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November 09, 2009 - Image 4

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The Michigan Daily, 2009-11-09

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4A - Monday, November 9, 2009

The Michigan Daily - michigandaily.com

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

Let's say I'm uninsured, and I Will Obama's health caretbll I serious
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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.
Justice in jeopardy
Innocence Clinic vital resource for wrongfully imprisoned
t's a sad reality that the justice system isn't perfect. One exam-
ple is the case of Dwayne Province, a Michigan man who
served eight years in prison for a murder he didn't commit.
But thanks to the involvement of the University Law School's newly
formed Innocence Clinic, Province is being released. This success
shows the importance of the Innocence Clinic, a group that works
to exonerate wrongfully convicted prisoners, and also highlights a
deeper problem within Michigan's justice system. Wrongfully con-
victed prisoners shouldn't have to depend on law student activists
to compensate for the mistakes of the justice system. Instead, the
state must reform its system of public defense and appeals.

Making the grade

Province was convicted in 2001 of the
murder of Rene Hunter. Province only
become a suspect after Larry Wiley, a key
witness for the prosecution, claimed that
Province and his brother were respon-
sible for the murder. But Wiley recanted
his testimony after being diagnosed with
cancer earlier this year. In response, Prov-
ince contacted the Innocence Clinic to
help him clear his name. After working on
the case for nine months, the Innocence
Clinic proved Province's innocence, using
Wiley's perjured testimony as proof and
uncovering police memos that incriminat-
ed a gang in the murder.
The Innocence Clinic is a great learn-
ing tool for law students, but it's also doing
important work to help wrongfully con-
victed people. Resources like the Inno-
cence Clinic fulfill a vital role in fixing the
mistakes of the justice system. The Inno-
cence Clinic has the potential to correct
those mistakes that get lost in the bureau-
cracy of the state's bloated justice system.
It is an invaluable resource for prisoners
who know they've been wrongly convicted
but can't make their case through conven-
tional channels.
But the Innocence Clinic can only do
so much, and it's unfair and unrealistic
to expect organizations like this one to
clean up the system's messes. Every indi-
vidual convicted of a crime deserves an
exceptional legal support staff. Michigan
is clearly in need of reforms to its justice

system so that innocence and guilt can be
fairly determined in every case.
One of Michigan's principal problems
is that its justice system suffers from
inadequate support for public defense.
Public defenders - lawyers appointed by
the state to defendants who can't afford
their own attorney - are overworked and
underpaid, increasing the number of mis-
takes made. In Detroit, public defenders
haven't been given raises in 30 years, so
many take more cases than they can han-
dle for the money. And funding for public
defense in Michigan is damagingly low,
so sometimes the necessary research to
prove a defendant's innocence isn't avail-
able. To make matters worse, Michigan's
court system is excessively restrictive and
rarely grants appeals.
These problems need to be addressed if
the state is going to reduce its number of
wrongful convictions - and eliminating
wrongful convictions should be the goal of
every justice system. People's lives hang in
the balance. It is a travesty of justice when
some people are incarcerated for years
for crimes they didn't commit because of
the barriers within the system to proving
innocence after a false conviction.
Dwayne Province was fortunate that
new evidence came to light and that the
Innocence Clinic was there to help him.
But all wrongfully convicted prisoners
deserve the same right to fight their con-
victions and prove their innocence.

There are wonderful things
about being a GSI.
Grading is not one of them.
For every hard-
ship we foist upon
students in the
form of an essay or
exam, our students
return the favor25,
50 or 75 times in
the form of exams
to grade or essays
to evaluate.
Some under- PATRICK
graduates - a dis- O'MAHEN
tinct minority, but
a vocal and annoy-
ing one - vigor-
ously question the qualifications of
GSIs to evaluate undergraduate work.
These studentseneedto take a deep
breath, count to 10 and realize that
GSIs and professors puta great deal of
work into developing clear, fair grad-
ing standards for exams and papers.
All GSIs have stories about stu-
dents who just couldn't accept their
grade. I once had a student formally
challenge six of the seven grades
she earned on essays. Another stu-
dent once followed me around for
10 months whining about the 'C'
he earned on his final exam essay
because he "needed" to get into law
school. He even thought it would be
a good idea to call my personal cell
phone before 8 a.m. to plead his case.
My personal favorite was the
student who failed a midterm and
refused to accept that there could
possibly be anything wrong with his
exam other than me not being able
to read his handwriting. He seemed
quite offended that I wasn't willing to
serve as his personal typist on future
exams to eliminate the problem.
So how did I justify his grade?
The blunt answer is I know a great
deal more than my students about the

topic I teach, and Ijudged his answer
worth a 'C-.' Deal with it, punk. E
The more nuanced answer is that
GSIs spend quite a bit of time devel-
oping questions that try to objective-
ly measure knowledge. We endlessly3
discuss grading rubrics and rigor-
ously cross-check our grades to bes
sure that we're awarding similarc
grades to similar answers. t
Last term, for example, I taughtt
a course in which the lion's share
of GSI-professor meetings were
devoted to discussing specific mul-
tiple choice questions for quizzes
and exams. After an hour, we would
leave the meeting having analyzed
and reworded each question within
an inch of its life. We were reason-
ably happy that we were asking clear,
challenging and fair questions about
the subject material.
That work was worth it, becausec
multiple choice questions are the best1
way to measure objective knowledge.c
A well-written multiple choice ques-
tion removes all of the subjectivity c
of grading. Jeffrey Mondak, a politi-
cal scientist at the University of Illi-t
nois who studies Americans' relatives
levels of political knowledge, wrote1
in an American Journal of Political
Science article entitled "Developing
Valid Knowledge Scales" that simply
asking someone to identify Joseph 7
Biden might lead to a number of cor-
rect answers including "U.S. Vicet
President," "a Democrat" and "thatc
guy with a really bad comb-over."
Scoring a correct answer introduces1
levels of subjective judgment. In
contrast, a multiple choice questionj
with four incorrect answers and
one answer stating "vice president"
clearly tests knowledge of Biden's
political significance.
The problem is that multiple
choice questions are only good at
testing simple forms of knowledge.

Theycan'tdo much to measure deep-
er understanding and nuanced rea-
soning, which is the point of going to
college in the first place. That's why
we make you write essays and show
your work when you do calculus
problems: We want you to demon-
strate your mastery of more compli-
cated subjects. Of course, evaluating
these ideas necessitates the subjec-
tive judgment of an instructor.
Sometimes, you
really do deserve
that'C-' grade.
To cancel out unwarranted bias in
our subjective grading, GSIs spend
long hours working together to go
over essay questions after the tests
and papers get turned in. We look
over each other's students' papers,
arguing over what grade to assign
them. We usually agree quickly,
although a few cases always prove to
be tricky.
But even with all that work, we
still get questions. Many questions
are reasonable requests for expla-
nations and many students go away
with a better understanding of why
they earned a particular grade. And
occasionally, GSIs do make mistakes.
But at the end of the day, a few
blissfully ignorant and profoundly
stubborn students still want us to
justify an essay grade.
Again, here's the answer: Because
we're teachers, we know more than
you about the subject-of this course,
and we say so.
-Patrick O'Mahen can be
reached at pomahen@umich.edu.

Nina Amilineni, Emad Ansari, Emily Barton, Jamie Block,
William Butler, Ben Caleca, Nicholas Clift, Michelle 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
Losing faith in the papacy

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.
Daily letter's argument against Teach for America offers work
school millage was flawed experience, chance to give back



I went to Catholic school for six years and,
despite not actually being Catholic, I loved my
education there. Many of my friends berate
Catholicism for being a dogmatic and nar-
row-minded religion, but I usually defend the
Catholic Church and enlighten them on the
liberal stances the Church has on the poor, the
distribution of wealth, the death penalty and
war. But as Pope Benedict XVI's papacy has
continued, and with his recent announcement
to basically accept homophobic Anglicans back
into the Catholic fold, I am finding it harder
and harder to defend this religion.
On Oct. 20, 2009, the Vatican released an
Apostolic Constitution creating a new Angli-
can Rite within the Catholic Church. The
decree is aimed at those who are disgruntled
with the Anglican Church's acceptance of
homosexuality and ordination of gay and
female clergy. Pope Benedict XVI is allowing
Anglican Church members to join the Catholic
Church, and is seeing to it that certain Angli-
can traditions, like married priests and aspects
of their liturgy, are preserved. He is effectively
pandering to fundamentalist Anglicans. Catho-
lics should feel appalled by this. Not only does
it continue to diminish the Catholic Church's
stance within the secular world, it furthers the
image of Catholicism as a hateful and bigoted
The Vatican spun this as an ushering in of a
new era of Christian unity, using the papacy to
fill a bigger role in Christian dialogue. But Pope
Benedict XVI's offer is not a sign of openness
but a consolidation of hate, solidifying a coali-
tion of those who stand so fervently against
gay rights and female clergy. The pope is using
the new members he will receive to drown out
calls for reform and progress within the Catho-
lic Church, and his decision is marking a dark
day for anyone hoping for dialogue about social
equality within the Catholic community.
This decision comes shortly after Pope
Benedict XVI's reinstatement of four excom-
municated bishops in January. All belonged
to a Catholic society that stood in protest of
the modernizing reforms of the Second Ecu-

menical Council of the Vatican, which led to
speculation about the pope's support of Church
reformations. One reinstated bishop even made
comments denying the existence of the Holo-
caust, damaging years of effort to ease Jewish-
Christian tensions and furthering the disunity
caused by this papacy.
Both of these examples are evidence of Pope
Benedict XVI growing his conservative fac-
tion. By doing so, he shuts off communication
to progressives not only within the Church but
also in the secular world. This is more dan-
gerous than anybody seems to realize. A rel-
evant Catholic Church, one that speaks to the
secular world and acknowledges its stances as
well, can be an incredibly powerful voice. It
can become an advocate for increased human
rights, economic equality and non-violentreso-
lutions. Historically, the Church fulfilled this
role in the nineteenth century. After all, it was
the Catholic Church that played a major part in
workers' rights movements and gave voices to
oppressed people, such as those in El Salvador.
The Catholic Church doesn't have to stand
in accordance with every opinion of the secu-
lar world, and indeed it shouldn't. It has a
right to its own opinion. But as Pope Benedict
XVI's papacy reaches further and further into
the traditionalist base, the Church becomes
less and less significant to actual changes in
peoples' lives. It negates itself and becomes a
meaningless institution with no power outside
of itself.
A growing number of people will continue
to support the morality of homosexuality and
the ordination of women and gay clergy. This
is an inevitable truth. The Vatican has a choice
to either examine its own stance and begin an
open dialogue or simply ignore the opinions
of more progressive members. The choices of
Pope Benedict XVI, specifically with the cre-
ation of the new Anglican Rite,.reflect the lat-
ter, which ostracises non-traditionalists and
continues the Catholic Church on a dangerous
path toward irrelevancy.
William Butler is an LSA freshman.

The views expressed on the Daily's editorial page
on Thursday advanced several flawed arguments with
regard to student support for the millage and participa-
tion in the election that we, the College Democrats, must
address (Students wrong to push millage on property own-
ers, 11/05/2009).
The millage would have helped fill the gap in K-12 edu-
cation funding that the state legislature created with its
drastic cuts to the budget for this fiscal year. Tax revenue
has fallen due to the state of the economy which, com-
bined with the Republican-controlled Senate's decisionto
block any new revenue sources, made program cuts inevi-
table. Educated students are the foundation of Michigan's
economic recovery. Michigan's students will not only cre-
ate a more capable workforce but also spur the growth of
new industry in the state.
As University students, we recognize early education as
a stepping stone for higher achievement. Andrea Siklosi's
letter on student election participation was, therefore,
fundamentally flawed. First of all, she is simply incorrect
to assert that the millage would not have affected Uni-
versity students. Many students rent houses off campus
- the millage would have levied a tax on these proper-
ties and landlords would have passed it onto tenants as a
rent increase. Her reasoning reflects a fundamental lack
of understanding of basic economic principles and hous-
ing realities at the University.
But in any case, it's ridiculous to suggest that participa-
tion in the political process should be contingent on pay-
ing taxes. By Siklosi's logic, students probably should not
have the right to vote at all, because they do not contrib-
ute a significant amount to total tax revenues. Addition-
ally, her piece implies that votes cast by wealthier people
(who typically pay higher taxes) ought to be weighted
more heavily than votes cast by people of lesser economic
status. This backward logic is absurd. our country decid-
ed long ago that the franchise should not be conditional
on wealth or property. It's tragic to see that some stu-
dents on this campus have forgotten our nation's history
of restricted voting rights.
We are disappointed that the millage failed to pass and
students in Washtenaw County will suffer substantial
cuts in their education as a result of the voters' decision.
But policy debates aside, we are insulted that this edito-
rial page would carry pieces tarnished with such absurd
College Democrats is a group of students who are
interested in Democratic and progressive politics. We are
unashamed about any of our activism and we will con-
tinue to support efforts in Ann Arbor and throughout the
state of Michigan.

Students growing up in low-income communities, many
of whom are African-American or Hispanic, face daunting
challenges from the moment they are born. These students
frequently aren't given a sense oftheir potential to achieve at
high levels. I can personally remember countless incidents
of being labeled as less capable than others simply because
of where I was born and the color of my skin. It's clear to
me now that I was never less capable. But even with support
fromboth of my parents, I remember thinking I wasn't good
enough. Ijoined TeachForAmericabecause I realized I had
the opportunity to serve as an example of success for stu-
dents coming from similar backgrounds as my own. It's the
type of example that is tangible, not one that students hear
or read about but one they have the opportunity to develop
a personal relationship with. It's the type of example that I
craved as a child in order to truly believe I was capable of the
potential my parents said I had.
As a first-year teacher in the Houston IndependentSchool
District, I'malreadybeginningtounderstand howpowerful
this example can be for my first graders. One ofmy students,
who I will call Natalie, recently approached me and said,
"Ms. James, guess what? I want to be a teacher just like you
when I growup." Natalie is one of 31 students I willhave the
opportunity to work with this year.
The daunting and exciting thing is that there are so many
students like Natalie across our country - students who are
simply waiting to be given the educational opportunities
they deserve. Here in Houston, 77 percent of Caucasian 10th
graders in HISD met grade-level requirements on state-
administered exams, while only 41 percent of Hispanic
students and 35 percent of African-American students met
minimum grade-level standards on the same exams. There
is a desperate need in low-income communities for more
teachers who can serve as models of success in education
and in life and who will do whatever it takes to make sure
their students achieve at high levels.
Teach For America has given me the opportunity to help
fight one of our nation's greatest injustices. I will have the
chance to impact students that face challenges similar to
ones I encountered. As a Teach For America participant, I
have the opportunity to inspire a passion for learning and
a sense of self-esteem in each of my students. It's by far the
most difficult and rewarding challenge I have faced to date.
As University students, we are uniquely positioned to
expand the academic potential and life prospects of stu-
dents growing up in low-income communities. We know
what it takes to succeed and we are committed to making
sure others have the same higher education opportunities
we received. I urge you to join me in working to give every
student like Natalie the opportunity to someday attend the
University of Michigan and lead her own classroom.

Samuel Marvin Andrea James
Chair of the University's chapter of the College Democrats Alum



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