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January 26, 2009 - Image 4

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The Michigan Daily, 2009-01-26

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The Michigan Daily - michigandaily.com

4A - Monday, January 26, 2009
lie ffidiigan B&aiIy
Edited and managed by students at
the University of Michigan since 1890.
420 Maynard St.
Ann Arbor, MI 48109
tothedaily@umich.edu
GARY GRACA ROBERT SOAVE COURTNEY RATKOWIAK
EDITOR IN CHIEF EDITORIAL PAGE EDITOR MANAGING EDITOR
Unsigned editorials reflect the official position oftthe Daily's editorial board. All other signed articles
and illustrations represent solely the views ofttheir authors.
Wasting students' time
MSA should focus its attention on campus issues first
fter two long, drawn-out meetings on January 13 and 21,
the Michigan Student Assembly finally passed the reso-
lution that it had debated for so long. This all-important,
time-consuming resolution was a statement expressing regret
for the humanitarian crisis in Gaza. As the student government
of the University, MSA is supposed to represent the students and
work toward solving issues that concern them. But yet again, it
has neglected its responsibility to students and wasted time argu-
ing about an issue over which it has no jurisdiction to address. If
MSA wants to earn respect, it must mount a tangible effort to solve
some of the issues that pertain to campus life for students instead

.

NOTABLE QUOTABE
Fun is not the first adjective
that comes to mind:'
- Rahm Emanuel, President Barack Obama's chief of staff, talking about his first week
in the White House, as reported yesterday by The New York Times.
CHRIS KOSLOWSKI T PASTURE E-MAIL CHRIS AT CSKOSLOW@UMICH.EDU
TThevery"Three Weekly s asmor paper,like the
Did you read lsie the Review, oily Oio fr Michiga swdeta.
week'sE3W' tentertainingY ai lyD Ev ,
3Aai ti4I 's teen
WhrtI&Iartdonif&d
* *
No Kennedys need apply

i

of issuing pointless statements.
MSA has spent the majority of its last two
meetings debating over resolutions about
the crisis in Gaza. A Thursday night's meet-
ing, the assembly finally settled on a resolu-
tion calling for the American Movement for
Israel and Students Allied for Freedom and
Equality to c ome together with any other
interested students and screen a documen-
tary about Arabic and Jewish women coex-
isting peacefully. This was a compromise
resolution after a more strongly worded
resolution calling for a permanent cease fire
failed to pass.
The problem with the approved resolution
is not that it doesn't do enough to address the
crisis in Gaza. The problem is that MSA is
spending its tite on the issue. Despite what
members of the assembly may think, their
personal feelings about the situation in Gaza
should not come before their commitment to
dealing with campus issues.
There are plentyof issues that students are
trusting MSA to hsandle. The assembly needs
to follow through on its promise of better
lighting across camuspus. It needs to improve
its website - including actually posting the
minutes from its meetings - so that students
have a way of checking up and seeing what's
going on in MSA. Representatives need to
confront campus crime. And, as the Univer-

sity faces the prospect of decreased fund-
ing from the state, students are counting
on MSA to be their voice for college afford-
ability. What we're getting now is a student
government that cares more about debating
distant international issues than discussing
the improvements students need.
Every election cycle, MSA representatives
promise to take care of these issues, and
every MSA session, the results are disap-
pointing. If MSA fulfilled its promises and
worked with students, perhaps its elections
would see a rise in voter turnout. Last elec-
tion only 9.6 percent of campus voted. This
isn't surprising, because students have vir-
tually no way to express dissatsfaction with
MSA's single party, the Michigan Action
Party, aside from simply not voting. And this
allows MSA to get away with not serving
students' needs.
At the root of this problem may simply be
the way that MSA views itself. Actions like
the unnecessary Gaza resolution reveal that
the members of MSA think it's more impor-
tant to pretend to be the U.S. Senate than
representatives elected to confront the prob-
lems of University students. MSA represen-
tatives must hold themselves accountable to
students' wishes and work for students to
improve campus.

There's something with Ameri-
cans that makes us hate enti-
tlement. We just can't stand
people who think
they should get
something just
because it's their
prerogative, and
naturally coupled
with that is our love
of underdogs. ButI
there are problems
that arise when we IMRAN
so easily generalize SYED
about who the good
and bad guys are.
When I first
heard that Caroline Kennedy might
be appointed to fill the New York Sen-
ate seat vacated by Hillary Clinton, an
almost embarrassing excitement over-
took me. Always a pragmatic skeptic,
I'm generally not easily bowled over.
And yet here I was, swept away at the
prospect of President John Kennedy's
daughter goingto the Senate.
My excitement went beyond just the
creepy fixation alot of people have with
the Kennedys. Caroline is a lawyer who
has written books on civil liberties and
the Constitution. To a law student like
me, that counts for at least six years of
political experience. That, along with
the very personal endorsement she gave
to Barack Obama and the vibrant (even
if not prolific) voice she became on the
campaign trail, seemed to make her
one among many appropriate choices
for New York Gov. David Paterson to
consider.
And then came the backlash, mostly
from those salt-o'-the-Earth New York-
ers (iced lattos and all) decrying what
they saw as prissy entitlement: "Caro-
line Kennedy isn't experienced enough.
She isn't enough of a New Yorker. She's
just a child of privilege blinded by van-
ity."
Some of that criticism is true. Ken-
nedy has never held political office,
and the Senate is an assumptive place

to start. Although she attended Colum-
bia Law School and has lived in New
York City most of her life, Kennedy
hasn't exactly had an ear pressed to the
ground for news regarding the rest of
the state. And while she appears to be
a very grounded person, entertaining
even the thoughtcof being nominated to
the Senate without any political expe-
rience does hint at a sense of entitle-
ment.
But these are all little things. What
politician doesn't have a sense of enti-
tlement? (Isn'tit arequirement, really?)
At least Kennedy has lived in New York
for mostofher life, whichis muchmore
than could be said for Hillary Clinton.
And after an election where NewYork-
ers overwhelmingly supported Obama,
they hardly have the right to throw
Kennedy's lack of experience in her
face.
Yet, while Kennedy did have a
solid rank of supporters, the backlash
steadily gained steam in recent weeks.
Kennedy's abrupt decision last week
to withdraw herself from consider-
ation for the seat was almost certainly
a result of her seeingthe writing on the
wall.
For hardworking, everyday Ameri-
cans, liking an affluent Kennedy is
tough. It's much easier to embrace an
underdog because we like our heroes
to rise from being face down in the
streets, not from the laps of presidents
(George W. Bush was an unfortunate
aberration). We like someone we can
point at as we tell our kids thatthey can
do anything if they really try.
For example, let me describe to you
the exact type of hero we like. Imag-
ine a poor boy, a son of poor Serbian
immigrants, living in a poor Chicago
neighborhood. His father is a poor steel
worker; his family is poor, so he works
odd jobs to make some money. Some-
how he rises from all that poorness
to go to college, does well enough to
transfer to Northwestern University
and then goes on to get a law degree.

Tearing up yet? Is this ultimate under-
dog overload or what? Wait, it actually
gets better. Our poor immigrant boy
goes into politics and becomes the gov-
ernor of Illinois.
Yes, that's the true story of Rod
Blagojevich.
Obviously, not all underdogs are slea-
zy, andI'mcertainlynotsayingthatrich
people should be handed everythin
in life. That would be an awful state
of affairs where incompetent people
would be in power just because of who
their fathers were. But actively work-
ing to preclude people who may have
Our "little guy
mentality meant
Caroline didn't
stand a chance.
had famous fathers is just as bad: They
'have the right tobe considered just like
any other qualified person. Kennedy is
hardly the first to think she is entitled
to a Senate seat, and she has plenty of
reasons for thinking so. But why is she
the only one who has to answer for her
family, her name and her money? ,
Whilenotnearlyas harshordestruc-
tive as racism or sexism, this obsession
with the little guy and this vindictive
hatred of those who may not have had
to work seven jobs through highschool
really amounts to a prejudice (the same
prejudice recently espoused in the
jingoistic, "real America" stylings of
Sarah Palin). And prejudices, no matter
how well-meaning or minimal, always
have nasty consequences.
Imran Syed was the Daily's
editorial page editor in 2007. He can
be reached atgalad@umich.edu.

ELISE BAUN

Outlaws no more

I would like to thank Yannick Wood for con-
tributing to the cheating paranoia of the faculty
at the University. His viewpoint outlined how
often he chsested in his language courses (Out-
laws in the MI I t01/12/09). He then went on to
express his own conspiracy theory about how all
of his fellow foreign language students are cheat-
ing as well.
I just ant to say t this is totally untrue.
Two of my r:sssmmates have been accused
of cheating, evsen though they'd done nothing
wrong (they were both exonerated). I'm not sure
what would compel one student to purge his
conscience by not only claiming that cheating
in undergraduate laguage courses was under-
stood, but also thiat it was expected.
I took Spanish 22 not because I needed it
to graduate, but ictually because I was looking
forward to leL'rn iig mi !ore about the language. I
understand thratr mna students at this Univer-
sitytake their laishm sue esourses just to fulfill the
language requiremiseit, but I would also suggest
that they tae a linguage that interests them.
Wood appIears to have taken French for his
language requirernent an id, according to him,
cheated on many of the tests in order to receive
a higher gr ade.
In light o this, I would also like to thank Wood
for thlrowing) into dolt the integrity of the grade
that I rcei ed I: i: mviyngu age courses. I have
work e1ha ia,' f r eey Erade that I have received
at this Univ eesity. I espict my fellow students to
do the sii:. : I c i:: sounderstand that some
studeints psrsi lly use sssome "extra" means to help
secure ih:ir grsde. I cannot condemn anyone
for using wsv e "tools" they have, but I can-
not sy mi lpai ,6i ' vi one student consfessing his
wrongi:i.n is i' , ent ire University and cast-
ing a shla dsw isupo iie eacomsplishments of every
other language student.
JA SON MAHAd iANd

Unfortunately, Wood went even further than
just confessing. He actually made the claim that
his actions were perfectly legit because everyone
else does it. But this ancient defense mechanism
of saying, "Well, everybody does it," is not a valid -
excuse for the actions of one individual.
Wood also argued that it wasn't his fault
because the teachers made him do it. He blamed
the professors' choice of material, claiming that
it was outdated. I will concede that perhaps, in
his case, some of the material had been used
before. But even if this material had been slight-
ly outdated, this reason in itself does not excuse
his actions. Our professors deserve respect.
Cheating in class and advertising this fact is bla-
tantly disrespectful to teachers and to the stu-
dent body.
While some material could benefit from
an update, other language courses have been
revaped. My Spanish 232 class had new books
tht my professor had written. She was connect-
ed with the text and enthusiastic about teaching
students abougSpanish culture.Wood, inhisrude
viewpoint, suggested that his professors haven't
made the material interesting enough for him to
put in the full effort. Perhaps he just didn't take
the right course for him. All the same, cheating
was not the way to handle a dull class.
Wood confused his own situaionby relaingiy
to the rest of the student body at large. I sincerely
hope that no profesor will read his words and
believe that a majority of their students haven't
chosen to put in the work required to receive a
good grade. Hopefully, no more of my roommates
will be accused of cheating because one student
thought he could assuage his own guilt by blam-
ingnot only all language students, but the profes-
sors as well.
Elise Baun is anS LSA senior.
E-MAIL JASON AT MAHAKIAJ@UMICH.EDU

LETTERS TO THE EDITOR:
Readers are encouraged to submit letters to the editor. Letters should be less than 300 words and must
include the writer's full name and University affiliation. Letters are edited for style, length, clarity and
accuracy. All submissions become property of the Daily. We do not print anonymous letters.
Send letters to tothedoily@umich.edu.
HAMDAN YOUSUF I VI T
WhyMSA addresses issues outside A2

In recent days, students have expressed their frustra-
tion with the Michigan Student Assembly's resolution on
the situation in Gaza. I wholeheartedly agree. But the issue
is not that MSA should spend its time on more "relevant"
matters. Tuition hikes and campus safety are major issues
of concern for all of us, but MSA would do a disservice to
the student body were it to remain silent in the face of glob-
al tragedy. The resolution passed last Tuesday is an inad-
equate response to the humanitarian crisis in Gaza. And
we can be silent no longer.
As a student of public health, I study epidemics and
disease prevention. In my classes, I learn about using
statistical models to improve quality of life and to tackle
cutting-edge problems in genomics, survival analysis, and
cancer research. Our school hosts seminars and colloquia
on socioeconomic inequities in the healthcare system. And
yet I am asked to take in all that knowledge and remain
on the sidelines as I see 1,300 innocent lives being lost in
a matter of weeks. Over 300 children are massacred and
5,000 civilians are wounded. How can I be expected to
ignore that?
A temporary ceasefire may have been reached, but make
no mistake, a catastrophe of human suffering looms in the
horizon. Four hundred thousand people - 1 in 3 Gazans
- are without running water today. Fifty thousand people
have been left homeless. That's more than the University's
entire student body. They may not have to deal with nega-
tive 15 degree wind chills, but tonight, they have no place
to sleep and no roof over their heads because their homes
were blown up and destroyed. As we celebrate the inaugu-
ration of President Obama, in some remote corner of the
world, a young child is digging through the rubble to find
the charred remains of his mother's body. How can anyone
tell me that isn't relevant?
Don't let anyone tell you this is about politics or contro-
versy. This is about a humanitarian crisis. It has nothing
to do with black or white or brown, rich or poor, Arab or
Israeli, Muslim or Jewish. Too many excuses have been
made for our inaction and too many false reasons given
for why we should continue about our daily lives without
a care for the pains of the rest of the world. Today we must

say enough.
Let us shelve for goodthe stereotypical view of the "ugly
American": narrow-minded, self-centered, absorbed in a
little bubble, nodding along to an iPod and utterly oblivi-
ous to the rest of the world. Let's look beyond the narrow4
confines of our pristine campus. Let's have the strength to
dream of a better, more peaceful world.
The past weeks have seen hundreds of our fellow stu-
dents take to the streets, braving the bitter cold, to make
their voices heard. Some would criticize those of us who
choose to speak up; such matters are better left to the Unit-
ed Nations, they remark sarcastically. President Obama
addressed such "haters" in his Inaugural Address. "Their
memories are short," he said. "For they have forgotten
what this country has already done; what free men and
women can achieve when imagination is joined to common
purpose, and necessity to courage."
Michigan is no ordinary school, and ours is no ordinary
student body. We inherit a rich and storied heritage of stu-
dent activism and we must strive to live up to its legacy.
After all, it was Michigan students who protested against
apartheid South Africa. When this university wouldn't hire
black professors, it was our students who took over admin-
istration buildings. When President Johnson ordered the
bombing of North Vietnam, our students - and faculty -
united behind the rallying cry of "Not in our name." With
such a powerful precedent before us, how then can we b
silent today?
These are powerful times we live in. Who could have
ever imagined that a black man with a middle name of
Hussein would become President? Let us draw strength
from the symbolism of that moment and draw the cour-
age to speak up for our convictions, to turn our attention
beyond our problem sets and our papers and our classes.
Let it not be said that the students at this great institution'
the leaders of the future, were deaf to the pleas of suffering
Gazans. Let it not be said that we considered their plight
"irrelevant."
Hamdan Yousuf is a Michigan Student Assembly
representative from the School of Public Health.

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