu-
ates, professors and even graduate students went
as far as to denounce the strike for what it was:
frivolous. GEO members, who already get a great
deal from the University, need to stop demanding
more and accept a contract.
Though they may carry signs offering to "teach
for food," GEO members are not exploited workers
suffering from unfair compensation. GSIs at the
University are already some of the best rewarded
in the country, effectively "earning" more than
$40,000 a year in tax-exempt tuition waivers
($25,000 per year), stipends ($14,000 per year)
and benefits. When LEO launched its walkout
last year, it was attempting to secure a baseline
salary of $41,000 for its members - who already
have earned doctorates and teach for a living.
It's hard to rationally argue GEO members are
exploited or unfairly paid if the average GSI
- who works less than 20 hours a week, eight
months a year - is compensated just slightly less

than an entry-level lecturer. Furthermore, while
GEO may argue that one cannot live off a tuition
waver, the $14,000 yearly stipend ought to easily
cover the cost of living in Ann Arbor for the vast
majority of GSIs.
Even when it comes to the rate of wage
increases - which GEO has denounced as too
slow - union members fare just as well, if not
better, than the faculty of the College of Litera-
ture, Science, and the Arts. In 1996, the Univer-
sity decided to give GSIs the same annual pay
increase given to LSA faculty, and later revised
the policy to guarantee GEO members at least
a 2.5-percent annual pay increase in the event
that LSA faculty increases fell below that rate.
While the University has indicated it wants GSIs
to accept a 2-percent minimum their first year, it
has made clear that all other GSIs are guaranteed
2.5 percent. Not satisfied with a better deal than
the professional educators holding LSA faculty
appointments, however, GEO is now demanding
a "living wage," which would amount to a 20-per-
cent increase over the next three years - even
though no other employees receive such large
Despite a contractual guarantee that ensures all
graduate employees working more than 10 hours
a week receive health care coverage, GEO has
decided to demand that all graduate employees
- even those who work less than 10 hours a week
- receive health care at University expense.
While the University has rejected this request for
financial reasons, the fundamental problem with
this demand is that a GSI working four hours a
week simply doesn't deserve University-spon-
sored health care coverage. This becomes even
more apparent when looking at the LEO contract,
which essentially stipulates that a lecturer must

work average about 20 hours a week during the
fall and winter semesters to qualify for benefits.
If a lecturer, who has made teaching his profes-
sion, needs to work at least 20 hours a week for
benefits, what right does a graduate student not
even working 10 have to that same package?
GEO, unable to see beyond its own "needs"
and recognize the fiscal constraints facing the
University, remains adamant about its costly
concerns and is promising to strike indefinitely
if the University does not negotiate in good faith
to meet them. This threat, more than any single
GEO demand, has rubbed the campus commu-
nity the wrong way. At a time when tuition is
skyrocketing, state funding is falling and oper-
ating costs are trending upward, many find it
ridiculous that GEO seems unwilling to simply
accept an already-comfortable contract. Observ-
ers can quickly see that GEO's self-interest - a
desire for more money and benefits - has placed
the University in a position where it will have to
accept unreasonable demands simply to avoid a
devastating strike. If GEO wants support from
the University community, it would be wise to
drop rhetoric about an indefinite strike and sign
the best contract it can negotiate by week's end.
Before last Thursday's walkout, GEO members
posted flyers proclaiming, "The University is not
a corporation." The flyers are correct: The Uni-
versity is not a corporation. Rather, it is a public
institution with no profits and little control over
its revenue stream that is losing millions of dol-
lars in funding each year. GEO needs to tone
down its excessive demands and sign a respon-
sible contract.

& E O
It's not quite the undergraduate protest I was hoping for.


Continued from page 1B
importantly, decades of GEO action have created
a campus culture of fairness that is now bearing
fruit, prompting other groups to unionize and
demand redress of their own grievances. Some
of those grievances are much more significant
than GEO's.
Until inspiration from GEO led them to union-
ize, lecturers had no idea yearto year whether they
would be working. The University could drop
them at a whim. Last year these instructors won
greater job security and increased wages. Now
the clerical workers at the University, fearing the

axe of budget cuts, are trying to unionize.
As long as GEO's demands maintain a modi-
cum of common sense, the group also fosters a
culture of respect for unions among the under-
graduates who watch it battle the University.
Which is why I wish these GSIs were more
cautious. They are helping to mold the opin-
ions of undergraduates about workers' rights. It
would be too bad if they went on strike based
on exaggerated complaints and ended up sour-
ing impressionable young students on the whole
labor movement.


Momin can be reached at

Schrader can be reached at


MARCH 30, 2005

having a big-time commencement No, of course I wasn't gomig
sLEker is important EnDt. to an

A fair shot
PIRGIM case deserves a second hearing

APRIL 4, 2005
The Public Interest Research
Group in Michigan is not ready
to give up its fight for a chapter
on campus just yet. In April, PIRGIM
leaders filed a motion with the Michigan
Student Assembly for an appeal, citing
several wrongdoings that occurred dur-
ing the group's original trial before the
Central Student Judiciary. Because the
first CSJ trial was marred by a series
of misinterpretations and missteps, the
appeal should be granted quickly, and
PIRGIM should be afforded the fair
trial any student organization deserves.
Wells-Reid v. Michigan Student
Assembly, the trial in question, took
place after former MSA Chief of Staff
Elliot Wells-Reid filed an injunction
to prevent the assembly from voting
to fund a pilot chapter of PIRGIM,
arguing that to fund PIRGIM would
violate regulations that allow only
5 percent of the MSA budget to be
used for groups that lobby. CSJ, cit-
ing U.S. Supreme Court precedent,
announced its decision at an MSA
meeting on March 15, ruling in favor
of Wells-Reid and preventing any
future MSA vote on the matter.
Students for PIRGIM, citing a
laundry list of procedural mishaps,
has rightfully filed an appeal with
CSJ. The grievances listed in its
appeal - which outlined several
examples of institutional incompe-
tence - all raise valid concerns in
accordance with the All-Campus

Constitution that sets clear guide-
lines for how CSJ should conduct its
PIRGIM claims simple procedural
rules were not followed: Only three
justices were present to hear the trial,
even though the guidelines explicitly
require four. Because the minute-
keeper for the proceedings was sick,
the minutes that were recorded are
now considered unusable.
Some grievances, however, tran-
scend simple questions of rule inter-
pretation. PIRGIM complains that
then-MSA Student General Coun-
sel Jesse Levine - who represented
MSA in the trial - withdrew from the
trial early for personal reasons, leav-
ing PIRGIM's defense in the hands of
an MSA member, former MSA Vice
President Anita Leung, who had pre-
viously spoken out against it.
The PIRGIM vote had enormous
implications for student advocacy
on this campus, and CSJ had every
obligation to conduct the trial with
due process. If CSJ is going to make
serious rulings, it should take its pro-
ceedings seriously.
PIRGIM's appeal also takes issue
with CSJ's interpretation of tax law,
a reading it believes was unduly
stringent. PIRGIM has ensured that
none of its advocacy tactics will
include lobbying and has even con-
sented to a contract requiring that it
does not lobby.
Alongside the PIRGIM appeal,

MSA representative Matt Holler-
bach, who wrote the initial draft of
the PIRGIM appeal along with his
own amicus brief, and now MSA
President Jesse Levine have filed
separate statements. Both Stu-
dents for PIRGIM and Hollerbach
denounced Levine's appeal, calling
it "weak" and arguing that it failed
to adequately address critical aspects
of the CSJ hearing. Indeed, Levine's
appeal - all two pages of it - was
far from thorough. and fell short of
a piercing criticism. As the newly
elected MSA president, Levine
should make greater efforts to exert
his influence - frail and non-com-
prehensive appeal in a hearing of
such magnitude is unacceptable.
PIRGIM has proven, with its
branches in 35 states, that it can
galvanize student power and tackle
issues such as the high costs of hous-
ing and textbooks - issues MSA has
not been successful in addressing in
the past. Had Students for PIRGIM's
appeal been heard in a timely man-
ner, the organization could have
started its much-anticipated test-trial
as early as next fall. The delays in
the process have been unnecessary,
and arguing over groundless legal
technicalities in court - especially
when unfair and unfounded court
proceedings are used - will only
postpone the efforts of PIRGIM and
therefore prove disadvantageous to
student interests.

MARCH 30, 2005
'U' not a top choice in eyes of
top commencement speakers
I was taught that attending graduation was to feel
pride at all one accomplished in his years at school.
Upon reading the article Speaker Choice Irks Students
(03/29/2005), I was horrified but not surprised. I always
knew this school was filled with superficial and childish,
spoiled adolescents, but I am embarrassed that it is so
blatant now.
I suggest that this year's speaker, John Seely Brown,
should not show up and let the graduating class of 2005
realize why no "large name" could be found to speak.
The truth is, no one wants to come speak at the Universi-
ty! The immaturity is too overwhelming, and at the rate
it is progressing, we will be lucky to have any speaker

come next year. The graduating class is too superficial
to realize it's not how popular the speaker is, it's what
he has to say. He isn't signing autographs; he is being
I read that people were suggesting Secretary of State
Condoleezza Rice as a speaker, but they need to real-
ize that no conservative will speak here. They are booed
every time they approach campus, so why should they
free up time to come here and be humiliated? I will also
bet that if a conservative had been signed to speak, there
would be an outcry that liberals were being discrimi-
nated against.
The truth is I would be proud if anyone agreed to speak
when I graduate next year, but I won't be surprised if no
one comes. After all, who wants to deal with a bunch of
spoiled children who do nothing but whine and throw
tantrums without all the facts?
Keesha Pulse
LSA junior

A new hope
Student neighborhood group, emergent from
local blogging scene, is singularly promising

JUNE 6, 2005
ver the past year or so in Ann
Arbor, local blogs have emerged
as the most - and perhaps the
only - effective entity in coordinating
and promoting student interests -in local
politics. While the local homeowner-run
neighborhood associations have continu-
ally pushed their anti-student agendas on
the city - through the proposed porch
couch ban, stiff resistance to the con-
struction of North Quad and new restric-
tions on side-street parking, to name a
few examples - the campus political
groups that should be working to orga-
nize a student opposition have generally
responded with apathy.
In the absence of any campus-based
organization with the strength and ini-
tiative to challenge the anti-student
establishment, bloggers and their read-
ers have taken a strong interest in the
workings of Ann Arbor's city govern-
ment. This online community has filled
an important gap where traditional cam-
pus groups have failed. Campus student
groups essentially ignored the proposed
porch couch ban last year; it was dropped
only after readers of local blogs, which
vigorously opposed the ban, pressured
city council members via e-mail. Blogs
won an important victory for students
despite their limited resources, function-

student-run neighborhood associations
could develop voting blocs within each
gerrymandered ward, forcing council
members to listen to students' concerns.
These geographically based groups
could help organizers to be effective in
going door-to-door to register students
within the neighborhood to vote. By
focusing on city council races specific to
each ward, these groups could maximize
student influence.
Still, student groups based around
neighborhoods are not enough. Neigh-
borhood associations have been success-
ful for Ann Arbor homeowners in large
part because of homeowners' concern
with property values and the proximate
nature of their interests. Student renters,
on the other hand, rarely stay in the same
neighborhoods for more than a couple of
years and tend to have interests that span
the entire city; most are more concerned
with legislation that affects students
citywide than whether their neighbors'
lawns are presentable. Groups like the
New West Side, for this reason, should
also focus on developing an overarching
organization to promote student inter-
ests; their experience with online orga-
nizing will help them unite students with
similar interests citywide.
The New West Side stands out as group
with a unique potential to reverse the

to those who live across the city; a bor-
derless community has emerged that stu-
dents can use to take action. Traditional
methods like flyering and chalking seem
obsolete in comparison. With the tech-
nology bloggers are using, as Tom Fried-
man would say, Ann Arbor is flat.
For this reason, we believe the recently
established New West Side Association
- the city's only student-run neighbor-
hood association, based on the borders
of the Old West Side Association, and a
child of the local blogging community
- represents a real opportunity for a


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