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October 12, 2009 - Image 4

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The Michigan Daily, 2009-10-12

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4A - Monday, October 12, 2009,

The Michigan Daily - michigandaily.com

LJb Midiigan &aijl

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


Unsigned editorials reflect the officialposition of the Daily's editorialboard. Allother signed articles
and illustrations represent solely the views ofttheir authors.
Opposites attract
Gender-neutral housing option a must for the University
When it comes to on-campus living arrangements, Uni-
versity Housing is usually flexible. You can choose to
room blind, substance-free and even pick the number
of people you want live with. But there's an important option miss-
ing from the checklist: You can't pick the gender of the person with
whom you're going to live. This may change now that University
Housing is finally taking a closer look at offering gender-neutral
housing - a desired but unavailable option for many transgender
students. To accommodate needs of every student, including those
who wish to live with someone of the opposite gender for any rea-
son, the University should offer this option on the next round of

It's too bad that we're getting e-mails from fourth-
graders who are saying that they're too young to die:'
- Ann Martin, administrator of Cornell's "Ask an Astronomer" website, commenting on hype surrounding
the Mayans' supposed prediction that the world will end in 2012, as reported yesterday by MSNBC.
C bieyoe irarie
In defense ofpolitical1 science


housing application surveys.
Currently, University Housing only con-
siders the needs of transgender students if
they specifically request separate housing
and have had gender reassignment surgery
- which is not the case for many students
who identify as a gender other thn their
birth gender. In April, the Spectrum Center
proposed changing this policy by adding a
gender-neutral housing option in April. And
with recent support from the University's
chapter of the American Civil Liberties
Union, University Housing is giving it seri-
ous thought.
Transgender students may be a small per-
centage of the campus population, but that's
no excuse for making it difficult for them
to find acceptable housing. Forcing these
students to go beyond the housing survey
to obtain a suitable living arrangement may
discourage them from even trying, alienat-
ing these students from comfort in residence
halls. It's also likely that University Hous-
ing will discover a greater demand among
transgender students for gender-neutral
housing if it includes it in the survey. The
University must accommodate for greater
diversity in its.housing strategy by provid-
ing its transgender students an option that
fits their personal lifestyles.
But gender-neutral housing isn't just for
transgender students. Many other students
may prefer this living arrangement, and
they should be able to bequest it. The idea
that unmarried men and women can't - or
Football seating should go to
those who arrive early
Chris Koslowski has got it right (First come,
first seated, 10/09/2009). At last year's game
against Michigan State, I had to explain to a
pair of Spartans why, despite the magnitude of
the game, the student section was not already
a quarter full an hour before kickoff. First
come, first served seating would reward those
who want to show up early and allow the more
casual fans to still file in and find a seat (and
honestly, if Michigan is playing, there is no bad
seat in the Big House).
I proudly arrive at the Big House two hours
before kickoff each Saturday and, along with
Koslowski, believe the atmosphere in the Big
House would experience a much needed boost
from first come, first served seating. While I
understand some feel seniority is more impor-
tant, it's key to note that a higher class status
doesn't mean you care more about the game than
other students. That way, the fans who want to
come early have the opportunity to sit with stu-
dents like them, rather than spending much of
the second quarter making sure the drunk girl
in front of them doesn't fall and hit her head.
Rewarding students who get to the stadium early
would hopefully cultivate a more dedicated, pas-
sionate and loud atmosphere throughout the
student section, something even the brand new
skyboxes can only hope to aspire to.
Adam Mael
LSA junior
Banning the Diag preachers
would violate free speech
I can't help but take offense at Mr. Pan-
duranga's column (Ban biased speech on Diag,
10/09/2009). In his short time on this Earth, Mr.
Panduranga has learned exactly the opposite les-
sons that history has repeatedly demonstrated to
mankind. I cannot begin to imagine the kind of
dangerous world that Mr. Panduranga insists we
live in - one where "most" speech is protected,

shouldn't - live together isn't the type of
thinking that residence halls should fall vic-
tim to. Ifa student wants to live with some-
one of the opposite gender, that student
should be able to make that choice. And
according to genderblind.org, 36 colleges
across the country have already demon-
strated the feasibility of allowing members
of the opposite sex to live together by enact-
ing gender-neutral housing in their resi-
dence halls.
There are some concerns that this will
empower couples to live together, which
could lead to messy living situations and
increased domestic violence. While this
concern must be treated with the utmost
seriousness, University Housing could over-
come it with training sessions - at orienta-
tion, for instance - that teaches students
how to avoid and diffuse such confronta-
tions. An additional concern is that the
gender-neutral housing could inadvertently
create a predominantly transgender hall
that could be subject to stigma and persecu-
tion. But as long as the'entire student com-
munity is given the option of gender-neutral
housing, there will be plenty of other stu-
dents entering into opposite-sex living
arrangements, offsetting the stigma.
The University of Michigan thinks of
itself as a progressive leader among colleg-
es, but to live up to this label it must join the
dozens of others that let students choose
which gender to live with.
but certainly not the kind speech that makes one
"uncomfortable" or "insults one's sensibilities"
(or even - banish the thought - speech that vio-
lates some arbitrary University code). Of course,
I'm confident that Mr. Panduranga, having been
installed as the head arbiter of his imaginary
world, would be able to rationally, without bias,
determine exactly what speech is safe for the
mind and what speech is strictly verboten.
No person on this campus, neither the cam-
pus faith zealot nor the neo-Nazi, is nearly as
dangerous as the kind of person Mr. Panduran-
ga holds himself out to be - that is, the kind
of person who openly and without reservation
condemns the freedoms of speech we hold
so closely and defend so fervently. Countless
numbers of enlightened individuals before us
have debated this issue and have consistent-
ly come to the conclusion that speech is an
inalienable right. Our Founding Fathers found
it to be of such importance that it was literally
placed above all rights granted to U.S. citizens.
In fact, they practically considered this truth
to be "self evident," though that evidence was
apparently lost on Mr. Panduranga.
So, in celebration of the rights afforded to me
by the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitu-
tion, I offer this to you, Mr. Panduranga: Better
to be only thought of as an idiot before opening
your mouth and confirming it to the world.
Chris Georgandellis
Rich Rod needs to cool down
during game time
I wanted to congratulate the football team
on a great effort against Iowa. Sure, young
players made mistakes - that's to be expect,
ed. But these kids are coming together. That's
more than I can say for Coach Rich Rodriguez.
How about some decaf, Rich? YOU, not the
Iowa Hawkeyes, had the young players rattled.
There's a time to vent and a time to encourage.
It looked like you didn't realize the distinction
existed in Iowa City.
Clint Bohlen
Alpena, Mich.

ought to apologize to all my read-
ers for wasting your federal tax
dollars. My alleged transgres-
sion? According to
Sen. Tom Coburn t
it's because I'm a
political scientist.
In the summer
of 2007, I earned
about $2,300 as a
research assistant
on a project funded PATRICK
by a grant from the
National Science O'MAHEN
But instead of
providing a mea culpa, I will now chal-
lenge my accuser to analyze the evi-
dence behind his argument - as any
good scientist ought to do - and ask
him to quietly drop his charges.
On Wednesday, Coburn introduced
an amendment that would forbid the
NSF from funding any work in politi-
cal science in fiscal year 2010. He sug-
gested that my field's average funding
of $9.13 million a year over the last
decade diverts money from more
important scientific work.
Leaving aside that $9.3 million is
only .15 percent of the $6.9 billion in
funding the NSF received last year,
Coburn's makes numerous misguided
arguments in trying to axe the fund-
He claims political science isn't
really science and he argues it doesn't
provide a useful service to society like
curing cancer. He also believes media
organizations provide all the political
analysis people need.
On his website, Coburn suggests
"that the political projects funded by
the NSF have little to do with science."
Here, the senator confuses political
science with practical politics. As I tell
my students every semester political
science is the study of politics, not the
advocacy of a political position. The

evidence gained from scientific study,
however, can certainlyinformpolitical
advocacy. Loosely paraphrasing Karl
Popper, a well-regarded philosopher
of science, scientific discovery rests
on two principles: developing a theory
and using data.to test the theory. Like
physicists and biologists, political sci-
entists do botl of these things in their
Take one of the projects that Coburn
disparages as a waste of money in his
analysis: studying the "costs" of vot-
ing, particularly the amounts of time
voters wait in line to vote. Forty years
of research by political scientists has
confirmed that increasing the time
cost of voting tends to lead to declines
invoter turnout.
How do scholars know this? They
theorized that longer amounts of time
waiting in line or tougher registration
rules made it more "costly" to vote by
taking up potential voters' time. To
test thectheory, politicalscientists then
analyzed different voting laws and
waiting times across states and found
that tougher registration laws and lon-
ger waits correlated with lower voter
turnout. The theory held up against
attempts to control for other factors,
like a lack of opposition candidates.
Coburn's second argument suggests
that political science doesn't provide
anythinguseful to society. Let's extend
the example about voting costs. In a
democratic society based on elections,
it seems important to know about how
many voters get to the polls, especially
if some groups of voters, like African-
Americans, have to systematically
wait in longer lines than others. The
University's own Walter Mebane has
done extensive research into this phe-
nomenon and provided expert testi-
mony in court cases about it.
To take other examples, political
scientists also study how to design
political institutions. Let's say you
want a power-sharing government to

mute ethnic or religious conflict in a
divided country, like Iraq. You might
want to know what sorts of ramifica-
tionsvarious sorts of electoral systems
will have on resource distribution. Or
perhaps you want to explore federal-
ism as an alternative to grant minority
groups local governance. Allen Hick-
en, Jenna Bednar and Ken Kollman,
all political scientists at the University,
study those things, often with funding
from the NSF.
Coburn's reasons
to cut funding
are misguided.
Finally, Coburn suggests that the
news media can provide all the politi-
cal analysis we need. But the truth is
that news coverage, while often pro-
viding valuable insight into politics,
generally focuses haphazardly on
short-term developments and not on
recognizing underlying strqctures.
Political scientists are in it for the long
haul.We're not just interested in who's
going to win the current election and
by how much - although our forecast-
ing models do a decent job predicting
that. Rather, we seek to understand
broader questions underlying political
So after defending the science and
relevance of political science, I'll take
my last few words to engage in selfish
political advocacy: Please encourage
your senators and representatives to
vote "Nay" on Tom Coburn's ignorant
Amendment 2631 to gut political sci-
ence funding.
- Patrick O'Mahen can be
reached at pomahen@umich.edu.


Nina Amilineni, Emad Ansari, Emily Barton, Ben Caleca, Brian Flaherty,
Emma Jeszke, Raghu Kainkaryam, Sutha K Kanagasingam, Erika Mayer,
Edward McPhee, Harsha Panduranga, Asa Smith, Brittany Smith,
Radhika Upadhyaya, Rachel Van Gilder, Laura Veith
The bla-me game and Israel


As students at an institute of higher learning, we have
the unique opportunity to explore the intricate dynam-
ics involved in international conflicts and resolutions. We
have the chance to consider all sides of a story, expose our-
selves to others' beliefs, and ultimately formulate our opin-
ions after careful examination of the facts.
In a conflict as divisive and deeply rooted as that in the
Middle East, incongruent narratives inevitably emerge
seeking to explain the past, present and expectations for
the future. But these narratives do not operate in polar
black and white terms - indeed, a great deal of gray area
exists between them. Campus discourse often focuses on
different groups exchanging nothing more than opposing
perspectives. The embittered and accusatory battle for
the "right" story creates an atmosphere of mistrust, which
prevents the conversation from progressing beyond simply
laying blame in a situation where neither side is completely
Mike Sayre's viewpoint last Wednesday accused Israel
- and U.S. support for Israel - of being the sole obstacle to
achieving a just and lasting peace (<em>Seeking solutions
in Palestine</em>, 10/07/2009). But this type of biased
attack refuses to acknowledge the Israeli perspective.
An examination of the United Nations' Goldstone
Report provides an example of the importance of critical
analysis in a situation that is seeped in complexity. Since
Israel's unilateral withdrawal from Gaza, Hamas's per-
petual bombardment of Israel caused physical damage,
injuries and deaths in Southern Israel, as well as constant
fear. In response to Hamas's violation of international law
and unrelenting bombardment of Israel, with 7,000 rocket
attacks since 2005, Israel acted on its right to self-defense
and launched a counter-terrorist operation last winter.
With a terrorist organization controlling the area and
launching rockets from people's homes, the protection
of civilian lives during Israel's attack on Hamas proved
increasingly difficult. Aiming to preserve innocent Pal-
estinian lives, the Israeli Defense Forces took exten-
sive measures to limit civilian casualties. Such measures
included warnings by phone calls, text messages, leaflets
and radio announcements of impending attacks on Hamas
targets. Israel willingly forfeited its strategic advantage to

minimize Palestinian civilian casualties, only to later be
accused of human rights violations.
The accusations levied against Israel by the Goldstone
Report fail to take into account Israel's right to defend itself
according to international law. It serves as an example of
the polarizing approachto the situation standingin the way
of rational analysis. Its purpose was biased and nonobjec-
tive - the "findings" were predetermined and concluded
before the writers actually began their investigation.
The mandate of the Goldstone Commission calls upon
the Human Rights Council to "investigate all violations of
international human rights law and International Human-
itarian Law by the occupying Power, Israel, against the
Palestinian people." The mandate itself was titled "The
Grave Violations of Human Rights in the Occupied Pal-
estinian Territory." This presumption of guilt before an
actual investigation is a severe problem in the protection
of international human rights. This biased and illegitimate
premise undermines the United Nations' ability to safe-
guard human rights.
To learn from the mistakes of the Goldstone Report,
students on campus have an important obligation to come
together and rationally explore the situation's multifaceted
nature. More comprehensive views lead to critical under-
standing and effective discourse. Michigan's campus is an
ideal place to engage in this kind of effective conversation
because of the rich diversity at the University that lends
itself to healthy dialogue.
We hope that our fellow students will make the cru-
cial distinction between pure bias and analysis of facts in
future campus discourse. As we get further into the school
year, we challenge the Michigan student body to educate,
engage in constructive conversations, and avoid the "right"
and "wrong" rhetoric that so often distracts us from pro-
ductive conversation. The question now is what we can do
to help contribute to a peaceful, fair and sustainable solu-
tion to the Middle East conflict, encompassing aHl views
and sides of the story.
Danielle DePriest and Naomi Scheinerman are vice
chair of American Movement for Israel and a board
member of American Movement for Israel; respectively.

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