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February 21, 2007 - Image 10

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The Michigan Daily, 2007-02-21

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Wednesday, Feburary 21, 2007 The Michigan Daily

le of contents

THE EDITOR'S NOTEBOOK with WALTER NOWINSKI
A look at the big news events this week and how important they really are. Conveniently ranked from one to 10.

4B THE WEALTHIEST WOLVERINES
They came, they saw and they went on
to conquer. The maize and blue begin-
nings of eight of America's richest
people.
6B BIG WOMAN ON CAMPUS
Harvard's new president may be a win
for feminists, but it might be a loss for
Harvard, and feminism in general.

CROSS MY HEART, HOPE TO DIE
A desperate President Bush tried toblame
some of the failures ofhis Iraq policy on
alleged interferencefrom Iran. But the real
10 question is not if Iran is supplying Iraqi fight-
6 ers with arms, it is what would Mr. Bush have
to dobefore anyone believed his "intelligence"
claims again.

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i

8B SHAKESPEARE
How we're teach

WHO?
sing English wrong.
Magazine Editor: Anne VanderMey
CoverArt:PeterSchottenfels
PhotoEditor: Peter Schottenfels
Designers: Bridget O'Donnell
Editor inChief: Karl Stampfl
Managing Editor Jeffrey Bloornr

UNFORTUNATE SON
Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney
came back to his native Michigan to announce
his presidential ambitions. Unfortunatelyfor
Romney, most Michiganders seem to have for-
10 gotten him shortly afterheabandoned Michi- 0
gan three decades ago. He is nowpolling a 5
distant fourth in the state Republican primary.
A LITTLE OIL GOES A LONG WAY
After years of talks, North Korea has tenta-
tively agreed to shut down its main nuclear
reactor in exchange for 50,000 tons of
1 heavy oil. The energy aid should be enough
6 to keep Kim Jong II busy cruising the streets 2
of Pyongyang in his new Hummer through
the end of winter.

PELOSI'S GOT HIM WHIPPED
Speaker Pelosi and the House ofRepresenta-
tives passed a resolution this weekrebuking
the president's war policy. Thehbi-partisan res-
to olution condemned Bush's plan to escalate the
war, but offered no plan to stop it. Neverthe-
less, Bush conceded it is ultimately congress
that wears the pants in the relationship.
ROLLING BACK A REFORMATION
The Anglican communion released a new
doctrine this week seeking to reunify a Church
of England ripped apart by gaymarriage and
female ordination. But alarge contingency of
10 Anglican Bishops think it is too late to save the
C-of-Eand have begun arguing for reunifying
the Protestant sect with the Pope in Rome.
JET BLUES
The economy airliner know for its lowfares
and good customer services gave its passen-
gers an unexpected surprise this week when it
10 left a plane full of passengers sitting on the tar-
macfor overt10 hours. Unfortunately for those
on board, you don't qualify for frequent flier
miles if your plane never leaves the ground.

The other branch of government
Our Back Pages I History Column
By Christo per Zbrozek

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p ~ - L~ltt(Lr.

PERSON OF THE WEEK
GURBANGULY BERDIMUHAMMEDOW
Former deputy prime minister of Turkmenistan, Gurbanguly Berdimuhammedow
was sworn into office last Wednesday after winning 90 percent of the vote in
elections that were hardly free or fair. His predecessor, Saparmurat Niyazov, was
known for his repressive tactics and peculiar personality cult. Calling himself Turk-
menbashi, meaning Father of All Turkmen, he renamed months and cities after
himself and family members, and he wrote a two-volume book that citizens
were required to read. It's unclear how much change Berdimuhammedow's
tenure will actually bring, but compared to his Niyazov, anything is progress.

A BRAND NEW FESTIVAL ____
WORLDS GREATEStANIMATED EXPERIENCE FOR YOUR RESUME.
SORT MONEY FOR COLLEGE.
THE BEST ANIMATED SHORT FILMS R

he words are buried in Mich-
igan's constitution as it read
in 1850, and they don't form
the most inspiring quote you'll
ever read.
This one seemingly mundane
sentence, though, has been crucial
to the University's development.
The clause grants the University a
degree of constitutional autonomy
that few public universities enjoy,
guaranteeing that the University
can manage its own affairs with
minimal interference from the
state government: "The board
of regents shall have the general
supervision of the university, and
the direction and control of all
expenditures from the university
interest fund."
Constitutional autonomy may
seem like an abstruse subject, but
it's an important one.
In an essay titled "The Michi-
gan Saga," former University Pres-
ident James Duderstadt cites it as
a crucial factor in the University's
successes.
"Throughout its history, the
state of Michigan has rarely been
among the national leaders in its
support of public higher educa-
tion," Duderstadt writes. "Rath-
er, many (including the author)
believe that the real key to the
university's quality and impact
has been the very unusual auton-
omy granted the institution by the
state constitution. The university
has always been able to set its own
goals for the quality of its pro-
grams rather than allowing these
to be determined by the vicissi-
tudes of state policy, support, or
public opinion."
The University hasn't always
had it so easy. The state's first
constitution, ratified in 1835, gave
the state legislature the author-
ity to appoint professors, regu-
late expenditures and otherwise
manage the University's affairs.
Similar methods of governance
had failed at public universities
in other states, and Michigan was
little different.
A report by a committee of the
state Legislature in 1840, when
the University had yet to enroll a
single student in a college course,
summarized the problem in these
terms: "State institutions have
fallen into the hands of the several
legislatures, fluctuating bodies
of men, chosen with reference to

their supposed qualifications for
other duties than cherishing liter-
ary institutions.
When legislatures have legis-
lated directly for colleges, their
measures have been as fluctuat-
ing as the changing materials of
which the legislatures were com-
posed."
In short, government bureau-
crats should keep their grubby
hands off higher education.
A state constitutional conven-
tion in 1850 took on this problem.
The resulting constitution took
authority over the University
away from legislators and placed
it in the hands of an elected
The reason
the University
doesn't answer to
Granholm.
board of regents. It also sought to
ensure that those regents would
gain experience by giving them
six-year terms (lengthened in
1863 to eight years) instead of
the two-year terms that leave the
legislature constantly fluctuat-
ing.
Of course, simply writing a con-
stitution that provided authority
over the University to the regents
didn't prevent attempts at political
meddling.
The state Legislature pressed
for decades in the late 19th cen-
tury for the University to establish
a school of homeopathic medicine,
which the University resisted.
In one of the many lawsuits that
arose out of that dispute, the 1896
case Sterling v. The Regents of the
University of Michigan, the state
supreme court upheld a broad view
of the University's constitutional
autonomy, a precedent that solidi-
fied the University's status.
Constitutional autonomy has
had some unusual consequences.
In 1911, for instance, part of the
Old Medical Building caught fire
and was destroyed. The state's
fire insurance fund refused the
University's claim on the grounds
that the University was separate
from state government in gen-
eral and was therefore ineligible

for coverage - which must have
come as a shock, as the regents Nominate sc
had cancelled the University's fire The
insurance when the state fund was
established in 1900.
Legislative attempts to interfere unversity
with the University have led the
regents to sue the state from time
to time to uphold the University's
autonomy. One such case occurred
after a 1982 state law ordered the
University to divest from apart-
heid South Africa.
The regents divested 90 percent
of the University's investments in
companies doing business in South
Africa, but kept the remainder in
order to defy the intrusive state
law - and ultimately to defeat it ; ,University
in court.
The University's constitutional
status has defused, deflected or
delayedhall sorts of politicaltnter
ference through the years, pre-
serving academic freedom and the
institution's self-determination
alike. Constitutional autonomy
helped in recent years when the
Michigan branch of the American
Family Association worked with
conservative legislators in an ulti-
mately futile attempt to stop the
University from offering a section To piay: Comp
of English 317 titled "How to Be and every
Gay."
Autonomy lets the regents set
tuition as they deem necessary to Themeis
uphold the University's academic
quality, even though frustrat-
ed parents might prefer lower
tuition in exchange for lower Difc
rankings.
Despite rulings that the Uni-
versity's constitutional autonomy
extends to its ability to set admis-
sions requirements, affirmative
action opponents were ultimate-
ly successful in changing the
University's admissions policies
- but it took more than one trip
to the supreme court and a state__
constitutional amendment to do
that.
In 2010, Michigan voters will
decide whether to hold another
state constitutional convention.
In an era of short-sighted polices
promoted by inexperienced, term-
limited state legislators, 160 years
of constitutional autonomy for the
state's flagship university could
come to an end. But the possibility
of the state meddling wouldn't be
the end of the world. At least there
will be fire insurance.

rule 19: It's almost
as cliche to complain
about Ugg boots as it
is to wear them. rule
20: Don't pretend
you're going to get in
shape just because it's
spring break. rule 21:
Think for yourself. But
always follow the rules
in The Statement.
Email rule submissions to
TheStatement@umich.edu

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