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December 10, 2009 - Image 4

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The Michigan Daily, 2009-12-10

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4A - Thursday, December 10, 2009

The Michigan Daily - michigandaily.com *

[ e Atic4*oan +

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


Groups that wish to engage in discrimination
should not expect public subsidies:'
- Rev. Barry W. Lynn, supporting the Hastings Colle'ge of the Law's refusal to recognize a Christian student group
that excludes homosexuals and nonbelievers, as reported yesterday by The New York Times.


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.
MSA's group work
Assembly's constitutional revision process needs openness
ast month, the Central Student Judiciary ruled, with
considerable irony, that the Michigan Student Assembly's
attempts to amend its constitution were unconstitutional.
This was due to the fact that constitutional convention delegates
were appointed rather than elected by the student body, a clear
violation of the rules for amending the constitution. Though MSA
leaders are now pursuing another method of rewriting its consti-
tution, many of the same concerns still exist - namely, that the
process is too exclusive. They should actively involve students in
the process to rewrite its constitution, and students should join
the effort.



A very Jewish Christmas

There are several different ways that
MSA can revise its constitution. At the
start of the semester, MSA leaders had
formed a constitutional convention
whose delegates were picked by President
Abhishek Mahanti from a pool of inter-
ested applicants. But now that CSJ has
disbanded the convention on the grounds
that these appointments are unconstitu-
tional, MSA leaders are using a different
method. Former members of the conven-
tion have formed a student group - Stu-
dents for Progressive Governance. If the
group garners 1,000 signatures from stu-
dents., its proposals will be put up for a
campus-wide vote.
The problem is that this student group
doesn't appear to be much different from
the constitutional convention. It consists
of about 20 members from the original
convention, including MSA leaders like
Vice President Mike Rorro, Student Gen-
eral Counsel Jim Brusstar and Rules and
Elections Committee Chair Michael Ben-
son. But more concerning, membership
in the student group is only available to
students who are nominated by a cur-
rent member and approved by a majority
of group members. While that might be
good enough to survive CSJ scrutiny, it
shouldn't be good enough for the group.
After all, the constitution mandates a
student-wide election rather than appoint-
ments for delegate positions for a reason.
Students for Progressive Governance is a
body with a considerable amount of power
to impact students' lives. Keeping a strong
hold over who can join this student group is

all too similar to appointing convention del-
egates. In both cases, MSA leaders have too
much control over which students partici-
pate in the constitutional revision process.
While deficient student interest in MSA
is a problem - with student turnout at
only about 9 percent in the recent elec-
tion - it's unlikely to be improved by a
constitutional revision process in which
you have to know someone in the group to
get in. If there are passionate students out
there interested in reforming campus gov-
ernment, such an approval process won't
encourage them to be active. All students
should be able to join the group without
undergoing a nominating and approval
In addition to discouraging interested
students, restricting the group's mem-
bership will only give credence to argu-
ments that assembly leaders don't tolerate
dissent. By opening up the group to any
interested student, MSA leaders can dem-
onstrate that they don't want any views
to be excluded. SSch a policy could only
benefit the group, and by extension, MSA
Despite its shortcomings, MSA has the
power to weigh in on important Univer-
sity issues on behalf of students. If stu-
dents want MSA to be making the right
calls - and for administrators to listen
- they need to show more interest in the
assembly by voting in its elections and
participating in groups like Students for
Progressive Governance. But the process
has to be more accessible for students to

ach December, it seems that
some of my acquaintances
still struggle with wishing
me well for the
holidays. True
to form, they get
out the first syl-
lable of "merry"
before correcting
themselves with
a "Happy Hanuk- -4
kah" or "Happy
Holidays" upon
remembering MATTHEW
that I'm Jewish.
That's thought- GREEN
ful, but not
entirely nec-
essary. Some
Jews may resent what they see as a
Christian tradition being pushed on
them, but I think they're just kind
of missing the point. I am delighted
when someone cheerily wishes me a
"Merry Christmas," and I don't con-
sider it an assault against my Jewish-
At any rate, it's fairly well estab-
lished that Christmas is effectively a
national holiday in this country. For
Christian faithful, this can under-
standably be a point of frustration.
To put it into terms I can compre-
hend more readily, if Jewish boys and
girls suddenly forgot the meaning
of the high holidays and associated
them with revelry, sweets and mate-
rial gain, no small number of bub-
bies would be up in arms about it. It's
worth pointing out that there's still
a lot of importance in the liturgical
Christmas for many Christian Ameri-
But whether it's due to Frosty the
Snowman or Ulysses S. Grant's 1870

decision to make Dec.25 a federal hol-
iday, Americans from a variety of reli-
gious backgrounds are happy to hang
stockings and decorate trees. There-
fore, if one can accept that Christmas
is increasingly becoming a secular
holiday in the U.S., I would argue that
it's possibly the most Jewish of Ameri-
can holidays, or at least one in which
Jews should feel comfortable taking
some small part.
Aside from the fact that Christmas
commemorates the birth of history's
most famous Jewish boy, Jews have
been contributing to Yuletide tradi-
tion ever since 1840, when German-
Jewish composer Felix Mendelssohn
wrote the song that would become
"Hark! The Herald Angels Sing." It's
undeniable that from "White Christ-
mas" to "Sleigh Ride" and scores of
other favorites, the works of Jewish
composers make up an enormous per-
centage of carols. And at that, some of
the most iconic seasonal recordings
have been by Jewish artists like Bar-
bra Streisand, Mel Torme, Kenny G
and Harry Connick, Jr.
Members of the Tribe have fur-
thermore helped write, act, produce
and direct innumerable Christmas
films. And insofar as department
stores have had ajhand in developing
the modern conception of Christmas,
the historical connection between
Jews and retail has, therefore, even
further influenced the holiday.
It's partly this understanding of
how my people have helped to add
magic to the Christmas tradition that
has kept me at peace with the holi-
day's December dominance. Yet, tak-
ing a step back, what further fills me
with warmth is the symbolic mean-
ing behind any and all Jewish contri-

butions to the American Christmas
tradition. Only in America could
countless members of a historically
persecuted religious minority enrich
the traditions of a holiday at least
rooted in the religion of that group's
past oppressors.
I don't groan if
somebody says,
"Merry Christmas."
As a Jew, it may intrigue me to find'
out that "Silver Bells" was composed
by one of my own. But any prideI feel
from hearing that fact comes mainly
from the knowledge that I live in a
society in which that sort of religious
symbiosis is all around me. And it is
with that pride that I have come to
love the Christmas season.
I'm not saying that Jews should
trade their menorahs for evergreens
and ornaments or even assimilate
in the smallest way into the main-
stream.I, for one, will probablyspend
December 25th in a Chinese res-
taurant somewhere with my family.
But I refuse to feel ashamed for my
love of Christmastime, and I believe
other American Jews should embrace
the jolly spirit of the holiday as well.
Christmas, so I've been told, is a time
for peace, goodwill and togetherness,
in addition to the requisite food and
presents. And as far as Ican tell, Jews
love all of those things, too.
- Matthew Green can be
reached at greenmat@umich.eda.

Nina Amilineni, Emad Ansari, Emily Barton, Jamie Block, Will Butler, Ben Caleca,
Nicholas Clift, Michelle DeWitt, Brian Flaherty, Emma Jeszke, Raghu Kainkaryam, Erika Mayer,
Edward McPhee, Harsha Panduranga, Ales Schiff, Asa Smith, Brittany Smith, Radhika Upadhyaya,
Rachel Van Gilder, Laura Veith
.inaret ban an obvious case ,It isn't reasonable to see this ban as anything
but repressing a minority group. What if it
of reigious discrimination went another way and Christian churches were
targeted? Churches have bells, and bells make
a lot of noise - would you ban the bell tower
To the Daily: or steeples? If churches have bells couldn't a
Danny Fries's response to another letter to municipality just simply regulate the time in
the editor about Switzerland's recent vote to which they may be used? Steeples and bells are
ban minarets had some important facts incor- not an integral part of a church, but they are
rect in his defense of the ban (Arguments part of a traditional architecture. The same
against minaret ban oversimplified the issue, is true for minarets and mosques. If you can't
12/02/2009). He claims that these minarets honestly support banning bells or steeples
would have been equipped with loudspeakers from churches, how can you support banning
to broadcast the call to pray. Of the four mina- minarets?
rets in Switzerland, none of them have speak- We should recognize discrimination
ers, so none of them are being used as what when we see it and denounce it as such. Fries
Fries calls "a platform for public announce- attempts to defend this discrimination as the
ment." result of a healthy democracy. Simply put, just
Yet even claiming that the purpose of this because a majority of people support discrimi-
ban was to prevent a supposed public nuisance nating against a religion, race or lifestyle does
is not true in itself. This wasn't a ban against not mean that the laws they vote for are just.
loudspeakers - it was against minarets. You Democracy requires protections for minori-
could have loudspeakers without minarets and ties, The Swiss constitution has the protections
minarets without loudspeakers. This was a ban built in, and hopefully the Supreme Court of
on a piece of traditional Islamic architecture. Switzerland will overturn this discriminatory
Even if this was about noise, the issue of noise law.
complaints is hardly one for a national referen-
dum. Should Switzerland have a national vote Mike Sayre
on loud car stereos or noisy parties? LSA senior

A2 arts can afford less funding

ow that they're done sending
inappropriate emails during
meetings, it looks like Ann
Arbor City Coun-
cil has finally
gotten around to
doing something
useful. Accord-
ing to AnnArbor.
com, the council
approved prelimi-
nary changes to
the Percent for
Art Program that JAMIE
would require BLOCK
only half a percent
of the funds des-
ignated for city
developments and infrastructure be
set aside for.public art, as opposed
to the full one percent the program
is currently given. In a time when
millions of dollars in budget cuts
are necessary in Ann Arbor, this is
a great step, and possibly even not
going far enough. (And if an arts edi-
tor is saying this, you know it must
be true.)
The public art fund will stand
at a hefty $1.5 million at the end of
the fiscal year, as it has been accu-
mulating for some time. Surely this
is enough money to last the city for
a while. Protesters of the program
change claim that now there won't
be enough money for public art. But
if we've already let it accumulate this
much without spending enough to
counter its growth, then there's not
an urgent need to keep it expanding
at the current rate. One percent of
the development budget has clearly
been more than enough.
Many arts enthusiasts vehemently
argue that if cuts are to be made, they
must be made elsewhere. But Ann

Arbor Mayor John Hieftje is already
proposing a three-percent pay cut for
all city employees, so art is not the
only part of budget from which bits
and pieces are being chipped away.
But on a more pragmatic level,
there just isn't a need for more public
art in Ann Arbor. We live in a town
that's pretty artsy as it is - the city
bike racks even say "art" on them.
Slowing development of future pub-
lic art projects is a risk we can afford
to take when compared to the idea of
skimping on city infrastructure and
density development. Plus, it doesn't
seem like we're anywhere near using
up the public art budget we already
So good work, council, but maybe
you haven't gone far enough. With
that hefty wad of cash already set
aside for beautifying our streets,
why not just put a hold on the Per-
cent for Art Program altogether? We
don't need more art right now. Those
who claim the city will lose its repu-
tation as an artsy town neglect the
fact that first you need to actually
have a functioning city with bridges
that don't collapse and buildings that
aren't falling apart. Once the bud-
get is back on track and Ann Arbor's
infrastructure is repaired, we can
reconsider the art program. But until
then, it's a finicky thing to fuss over.
Perhaps part of the problem is that
the art projects the Council inves-
tigates are often absurd - and so
are their price tags. City Council is
considering spending $850,000 on
a German artist's concept for what
looks like, in all fairness, a short col-
umn on a wet ramp near some trees.
At least support a local artist if you're
going to commission a weird project
like this, and find one willing to do

it for a much lower price tag. If the
city is goingto spend so much money
on a single, unexciting art piece, it's
no wonder people are saying the $1.5
million isn't enough. The way we're
spending the money, it really won't
be enough. But the way we're spend-
ing it is also just plain dumb.
Infrastructure, job
retention higher
priorities right now.
But there is a right way to spend
money on the arts, even in this
economy, and it can be seen in my
hometown of Washington, D.C. The
National Endowment for the Arts
distributes stimulus money to arts
groups, and one of the criteria for
acquiring money is to demonstrate
that the failing economy had forced
your organization to eliminate cer-
tain job opportunities. According to
a story in the The Washington Post,
the program is working. Promoting
arts institutions in a way that keeps
people employed is the best of both
worlds. We keep our reputation of
being focused on the arts, and we
keep our residents employed. Given
the choice between funding arts
programs so they can keep provid-
ing jobs and erecting a wet, German
pillar in front ofCity Hallwe should
go with funding the programs.
- Jamie Block is a senior
arts editor. He can be reached
at jamblock@umich.edu.


The Daily is looking for a diverse group of strong, informed, passionate
writers to be columnists for the winter semester. Columnists write a
700-800 word column every other week on a topic of their choosing.
If you are an opinionated and talented writer, consider applying.

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 tothedaily@umich.edu.

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