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January 30, 2007 - Image 4

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The Michigan Daily, 2007-01-30

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4-Tuesday, January 30, 2007

The Michigan Daily - michigandaily.com


Edited and managed by students at
the University of Michigan since 1890.
413 E. Huron St.
Ann Arbor, MI 48104



I'm 114. It's enough now. I'll go whenever the man
upstairs calls me home."
- Emma Faust Tillman, who at 114 was the world's oldest person before passing away Sunday evening, as
reported yesterday by nytimes.com.


Unsigned editorials reflect the official position of the Daily's editorial board. All other signed articles
and illustrations represent solely the views of their authors.
A failed evaluation
Professors cannot be judged by research alone
t's often said that professors can be neatly divided into two
categories - those who are esteemed in their field, and those
who are esteemed in the classroom. University professors did
not fare well in a recent study conducted by Academic Analysts, a
research coalition that ranks professors solely based on publishing
record. The University's disdain for these external ranking systems
is understandable; we all know publishing record is no indication
of teaching skills. But the problem is larger than that, centering on
the lack of student involvement in demanding and maintaining a




culture of teaching excellence.
The downfall of student-initiated course
evaluations may be that professors are often
placed at the mercy of apathetic students.
Sadly, few students will heap praise on an
exceptional professor; most are content
simply to darken circles and dart. This lax
attitude is a shame, considering the pretty
penny students pay for tuition. It works to
the disadvantage of students and faculty,
both of whom seek to ameliorate the Uni-
versity's academic climate and raise the bar
to offer strong classes in all departments.
The advent of yet another rankings
index provides the University with an
opportunity to critically re-evaluate how
it rates professors. Every student who has
been subjected to the hour-and-a-half-
long monologues of some internationally
renowned scholar who cannot impart a
shred of coherent information would agree
that rankings based on publishing record
and conducted by outside analysts hold no
real importance. Teaching ability and the
capacity to publish prolifically don't have to
go hand-in-hand. Any system of evaluating
professors must do so accurately and mean-
ingfully so as to guide future students.
The system that is currently in place
- scantron questionnaires that assume an
entire semester can be summed into dark-
ened bubbles labeled 1 through 5 - does
little to foster a culture that encourages
students to voice critical feedback about

Look beyond the hype

their professors' performance. Many of the
current course reviews seem to disappear
into the void of administrative bureaucra-
cy, while the students with real complaints
turn instead to external websites like www.
Anidealsolutionwould be anindependent
review agency on campus that systemati-
cally creates, updates and reviews student
evaluations of professors and courses. The
results would appear in a comprehensive
website that details not only the nature and
effectiveness of a given instructor's teach-
ing style but also the difficulty of home-
work and exams. But while the University
can develop a more authoritative, holistic
system of evaluation, no system can work
without students doing their part. By filling
out evaluations thoroughly and accurately
students must take up the burden of devel-
oping a more meaningful professor review
process. Student involvement should not be
mandated from above - students shouldn't
have to be compelled to serve their own
educational interests.
An internally monitored and student-led
professor-review system would enable the
University to shrug off the damning influ-
ence of quantitative rating systems once
and for all, and would fulfill two impor-
tant functions - developing a remarkable
research faculty and fostering quality edu-
cation for students.

logans flying, agendas ambitious,
diatribes aplenty - optimism
is in the air. Put that together
with pretenders declaring (and some-
how keeping a straight face), potentials
"exploring," heavyweights denying
and losers crying.
Stir and simmer.
Is there anything
like the sweet
smell of the pre-
pre- pre-election
Honestly, I'd
rather not talk
about this right
now. Washington IMRAN
is abuzz with the
doingsoftheDem- SYED
ocratic Congress,
but while Congress promises action
on global warming, fumbles minimum
wage and panders on Iraq almost as
much as President Bush, the race for '08
is already a go.
There's really no reason to mention
all the hopefuls; I think it's safe to say
we aren't looking at a Tom Tancredo
or Mike Huckabee presidency anytime
soon. And while the Republican race
between Arizona Sen. John McCain,
Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney and
former New York Mayor Rudi Giuliani
will be tough, there's no fire on the
Republican side yet, and won't be until
(God help us) Newt Gingrich jumps in.
For now it's all about the Democrats,
mostly because with Bush in trouble,
Republicans are happy to avoid the first
glance of scrutiny as long as possible
(hey, they know they've got the money
to make up for lost time). But should a
conscientious liberal really buy into the
players of hype on the Democratic side?
For the love of our principles, strategies
and chances at taking back the White
House - certainly not.
Don't get me wrong: I'm a Barack
Obama fan and could even be talked
into admitting that Hillary Clinton has
accomplished things in her life. But
these two masters of razzmatazz would
spell disaster for Democratic momen-

tum if nominated.
We could talk about Hillary's pan-
dering and Obama's inexperience. After
all, Hillary did work for the decidedly'
Republican Barry Goldwater cam-
paign in'64 and the Democratic George
McGovern campaign in '72. Talk about
a flip-flop. Just four years ago, while
other contenders were on the national
stage as major players in debates over
recession and the war against terror-
ism, Obama was chilling in the Illinois
State Senate deciding on things like
whether or not summer kindergar-
ten programs could begin two months
before the school year. (Though he co-
sponsored the bill, Obama decided he
wasn't sure and refrained from voting.)
Those are relevant issues, but let's
also mention the elephant in the room
that it's socially in vogue to pretend not
to notice. Hillary is a woman. Obama is
a black man. No major party has ever
nominated either. But of course no one
should jump off the Hillary/Obama
campaign bus for that reason. And just
as important, no one should jump on for
that reason either.
Obama is a prep-school/Harvard
product. Hillary chose Yale, and as a
former first lady is about as establish-
ment as it gets, so let's cut the talk of
sticking it to the man by going with
these candidates. At least one of them
would makea fine president (I'm all for
a female president, I'd just prefer she
wasn't the former president of the Wes-
leyan College Republicans). Prevailing
social prejudices though, will ensure
thatneither canwin. (Call me whenyou
see a single state of the old Confederacy
going to a black man, as it practically
must for a Democratic victory.)
Hillary and Obama are the flash, but
look to the other two potential Demo-
cratic contendersifyouwant substance.
After being robbed of the presidency
and falling out of favor with party elites
and infantry alike, former Vice Presi-
dent Al Gore has dedicated his time
away from office into what is perhaps
the progressive cause of our lifetime.
Gore isn't simply out there running his

mouth on global warming to gain votes;
this is an issue he understands and has
dedicated his life to.
With the environmentin peril -pick
a scientist, any scientist - Earth itself
must smile at the thought of a Gore
presidency. Also, being an outspoken
critic of the war in Iraq from the begin-
ning, while still boasting the political
poise and awareness of a House, Senate
and Executive branch veteran, Gore is
perhaps the most qualified, dare I say,
ripe, candidate of all.
Similar to Gore is former North Caro-
lina Sen. John Edwards, who has also
spent his time out of office championing
Remember Gore
and Edwards
come 2008.
causes simply because he cares. He isthe
only candidate comfortable with talking
about America's continued affliction of
Although he is the son of a mill worker
from the fields of Carolina, Edwards
shares more than just looks with Bobby
Kennedy and follows in a line that leads
back to the eminent Henry Clay - those
who put the cause before the-office.
I'm the last guy who wants to cham-
pion the rich white guy in a race full of
Hillary and Obama, Romney is a Mor-
mon and New Mexico Gov. Bill Rich-
ardson is Hispanic). But the fact is that
both Gore and Edwards are activists
who care about the issues. Obama and
Hillary may also care, but would theyif
they didn't have to? We know Gore and
Edwards would, and we're long over-
due for a president of that creed.
Now there's a break with the estab-
Imran Syed is an associate
editorial page editor. He can be
reached at galad@umich.edu

Pfizer: From the inside

I have worked at Pfizer for almost two years.
I'm technically not an intern because I can work
as long as Iam in school. officially, Iam a student
assistant. While admittedly shorter than other
student assistants, my two-year stint has allowed
me to become integrated into the Pfizer commu-
nity. With the recent closing of the Ann Arbor
site, there has been a lot of discussion about the
"real lesson of Pfizer" and the economic effects
on Michigan's fragile economy. But I think the
more important discussion is about those who
have lost their jobs.
Pfizer is the epitome of the corporate world,
where business means makinga product that can
turn a profit. Those I have met and those I have
worked withthough, are anythingbutcorporate.
Most of them care more about their family and
friends than stock prices and corporate earnings.
They are skilled and intelligent scientists, but
family and friends are always most important to
One of my supervisors has two daughters;
another has two with a third child on the way.
She recently took time off to take her family to
Walt Disney World and visit her brother. They
have always been incredibly kind and generous
bosses. They make cakes for my birthday, take me
to lunch for Christmas and give me time off when
I need it. They are patient when I make mistakes
but quick to praise when I do well.
one of my fellow employees calls me into his
office merely to talk about my schooling and plac-
es I'd like to travel. Another stops me in the hall
regularly to talk about future plans and tells me
everyday that he knows I'll succeed. There are a
thousand othersjustlike themwho are everything
we should hope to be as adults -smart,hard work-
ers with big hearts. I cannot speak for everyone on
the corporate ladder, but I certainly will speak for
those I work with. It saddens me deeply to know
every single one of them has justbeen fired.
When you read about 2,100 people losing their
jobs, it doesn't really mean anything: It's just a

faceless number. I wasn't at work the day of the
announcement, and I found out about the closing
inThe MichiganDaily,likemanyothers. Eventhen
I couldn't comprehend the profundity ofwhathad
happened. All the people I had ever known and
met through Pfizer were going to lose their jobs. It
felt so distant to read about it in print.
It hit me that Thursday when I went to work.,
Normally animated with lab experiments and
data analysis, all work had essentially come to a
halt. People everywhere were in groups talking
about what to do next. Most of the tears hadbeen
shed days earlier and light laughter had emerged
by now. When I walked in, one department head
jokingly said to me "Well, Jeff, it looks like you
may be the last one here!" They weren't joyful
about losing their jobs, but they were dealing
with things as best they could.
Thursday was a very profound experience for
me. As I walked through the cafeteria, the num-
ber 2,100 began to suffocate me. Every face I saw
was the face of someone who had just lost a job
- director heads, lab workers, security guards,
cooks, everyone. When people lose their careers,
it's a life-changing event. And it had just hap-
pened to everyone, to every face I saw as I shift-
ed through that cafeteria. Everyone seemed so
human to me then.
The biggest concern for them is what to do
next, what to do to support their families. One
man I know has five kids, and he is the only one
who works in his household. Many will have to
relocate and tear their kids out of school. Oth-
ers will sell their homes and cars. Some might
go back to school. Everyone will be searching
for work. I can lose my position, and let's be
honest, my life won't be drastically affected.
But these are people with families who depend
on their incomes. So every day I ask myself the
same question they ask themselves: What will
they do next?
Jeffrey Harding is an LSA junior.


Friedman not alone in his
intellectual dishonesty
I appreciate Christopher Zbrozek's acknowledgement
of Nobel-laureate economist Milton Friedman's legacy
and fight for individual liberty and limited government
(Happy Milton Friedman Day!, 01/29/2007). However, it's
hypocritical of New York Times columnist Paul Krugman
to speak of Friedman's "intellectual dishonesty" because
Krugman's own statistical methods have been questioned
on several occasions.
In 2005, Daniel Okrent, then public editor of the Times,
accused Krugman of having "the disturbing habit of
shaping, slicing and selectively citing numbers in a fash-
ion that pleases his acolytes but leaves him open to sub-
stantive assaults." The Economist has called Krugman's
economics "stretched" and criticized his staunch parti-
san slant and his tendency to select information that (at
risk of sounding like a clich6 neoconservative) advances
his liberal agenda. If Krugman is looking for "intellectual
dishonesty," perhaps he should look no further than the
mirror. It takes one to know one.
Jonny Slemrod
Daily grossly misrepresents
Scholars for 9 11 Truth event
I read with interest your report on the University's
Sept. 11 truth event on Sunday (Conspiracy theorists stir
controversy at Union, 01/29/2007), and I must say that I'm
stunned. I can only assume that the members of Young
Americans for Freedom ghost-authored the entire article.
Maybe this would explain why the reporter seems to have
left the event at the same time as the YAFers. No honest
reporter could have gotten so many things wrong and so
meticulously defamed those who put together the event.
That YAF's dozen goons got more ink than our 500
attendees was bad enough. But the article also completely

misattributed Ke
out of context) to
to mention is a r(
tor of the top-sec
and president of
Studies. What'sn
the three speake
Not one. They m
official governm
grossly dishonest
BiB Rosemurgy

vin Ryan's statements (which were taken
Robert Bowman (who the article failed
etired Air Force colonel), former direc-
ret "Star Wars" missile defense program
f the Institute for Space and Security
most dishonest, however, is that none of
ers presented any conspiracy theories.
erely presented facts that destroyed the
ent conspiracy theory. All in all, it was a
piece that should be retracted.

Columnist aptly acknowledges
racist roots ofpotprohibition
Jared Goldberg is to be commended for raising aware-
ness about the racist roots of marijuana prohibition (The
war on common sense, 01/23/2007). If health effects
instead of cultural norms determined drug laws, mari-
juana would be legal. Unlike alcohol, marijuana has never
been shown to cause death from overdose, and neither
does it share the addictive properties of nicotine. Mari-
juana can be harmful if abused, but jail cells for abusers
are as inappropriate as health interventions are ineffec-
tive as deterrents.
The first marijuana laws were enacted in response to
Mexican migration during the early 1900s, despite oppo-
sition from the American Medical Association. White
Americans did not even begin to smoke pot until a soon-
to-be entrenched government bureaucracy began fund-
ing "reefer-madness" propaganda.
By raiding voter-approved medical marijuana provid-
ers in California, the very same U.S. Drug Enforcement
Administration that claims illicit drug use funds terror-
ism is forcing cancer and AIDS patients into the hands of
street dealers.
Robert Sharpe
The letter writer is a policy analystfor Common
Sense for Drug Policy

cE c

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