4 - Friday, March 6, 2009
The Michigan Daily - michigandaily.com
l e Atic4t'6'gan wily
Edited and managed by students at
the University of Michigan since 1890.
420 Maynard St.
Ann Arbor, MI 48109
ROBERT SOAVE COURTNEY RATKOWIAK
EDITORIAL PAGE EDITOR MANAGING EDITOR
EDITOR IN CHIEF
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.
No plastic, no problem
City council should ban plastic bags to keep streets cleaner
Ann Arbor may soon join a recent green trend that started
last year when San Francisco banned the use of plastic bags
in its grocery stores. At Monday night's meeting, the Ann
Arbor City Council discussed the possibility of adopting a similar
ban to prevent the accumulation of plastic in the streets. Though the
city's decision to table the ban until the June 1 meeting was justified
because it allows the city to discuss the issue with local retailers and
residents, the ban should remain an important priority. Considering
that better alternatives to plastic exist, the city has a responsibility
to enact this ban.
Make no mistake. When Rush says 'jump',
congressional Republicans say 'how high?"'
- An excerpt from an email sent on behalf of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, commenting
on Rush Limbaugh's unofficial status as leader of the GOP, as reported yesterday by CNN.
BELLA SHAH E-MAIL BELLAAT BELLZ@UMICH.EDU
A culture of immorality
A ban on plastic bags was presented to
the City Council last June to put an end to
the plastic bags floating around the streets
of Ann Arbor. If approved the ban will only
affect stores that gross more than $1 million
a year, like Meijer and Kroger. Stores that
can't afford to prohibit plastic bags will not
be affected. And Ann Arbor isn't the only
city considering plastic bag bans - cities
including Boston, Portland and Pheonix are
considering similar laws. Los Angeles voted
to ban plastic bags last July.
Petroleum-based plastic bags are an envi-
ronmental hazard because they contaminate
soil and waterways once they break down.
According to the environmental research
group Worldwatch,100billionbags eachyear
are thrown away by Americans. As a result,
cities including Ann Arbor spend substantial
amounts of money cleaning these bags from
The main reason the city is considering
this ban is because of plastic bags litteringthe
streets. It's a little ridiculous that this prob-
lem even exists - people should at least have
the decency to throw their trash in one of the
numerous garbage cans scattered along the
city streets. Regardless of the city's eventual
decision, Ann Arbor'scitizens should dispose
of their trash in a more responsible way.
But regardless of the motivation, passing
such a ban would have many positive effects.
Plastic bags are an unnecessary risk to the
environment, and the city will be much
cleaner without them. What the city needs to
do now is select an alternative to plastic bags
that will not cause more harm to the environ-
ment. While paper bags seem like the most
obvious choice, they are actually just as bad
because they require more energyto produce
and recycle than plastic. One alternative is
the use of compostable bags made from corn
or potato starch. San Francisco chose this
option after implementing its ban.
Of course, the least costly and most practi-
cal solution is for stores to distribute reusable
cloth bags that customers bring with them
when they shop. Stores like Meijer already
offer shoppers this environmentally friendly
option. Some shoppers may look at the use
of cloth bags as inconvenient, but the con-
servational quality of cloth bags make them
well worth it. But whether or not cloth bags
become the option of choice, environmental
benefits - and cleaner streets - should have
Ann Arbor shoppers welcoming the change.
y housemates and I have
on-demand service with
our cable television pack-
age. Last week was
the selection of free
ing. Why? Because
I was able to reac-
quaint myself with
main character of
Harper Lee's novel NEIL
"To Killa Mocking- TAMBE
bird" and its 1962
film adaptation, is
heroic, though not
the web-slinging, caped-crusading
type. Atticus is of a rarer breed - a
moral hero. He is determined and
destined to do what is right. Moral
heroes are not people vaulted to
notoriety because of their impact on
the world or because of their talent,
but cherished because they identify
right from wrong and act accordingly.
They are the ones that take the time
to reflect deeply about what is right
and then act morally even at their
own detriment. While watching the
movie, I began thinking of the moral
heroes our society celebrates today.
One such hero was mentioned in
President Barack Obama's speech
to a joint session of Congress last
month. Obama told the story of Leon-
ard Abess, Jr., a Florida banker who
divvied up a $60 million windfall to
399 current employees and 72 former
employees of his bank as bonuses.
The CEO spread the wealth because
he always wanted to reward the
employees who stuck with him and
he was already well-off financially.
Essentially, he did it because it was
the right thing to do.
The second example I remem-
bered were the passengers of United
Airlines Flight 93, who retook their
hijacked plane on September 11, 2001
and crashed it in southern Pennsyl-
vania instead of taking the risk that
it might reach its intended target.
Those people are celebrated as moral
heroes - and rightfully so - because
they sacrificed their own lives to
spare many others from harm.
My list started running thin there.
I could not think of any other widely
recognized people who were cel-
ebrated for being moral heroes. Yes,
it is an expectation to do what's right
and therefore, moral heroes' actions
may not be necessarily considered
newsworthy, but signaling what's
right and wrong publicly should not
stop at shaming the immoral. We
should also celebrate moral heroes so
more people can be inspired by their
example to do what's right.
We need to celebrate moral
heroes because moral behavior mat-
ters. Think of Enron or other simi-
lar scandals in business or politics.
Even though there are many factors
which contribute to situations like
this, if leaders of the organizations
had identified right from wrong and
acted accordingly, maybe those situ-
ations could have been prevented. At
the very least, the harmful effects
would have been minimized.
And the University campus isn't
exempt from moral interplay, either.
We live in an environment where.
moral decision-making has serious
consequences, whether it's decid-
ing whether or not to slip a pill into
another person's Solo cup, cheat on
a significant other or steal silver-
ware from a dormitory cafeteria. On
this campus, doing the right thing
isn't always easy. When people balk
on morally sound decisions, there
are costs for themselves and others
affected by their actions, just like in
life outside the Ann Arbor bubble.
But doing the right thing is also
important when it may not hurt other
people. Take the example of a student
using Adderall - a drug prescribed to
treat Attention Deficit Hyperactive
Looking for real
moral heroes in
Disorder that provides an unnatural
ability to focus when taken by people
without the disorder - as a study aid.
Even though no physical harm is done
to anybody else and there are no side
effects to the user, it's still wrong.
Adderall is just like steroids in baseball
because it taints the integrity of the
game. Just like steroids, Adderall con-
tributes to a culture of immorality that
pressures other students to participate
in immoral acts just to keep up.
This is where moral heroes come
in. Society needs people to break
with the culture of immorality on
campus and across the country. We
need to recognize moral heroes so
that their deeds can inspire virtuous 4
deeds instead of vicious ones. Then,
the rest of us can follow in their foot-
steps with smaller moral acts of our
own. Our campus and our society
could certainly use more people like
- Neil Tambe can be reached 4
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
EDITORIAL BOARD MEMBERS:
Nina Amilineni, Emad Ansari, Emily Barton, Elise Baun, Harun Buljina, Ben Caleca,
Satyajeet Deshmukh, Brian Flaherty, Emmarie Huetteman, Emma Jeszke,
Sutha K Kanagasingam, Shannon Kellman, Jeremy Levy, Edward McPhee, Matthew Shutler,
Neil Tambe, Radhika Upadhyaya, Rachel Van Gilder
JEREMY LEVY I
We're all a little bit racist
As the Michigan Student Assembly examines its own future on campus, the Daily would
like students to voice their opinions on what should be a part of its agenda.
E-MAIL YOUR IDEAS TO ROBERT SOAVE AT RSOAVE@UMICH.EDU
Individuals who post comments on the come-
dy blog stuffwhitepeoplelike.com love to express
their deepest thoughts on race. On Feb. 14, an
Internet user under the alias "screwobama"
wrote, "I would've completely been pissed if i got
fucked and was born in a non-white country."
Although website owners may like these people
because controversial comments result in more
hits and increased ad revenue, many readers -
myself included - can't help thinking that any-
one who posts this kind of comment is probably
Like the elusive bathroom stall graffiti artist,
anonymous Internet commentators frequently
say things that would be unacceptable in a face-
to-face interaction. On stuffwhitepeoplelike.
com, a satirical blog that lists the things white
people supposedly like, many of these comments
deal with race and social issues. These conversa-
tions reveal an array of frightening attitudes, but
in many ways, they represent the way our society
thinks about social issues.
Part of the joke of stuffwhitepeoplelike.com
is that most of the articles have very little to do
with race. The authors' entries are not directed
at all white people, as suggested by the title,
but rather a growing culture in which Ameri-
cans are desperately trying to prove their own
uniqueness and sophistication - which the
author' like to criticize. Although posts that
describe "what white people like" such as "#14
Having Black Friends" are racial, posts like "#9
Making You Feel Bad About Not Going Outside"
or "#41 Indie Music" are not. Perhaps the cul-
ture this blog criticizes is dominantly white and
wealthy, but the majority of criticisms are unre-
lated to race.
Even though the blog is supposed to be funny
(and, in my opinion, succeeds), posts such as
"#16 Gifted Children" or "#101 Being Offended"
provoke users to post comments about social
issues. The biggest problem here is that users'
ability to remain anonymous allows them to say
socially inappropriate things without worrying
about being held responsible. There's no way
to stop people from claiming that non-whites
are just jealous if they cannot afford to live in
an expensive neighborhood or that sexism only
applies to ugly people. Some users have begun
to create their own lists such as "Stuff Black
People Like" or "Stuff Chinese People Hate."
The blog itself is not racist, but its edgy material
provokes people to say things I would be sur-
prised to hear in public.
These comments are often idiotic, but some-
times, they accurately portray how society thinks
about particular issues. For instance, our society
is obsessed with assigning stereotypes. Internet
users frequently discuss whether the list of stuff
white people like accurately represents white
people, saying things like, "I must not be a true
white person if I don't like coffee" or the opposite,
"I'm not white, butI like bumperstickers." Many
claim that the blog is absolutely right about the
behavior of white people, while others angrily
assert that the blog isn't representative. All these
comments miss the satire of the website and por-
tray a society willingto believe that race depends
Maybe we should regard these people as crazy.
But comments on stuffwhitepeoplelike.com are
just extreme examples of how many individu-
als would talk about race in casual conversation.
The people visiting stuffwhitepeoplelike.com
are likely to be the same people who are search-
ing youtube.com and collegehumor.com to divert
themselves from work. As a result, the comments
more closely resemble casual conversation than
on websites like those of The New York Times or
The Wall Street Journal, where users are more
careful to make sure that their comments are not
blatantly offensive. Although most would not talk
with the same sense of superiority as Mr. "scre-
wobama," I don't think it's farfetched to say that
the average American would think to himself,
"Thank God I was born in America."
A line from the musical Avenue Q says that
everyone is a little bit racist. On a broader scale,
this statement means that, even though it is easy
to criticize people who hold unacceptable views,
everyone makes overgeneralizations and igno-
rant assumptions about race and social issues.
The comments on stuffwhitepeoplelike.com may
be extreme, butthey do not completely misrepre-
sent how we as asociety think aboutsocial issues.
Before we shun them as crazies, we have to real-
izethattheir mindsets are somewhatreflective of
the way we view ourselves.
Jeremy Levy is an LSA freshman.
'll be honest with you - I've
always been skeptical about
North Quad, the new dorm cur-
rently being built at
the corner of State
St. and East Wash- ,
It's not the
destruction of the
Building I'm upset
a lot of my fellow
locals were sad to MEG
see it go. After all, YOUNG
the place was full
It's about what
North Quad symbolizes to me. Last
fall, construction on campus totaled
$1.3 billion dollars. Many of those
projects are still in progress, and the
Regents recently approved even more.
God knows that Michigan needs the
construction jobs, but what motivates
North Quad is known on campus as
"Mary Sue Coleman's idea." In an Ann
Arbor News article (North Quad to get
new look, 7/31/2006), she said that she
was hoping that North Quad would
give the entrance to campus a certain
"wow" factor. And we're spending
$175 million to get it.
Don't misunderstand me - some
of the facilities we're getting are
astounding. I appreciate state-of-the-
art technology and a clean, bright
learning space. But I think that many
of the University's construction proj-
ects are an attempt to enter the aca-
demic version of an arms race with
North Quad will be able to house
460 students in suite-style dorm
rooms. One style comes with a living
room, another with four singles. Each
room will have a bathroom. Oh, yeah,
and this dorm will not be certified by
the Leadership in Energy and Envi-
ronmental Design's Green Building
The dining hall will also try to
compete with gourmet campus eater-
ies across the country, as noted by a
recent Michigan Daily article (Catch-
up cuisine, 9/16/2008). It might seem
too good to be true, but it may just be
too good to afford.
Who will be living in these rooms?
Affordable campus housing is already
difficult to find, and neither private
developers nor the University seem to
understand. Everything being built is
increasingly more luxurious. What's
wrong with the idea that students eat
ramen and wear shower shoes?
Our fixation on image wouldn't be
a problem if tuition were not steadily
rising each year. Rather than spend-
ing money to house high-maintenance
students, shouldn't we lower the
tuition costs of our public university?
In such tough economic times, how
we spend our budget speaks especial-
ly loudly about our values. It seems
to me that as much of our surplus
should be directed toward academic
excellence as possible, not attempt-
ing to improve dormitory or dining
Another example of the Universi-
ty's ignorance of actual student needs
is the change in venue for the Screen
Arts and Cultures program. I am in
Film Production classes here, and the
University's decision to move studios
and equipment rooms to the Modern
Languages Buildinghas disappointed
me greatly. Currently, the program
calls the Argus II Building home.
And although a few blocks from cam-
pus, Argus II has plenty of space for
film editing rooms, production stu-
dios, and drive-up space for the 500
pounds of camera and lighting equip-
ment necessary for each upperclass-
man film project.
Instead, this film equipment is
going to be placed in the second floor
of the MLB, where students will have
to drag it around hallways, down
elevators, through double doors and
across the sidewalk to have access to
Is North Quad's
ideal for students?
it. The Language Resource Center will
be moved to North Quad, away from
every language class and office.
Talkingto Screen Arts and Cultures
faculty who are against these deci-
sions, it seems like they were made just
the way decisions on tuition increases
are: over the summer, behind closed
doors. Although better facilities are
intended to attract top-notch faculty,
the process of building them has been
deaf to the requests of some teachers
we already have.
Ultimately, I have enough good
sense to know that North Quad will
be a beautiful facility with more than
a few blessings. But as long as the
project is motivated by a craving for
the "wow" factor, it will seem to me
to be out of step with our real needs:
low costs, convenience and academ-
ics to help our students (and our
- Meg Young can be reached