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April 03, 2006 - Image 4

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The Michigan Daily, 2006-04-03

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4A - The Michigan Daily - Monday, April 3, 2006

OPINION

be Aroiritt au igj

DoNN M. FRESARD
Editor in Chief

EMILY BEAM
CHRISTOPHER ZBROZEK
Editorial Page Editors

ASHLEY DINGES
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
It would be political
suicide to ignore (that)
there's 11 million people,
illegally undocumented,
who are trying to work and
add value to our country."
- Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), on his expecta-
tions that the Senate will approve an immigration
reform bill passed last week in the Senate Judiciary
Committee, as reported yesterday on nytimes.com.

KATIE GARLINGHOUSE Hlous E ARRHET

Unsigned editorials reflect the official position of the Daily's editorial board. All
other signed articles and illustrations represent solely the views of their author.

I

I

The paradox of affirmative action
SUHAEL MOMIN NO SURRFNDFR

hinking about
affirmative action?
Think harder. With
the Michigan Civil Rights
Initiative on November's
ballot, we're in charge of
s the program's future. That
power cannot be understat-
ed: Our votes will directly
'y affect the futures of thou-
sands - tens of thousands
- of Michigan high school students. As individual
voters, we must be absolutely sure of what we believe
before we exercise such power.
I stress this because I believe affirmative action is
probably the most morally ambiguous public policy
question to ever come before Michigan's populace.
Its not possible to have an unqualified position for
or against affirmative action without deliberately
or subconsciously ignoring certain arguments sur-
rounding the issue.
It is an undisputed fact that affirmative action gives
certain individuals a leg up based on their race. On
its own, that tidbit should give pause to affirmative
action supporters. Allowing employers, universities
and government agencies to treat different races dif-
ferently is a radical step - one that must be meticu-
lously justified.
Sure, the U.S. Supreme Court - Justice Sandra
Day O'Connor, to be more exact - felt there was a
compelling state interest in diversity. That legal inter-
pretation allowed affirmative action to squeak around
the equal protection clause of the 14th Amendment.
But just because it's legal doesn't mean it's morally
sound: Should we be comfortable with employing
racial preferences wherever there is a compelling
state interest? Is it ever morally sound to allow the

government to treat different races differently?
Supporters of affirmative action say yes. The Uni-
versity swayed federal courts by arguing that there
are educational benefits that stem from racial diver-
sity. But as any University student can attest, those
benefits are severely limited in practice; self-segre-
gation is a rampant problem on this campus. Fur-
thermore, the importance of "diversity" has allowed
conservatives to argue for "affirmative action" in
faculty appointments; an op-ed contributor to The
New York Times wrote last week how her college
gives admissions preference to men to ensure gender
diversity.
All this begs the question: What level of diversity
is enough? What mix of gender, race, sexual identity,
etc., is ideal for an elite university? Any meaning-
ful answers to those questions will likely take the
form of unconstitutional quotas - and raise a whole
new series of questions about which groups deserve
"affirmative action" and which ones don't.
The far more persuasive moral argument in
favor of affirmative action questions a fundamental
assumption of our free society: Has the playing field
ever been level? This is where opponents of affirma-
tive action sometimes tune out. All too often, they
frame the debate over affirmative action as a prejudi-
cial question: Why should a less-qualified minority
receive admission over a white student?
Taken at face value, that question seems honest.
Looking solely at numbers, affirmative action allows
an underrepresented minority with lower test scores
and an inferior grade point average to gain admis-
sion over a "better-qualified" white or Asian appli-
cant. Without any further examination, this seems to
be very strong evidence against affirmative action.
But numbers lie. With enough money, anyone
can pay for a better SAT or ACT score; The Princ-

eton Review and Kaplan go as far as to guarantee it.
Because of the way Michigan's public schools work,
the state's best-off district spends almost twice as
much per student than the, state's poorest. Suburban
schools routinely have more expansive social, athletic
and extracurricular activities, better classroom facili-
ties, better teachers, newer books and smaller class
sizes than their urban counterparts. Money matters.
If birthplace and financial status are giving some
babies an automatic step up, affirmative action lev-
els the field for everyone else. Facebook groups like
"I got in because of my grades" ignore the logical
conclusion that suburban children - as a factor of
their more privileged births - should have higher
grades, more extracurricular opportunities and bet-
ter test scores.
If MCRI passes, it will significantly limit the
number of underrepresented minorities who qualify
for admission. Factors completely out of any child's
control - birthplace, social class, etc. - will lock
certain students out of Michigan's top institution.
That, on its own, should give supporters of MCRI
reason for pause.
At this point, anyone reading this column should
have found lots of problems with all my arguments; I
have. But there's simply not enough space to discuss,
even briefly, all the potential arguments, counterar-
guments and counter-counterarguments.
Instead, I'll interpret the sheer volume of debat-
able points as evidence for my original assertion:
It's impossible to have an unqualified, unambiguous
and morally sound view on affirmative action. If
anyone thinks they have one, its merely because
they're not thinking hard enough.

Momin can be reached
at smomin@umich.edu.

What MSA should believe

The Michigan Daily and The Michigan Review will periodically run
a point-counterpoint on issues of the day. This installment will discuss
the role of political ideology in the Michigan Student Assembly.

a
',
>~

LETTERS TO THE EDITOR
Send all letters to the editor to tothedaily@imichigandaily.

Daily misrepresents
Warren's accomplishments
To THE DAILY:
The Daily is wrong to assert that no
Democratic candidate for state rep-
resentative has earned the support of
students (Dems gear up for state rep pri-
mary, 03/30/2006). As a charter mem-
ber of Students for Warren, I have seen
firsthand how Rebekah Warren's hon-
esty, hard work and respect for students
in this community have translated into
precisely what the Daily declares does
not exist - a "groundswell" of support
for her candidacy in the form of student
group endorsements, a Facebook group
with 70-plus members, and dozens of
students volunteering their time and
talents to her campaign. Students sup-
port Warren not just for her positions
on affirmative action, single-payer
health care and education - though
she is right on all these issues - but for
her willingness to work for them with
tireless enthusiasm. Just as significant,
however, is what City Council member
Leigh Greden (D-3rd Ward) has done to
lose the trust and support of students.
Why does Greden call his support for
the couch ban the "biggest mistake" of
his tenure on city council when just this
past December, the Detroit Free Press
reported that Greden was considering
revisiting the ban in the fall? But the
biggest mistake of Greden's council
tenure wasn't supporting the couch ban:
It was repeatedly trying to manipulate
the legislative process by attempting
to pass anti-student measures during
the summer months, when few students
are in town to voice their opinions. The
couch ban is only one example: Last

July, Greden supported a parking reso-
lution affecting student neighborhoods.
City Council passed the resolution with
barely any student input, leading Mich-
igan Student Assembly President Jesse
Levine to call the Council's actions a
"slap in the face" to the student com-
munity. What will it be this summer,
Mr. Greden?
That's the issue that truly divides
these candidates: Rebekah Warren has
shown us she is the candidate we can
trust.
Bob Mushroe
LSA sophomore
Obscenity stands between
Daily and greatness
TO THE DAILY:
On the front page of the Friday's
Daily, the headline read: Cockblocked
(03/31/2006). Not only was this head-
line offensive to myself and numerous
other students, but it is part of a grow-
ing trend of lack of journalistic integrity
shown by the Daily. With the takeover
by the new staff, there have been repeat-
ed expletives, innuendos and fluff stories
peppered throughout each paper. When
I first arrived on campus, I saw the
Daily as a reliable source of news and
I'm sure that for many students, it is the
only source of news. Therefore, to see
this recent decline in the integrity and
content of the paper is most troubling. If
the Daily wishes to exude the integrity
it once held, I suggest a change in this
trend - if not for its own sake, then for
those students who are avid readers of
this once. stellar publication.
Charles Gocken
LSA freshman

le iidau1agog
BY CHRISTOPHER ZBROZEK
Students need an advocate in this town. With a city council that bows to hom-
eowners' associations and a University administration that often puts the wishes
of alumni donors and prominent faculty before students, it's clear that our inter-
ests aren't exactly at the top of the agenda. The Michigan Student Assembly
could be the advocate that students need, but I fail to see how it can fill that role
effectively without drawing on political ideology.
The Students 4 Michigan/Students First dynasty of nonideological
umbrella parties, which has dominated the assembly for most of my time
at the University, arguably hasn't accomplished much. One reason for this
is that it's difficult to articulate what students' interests actually are without
reference to a political framework. Instead of real debate over the values
that should guide MSA's advocacy of student interests, candidates for MSA
too often focus on any zany idea that seems sure to win votes: make Entree
Plus the only valid currency in Ann Arbor, put three Taco Bells in the Union
or maybe bring Ludacris to campus to spark a dialogue about diversity.
With goals like these, it's no surprise that voter turnout in MSA elections
has been in the single digits at times.
Turnout doubled in the last election, however, with the debut of the Mich-
igan Progressive Party and the Student Conservative Party. These parties
offer students something that S4M/S1 has never had - a coherent platform
centered on a political concept of what student government should do. I
might not have agreed with much of what SCP presidential candidate Ryan
Fantuzzi had to say, but he had the right approach when he characterized his
opponents as a party with radical ideas, a party with bad ideas and a party
with no ideas. Elections should focus on who has the right combination of
ideas and experience to lead - not on whether a party has enough friends
in enough student groups to ensure its victory.
Having a range of political ideologies to choose from increases the compet-
itiveness of MSA elections, providing a check on the corruption inherent to a
one-party machine and hopefully weeding out those only interested in student
government to bolster their law school application. An underlying set of ideals
can help the ruling party order its priorities and guide individual members of
a particular party to act in concert toward common goals. An ideology also
gives students a clearer view how candidates would react to a situation not
already covered in a list of talking points hastily posted on a party's website.
Because MSA should act as an advocate for students, it will need to
express students' concerns to other powerful figures, whether in the Flem-
ing Administration Building or in Lansing. MSA is often ridiculed for pass-
ing resolutions on issues beyond its immediate control. These resolutions,
however, often serve an important purpose in defending students' interests.
A piece of S4M propaganda during the last election, for instance, criti-
cized MPP for a "symbolic resolution attacking Congressman Joe Schwartz."
Besides misspelling the name of Rep. Joe Schwarz (R-MI), S4M ignored
the fact that Schwarz, despite being the chair of the University's Alumni
Association, supported legislation that made it more difficult to get student
aid. Sure, MSA doesn't control Congress, but how is access to student aid
not a student issue?
I have little sympathy for the argument that low voter turnout renders
MSA unable to speak for the student body. I know of no other election
where one can vote from a dorm computer in one's underwear anytime dur-
;nu atwo-..da vnrind. Beside ident concerns don't o away ist because

All things that involve exertions of power, especially in the appropriation
of money, are inherently political. After this regression to Political Science
101, it's important to keep in mind that despite the fact that three-quarters
of students didn't vote in the most recent election, and despite the question-
able importance and relevance of the Michigan Student Assembly, it is still
fundamentally a political body.
Witness this in the most recent election. When the incumbent Students
4 Michigan faced credible opposition for the first time in years from the
two new parties, the Michigan Progressive Party and the Student Conserva-
tive Party, turnout skyrocketed from abysmal levels to proportions almost
respectable by standards of most student government elections. The threat
to the power endowed to S4M gave students a new stake in student govern-
ment, and turnout evinced that.
A post-mortem of the election reveals a bit more complexity about the
most recent elections and raises serious questions about the role MSA should
take on campus. S4M is essentially apolitical; it encompasses students with
a number of political backgrounds under a single platform focusing on stu-
dent interests. It is interesting that in this past election, both parties posing a
challenge fit along a dichotomy more associated with national politics than
campus politics. And it's even more interesting that they lost.
MPP was promising in its inception precisely because it seemed to desire
to eschew the kind of politics that its name would imply. But it quickly
devolved into something else, with focus on issues such as housing (with very
vague solutions) and more fiscal responsibility on MSA (while it proposed
spending $20,000 on starting a PIRGIM chapter). SCP was identifiably, well,
conservative. Its platform railed against the suspension of the University's con-
tract with Coca-Cola Company and called for "less political BS" on MSA, but
the Fantuzzi-Turner ticket never developed any comprehensive agenda within
their conservative ideology as to how they would govern. If they did have such a
plan, they should have shared the secret with the rest of campus.
Perhaps it is not coincidental that the moments when the S4M-dominated
assembly has attracted the most scorn and controversy have come when it has
embarked on territory outside of its correct sphere of influence. Efforts to vote
on a resolution encouraging divestment from companies with money in Israel
attracted the most attention and controversy from the campus. Similarly, ill-
conceived efforts to sponsor a lobbyist on behalf of students (one barely inter-
ested in student concerns, at that) via PIRGIM attracted concern and scorn from
some quarters, including the Review's editorial page, for moving ever farther
from the interests and the actual purview of MSA.
Of course, last fall's now-infamous Ludacris concert was the major catalyst
for these recent contested elections. The concert, which lost $20,000 of MSA
money, was emblematic of everything wrong with student government: wasteful
spending under the misused justification of "promoting diversity" that extended
beyond the fundamental province of MSA.
When SCP candidates promised "less political BS" on campus, they might
have been on to something. But unfortunately, much like MPP, their traditionally
dichotomized politics might have largely been the cause of their downfall. These
parties may have presented sexier, politicized platforms that turned heads, but they
still couldn't attract as many votes as S4M - a party whose candidates' politics
were as hard to decipher as the platform they represented. If any of these parties
were anywhere near intelligent, they would take a lesson away from this election

THE MICHIGAN REVEW lR
BY MICHAEL O'BRIEN

0

Editorial Board Members: Amy Anspach, Andrew Bielak, Kevin Bunkley
D'Angelo, Whitney Dibo, Milly Dick, Sara Eber, Jesse Forester, Mara Gay, J,
berg, Mark Kuehn, Frank Manley, Kirsty McNamara, Suhael Momin, Rajiv1
Katherine Seid, Gavin Stern, Ben Taylor, Jessica Teng, Rachel Wagner, Jaso

21 iosi.

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