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October 30, 2007 - Image 4

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The Michigan Daily, 2007-10-30

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4 - Tuesday, October 30, 2007

The Michigan Daily - michigandaily.com

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Edited and managed by students at
the University of Michigan since 1890.
420 Maynard St.
Ann Arbor, MI 48109

I've disappointed you. I'm so sorry"
- Oprah Winfrey, responding to reports of an abuse scandal at her South African
girls' school, as reported yesterday by the New York Post.
The copycatproblem



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.
The Daily's public editor, Paul H. Johnson, acts as the readers' representative and takes a critical look at
coverage and content in every section of the paper. Readers are encouraged to contact the public editor
with questions and comments. He canbe reached at publiceditor@umich.edu.
Start the presses
University Press's wavering is inexplicable and inexcusable
T he University of Michigan Press is supposed to be devoted
to publishing books that "contribute to public understand-
ing and dialogue about contemporary political, social, and
cultural issues." Sometimes that means defending controversial
books, and it doesn't get much more controversial than the Israeli-
Palestinian debate,

After a deviant act is commit-
ted in America today, copycat
behavior is inevitable. Whether
mimicry is due to
the excessive pub-
licity that follows
such behavior or
ed people being
inspired by others'
actions, imitations
of school shootings,
suicides and the THERESA
asinine stunts per- KN EL
formed on "Jack- Y
ass" are practically
The hottest form of deviance among
copycats today? Hanging nooses.
The event that fueled this growing
trend is the notorious incident that
occurred in Jena, La. on Sept. 1, 2006.
As students filed into Jena High School
that morning, three nooses hung from
*what some call the "whites-only" tree.
They were allegedly hung by white
students in reaction to a black stu-
dent's decision to sit under the tree the
previous day.
The motivation for hanging the
nooses has been repeatedly contested
- was it actually a hate crime or just
an inside joke of the school's rodeo
team? Even if the nooses themselves
are overlooked, however, what fol-
lowed is undeniable. Days after the
incident, black students silently sat
around the "white tree" in protest,
prompting the school's administra-
tion to call a school assembly fea-
turing Jena District Attorney Reed
Walters. As black and white students
sat separate from each other, the DA
verbally threatened them, saying he
could make their lives "disappear"
with the stroke of his pen.
On Dec. 1, 2006, a black student,
Robert Bailey, was beaten up after

entering a barn dance with only white
people in attendance; one white man
was prosecuted for simple battery after
the incident. Then on Dec. 4, a white
student, Justin Barker, was beaten up
in the Jena High School courtyard
after bragging to friends about the
barn dance fight. Five black students,
including Bailey, were charged with
attempted murder for the fight by the
same DA from the assembly.
nooses were hung has been chopped to
pieces and the three white students
accused of hanging the nooses are yet
to receive anything more than school
suspensions for their actions.
Ever since the incident, nooses have
popped up in schools, offices, lockers.
and parks around the country. In early
September, a noose was hung from a
tree outside a black student group cen-
ter atthe University of Maryland. Since
then, a noose was found outside a black
professor's office at Columbia Univer-
sity, at a John Mellencamp concert at
Indiana State University and on a stat-
ue of Tupac Shakur in Georgia. One
was drawn onto a high school student's
car in Alabama. Twenty more nooses
have turned up in the Jena area.
Nooses have been hung for decades
as a form of racial intimidation, but
their augmented presence in America
suggests that people have been incited
by the highly public Jena events. The
symbolic representation of a noose - a
reminder of slavery and lynchings - is
enoughtomake it condemnable by fed-
eral hate-crime laws. Last week, the
New York state Senate was driven by
the rise in noose hangings to make ita
felony to threateningly display or draw
them. This is a first step for halting the
noose trend and combating similar
hate-based crimes.
Yet beyond the legislation, how can
we move past these recent incidents

involving nooses? Is there any way to
stop copycats from displaying their
racial intolerance other than by legal
intimidation? The short answer is no.
The long answer is yes - if enough
education, legislation and responsible
guidance are pursued in every Ameri-
can community.
Call it dollar store philosophy, but if
racial intimidation is not condemned
in every community and if hate-crime
offenders or racially divided commu-
nities are not rehabilitated so as to
encourage more acceptance, the bla-
tant acts of intolerance will continue.
Nooses show that
racism is alive and
well in America.
It may be unfair to call out Jena for
its symbolic racism; nooses are not
specific to the city, and race problems
exist everywhere, The DA has writ-
ten a response in The New York Times
defending his actions, and no connec-
tion has been officially determined
between the nooses and the fighting.
Yet despite the minutiae of the inci-
dent, with the publicity the city has
received - andwill continue to receive
- it is imperative that Jena proceed in
a racially conscious manner. Given how
much the Jena incident was imitated,
the city is likely to set a precedent by
how it moves forward from this point.
If even all this publicity cannot drive
racism from Jena, how can things
change in the rest of the country?
Theresa Kennelly is an associate
editorial page.editor. She can be
reached at thenelly@umich.edu.

Unfortunately, in deciding whether to
continue distributing Bard College Prof.
Joel Kovel's book, "Overcoming Zionism"
and whether or not to renew its contract
with the book's publisher, Pluto Press,
the University Press undermined all of its
supposed values. Although the University
Press made the right decisions in the end,
along the way it wavered on its commit-
ment to protecting academic debate and
cowered behind decisions that lacked any
Not everyone will or should agree with
Kovel's book. Printed by Pluto Press, a Left-
ist independent publisher based in Britain,
"Overcoming Zionism" argues that the ide-
ology of Zionism amounts to "state-spon-
sored racism," which is incompatible with
democracy. The book goes further to say
that in order to achieve peace in the Israe-
li-Palestinian conflict, Zionism must be
rejected in favor of a secular, single-state,
democratic solution.
As criticisms of the book surfaced, the
University Press balked at defending
its reasoning for distributing the book.
Instead, last August, the press's director,
Phil Pochoda, decided to halt distribution,
simply citing "serious questions raised by
several members of the University com-
munity about the book." In other words,
some people objected to a controversial
book, and the press, rather than defend-
ing the principles it exists to serve, simply
backed down.
There is no doubt that some people will
have objections to Kovel's contentions, but
is there any reason besides complacency
and cowardice that those contentions
should not be presented into the debate?
The book has received its fair share of sup-
port, too - from historian Howard Zinn,
for example. While people may not agree
with the content of the book, it does add to
the debate, and it is exactly the type of book

the University Press should print.
A month after stopping distribution of
the book, the University Press's execu-
tive board actually reviewed the book and
decided to resume distribution. However,
the controversy surrounding this particu-
lar book continued and the University Press
considered whether it should continue to
distribute books printed by Pluto in the
future. While the University Press did ulti-
mately announce its decision to renew its
contract with Pluto late last week, it waited
several days before releasing its decision,
continuing to hide from the controversy
The University Press should have never
stopped the distribution of Kovel's book in
the first place, and the decision to contin-
ue distributing Pluto Press's books should
have never been questioned. For all the
high-minded defense of academic debate,
the true test is what we do under pressure,
and the University Press proved unable to
live up to its ideal.
When criticisms of this book emerged,
the University needed to visibly defend the
author's right to make a well-informed but
controversial argument. If the University
Press feels that a certain book is so hateful
that it must be censored, such a decision
still should only be made after a careful
review like the one in September - not
simply by the knee-jerk reaction of any
one person. Pochoda should never have
been allowed to stop distribution without
a reasonable explanation. Why should he
be able to work against the values of our
institution as a whole? His brash decision
may have been a mistake, and it damages
our University's reputation as a staunch
champion of free and open debate.
If the University Press hopes to uphold
its own values and those of the institution
it is named for, it will often have to defend
controversial books. It cah't choose to
selectively duck that responsibility.

Student think tanks

Emad Ansari, Kevin Bunkley, Ben Caleca, Milly Dick, Mike Eber, Gary Graca, Emmarie
Huetteman, Theresa Kennelly, Emily Michels, Robert Soave, Gavin Stern, Jennifer
Sussex, Neil Tambe, Matt Trecha, Radhika Upadhyaya, Rachel Wagner, Patrick Zabawa
Proposed MSA reforms

As students we are often per-
ceived as slackers, stoners and just
plain lazy. Some studies have shown
that this generation is the most
politically apathetic ever - a tough
hurdle for the budding policy wonks
among us. But in this cynical world
of war, radicalism and backward
thinking, it is getting harder to sit
idly and watch our opportunity to
incite change pass by.
The college-aged population has
been continuously left out of the
policy debate. Few realize, however,
that we are an untapped resource.
As students, we have every tool at
our fingertips - new technology,
access to
an abun- This viewpoint is
of infor- the second in a
mation, series about the
brilliant p
academic present state of
men- student activism.
tors and
inquisitive minds. Why can't we be
the ones who influence the policy
of tomorrow with the skills we are
developing today?
The Roosevelt Institution, the
nation's first student think tank,
has sparked the beginning of a
policymaking revolution by foster-
ing a progressive outlet for college
students. Across the country, Roos-
evelt Institution chapters have been
established at more than 70 univer-
sities and formed a well-connected
network of college students, work-
ing together to have our policies
heard and voices legitimized.
The University of Michigan chap-
ter - founded in the winter of 2006
- began as 12 kids meeting at a
greasy table in the Union lap Room.
In a little more than a year, we have
grown into one of the largest chap-
ters in the country with more than
100 members and a reputation for
being one of the most active student
organizations. We attribute our suc-
cess to the draw of our unique form

of student activism
We are the new student activism.
We seek to redefine the image and
role of students in the public policy
arena. Instead of the traditional
protest/activist culture, we have
adopted a proactive approach, using
policy solutions to directly bring
about the change we wish to see. It
is a positive activism that promotes
the innovation of concrete solutions
to combat the problems and injus-
tices in our world. Roosevelt Insti-
tution members research, write,
publish and implement policy ideas
based on their interests and pas-
sions. We also aim to form a base of
progressive leadership and use that
to cement our place in the policy
is simple: Yell as loud as you want, as
long as you have facts to back it up.
While we want to draw attention to
the pressing issues on the national
policy agenda, we also seek to make
student activism more intelligent,
more legitimate to policy makers and
more effective through policy solu-
tions and fact-based initiatives.
As a student think tank, the Roos-
evelt Institution's ultimate goal is
to be a resource for student organi-
zations and work with the existing
activist community to put on origi-
nal, inspiring and informed cam-
pus awareness events. We hope to
explore the issues of interest to our
members, student groups and the
activist culture on campus, and work
on addressing solutions to those
problems together.
The University chapter of the
Roosevelt Institution made a name
for itself last semester with "Roos-
evelt Relief: Hurricane Katrina," a
four-month-long project in which
all six of our policy centers worked
together to identify solutions for Gulf
Coast disaster relief. Our members
produced 10 innovative polices like
long-term mental health funding for
victims, soil amelioration and levee

reconstruction techniques. Forty
Roosevelt fellows were published
in the Roosevelt Relief Policy Publi-
cation, which has been distributed
widely and viewed by advocates,
charities and politicians across the
The project culminated in April
2007 with a week-long summit, in
conjunction with the Gulf Coast
Civic Works Project and universi-
ties across the country. The week of
events included movie screenings, a
Policy Event Challenge and a key-
note address by Lt. General Russel
Honor6, leader of the Katrina Joint
Taskforce. In the end, the University
chapter of the Roosevelt Institution
was able to gain national attention
through the GCCWP and donate
more than $1,000 to Gulf Coast
charities and advocacy groups. Most
important, the Roosevelt Relief stu-
dent policies made an impact on the
ground and contributed to the posi-
tive change for which their authors
This year, the Roosevelt Institu-
tion is looking to capitalize on last
semester's success by working on
a variety of initiatives. In the fall,
we plan to facilitate a campus-wide
discussion concerning community
development and urban planning
in Detroit. In addition, we intro-
duced a new policy center looking
specifically into China, an economic
project focusing on Africa, a vot-
ing rights policy initiatives and a
regional project related to Great
Lakes restoration.
As the membership and scope of
the Roosevelt Institution increases,
that aforementioned epidemic of stu-
dent apathy seems more and more
like a myth. Campus activism contin-
ues to thrive as a student-generated
policymaking revolution, and the
Roosevelt Institution is at its heart.
Stephanie Somerman and Hilary
Doe are co-presidents of the University
chapter of the Roosevelt Institution.


A Michigan Student Assembly representa-
tive was recently charged with using a com-
puter to commit a crime and interfere with
an electronic communication device. This is
an unfortunate situation, and I hope no one
will pass judgment until the matter is fully
resolved. Everyone is innocent until proven
guilty, and I stand firmly by everyone on
MSA through this process. It is the court's
job to determine guilt or innocence.
To make time to properly attend to his
personal matters, the MSA representative in
question has stepped aside from his position
as chair of MSA's Budget Priorities Commit-
tee: Meanwhile, it is my job to make sure
MSA runs smoothly, effectively and respon-
sibly. While we face a difficult circumstance,
this is a great opportunity to take an intro-
spective look at self-governance and how we
can make MSA better. ,
In that vein, I pledge to you that MSA will
continue to work tirelessly for students.-Our
work for you will remain as strong as it has
always been. Accomplishments like remov-
ing the loophole from the lease signing ordi-
nance, fighting for freedom of gender identity
and gender expression, planning events like
homecoming and organizing a rally to pro-
test mid-year tuition hikes are just some of
the things we've done so far. MSA will also
push hard to bring more lighting to student

housing areas, finding creative solutions so
everyone can watch our sports teams' on
television and making the financial aid pro-
cess smoother and more transparent.
Further, as MSA president, I am going to
take some steps to rectify this situation and
make sure that similar circumstances don't
arise in the future. In the next few weeks I
plan to do several things. First, I will reach
out to the Department of Public Safety to
create a joint DPS-MSA committee to bring
more people into the conversation about how
we function as a university and how MSA
functions as a student government. I will
also open a dialogue (that anyone is welcome
to join) to examine the campaign rules gov-
erning our elections. Finally, I will ensure
that the Budget Priorities Committee will
not miss a beat in the midst of its leadership
change and will continue to help hundreds
of outstanding student organizations on our
Like I said before, this is a difficult time,
but we've got some great things going on and
we would love for you to get involved with
MSA. Shoot us an e-mail at msa.info@umich.
edu to talk to us about how we can get you
on board.
Zack Yost is president of the
Michigan Student Assembly.

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