4 - Friday, September 19, 2008
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The Michigan Daily - michigandaily.com
This has been the worst financial crisis
since the Great Depression. There is no
question about it."
- Mark Gertler, an economist at New York University, explaining the urgency of the
U.S. financial crisis, as reported yesterday by The Wall Street Journal.
EDITOR IN CHIEF
EDITORIAL PAGE EDITOR
MAX FABICK I
E-MAIL MAX AT FABICKM@UMICH.EDU
Unsigned editorials reflect the official position oftthe Daily's editorial board. All other signed articles
and illustrations represent solely the views ofttheir authors.
An online upgrade
Moving evaluations online saves paper, opens opportunity
R educe, reuse, recycle - that's basic, kindergartener envi-
ronmentalism. Lately, the University has been pouncing
on the first, and most important, part of that mantra by
reducing its energy consumption with initiatives like Planet Blue.
It seems inevitable then that the University would end up cut-
ting out a few more of its not-so-eco-friendly habits. One of those
habits is its enormous paper use. So the University is convert-
ing course evaluations to an online format. Besides being a great
saver of paper, this switch could help make course evaluations a
more valuable tool for students.
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Fa R THE D6C. 5v TS'. R T FDEmoaR#Tic W 7y 1THlIK TAW (Too.
Defending the five-year plan
Traditionally, the University has admin-
istered course evaluations on paper at the
end of each semester. That process used
more than 500,000 paper scantrons and
an uncounted amount of supplemental sur-
veys. The University has decided to move
these surveys online. The evaluations will
now be instantaneous, no scanning or man-
ual entry of written comments necessary.
Welcome to the Internet Age. Moving
course evaluations online is an obvious
improvement, especially in terms of envi-
ronmental friendliness. Filling out a sur-
vey on paper has no real advantage over
filling out a survey online, and it has the
great downfall of unnecessarily using a
ton of paper.
As many people have noted, though,.the
biggest concern about online course eval-
uations is participation. Many students
already don't give these evaluations much
thought - quickly bubbling a row of fours
- simply to get the thing done just so they
can leave class five minutes earlier. Pro-
fessors, who use these surveys to improve
their course, are worried that once these
surveys go online, people just simply won't
fill them out. Or the only participants will
be extremely happy and extremely upset
students, which defeats the purpose.
These concerns about participation
are warranted. But instead of using this
argument as an excuse not to move these
evaluations online, this should become an
argument to make the results of these eval-
uations better known and more reliable.
But first, students need to know that
they-are participating in something valu-
able. That starts with knowing that the
results of these evaluations are readily
available. Though students may not know
it, these evaluations' results are posted on
the Michigan Student Assembly's website
as a tool for students to get information
before deciding to take a course. Perhaps
some of the money that is saved by not
using mass quantities of paper can be put
toward advertising this great resource. .
Equally as important, the information
availably here should be reliable. Students
use web resources like RateMyProfessors.
com voluntarily, so it isn't that there is a
lack of desire for resources such as these.
One main difference between the course
information on MSA's website and other
places like RateMyProfessors.com, though,
is that MSA's website only has numerical
data. None of the written comments are
available. Switching to an electronic for-
mat might allow for the inclusion of these
comments, which was more difficult when
they were on paper.
In the end, trading paper course evalu-
ations for electronic surveys is no doubt
a smart move, but the University has to
address the possibility of decreased partici-
pation. If it takes advantage of the fact that
students are always looking for knowledge
on the courses they are thinking about tak-
ing, then switching to online surveys will
make yet another resource more accurate
and accessible to everyone.
have been having nightmares
about audits, concentration
release forms, career fairs
and G.R.E. test prep
books for the past
two months. Even
though I've finally
reached the end of
the road, I feel like
I've just started to
get the hang of this
college thing. Now
that I've gotten over SHAKIRA
the initial nuisances
of finding my niche, SMILER
I'm ready to actually-
enjoy the Univer-
sity and all that it has to offer. The only
problem is that it's too late.
Everyday, students feel pressured
to finish their degree in four years,
regardless of whether or not they've
exhausted all the opportunities and
possibilities the University has to offer.
With the exception of engineering
undergraduates, the' rest of us com-
mon liberal arts people are criticized
for taking longer than four years to
complete our degrees. There is a stig-
ma placed on these "super seniors," as
if they are less motivated or have less
potential for success than their peers.
They are stereotyped as being lazy
and unfocused. But the truth is that,
regardless of how hard we work, most
of us don't know what we want to do in
our careers. Even people with careers
don't always know what they want to
do with their careers.
Rather than put so much focus on
the amountof time it takes for students
to graduate, our emphasis should be
placed on the quality of students' edu-
cation and retention of these students.
Chastising people for taking a little
longer to graduate causes some to lose
motivation and drop out completely.
These students should be given more
individualized attention that specifi-
cally strengthens their weak areas..
Additionally, if students graduate
with few applicable skills, what benefit
does their four-year diploma or degree
serve? Sure, little Timmy might have
graduated, but if he can't get a job, his
degree is a useless piece of paper.
The decrease in available entry-level
jobs has made finding employment
much more competitive. Employers
look for students not only with the best
grades, but also.the best internships,
jobs, volunteer opportunities and
leadership positions. How come the
standards and expectations of recent
college graduates have changed, but
the time allotted to meet all of these
expectations has not? Rushing stu-
dents to complete their degrees doesn't
help create well-rounded individuals;
it just burns them out.
There may be a handful of omni-
scient students who came into the
University with an exact plan of
action that actually worked. But most
of us have switched our majors at
least once. Withdrawing, failing or
just the inability to find an open seat
in required courses can seta student's
academic plans back. So what? Con-
trary to popular belief, the moon will
not explode and destroy mankind as
we know it if we spend an extra semes-
ter at the University.
If the University really values pro-
ducing exceptional leaders and intel-
lects, it should give more support to
students that stay beyond four years,
especially financial support. Probably
the biggest factor forcing students to
graduate in four years is money: The
current state of the economy has forced
more and more high school and college
students to pick up part-time jobs to
support themselves and their families.
Many grants and private scholarships
expire after four years, and some par-
ents tell their children that they will
only fund four years of their education.
The LSA Honors program has taken
a good approach by offering the Ken-
neth Buckfire Scholarship to students
who stay for a fifth year. The scholar-
ship is worth up to $20,000. This can
help students stretch out their course-
work over a five-year period, decreas-
Taking five years
to graduate doesn't
mean you're lazy.
ing burnout and allowing them to
maximize the opportunities available
There are non-traditional students
who have families and extenuating
circumstances that prevent them from
students should look into extendingthe
shelf life of their undergraduate career
as well. The University has so much to
offer, includingstudy abroad programs
and unique courses in many colleges
and departments that people don't
take advantage of because of time con-
straints. By scratching the mentality
that all students have to complete their
undergraduate degree in four years or
less, we allowourselves totrulyexperi-
ence the Michigan Difference.
Shakira Smiler can be reached
EDITORIAL BOARD MEMBERS:
Harun Buljina, Emmarie Huetteman, Emily Michels, Kate Peabody, Robert Soave, Imran Syed
D should trust students
KEVIN BUNKLEY | VIW0NT
The green revolution starts with 'U'
It seems like every year at this time the Daily
feels compelled to publish an article critical of
the recruitment efforts of fraternities and soror-
ities. The articles raise a number of legitimate
issues, but the central theme is that recruitment
should be held later in the year. The editorial
Monday continued this tradition (Feeling less
rushed, 09/15/2008). I believe the Daily's articles
display a lack of faith and trust in our students.
Michigan students are asked to make many
choices. They've chosen the University, a major
course of study and a class schedule. Much of
welcome week and Orientation is designed to
help them choose amongthe many options avail-
able at the University to get involved. Whether
it is Dance Marathon, Best Buddies, Relay for
Life, Hispanic and Latino Business Students
Organization, K-Grams, Students Against Can-
cer or the Indian American Student Associa-
tion, our students are encouraged to engage in
student life and activities and become part of
Why should the decision about whether to
join a sorority or fraternity be restricted or lim-
ited? Are students unable to decide for them-
selves whether the benefits of Greek life are
right for them? Why is this decision different
from choosing to join other student organiza-
tions? Must we shelter or protect students from
certain decisions? No one is forced to go through
recruitment or join a chapter. About 15 percent
of students join a fraternity or sorority, so clear-
ly, many students choose other options. Some
choose to join a fraternity or sorority after their
first semester. Deferring recruitment to the win-
ter semester only means one new member class
per year, limiting students' options. The goal is
to create more options, not less.
The editorial cited the stress and anxiety of
rushing during the first few weeks of the fall
semester while freshmen are settling in as one
of the main reasons to delay recruitment. What
is overlooked is that delaying recruitment sim-
ply prolongs the "informal" recruitment pro-
cess, adding to stress and anxiety. Such a delay
in recruitment couldnegatively impact academ-
ic performance, one of the concerns expressed
in the editorial. According to a study of Uni-
versity of Michigan students conducted by the
Gamma Sigma Alpha National Greek Academic
Honor Society, students who join a fraternity
or sorority during their first semester actually
performed better academically than students
who didn't join. One explanation for this could
be the support and encouragement that is pro-
vided by chapters to its members, especially
The Daily also seemed concerned that some
students will make a decision they will later
regret. While unfortunate, why is that a reason
to restrict all students from making their own .
choice? We all make decisions that we regret
(choice of university; choice of partner; choice
of major or career; choice of what to eat, what
to wear, where to go, etc.). Hopefully, we learn
from that experience and become a little wiser.
.There is no way to predict whether our choices
will be good or bad. Timing does not guarantee
But what about those students who feel ready
to choose Greek Life? Why should we limit their
ability to make a good decision for themselves?
Fraternities and sororities help new members
get acclimated and feel comfortable at our large,
de-centralized university. Most members of
sororities and fraternities feel their decision to
join was one of the best decisions of their lives.
Several recent studies have found that students
who join a fraternity or sorority are more likely to
stay in school, be more involved in co-curricular
activities, graduate and have a closer connection
with their university than those who don't. That
is precisely the goal the University has for all its
students - engagement with their community.
Greek Life isn't perfect, and it isn't for every-
one. But it is right for some, and the decision,
including the timing, should be left up to each
student. The Daily should have more faith and
trust in our students.,
Chris Haughee is the assistant
director of the Office of Greek Life.
As I sat in my idling SUV waiting in traffic to exit East-
ern Michigan University's Convocation Center Wednesday,
I took note of the types of cars around me. At least half the
cars I counted in this traffic jam were fellow SUVs. When I
finally got out of traffic and a mile down the road, I drove
by a gas station with its looming neon green sign display-
ing $4.19 gasoline. Sitting in traffic reminded me: Thomas
Friedman is so right.
The New York Times columnist and author of the new
book, "Hot, Flat, and Crowded" addressed the Washtenaw
Economic Club Wednesday, making the case - a plea really
- for the United States finally do something about its short-
comings in the search for alternative energy.
In short, Friedman's claim is that the world is hotter,
flatter and more crowded, of which all three conditions
will make alternative energy a more valuable resource. The
planet's temperature has risen 0.8 degrees above the levels
recordedbefore the Industrial Revolution because of carbon
dioxide emissions, and will become dangerously hot in the
next 100 years. Combine that with the following two facts:
The United Nations estimates that by 2053 the world's pop-
ulation will reach 9 billion, and all of those people will have
access to the global economy, requiring a lot of energy for
everyone's iPods, cars and better standards of living.
After Friedman laid out his vision of the emerging
world, he asked one simple question: Why shouldn't the
United States take the lead on solving these problems? Why
shouldn't the United States take ownership of these con-
cerns and led the green energy technology revolution, the
successor to the information technology revolution earlier
As Friedman said, "If you name an issue, you own it."
The United States used to enjoy being the best at every-
thing. But around 2001, it only wanted to be the best at
fighting terrorism. The underlying government-sponsored
innovation that propelled the United States ahead of the
Soviet Union duringthe Cold War is gone. But what our gov-
ernment forgets is that we're competing with China, Russia,
India, Japan and Latin America in this new fight to lead the
Luckily, with the challenge identified, the answers aren't
far behind. In this case, there are two parties that need to
step up: our government and our universities.
Although people began filing out of the lecture when
Freidman started explaining the economics behind his
argument, he offered a simple explanation: America can't
expect to own the rights to the energy technology revolu-
tion if it can't even scale its prices. And the Bush adminis-
tration is responsible for this gap. Bush claims to believe in
the market, as he says every time the stock market dips. But
where on our markets is there affordable commodities like
solar cells, wind turbines and electric car batteries?
Government is the enabler of competition when it re-for-
mats the market to handle a new industry, justas it did when
it re-formatted regulations on e-commerce before the dot
com boom. This is no different: Encouraging research and
development of technology that's green doesn't start with
an end-product. It doesn't start with Republicans shout-
ing, "Drill, baby, drill!" at their convention. It starts with a
market that can handle 20 different producers of a bittery
as opposed to one foreign producer.
. Our universities are essential to making this happen.
University President Mary Sue Coleman said at the close of
Friedman's speech that if the state invested in education,
students would come up with the next great green tech-
nology, using their creativity to "Invent, baby, invent!" The
two-year old University Research Corridor- made up of the
University of Michigan, Wayne State University and Michi-
gan State University - could be working so much more
intensely on this issue, if it only had the necessary fund-
ing to do so. More students would be getting engineering
degrees if Gov. Jennifer Granholm would simply say, "OK, if
you want to get a science degree, the state will pay for it."
Our university can make this our issue, and with some
help can do what so many have not wanted to do: lead. I hope
every person leaving the arena was thinking about how to
do that as they hopped into their SUVs and sat in that same
traffic jam that made me remember just how right Tom
Friedman is, and how wrong our government has been.
Kevin Bunkley is a University alum.
E-MAIL KEVIN AT DEKEVIN@UMICH.EDU.
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