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January 26, 2010 - Image 4

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The Michigan Daily, 2010-01-26

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4 - Tuesday, January 26, 2010

The Michigan Daily - michigandaily.com

!' IBC igan 4:aI*g
Edited and managed by students at
the University of Michigan since 1890.
420 Maynard St.
Ann Arbor, MI 48109

A not-so -Sweetland





Unsigned editorials reflect the official position of the Daily's editorial board. All other signed articles
and illustrations represent solely theviews of their authors.
Airing another grievance
Oversight committee should handle all DPS complaints
T he concerns about the Department of Public Safety and its
oversight committee just seem to keep on coming. A report
by the Daily yesterday revealed that citizens' problems
with DPS rarely go before the oversight committee. Instead, most
citizens file a complaint with the department itself. Complaints
don't reach the oversight committee until after the matter has been
handled by DPS. Instead, the oversight committee hears only those
cases filed as grievances, not complaints. The distinction means
that the oversight committee only sees complaints once a year,
after they have been handled by the department. The system must
be reformed so that all cases of suspected misconduct, regardless
of terminology, are reviewed by the oversight committee.

I'm convinced that the most valu-
able academic skill that students
should learn from their time in
college is how to
write well. In vir-
tually every career
path, the ability
to express oneself
through writing
will be tested in
one way or anoth-
er. From, a job
application letterA
to a simple office CHRIS
e-mail, writing is KOSLOWSKI
ubiquitous in the
The University
realizes term papers aren't just a way
for professors and GSIs to measure
what a student knows. They are part
of a vital process through which stu-
dents learn to master the difficult
task of articulating their ideas and
communicating through print. Com-
ing out of high school, many students
simply aren't prepared to write on a
level the University and most employ-
ers deem appropriate.
Luckily, the University works hard
to ensure students receive the writing
instruction they need. Most colleges
- including the College of Literature,
Science, & the Arts, the University's
largest school - require students to
fulfill first-year and upper-level writ-
ing requirements. These checkpoints
ensure students' writing abilities meet
certain standards before they can con-
tinue earning their degrees. For those
seeking help outside the classroom,
the University offers the services of
the Sweetland Writing Center. This
tireless group of faculty and peer
tutors does a superb job helping stu-
dents become better writers.
Last semester, I decided to enroll
in the prerequisite training course for
future Sweetland peer tutors. Not only
did I want to help others improve their

writing, but I also hoped that learning
how to speak intelligently about writ-
ing could help me enrich my own. The
experience was marvelous. I gained
a newfound respect for both writing
instructors as well as students who
struggle with academic English yet
refuse to quit trying to learn more. But
I also learned something about Sweet-
land's status within the University's
academic culture that made me ques-
tion the college's commitment to the
improvement of student writing.
Before enrolling in the Sweet-
land class, I had never visited the
center's faculty or peer tutors. I had
always been told that Sweetland was
a resource you used if you were strug-
gling with writing. I saw it as a kind
of fix-it shop, separate from LSA's
academic departments, where I could
take a paper to have its problems diag-
nosed, edited and remedied. I didn't
know that Sweetland was designed for
all students, regardless of ability, as a
place to discuss writing and improve
themselves. Sweetland isn't just a
grammar fix-it-shop - it's a com-
munity of writers working together.
In Sweetland's peer-tutoring center,
with writers and tutors so close in age
and ability, the effects of this com-
munity dynamic are evident. Tutors
become better writers through tutor-
ing, and visitors improve by working
with their tutors.
In my time around Sweetland's
faculty and peer tutors, I learned that
many professors and administrators
see the writing center as I once did.
Sweetland, despite all its incred-
ible work, is still on the fringe of the
University's academic culture, strug-
gling to earn the respect it deserves.
Some just can't shake their view of
Sweetland as an editing service or
a substitute for remedial education.
Nowhere is Sweetland's separation
more evident than the placement of
the flagship peer-tutoring center in

the basement of Angell Hall.
While Sweetland has two other
peer tutoring centers in the Under-
graduate Library and Alice Lloyd, the
Angell Hall center is the most visited.
It's a cramped, windowless, loud and
bare space where tutors constantly
battle to shout over four or more
other groups in the same room. It's
so hidden that without the sign in the'
main hallway, most could probably
never find it. The tutors try to make
their space as inviting as possible, but
no amount of sprucing can change
the fact that the G219 Angell inter-
feres with the tutoring process itself.
This needs to change.
U must show its 0
commitment to
teaching writing.
Relocation of the Angell Hall peer
tutoring center is long overdue. The
University missed a great opportu-
nity to free it from the basement when
Haven and Mason Halls were reno-
vated in 2002-2003. The peer tutoring
center should be located in a friendly,
spacious, accessible room like the Perl-
man Honors Commons in Mason Hall
or the Science Learning Center in the
Chemistry Building. Anything less is a
slight of an essential component of the
University's writing instruction. If the
University really wantsto demonstrate
their commitment to writing, they will
upgrade the peer tutoring center to
a more inviting facility. Surely, with
a soaring construction budget, it can
spare just a little change.
- Chris Koslowski can be
reached at cskoslow@umich.edu.

The Department of Public Safety was
formed in 1992 after a 1990 state law allowed
four-year universities to create their own
police force on the condition that an over-
sight committee of faculty, students, and
staff exist to check its power. In accordance,
the University created the DPS Oversight
Committee. A special investigation by the
Daily in November revealed that the over-
sight committee's members were being
improperly - and in some cases illegally -
chosen. The committee's stated purpose is to
review grievances against DPS filed with the
committee, of which there have only been
five over the last six years, according to yes-
terday's Daily repqrt.
But according to that report by the Daily,
the oversight committee isn't hearing most
citizens' concerns. There are two ways to
bring forth an objection with DPS. The first
is to file a complaint with DPS, which are
dealt with internally. The second option is
to file a grievance directly with the oversight
committee. Complaints and grievances are
indistinguishable in terms of subject matter.
Disturbingly, it seems most of those who
approach DPS end up opting for a route that
doesn't bring their concern before the over-
sight committee. Individuals are, in effect,
filing their complaints with the very orga-
nization they accuse of wrongdoing. At best,
this is a conflict of interest.
DPS has argued that, though the commit-
tee doesn't receive all complaints directly, it

is made aware of all complaints filed inter-
nally through the annual report DPS sub-
mits to the committee. But DPS has failed to
provide a report to the Oversight Committee
every year since 2006, according the Daily's
November investigation. If DPS is going to
use the report as a substitute for the over-
sight committee, it at least has an obligation
to present the report each year without fail.
Despite differences in terminology,
complaints and grievances are the same
thing. It's redundant that two options even
exist. The process could - and should - be
streamlined into a single route. There's no
reason for DPS to handle complaints at all,
since the purpose of the oversight com-
mittee is to provide a fair third party to
make sure that DPS is acting properly and
within its boundaries. And with only about
a dozen complaints filed a year, the com-
mittee wouldn't be overburdened.
It would be wrong to imply that DPS suf-
fers from egregious corruption. Complaints
are often filed by people unhappy with their
treatment at a traffic stop or after being
ejected from a football game for intoxica-
tion. But there are serious complaints that
warrant the review of a third party. And the
committee, not DPS, should decide which
complaints deserve to come before it.
The oversight committee must be estab-
lished as the only judge of DPS complaints.
Issues, not terminology, should warrant
oversight committee attention.

Know your own genius

n a viewpoint I wrote for the
Daily last semester (My black
experience at the U, 12/14/2009),
I called out the University for its sub-
tle racist culture
and called for an
honest discourse
on campus diver-
sity. What I failed
to address was how
I manage to cope
in the University's
hostile environ-
ment. Though
instances of racial BRITTANY
polarization can SMITH
be hard to navi-
gate as a person of
color, I have iden-
tified resources that have allowed to
me understand that my experience
at this University isn't a handicap,
but instead perhaps a blessing in dis-
Initially, my experience at the
University was thatIt isn't inclusive.
I experience a segregationist norm
that is apparent in student social
groups, voiced by students in the
classroom and reinforced by some
University departments. The climate
on this campus is so strongthat I once
began to think that something was
wrong with me because I wasn't able
to rationalize campus discrimination.
In reality, there is no rational expla-
nation for any sort of discrimination.
There was a point where I began to
believe that the culture of entitle-
ment to which I was not privileged
made it acceptable for me to believe
that my power was limited. What I
failed to realize - but now acknowl-
edge - is that while my threshold for
preconceived judgments regarding
who I am and what I am capable of is
low, my willpower is much greater.
Women like my mother and sur-
rogate mothers, who I affectionately
call Momma Lewis and Momma.
Brooks, have validated my individu-
ality when those within the class-
room struggle to notice. While there
are many women who I have met

on campus, I have personally con-
nected with a few. I am encouraged
by women like University Vice Presi-
dent E. Royster Harper, Professor
Patricia Coleman-Burns, and Ph.D.
student Tayana Hardin whose posi-
tions in the University have inspired
me. These women have enlivened my
spirit and helped to change the direc-
tion of my internal conversation from
"Do I deserve to be here?" to "Do I
want to be here?" Academic women
like Professors Lisa Disch, Janet Ger-
son and Denise Lee have gone above
and beyond their job descriptions.
These women have encouraged my
academic performance in their class-
room, and they asked for only one
thing asked in return: that I tune out
the labels that have been placed on
me and define my own identity.
While women of color often receive
little attention in the media for their
contributions to research and edu-
cation, it is people like my academic
advisor Dr. Jennifer Myers who have
supported my ambitions and dis-
pelled a sense of detachment that I
sometimes feel at the University. It
is because of student leaders like my
Leaders and Best mentor Beatrice
Elizabeth-Ann Hinton that I feel
socially connected to campus life in
an environment where I felt isolated
from the campus community. If there
was any self-doubt that I would be
unable to combat ignorance in a place
where I feel like prejudice is pre-
served, Assistant Dean of Students
Monita Thompson has been my back-
bone and strategist. She has helped
me to identify opportunities for
growth amidst situations where I feel
like I am fighting against a current.
The list of people who have moti-
vated me doesn't end there. From the
very beginning that I set foot on this
campus, Comprehensive Studies Pro-
gram Academic Advisor Dr. Dwight
Fontenot believed in my potential
and supported my interests when I
felt like other academics at the Uni-
versity simply didn't. The people at
the office of Multi-ethnic Student

Affairs have held me up when I felt
let down by the "Diversity Matters"
mantra at the University.
Campus mentors
helped me find my
inner strength.
While there is doubt that the racial
climate will get less tense, it helps
to know that people like Director of
Multicultural Affairs Program Rob-
bie Townsel-Dye is willing to extend
a helping hand and walk that road
with me and find solutions to the 0
conflicts that I have. Now, when I am
told "no," I am equally motivated by
people like Honors College Academic
Advisor Maria Gonzalez and Assis-
tant Dean of the Office of Student
Academic Affairs Esrold Nurse who
tell me "yes." And the list goes on.
All of these people have helped 0
me see that it's not a matter of "Can
you do the work that is asked of you
as a University student?" but instead
"Will you do the work?"
So, to students beginning to feel
that self-doubt, I advise you to iden-
tify people on campus who are will-
ing to affirm your struggles and your
greatness. This person should be able
to acknowledge your flaws, work
with you towards strengthening
your weakness and see that you are
capable of more than you imagine.
You may doubt your hidden talents
because your greatness hasn't been
recognized, but mentors will help you
to identify them.
Lastly, I ask that you work on get-
ting the confidence to walk and talk
as if you deserve to be here. After all,
as the saying goes, "It's not where
you're from, it's where you're at."
- Brittany Smith can be reached
at smitbrit@umich.edu.

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.



How YOv [LF/ LI

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University works to find funding
for students with financial need
A recent editorial on financial aid overlooks the Univer-
sity's long-standing promise to all undergraduates from
Michigan (From the Daily: Aiding Diversity, 1/24/2010).
The promise: Your full demonstrated financial need will
be met.
Unfortunately, relatively few students from lower-
income families apply to the University because they
assume the University is academically or financially out
of reach. Yet, the reality is, when they do apply, they are
admitted at approximately the same rates as all other
The University encourages outstanding students from
economically disadvantaged families to apply.
"Opportunity Adrift," a recent report from The Educa-
tion Trust group examining financial aid accessibility for
minorities and low-income students, fails to distinguish
between institutional support, which goes primarily to
need-based awards, and financial aid provided by gift and
endowment funds, which are privately supported.
In 2007-2008, the final year reported on in "Oppor-

tunity Adrift," of the $28.1 million in centrally awarded
need-based financial aid for Michigan residents attend-
ing the University, $23.6 million was allocated for
students with family incomes below $60,000. No need-
based grants were awarded to families with incomes of
more than $70,000.
The University worked very hard during the last capi-
tal campaign to increase funding for student aid. Some of
this fundraising, like the President's Challenge, specifi-
cally was directed to need-based awards.
The report also failed to mention that the six-year
graduation rate among the University's underrepresent-
ed minority students is the best in the state and one of the
best in the country.
In 2007-2008, that rate was 73.4 percent (compared to
88 percent overall, a "gap" of 14.6 percentage points). Just
one year later, the underrepresented minority graduation
rate rose to 79.9 (compared to 89.5 percent overall and a
9.6 percent gap).
The five percentage point decrease in the graduation
gap in only one year reflects redoubled efforts across the
board among faculty, staff and students to ensure the suc-
cess of all our students.
Lester Monts
Senior ViceProvost forAcademicAffairs

Nina Amilineni, Emad Ansari, William Butler, Nicholas Clift,
Michelle DeWitt, Brian Flaherty, Jeremy Levy, Erika Mayer, Edward McPhee,
Emily Orley, Harsha Panduranga, Alex Schiff, Asa Smith, Brittany Smith,
Radhika Upadhyaya, Laura Veith

The Daily is looking for a diverse, passionate, strong group of
student writers to join the Editorial Board. Editorial Board members
are responsible for formulating and writing the editorials that
appear on the left side of the page.


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