4 - Wednesday, November 4, 2009
The Michigan Daily - michigandaily.com
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EDITOR IN CHIEF
EDITORIAL PAGE EDITOR
Unsigned editorials reflect the official position of the Daily's editorialboard. All other signed articles
and illustrations representsolely the views ofttheir authors.1
Backing up education
Students should find ways to give back to their communities
T hanks to the abject failure of the state government to do
its job of providing Michigan's schools with the money
they need, the primary loser in this year's budget debate
is K-12 education. Despite the obvious importance of education to
the state's future, legislators don't seem to understand that with-
out well-funded schools, Michigan's prospects only grow more
hopeless. But until legislators are held accountable and reverse
their failure, private citizens must step up and choose to fund local
schools. And college students, too, should do their part to make
sure the children of Michigan do not suffer a decline in the quality
of their education.
rUrPiZ2Ookw 5TILL S
Bust out of tef student bubble
After weeks of Democrats and Repub-
licans in the state legislature fighting
over spending, Michigan's budget debate
finally ended last week. Gov. Jennifer
Granholm signed the final 2010 budget on
Friday - a budget that slashed K-12 edu-
cation funding, the Promise Scholarship
and higher education funding The big
loser, though, was K-12 education, which
will now see at least $292 less per student.
There's no escaping the fact that state
government failed one of its most criti-
cal tasks by reducing depleting education
funding. Providing for education is one of
government's most important functions,
and the legislature can't be said to have
done its job until it rights this wrong.
But in the meantime, Michigan's
schools can't just wait for the government
to realize how badly it's erred or until the
next election when these impotent legis-
lators can be punished. Private citizens
have some additional responsibility to fill
in, for now.
One such citizen who is doing some-
thing is Ypsilanti Township resident Lon-
nie Scott, a Democrat who is running to
represent the 54th District in the state
House of Representatives. According to an
Oct. 29 annarbor.com article, Scott wants
to find 3,000 people who will donate $12
to create scholarships of $1,200 each for
students in the three school districts.
This type of fundraising could provide
a stop-gap measure for school districts
across the state. The generosity of people
who care about the quality of education
in Michigan is needed to maintain educa-
tional quality in the short run.
That includes means college students.
Though students are infamous for having
small funds and busy schedules, there's no
reason why they can't find some time to
help out the schools that first cultivated
their intellectual abilities. While encour-
aging other students to vote for a school
millage that most of them won't ever have
to pay for is one strategy, college stu-
dents should do better than advocating
that someone else take care of the costs.
In addition to raising some money them-
selves, students can volunteer as tutors
and coaches at local schools in the area or
back in their hometowns.
Indeed, some students at the University
are already giving back through programs
like K-grams, in which University stu-
dents are paired with elementary-school
pen pals. This type of program is low-
cost and a small time commitment, but it
makes a big difference to individual kids.
More students should recognize the need
for volunteers in programs like these in
times of need for local schools.
In tough times, many people are lending
a hand to local schools, and more people
- including college students - should do
what they can, too.
L iving in Ann Arbor has been sion, Ann Arbor has found a niche.
an excellent experience. I have Nationally known summer fairs like
lived in a hospitable neighbor- Top of the Park and the Ann Arbor
hood and enjoyed a solid public school Art Fair have risen from partner-
system. I have had ships between city council and the
the opportunity University. These partnerships are
to be entertained crucial to the smooth functioning of
and broaden my the University and town, and foster
horizons by visi- a learning environment while being
tors like the real conducive to tourism. So while the
life Hotel Rwanda University does wonders for the city
hero Paul Ruse- in attracting visitors, the welcoming,
sabagina, comedi- safe and hospitable environment of
an Russell Peters HARSHA Ann Arbor - a paragon of University
and socially con- PANDURANGA towns - shouldn't be overlooked.
scious rapper The decisions of the Ann Arbor
Talib Kweli. After I government can also impact the lives
graduated from Pioneer High School, of students. For example, a long-
I made the transition to a student at debated issue in City Council has
the University. Being a townie and been whether or not to introduce an
a student resident of Ann Arbor are income tax to close budgetary gaps
undoubtedly different roles, but the as well as possibly provide property
relationship between the two is more tax relief. Property taxes are passed
complex than many students think - on to the consumer in the form of
what happens in Ann Arbor affects higher rent on campus, so an income
the University and vice versa. tax on Ann Arbor residents could
of course, it's undeniable that Ann indirectly result in lower prices for
Arbor wouldn'tbe the town it is with- student housing. But obviously, stu-
out the University and its students. dent incomes would be taxed as well,
The wealth of ethnically diverse res- so there are varying perspectives to
taurants and famous visitors, which consider. Either way, students will be
is a result of an affluent population, affected by a decision.
wouldn't exist. The University has Zoning rules and related restric-
carved Ann Arbor a place in history tions also affect expenses and choitc-
as, among other things, the location es for students. These rules set the
of the announcement of the Peace guidelines for how buildings may be
Corps in 1960 and President Lyndon constructed within the city limits.
Johnson's call for a Great Society in Recently, the application and cre-
1964. The employment and status ation of these rules has been evident
provided by the University allows for in the City Place apartment saga: A
a vibrant environment that all Ann proposed mid-level housing com-
Arbor residents can enjoy. plex has been plagued by obstacles
But even when school isn't in ses- due to the potential historical value
of the area and the city's numerous
zoning restrictions. Students regu-
larly experience the effects of City
Council decisions regarding housing
development, both in price and loca-
tion, when they search for housing
Ann Arbor has a lot
to offer students,
and vice versa.
Students could have participated
in the city's affairs during yesterday's
City Council elections. Voting direct-
ly voices the concerns of the student
body as it relates Ann Arbor's laws
and policies. Students, who make up
a large proportion of the city's popu-
lation during the school year, have
the chance through elections to have
their interests fairly represented.
Ann Arbor and the University
share a symbiotic relationship. Stu-
dents are members of both societies,
and being aware of the city's stances
on issues is important. And coming
fromk a former Ann ArpF 9OyWnie,
the town - whether or not due to
the presence of the University - has
much to offer. It's helpful to step out-
side the strictly student bubble. Take 0
a walk down Main St. on a weekend
evening sometime, and you'll see.
-Harsha Panduranga can be
reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
EDITORIAL BOARD MEMBERS:
Nina Amilineni, Emad Ansari, Emily Barton, Jamie Block,
Ben Caleca, Michete DeWitt, Brian Flaherty, Emma Jeszke, Raghu Kainkaryam,
Sutha K Kanagasingam, Erika Mayer, Edward McPhee, Harsha Panduranga,
Alex Schiff, Asa Smith, Brittany Smith, Radhika Upadhyaya,
Rachel Van Gilder, Laura Veith
No excuse for racism
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On Halloween morning, prior to a day of
work and college football, my wife and I trav-
eled to our neighborhood Denny's for break-
fast. A trip to Denny's is a modest treat, but for
two graduate students on a strict budget, we
look forward to the simple pleasures that we
can enjoy in our free time.
As the hostess walked us to our booth,
another patron's eyes met mine. The absurdly
large Afro wig and the smeared black makeup
on her face belied her blue eyes and the fair'
hands that held her fork. It was 10 a.m., and my
wife and I, not to mention the other patrons
and wait staff, witnessed our first blackface
costume of the day.
What conversation my wife and I had been
engaged in was lost. What enthusiasm we had
for the day was stunted. We sat in silence for
a moment. Out of necessity, many people of
color have learned to function competently on
a day-to-day basis in the face of implicit and
explicit racism. Nonetheless, on this occa-
sion and engrossed in the weekend's leisure, it
caught us by surprise.
Our reaction was visceral. We sat there in
sadness, anger and fatigue, with a burning
sense of our race and its seeming insignifi-
cance. We felt scrutinized and shamed while
this young woman seemed to be enjoying her
morning, oblivious to the shock waves of dis-
comfort and disbelief moving through the res-
After sitting in our booth for a few sec-
onds, my wife stood up. "I'll be right back,"
she said. Retracing her steps two booths, my
wife calmly and quietly told this young lady,
sitting with an older woman - presumably
her mother - that her outfit was offensive.
They were surprised but nodded, admitted
(feigned?) ignorance that the costume could
be perceived as offensive and apologized.
For anyone who has suggested to an indi-
vidual that he/she is racist or that what he/she
is doing is racist, you know it rarely goes well.
This response was surprisingly less explosive
than either my wife or I anticipated, but her
outfit and response revealed a whole host of
other dynamics at work. Would it have been
more hurtful if she was trying to be explicitly
offensive? Or is it more remarkable that she
claimed to not know that some people might
see her as an embodiment of historical and
contemporary oppression? What makes it
okay to wear a black person as a costume?
Blackface isn't a post-racial example of
how people blur the lines of racial construc-
tions. It is a racist practice. The same is true
for the head feathers and war paint of the
"Native" costume, the "cholo" uniform and
many other outfits that, as Felix Lopez artic-
ulated in Thursday's issue of The Michigan
Daily, become, unsurprisingly, prevalent on
Oct. 31 of each year (Halloween unmasked,
I am confident that this instance of black-
face was not the only one in Ann Arbor this
past weekend. Ignorance does not excuse rac-
ism, and racism is alive and well in our uni-
versity town. If you deny this is true, don't be
offended if I tell you that you are wrong.
Matthew Blantonis a graduate student.
LARRY HARVILLA |
Keep homophobia out of 'U' sports
As many in the University community know, Ann
Arbor has a well-deserved reputation as a liberal, tol-
erant and open-minded city. Imagine my great shock,
then, when I traveled to Ann Arbor to watch my beloved
Wolverine athletic teams play only to be faced with the
kind of ignorant, bigoted behavior I would expect from
those associated with far lesser institutions. I'm talking
about the homophobia I have seen and heard exhibited
by students, alumni and fans alike, particularly at some
of the most popular events like football and men's ice
As a former student and Yost Ice Arena cowbell player
from roughly a decade ago, I'm well versed in the chant
performed by the student section when an opposing play-
er is penalized. Hell, I can still recite the 1999-2001 ver-
sions of it from memory to this day.
A couple of years ago, to my horror, I learned that the
student section had appended "cocksucker" (a pejorative
term for gay men) to the end of the chant and voiced it
with what seemed to be a particular flourish. Suddenly,
it seemed that in less than 10 years, I had gone from lead-
ing more than 6,000 fans in chants to persona non grata
I never thought I'd live to see the day when I would
have to defend Michigan Marching Band baton twirler
Nathan Magyar from homophobic comments made by
Michigan football fans (as opposed to, for example, MSU
fans at last year's game), but that day came justbefore this
year's Penn State game.
Carl Grapentine's booming baritone introduction of
Magyar during "M Fanfare" was immediately followed
by a shout of "fag boy" from a fan in the row behind
me. Never mind that, even if that were the case, that's
nobody's business but Nathan's - but this fan, who I
believed to be an alumnus, felt it perfectly okay to demean
a member of his University's marching band based on a
stereotype and hate.
I chided this fan, "So what even if he is gay? It doesn't
matter - he's one of ours."
These incidents are part of a disturbing trend of
homophobia increasingly considered perfectly accept-
able, and in fact even encouraged, at University sporting
events. This needs to stop, and it needs to stop now.
I remember well from my days at Yost how creative
we could be back then without crossing the line of using
terms offensive to minority groups. It was a known fact
to many of my fellow Yost fans of the time that I am gay,
and none of them were bothered - even eight years ago,
before many of the recent advances gay people have made
in society. Where has the basic level of tolerance and
respect gone in just eight years?
Don't get me wrong. There are few things in life I love
more than the Wolverines. I fork over large amounts of
hard-earned cash not only to see them play, but also to
fund the Athletic Department, which gives scholarships
to student-athletes so they can make a positive impact on
our world long after they have hung up the block M or
winged helmet. It pains me that my love for the Univer-
sity is met with such hateful words by fans and that the
hateful words are met with indifference by the Athletic
The news came out last week that Athletic Director Bill
Martin will be retiring from his post next Sept. 4. With
the jury still out on what legacy he will leave with his
recent coaching hires, combating homophobia at Michi-
gan sporting events would be a great way for Martin to
leave a positive, lasting legacy, on Michigan athletics,
regardless of Rich Roderiguez and John Beilein's even-
tual win-loss records. I call on Bill Martin to make this
a priority in the sunset days of his career at Weidenbach
And in closing, I call upon you - students, alumni and 6
otherwise unaffiliated fans - to do your part. Refrain
from homophobic statements and chants at athletic
events, and speak out to combat those you do hear -
that's just what the leaders and best do.
Larry Harvilla is an Engineering alum.
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