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April 04, 2007 - Image 13

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The Michigan Daily, 2007-04-04

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TeMcgnDaly - Wednesday, April 4, 2007
~ .. . 90
Changing your life 101
What would it take for you to give up a law career for social activism? Would it take
a war in Iraq? A crisis in New Orleans? Or maybe just an English class?

V U Uw

W.

Wensa, pi , 0 7 Te ihgn al -

our years ago, LSA senior
Karen Soell had a life plan.
After graduating from her
small Catholic high school in La
Crosse, Wisc., she would study
English and political science at the
University with the hopes of one day
going to a prestigious law school,
moving to New York City and
becoming a corporate lawyer. For a
while, everything was going accord-
ing to her plan. Then she took Eng-
lish 239 with Prof. William "Buzz"
Alexander.
Soell says Alexander's introduc-
tory English course, "What is Lit-
erature," changed her life.
She found herself taken in by
Alexander's conversational teach-
ing style, his faith in his students
and his belief in the power of art.
She eagerly enrolled in another one
of his courses, English 310.
It was this course - where stu-
dents conduct art and theater
workshops in juvenile correction
facilities and poor high schools
- that Soell was fully introduced to
Alexander's prison reform mission.

After that, it wasn't long bef
was taking part in hunger
and helping stage mock exe
on the Diag. To students i
in Alexander's courses, the;
important steps toward righ
group overlooked by most of
But to much of the rest of c
their fervent devotion to pr
well-being seemed a little str
Alexander came to the Un
as an assistant professor ofI
in 1971 after getting his Ba.
degree and doctorate from H
University. For his first few}
Ann Arbor, Alexander taug
tively run-of-the-mill cours
after working with peasan
munities in Peru in 1978 an
he returned to the Universit
mined to continue his socia
ism through teaching.
"I wanted to work in co
ties that had issues rather tE
working within the Univ
Alexander said. "I figured t
to do that was to create
where my students and I cc
that work."

By Walter Nowinski I Daily News Editor
fore she Alexander began experimenting versity, i
strikes with ways to engage in political and from or
cutions social activism through his cours- who wa
nvolved es. He began with a film course, in assignm
se were which students made films with sity cour
its for a labor unions and otheIleft-of-cen- life sent
society. ter organizations to help them with attendc
ampus, their campaigns. his cour
isoners' But he believed that humans act- ater wor
ange. ing onstage were more powerful the help
iversity than videos, and so he started teach- Those
English ingwhat he called aguerrilla theater inspired
chelor's course shortly thereafter. focus o
tarvard In the guerilla theater version toward1
years in of English 319, Alexander had his Prison C
ht rela- students act in unplanned, unan- Since
es. But nounced skits to advance various PCAP as
it com- causes. tobyma
id 1979, "We would disrupt classes or the with it, h
y deter- Diag social with theater related to in priso
it activ- various social justice causes," Alex- prisoner
ander said. scores of
mmuni- In 1990, two students, Mary wrapper
han just Glover and Joyce Dixson, enrolled
versity," in the course and changed its focus P
:he way dramatically. Glover and Dixson, Alexa
courses who were incarcerated in Florence are not
ould do Crain women's facility in Coldwater They ar
Mich. but still enrolled at the Uni- time con

had heard about English 319
ne of Alexander's students
s bringing them books and
ents for their other Univer-
rses. Since they were serving
ences, neither woman could
classes. Alexander brought
se to them and taught the-
rkshops in the prison with
of his other students.
e first prison workshops
Alexander to change the
f his English 319 course
prison art and to found the
reative Arts Project.
1992,Alexander's project, or
s it is affectionately referred
nyofthosewho areinvolved
has put on 210 original plays
ns, held 12 exhibitions of
'art and changed the lives of
& students who have become
d up in the project.
CAPERS FOR LIFE
nder's English 310 and 319
typical University courses.
e emotionally draining and
suming. They take students

from the relative comfort of Angell
Hall into the tense atmosphere of
Michigan penitentiaries. Students
are expected to hold regular work-
shops with inmates and students in
poor high schools.
And after they complete the
course, they are invited to join the
Prison Creative Arts Project. Some
become an associate of the project
after they graduate.
Alexander insists all students
interested in the course interview
beforehand to make sure they are
prepared for the course and believe
in the workthey would be doing and
the prisoners they would meet.
TakingAlexander's courses, con-
ducting art workshops in prisons
and working with the Prison Cre-
ative Arts Projectis atransformative
experience for many students. Over
the past 15 years, the project has
effectively created a campus subcul-
ture. There is also a network of more
than a hundred former students -
many of whom are dedicated social
activists - remain connected to the
See BUZZ, Page 7B

TALKING
POINTS
Three things you can talk about this week:
1. Getting arrested in Mary Sue Coleman's office
2. Keith Richards
3. Sam Zell
And three things you
can't:
1. How stressed you are
2. Cherry Blossoms
3. The White House's com-
mitment to climate change

QUOTES OF THE WEEK
It's fun to beinthe O-
R-D-E-R. They have
everything for a wolve
to enjoy. You can hang
out with all the boys
(and girls!) It's fun to be
in the O-R-D-E-R."
- Lyrics of a song by members of THE
ORDER OF THE ANGELL, a campus honor
society. The song was found in one of the
printers in the Fishbowl, according to the Left
Behind in the Fishbowl blog, ahfb.blogspot.

"The strangest thing I've tried
to snort? My father. I snorted
my father."
- KEITH RICHARDS on mixing his father's ashes
with cocaine and inhaling them. The rock star,
famous for playing with the Rolling Stones, added
that the ashes "went down pretty well."
"I heard four or five shots. I
really didn't see it. I got out of
there quick."
- JAS STANFORD, on the gunfire in the lobby of a
building in the CNN complex. Stanford had been work-
ing nearby when he heard the shot. An angry boyfriend
shot and killed his girlfriend. The shooter was shot and
wounded by a CNN security guard.

The doping scandal in your biology class
Unknown Unknowns j Science Column
By Kingson Man

he numbers are stark: 3 per-
cent of undergrads on this
campus have been prescribed
stimulants for attention-deficit
hyperactivity disorder. Another
eight percent of students have
abused those prescription drugs
illicitly. Somewhere along the way,
these prescription drugs find their
way from the hands of legitimate
ADHD patients to those of psycho-
stimulant abusers, many of whom
use them as study aides.
The less-charged, technical
name for this kind of trafficking of
prescriptions is "diversion." But as
the results of the most recent Stu-
dent Life Survey of undergradu-
ates at the University of Michigan
showed, the phenomenon of traf-
ficking study drugs on campus
is large enough to merit serious
attention.
In writing up the results of their
2005 study, directors Sean McCabe
and Carol Boyd of the Substance
Abuse Research Center quoted a
student admitting that "getting
Adderall and Ritalin are probably
easier than getting alcohol on this
campus."

In four years on this campus, I
haven't encountered that degree
of availability - but as the study
showed, prevalence and the use
of study drugs varies significantly
by social circle. Simply put, you
are more likely to use study drugs
depending on who you study with.
The researchers' statistical anal-
yses highlighted several risk fac-
tors. Membership in a fraternity or
sorority was found to significantly
increase the risk of abuse. Intrigu-
ingly, other factors were Jewish
religious affiliation and high family
household income.
Prescription painkillers were
also found to be abused in higher
rates among the white and affluent
ranks of the Greek system. It's an
uncomfortable stereotype to con-
front - rich frat dudes palming off
pills to each other - but the survey
data present a starting point for
further targeted research into the
phenomenon.
Mostoftheillicit traffickingwas,
predictably, conducted through
networks of friends. So the tightly
woven groups of Greek brothers
and sisters may simply be a more

efficient distribution channel.
But other ways of obtaining the
drugs - via prescription from a
doctor - are more troubling. Sav-
vier students study up on the lists
of diagnostic symptoms that the
doctors themselves use. Come
appointment day, they do their best
impressions of an Woody Allen
character.
Perhaps the Oscars should
Does abusing
prescription
meds trivialize
real illness?
include a category for best perfor-
mance in the role of an Adderall
user.
Physicians are trained to spot
drug-seeking behavior, but not all
of them are so vigilant - or so scru-
pulous. Some may be more lenient
simply out of empathy or gullibility.
The motivated thespian-junkie can

simply doctor-shop until he finds
one willingto pull outthe prescrip-
tion pad.
What motivates the illicit user?
Performance enhancement is cer-
tainly part of it. The allure of stay-
ing up for days to cram for this
exam or finish that paper is irre-
sistible to some.
For most, the instinctive
response to these abusers is self-
righteous disapproval. A student on
the straight-and-narrow might feel
the same revulsiontowards them as
to the news of Barry Bonds's dop-
ing: It is not just an unfair advan-
tage, it is unethical.
Is it possible that we are stuck in
an archaic line of thinking - that
unnatural enhancementmust come
with a moral taint? Perhaps the
psychostimulant abusers are the
enlightened ones, practicingibetter
living through chemistry.
The real problem here is the co-
optingand abuse of the terminology
ofpsychiatry. People sufferingfrom
psychological disorders already
have to bear enough social stigma.
Students who bend the rules to
illegally obtain prescription drugs

dilute the reality of psychological
illness for legitimate sufferers.
The.8 percent of users who don't
need the drugs ruin it for the 3 per-
cent who do. Real brain diseases
are cast into doubt and legitimate
sufferers are written off as lazy or
unmotivated.
Study drugs are amphetamines.
Sure, they are purified and cleaned
up a bit. They are manufactured in
pharmaceutical labs under qual-
ity-controlled settings as opposed
to a basement junkie cooking up
batches of Sudafed. But the chemi-
cal structures of the active ingredi-
ents are nearly identical.
For legitimate ADHD sufferers,
these uppers have the paradoxical
effect of calming down their manic
behavior. For everyone else, these
drugs have the opposite effect
and are simply prescription speed.
Unafflicted abusers of the drugs
claim that they are endowed with
supreme powers of concentration
and intense activity.
Whether that means powering
through 10-page papers or repeat-
edly washing all the dishes in the
house is another story.

BY THE NUMBERS
Number of dollars Democratic presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton
raised in the first quarter of the year
Number of dollars presidential contender Mitt Romney raised in
the same amount of time
Number of dollars Al Gore raised at this point in the election cycle
in 1999. Until this year, it was the record.
Source: The Washington Post and The New York Times

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