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April 04, 2007 - Image 12

Resource type:
The Michigan Daily, 2007-04-04

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table of contents
From the pages of The Michigan Daily,
relive the defining moments of the 2006-
2007 academic year.
Students in William "Buzz" Alexander's
classes walk away with a passion for,
prisoners' rights. Are they inspired by the
cause, or is it the class?

A look at the big news events this week and how important they really are. Conveniently rated from one to 10.
In a justification that KarltRove would have Former Republican presidential front run-
been proud of,the University cited a post-Sept. ner John .McCain reinforced his maverick
11 securitycrackdown when campus police reputation last week when hereported rais-
removed 12 studentactivistsfromthe Flem- ing a paltry $10 million. Unfortunately for
0 10 ingAdministration Building. No word yet on 0 5 McCain, reporting poor fundraising is not
6 whether the Departmentof Public Safety is quite the way he wanted to set him selftapart
monitoringactivists'e-mail accounts. from the other candidates.

The Supreme Court ruled this week that the
Environmental Protection Agency does, in
fact, have the authority to control carbon
10 emissions. The rulingwas a blow to the Bush
Administration, which had argued that the
regulatory agency's function was something
other than regulating the environment.

In a standoff with Republicans over how to
fix the state's budget crisis, Gov. Granholm
ordered state agencies to prepare for a pos-
t0 sible government shutdown sometime next
month. But a shutdown might have a bright
side - perhaps it will force Granholm to show
leadershipfor thefirst time during her tenure.
10rule 31: Penalties
for poor attendance
tsim OF MICHIGAN is a practice that ,
should end after
12th grade. rule
32: Starbucks is not
a cultural hub. Buy
LU your coffee there,
not your books.
rule 33: While
apartment shop-
w, CQlu ping, don't believe
1 t 9 landlords who tell
you coin laundry
enjoy! will be convenient.

From page 6B
project and committed to prison
reform long after graduation.
Soell said Alexander's classes
changed the course of her life by
"180 degrees."Instead oflaw school,
she is now looking to go into prison-
er advocacy work when she gradu-
ates at the end of the month.
RC senior Laura Rosvrow, who
first took Alexander's English 319
course her sophomore year, said
it changed the way she thought
about herself. She went on to con-
duct workshops modeled off of
Alexander's classes in Senegal when
she studied abroad there her junior
year. Like many of the students
interviewed for this article, Rosv-
row, who is basing her senior thesis
partly on Alexander's course, spoke
of her experiences in his class as a
kind of life mission. She frequently
referred to the Alexander's course
and the Prison Creative Arts Proj-
ect not as a class, but as "my work"
or "the work." And like everyone
interviewed for this article, she
spoke collectively and with a sense
of ownership of the Prison Creative
Arts Project and everyone involved
in it.
Emi Kaneko, a first-year law stu-
dent at Wayne State University, has
been returning to help with the
annual Prison Creative Arts Project
exhibition since she graduated from
the University in 2005. She said she
wasn't sure if she would pursue a
field of law that allowed her to advo-
cate for prisoners yet, but that she
needs to have volunteering with
prisoners as a part of her life.
"(Buzz) definitely influenced me
the most with my long term life,"
she said "With what I need to do
with my life."
But not everyone who takes the
class is comfortable with the culture
that has grown up around the proj-
ect. For some students, the tight-
knit group is more disconcerting
than enlightening.
Alexander's courses are emotion-
ally intense both inside the prisons
and in the classrooms. He teaches in
an informal setting and asks tough
questions while allowing the stu-
dents to do most of the talking.
Soell described her English 310
class as being like a family - where
you could share anything.
other students echoed Soell's
sentiment, describing Alexander's
courses as an interment setting
where you felt a strong bond with
the other students.
Alexander's teaching style - his
intense questioning - also fostered
a strong loyalty to him and a desire
to meet his expectations among
many students.
"He has a lot of faith in people,"
Rosvrow said. "And that makes you
rise to higher expectations."
But after a while, talking to stu-
dents involved with the Prison Cre-
ative Arts Project starts to sound a

bit like talking to Alexander him-
self. And for some students, the
strong message that pervades the
classroom can create a sort of echo
chamber that stifles some bigger
RC senior Caitlin Graziano,
who took Alexander's English 319
course, said the class had a distinct
culture and dynamic. She said this
dynamic was partly related to the
group's composition. "It's an enclave
of really liberal women," Graziano
said. "It's multi-white."
But she said she was able to find
her place in the group culture.
"It is a group of people who work
really hard and are very proud of
what they do," Graziano said. "But
I remain critical of the way that we
talk, there is a rhetoric that gets eas-
ily exchanged without any helpful
Graziano said she had some
friends who were involved in the
project, but she grew discouraged
with the group dynamic and left.
"They loved their workshops and
the mission of the group, but they
got frustrated with this easy rheto-
ric that people fall into," she said.
For Graziano, the familiar-
ity and echo-chamber mentality of
what she said was a majority-white
group became repetitive and stifled
productive dialogue about the pris-
on system.
"I have had my fair share of criti-
cisms," Graziano said. "Like why are
all these kids following (Buzz)?"
To the rest of the campus, see-
ing Alexander's students simulate-
executions in costume on the Diag
and burst into classes to promote
the Prison Creative Arts Project can
raise some questions. Why are these
students so passionate about this
class? And isn't there something
about the Prison Creative Arts Proj-
ect that seems a bit cultish?
Maybe there is. In the middle
of an unpopular war, and amid
a drought of student activism, it
takes a particularly magnetic per-
sonality to get students on the Diag
protesting anything, let alone the
well-being of prisoners. There's
something more than a good cause,
there's something about Alexander
and his classes, that gets students to
abandon their law careers for low-
paying social work.
It's a powerful feeling to learn
about a problem one day and be told
how to fix it the next. People come
to college to find a purpose in life
and for many, English 310 offers and
ready-made answer. That might not
be such abad thing. As part of a gen-
eration fixated on success, many stu-
dents who first enroll in Alexander's
class might never have considered
campaigning for social justice.
Despite her reservations about
the Prison Creative Arts Project
subculture, Graziano stayed with
the project and, like Soell, became
another solider in Alexander's cam-
paign to reform the prison system.
"(Buzz) was pivotal to me," Gra-
ziano said. "He certainly gave my life
a momentum and a focus on prisor
reform that Iam still sticking with."

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