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December 04, 2007 - Image 4

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The Michigan Daily, 2007-12-04

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4 - Tuesday, December 4, 2007


The Michigan Daily - michigandaily.com

l e tic[ ig n wily

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


Unsigned editorials reflect the official position of the Daily's editorial board. All other signed articles
and illustrations represent solelytheviews of their authors.
The Daily's public editor, Paul H. Johnson, acts as the readers' representative and takes a critical look at
coverage andcontent in every section ofthe paper. Readers are encouraged to contactthe public editor
with questions andcomments. He can be reached atpubhliceditor@umich.edu.
MSAand you
Students must play a role in turning around student gov't
With all the controversy surrounding the Michigan Stu-
dent Assembly, it's easy for students to just tune out
and ignore the assembly completely. But aside from the
$7.19 you contribute to it every semester, MSA should matter to stu-
dents because it is their collective voice. MSA has worked on several
issues that affect students directly, like the leasing ordinance and
textbooks. Sure, progress has been slow, but students must share the
blame. How many were even aware that there was an MSA election
last week? How many of you voted? As deplorable as the assembly's
recent scandals are, its problems go beyond that, and they will never
be rectified if students don't get involved in their government.

One has to realize ... that you don't get to decide
how the news media is going to treat you."
- Controversial radio talk show host Don Imus during his first show since being pulled
off the air eight months ago for making racially insensitive remarks about the Rutgers women's basketball team.
D oes 20 people at a meeting when it comes to political debates. The The Daily typically provides more
constitute a front-page story? ideais that "gotcha"journalism doesn't thorough coverage during the spring
That's what some readers serve the public good and only encour- elections, when MSA executive board
were asking in response to a story in ages candidates and politicians to be positions are up for grabs. It's cover-
Monday's paper more concerned about how they pres- age includes endorsements by the edi-
about a group of ent themselves to the public instead of torial page.
students attempt- honestly airing their views. And the I would suggest in the future
ing to launch an truth is, a lot of the trivial makes its though that the Daily run at least
effort to force wayinto political coverage.While read- some short statements on each of the
Michigan Student ers like to think they are high-minded candidates in the race with some basic
Assembly Presi- and want only substantive news, often information about their positions for
dent Zack Yost out what one person finds trivial, another the fall election. This is a way to give
of office (Students finds vitally important. I think the let- candidates at least some voice in the
launch effort to oust PAUL H. ters to the Daily over l'affaire Facebook paper in the upcoming elections, even
Yost, 12/03/2007). demonstrate this divide. if their candidacy doesn't warrant a
I don't think the JOHNSON The fear over this controversy is full-fledged news story.
question really was that if all the Daily is doing is sham-
about the story - considering the low ing Yost, then he'll know never to say
turnout for the recent MSA election, anything controversial again, but he Coverage of M SA
20 people could almostbe seen as a sig- won't actually change his behavior.
nificant part of the University's voting Also, there are concerns that the real * e *ai
population. I think readers complained problems in MSA are getting lost in in the Daily: Unfair
about the story as a way to criticize the shuffle of news coverage.
what they perceived as a piling on by But I think the real lesson over the or incomplete.
the Daily on Yost and his now-infa- Facebook controversy is this: Every-
mous Facebook.com group. In the last thing is fair game in politics. The
week alone, there have been three sto- Daily's responsibility isn't to restrain Another issue raised by the cover-
ries about the controversy and an edi- itself from reporting controversial age of Yost and his Facebook group
torial asking Yost to step down - not to facts that may or may not turn out was the use of profanity. In the article
mention an opinion piece by Yost him- to be trivial in the long run. Its job is titled "MSA president under fire for
self apologizing for his actions. to make sure the facts it does report Facebook group that mocked rep,"
How should a newspaper handle accurately represent the controversies appeared a quotation that read: "I'll
this sort of controversy? Anyone who facing MSA and its responsibilities to give thatkidafucking disabilityhe can
has followed the mainstream media its students. write home about if he keeps sending
has been frustrated by the level of Which leads us to the student elec- these code amendments to everyone."
political discourse, which can some- tion: Did the Daily do enough to publi- Daily Editor in Chief Karl Stampfl
times seem like grade-school name- cize the election? The problem is that said that the quote was absolutely
calling. Just look at the coverage of much of the Michigan Action Party necessary to provide context to the
the presidential campaign: Articles faced slim opposition in the campaign story. Stampfl said the paper has a
accused Barack Obama of being unpa- for the assembly, and a rather uncon- more tolerant attitude about the use
triotic when he didn't hold his hand tested electiongenerally doesn'tresult of profanity than most mainstream
over his heart during the pledge of in a high number of news stories. newspapers.
allegiance, and there was another "It was borderline uncontested," "It's consistentwiththe spirit of the
series of stories asking whether Hill- said David Mekelburg, the associate Daily and its openness," Stampfl said.
ary Clinton wore a dress that was too news editor who coordinates MSA
revealing during a Senate speech. coverage. Paul H. Johnson is the Daily's
Often it might seem newspapers The fall elections are the equiva- public editor. He can be reached
value the trivial over the substantive lent of midterm elections for MSA. at publiceditor@umich.edu.

Out of those eligible to vote, only about
one out of 20 students (5.3 percent) voted.
Even that number is deceptively high in
gauging meaningful turnout, because
there were numerous joke write-in votes
like "Santa Clause," "Mmm Chicken Nug-
gets" and "My Dog's Bunghole." If our
student government lacks organization,
authority and accountability, it's entirely
the fault of the students who either do not
vote, or worse, contribute to making the
whole process a joke.
Democratic representatives at all lev-
els have a strong incentive to only listen to
those constituents who are most likely to
speak up and raise hell. MSA, of course, is
no different. It is a large group, and it deals
with countless student groups about just
about every activity and issue imaginable.
Unless students make their presence felt in
elections, during campaigns and at weekly
MSA meetings, their interests will probably
be ignored by their student representatives
- out of sheer lack of knowledge about what
students want, if nothing more destructive.
Voting in MSA elections is incred-
ibly easy. There is no registering, and you
don't even have to leave your chair. Vot-
ing via any computer takes 10 minutes at
most, and that's if you decide to read over
the candidates' platforms (conveniently
included on the voting website). If students
were to take the time to read over these
-K ? .SEn
Simply ousting Yostfails to
address largerproblem
I am frustrated with the discourse that has
transpired from the recent events regarding
the University's student leaders. Based on the
articles in The Michigan Daily and a letter by
an associate dean (MSA leaders fail to live up
to University values, 11/29/2007), one would
think the best solution to the leadership prob-
lem is to publicly shame the Michigan Student
Assembly and its president, Zack Yost, and
then fire him. The more important question
here is: How can we engage in strategic action
that uses this as an opportunity for all affected
parties, including the University, to learn to
prevent future reprehensible?
The calls for Yost's resignation do not solve
the problem of student leaders holding views
antithetical to the mission of the University. If
we just forced one person out of office, other
representatives holding similar views - sev-
eral of whom still occupy our student leader-
ship - would simply take it asa lesson to not to
write them down and get caught again.
Of course this would do nothing to address
the underlying problems with leadership on
student government. I think MSA can come
out from this a better assembly, but it will take
more than the outing of one person.
I challenge MSA and those on the body that
are under fire to complete a year-long commu-
nity service project that engages the insulted
communities on campus. A complete solution
to this endemic problem will not come from
me, but from the university community's dis-
course. In the coming days, will we take the
opportunity to grow and learn from this inci-
dent, or will we squander it?
Stuart Wagner
The letter writer is an alum and aoformer member of
Transgender rights issue
must not be stifled

platforms, most of the problems with MSA
would become far clearer than any edito-
rial could make them.
From lofty campaign promises with no
basis in the terrestrial to recycled propos-
als that sound good butwon't getanywhere,
candidates for MSA get away with a lot of
fluff while seeking election. Once they'are
on the assembly, they become part of a
body that is supposed to be a public repre-
sentation of the students but is more often
an exclusive club of inaction and complete
isolation from the student base. There are
good representatives and leaders on MSA,
of course, but they should not be the few
Students should attend MSA meetings
on Tuesday nights at 7:30 p.m. in MSA
Chambers on the third floor of the Michi-
gan Union. Going to MSA meetings should
be a regular activity for students who care
about campus. Knowing that the students
are directly watching their every move,
MSA representatives will think twice
about how they can best serve the student
body through thoughtful leadership.
If students were more involved in MSA,
it would have more incentive to represent
the student body well. Contrary to popu-
lar belief, MSA is important, and it does
take action to help students. How much it
helps students, though, is not only up to the
assembly - it's also up to you.
less than absurd: Mak was not trying to raise
funds, invite students to attend an event or
have a bake sale, as is the goal of most Diag-
related events. Rather he was commenting on
a social issue that he feels very strongly about
and that is largely ignored.
I fail to see how standing out on the Diag
would have changed the fact that the trans-
gender community is up against extreme odds,
as is devastatingly obvious in the need to have
a national day of remembrance to commemo-
rate those who took their own lives. The lack
of attention the nationals day of remembrance
was given only points to the need for more
attention to be paid to the transgender com-
munity so that more lives do not meet such a
tragic end. This is a problem stemming from
our own society. I congratulate Mak on his
bravery for raising this issue in such a public
forum and sincerely hope that many others
will follow his example.
Stephanie Lennon
LSA senior

Governmentfor sale

Sen. Trent Lott (R-Miss.), the
minority whip, announced on
Nov. 26 that he would resign
from the Senate by the end of the year.
Lott isn't under
fire for anything,
but instead, he is
leaving to pursue
an exciting and
rewarding career
as a lobbyist.
Congress recent-
ly passed a law that
extends the period ROBERT
that ex-congress- SOAVE
men must wait
before becoming
lobbyists from one year to two years:
Lott can be exempt from that law
if he leaves before it takes effect on
Jan. 1. The fact that a leading senator
would so readily jump ship to pursue
a career in lobbying reflects a danger-
ous trend among our elected officials
toward a practice that is fundamen-
tally undemocratic.
Lobbying took a place in Ameri-
can politics during the infamously
corrupt reign of President Ulysses S.
Grant (1869-1877). The name refers to
the lobby of the Willard Hotel, where
Grant went to smoke cigars because
his wife would not let him smoke in
the White House. People who wanted
to influence policy decisions soon
realized that this was an ideal place
to approach the president. Today lob-
bying is more commonly applied to
private groups who bribe Congress
with money and gifts on behalf of
special interests. Though lawmak-
ers once considered it demeaning to
become lobbyists after leaving office,
in recent years this stigma has com-
pletely vanished.
Why would someone want to
exchange a prestigious position inside
the government for a job influenc-
ing it from the outside? The reason is

that lobbyists can make more money,
especially insiders who know the leg-
islative system as well as Lott. This
may be good news for talented ex-
congressmen, but it is an unfortunate
consequence for the health of democ-
racy. Lobbyists make Congress more
dependent upon money from elite
groups and more detached from the
voices of the voters.
For proof of the ill effects of lob-
byist groups on legislative decisions,
Michigan residents need look no fur-
ther than the 6 percent service tax
increase that was passed by the state
legislature on Oct. 1. The lobbyists
certainly made their mark on the list
of services that dodged the tax: The
absence of sporting events from the
list of taxed services reflects on the
strength of that lobby, and the inclu-
sion of the carpet cleaners reveals its
weakness. It should be obvious that
janitorial, fortune-telling and house-
sitting services were included on the
list because these services are not
wealthy enough to buy an effective
lobby. The culture of lobbying keeps
the wealthier services relatively safe
from governmental interference, and
everyone else foots the bill.
Thankfully, the unfair service tax
won't go into effect because it was
wisely repealed on Dec. 1. Though the
smaller service industries in Michi-
gan are temporarily safe, they never
shouldhave foundthemselvesinsucha
position at all. Representative democ-
racy means that our elected officials
should be paying attention to what the
voters want, not what wealthy special
interests want. And voters should be
outraged that the government can be
bought by wealthy lobbies.
Congress has made numerous
attempts to reform lobbying practic-
es, but cunning ex-congressmen who
know the ins and outs of the system
always eventually circumvent these

half-hearted laws. Unfortunately,
Congressmen have little reason to
worry about the influence of lobbyists,
because they are the ones benefiting
from this systematic bribery. Lobby-
ist groups provide significant financial
support to lawmakers who vote their
way. If voters somehow manage to
overcome the lobbyist group's support
and throw out the corrupted lawmak-
er, this individual can simply become
a lobbyist and make even more money.
The very fact that Lott would rather be
a lobbyist than an influential senator is
proof that the lobbyists are winning -
proof that the government is for sale.
Lott moving into
the group that has
the real power.
The expansion of a government that
is no longer accountable to voters is a
frightening thought. Sadly, voters may
never be able to take back the demo-
cratic process from wealthy special
interest groups. The best thing to do
now is to scale back the size of the gov-
ernment by any means necessary.
Lott should be ashamed of him-
self for cashing in on the influence
of wealthy elites on the government.
Our elected officials should stand up
to special interests on our behalf, not
abandon us in order to give and take
bribes on behalf of special interests.
If representative democracy is con-
verting to a dollar-driven tyranny of
the elite, we need to challenge the
system before it gets completely out
of our control.
Robert Soave can be reached
at rsoave@umich.edu.



Coleman ignores legitimate
needs of disabledfans
What is it about disabled people that turns
students and faculty members into hateful and
discriminatory monsters? While University
President Mary Sue Coleman preaches sus-
taining and developing diversity and foster-
ing a campus climate that values everyone in
the community, she doesn't include those of us
who are disabled in her philosophy.
As a disabled person, there are more than 15
buildings on Central Campus that I cannottake
classes in because they have no elevators and I
cannot use the stairs. And I have never been to
a football game because I can't get a seat. Cole-
man has said that building more handicap-
accessible seats at the stadium would be a waste
of resources because "it doesn't make sense to
reserve hundreds of additional seats for dis-
abled fans when the University" has never had
more than 95 requests for wheelchair-acces-
sible seats at a single football game (Coleman:
'U' Can't Comply with ADA, 11/28/2007).
Of course we don't request seats. The first
three times I requested one I was told that it
was impossible to get one. So I gave up. And
by the way, not all people who are disabled are
wheelchair-bound. Coleman uses semantics,
substituting "repairs" for "renovations" to get
away with discriminatory practices and ignor-
ing federal law. So while we are thinking about
ousting Michigan Student Assembly President
Zack Yost, I would suggest ousting Coleman.
Ruth Barken
LSA senior


Emad Ansari, Anindya Bhadra, Kevin Bunkley, Ben Caleca, Jon Cohen, Milly Dick, Mike Eber, Gary Graca,
Emmarie Huetteman, Theresa Kennelly, Emily Michels, Kate Peabody, Robert Soave, Jennifer Sussex, Neil
Tambe, Matt Trecha, Radhika Upadhyaya, Rachel Van Gilder, Rachel Wagner, Patrick Zabawa

Ted Byrne's letter last week (Transgender
peoplemustmakethemselves heard, 11/30/2007)
written in response to another letter from
Cayden Mak regarding the recent Transgender
Day of Awareness (Daily fails to do its part for
awareness, 11/26/2007) was appalling. Byrne's
letter is a blatant personal attack and should
not have been printed. Mak was discussing
issues surrounding a group that already faces
immense odds. He should be commended for
his efforts to bring forward these issues.
Byrne's statements that Mak should have
taken to the Diag to raise awareness are no

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