4 - Friday, March 12, 2010
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EDITOR IN CHIEF
RACHEL VAN GILDER
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Show us the syllabi
Profs should post course information online early
W hile ratemyprofessor.com might not be the most
credible source of information about courses and
professors at the University, it's usually the only
place students can go for information. But recently, the LSA Stu-
dent Government passed a resolution requesting that instructors
make course syllabi available to students online during regis-
tration. This would provide students with a crucial resource to
inform their expectations about the classes they sign up for and
prepare them to face the semester. Professors should quickly
embrace the practice of putting syllabi up early, and the Senate
Advisory Committee on University Affairs - the faculty's lead-
ing governing body - should make it official policy.
Speak up, pro-choicers
On Monday, the Daily reported on LSA-
SG's efforts, previously undertaken by
the Michigan Student Assembly, to urge
University professors to post course syl-
labi online at the time of class registration.
According to Timothy McKay, director of
the LSA Honors Program, most SACUA
members are in support of this proposi-
tion. But John Lin - the chair of MSA's
Academic Affairs Commission and a mem-
ber of SACUA's Academic Affairs Advisory
Committee - noted that it will likely take a
couple of semesters for the resolution to be
implemented at the University.
Posting syllabi online early would be
extremely beneficial to University students
who are planning course loads. Course
descriptions tend to be vague and fail to
provide a complete picture of the course's
content, rigor and the time commitment
required. Providing syllabiearlywillincrease
students' understanding of the courses
and allow them to choose ones they know
they can manage. Being able to make more
informed selections of courses will help stu-
dents get the most out of their education by
allowing them to focus on their studies and
take courses that supplement their concen-
tration. And when students enter a class fully
prepared for its rigor, they will be less likely
to drop the course. This would help stabilize
the hectic early-semester lives of University
students. The success of similarly modeled
initiatives at universities around the coun-
try, like Princeton University and Harvard
University, shows that making syllabi more
accessible can work at the University.
Professors should view transparency
in their courses as a duty to the students.
With a minimal amount of time and effort,
they can make progress in improving both
student participation and academic per-
formance by giving students additional
information so they can choose the right
courses. Even posting an old copy of a syl-
labus if a current version isn't available
would provide a more in depth description
of what a course offers and entails. Minor
changes could always be made to the syl-
labus after registration.
SACUA could also be a powerful force in
advancing this proposal. With encourage-
ment from the student body and its rep-
resentative parties, it should urge faculty
members to commit to its implementation.
LSA-SG and MSA have been pushing pro-
fessors toward this initiative, but SACUA
should follow the LSA-SG resolution with an
Making course syllabi available at the time
of registration will allow students to make
informed decisions about their course loads
and get the most from their education - if
SACUA takes action.
Last week, just as I had settled
into my spring break-induced
state of sedation, a New York
Times article jolted
me into a panic that
see until finals.
The article, 4
Blacks, Foes of
Georgia Right to LIBBY
Life, Georgia's larg-
est anti-abortion ASHTON
undergoing a cam-
paign across the
state to attract black people to the
anti-abortion movement and reduce
the disproportionate number of black
women who have abortions. The orga-
nization has hired a black woman as
their minority outreach staff member,
whose responsibilities include trav-
eling to black churches and colleges,
spreading the message "that abortion
is the primary tool in a decades-old
conspiracy to kill off blacks."
As a part of the campaign to increase
support for their organization among
the black community, the group has
paid for 80 billboards throughout
Atlanta that read "Black children are
an endangered species," and feature
the link to their website.
The recruiting tactics of this organi-
zation exemplify the absence of ratio-
nality - and even morality - from
the motivating forces behind the anti-
abortion movement. This campaign in
Georgia is rooted in a fundamentally
religious conviction that a woman's
reproductive capacity to bring poten-
tial human life to fruition is more
sacred than her rights as a person of
moral agency to control whether or not
she utilizes this capacity.
In order to generate enough sup-
port to make policy consistent with
this religious conviction, anti-abortion
activists (who are primarily white) are
using to their advantage the excep-
tional and inexcusable instances where
abortion has been regarded as a means
to achieve the racist ideal of a smaller
The impact these anti-abortionists
have had on Markita Eddy, a Morris
Brown College sophomore who was
quoted in the Times article as saying
she was pro-choice until she watched
"Maafa 21"- adocumentary that sup-
ports the idea that abortion is a rac-
ist conspiracy - has instilled in me a
sense of urgency to communicate the
truth of the pro-choice argument.
Those fighting for the criminaliza-
tion of abortion seem tobe much more
energized and vocal than those who
believe the issue of abortion should stay
as it is - a matter of choice. I, as some-
one who identifies with the latter group,
fear that if we don't begin to engage the
opposition, our silence will imply alack
of argument or a lack of certainty.
The argument is this: the female bio-
logical capacity to reproduce does not
legally (nor, in my opinion, morally)
commit any woman to reproducing.
The killing of an innocent person is
wrong. However, abortion is not the
killing of an innocent person because,
although an embryo does mark the
beginning of biological human life, it is
not yet a person.
Mary Anne Warren, a philosopher
most noted for her work on the ques-
tion of abortion, created a rough list
of criteria to determine personhood
- or what about "human life" consti-
tutes its belonging to the moral com-
munity. She said that a person must
have at least some of these five crite-
ria: consciousness and the capacity to
feel pain, reasoning, voluntary activ-
ity, the capacity to communicate (in
any way) and self-awareness.
A fetus, in the first trimester, has
none of these.
One might argue that a first-trimes-
ter fetus would eventually become a
person, in the moral sense, if left alone.
However, in order to develop, that fetus
cannot be left alone - it must receive
support and nourishment from the
woman carrying it.
Until a fetus develops to a point of
personhood, it only represents poten-
tial - the same potential that exists
virtually everywhere and only some-
times results in the emergence of a
person. Abortion, contraception, and
my failure to have sex with every virile
man Iencounter are all the same denial
of potetntial personhood.
A woman is more
than her capacity
All women, from puberty to meno-
pause, have the potential for the devel-
opment of personhood. However, our
worth and our rights, as people, extend
beyond our reproductive function. A
woman is more than her uterus and
deserves to be regarded by the govern-
ment as more.
I fear that if supporters of the pro-
choice movement remain reluctant to
challenge anti-abortionists for fear
of offending their religious beliefs or
failing to change their minds, cam-
paigns like the one in Georgia will
successfully distort the reality of the
abortion debate and make the imper-
missible seem permissible. I urge the
majority of the country, which is made
up of people who believe abortion
should be legal in all, some or a few
cases, to make its voice heard - begin-
ning here in Ann Arbor.
If my framing of the pro-choice
argument (as Iunderstand it) has reso-
nated with you, talk to your friends
about it. As University students liv-
ing and learning in a community that
values the pursuit of truth, we have a
responsibility to engage in sometimes
uncomfortable dialogue - even if it
interrupts your vacation.
- Libby Ashton can be reached
JEREMY LEVY I
Substance over symbolism
In 1925, an affluent black man, Dr. Ossian
Sweet, moved with his family into a white
neighborhood in Detroit, and their house was
subsequently mobbed. By the end of the night,
a white man had been shot and the entire Sweet
family was arrested. Thanks to the help of the
NAACP and the renowned lawyer, Clarence
Darrow, the Sweets were acquitted in a trium-
phant victory for civil rights. The history of the
Sweet case is well documented in Kevin Boyle's
"Arc of Justice: A Saga of Race, Civil Rights, and
Murder in the Jazz Age".
At the end of the book, the author notes that
the fight for desegregated neighborhoods has
been put on hold since the Civil Rights era, and
that asa result, Detroit is currently the most seg-
regated city in the country. However, this point
was likely lost on many readers because of the
grandiose nature of the Sweets' story.
In conversations relating to civil rights and
racial equality, certain milestones are frequently
referenced to show the advancements our coun-
try has made. The Sweet case might not be a very
well-known example, but Brownv. Board of Edu-
cation is another example. The election of Barack
Obama as our first black president is one as well.
While these events are all important, their sym-
bolic significance in the minds of many Ameri-
cans tends to outweigh their practical effects. As
a result, their legacies overshadow current civil
rights problems that often go unmentioned.
Take Brown, for instance. The case often sym-
bolizes the end of de jure segregation in public
schools, even though racial segregation result-
ing from resource inequality between school
districts remains a huge problem. In her column
this Wednesday, Brittany Smith voiced her frus-
tration with the racial disparities in American
schools and with the policy makers who are not
addressing the problem (Education shouldn't be a
I'm somewhat hopeful that this lack of atten-
tion will change.- Obama stated in his State of
the Union address that education reform will
become a major project for his administration.
But I largely agree with Smith. It seems very
possible that education policy will be over-
shadowed by talks about the economy and the
environment in the near future. And even if
education becomes the next health care debate,
I have no reason to believe that the Demo-
crats won't side step the race issue, as they've
been doing since President Lyndon B. Johnson
signed the Civil Rights Act.
Regardless, Brown will always be held on a
pedestal to symbolize progress in racial equal-
ity in schools. In his book "Silent Covenants:
Brown v. Board of Education and the Unfulfilled
Hopes for Racial Reform," Derrick Bell refers
to the Yale University Commencement 2002
when lawyer Robert L. Carter received an hon-
orary degree, largely for his work on the Brown
case. As the primarily white audience burst into
applause, Bell hesitated to join, thinking about
the modern state of our education system and
how little it seems like Brown actually contrib-
uted towards significant progress.
Additionally, the way Brown is taught in pri-
mary and secondary education seriously over-
emphasizes the significance of the case. Students
are frequently taught that Brown was a unani-
mous decision. While this is true, the implication
is that there were no feelings of dissent among
the justices. In "From Jim Crow to Civil Rights :
The Supreme Court and the Struggle for Racial
Equality," historian Michael Klarman shows
that this is not true, as the justices who contem-
plated dissent were convinced otherwise to min-
imize public resistance to the decision. Students
are also rarely taught about Brown II, the follow-
up case that severely impeded the ability of state
governments to enforce the decision.
Arguments that rely on the symbolic impor-
tance of an event are not limited to race issues
- a few weeks ago the Daily argued that the
university should adopt a policy of gender-
neutral language because it would be symboli-
cally important (He/she/ze, 02/17/2010). But the
subject is particularly relevant to racial issues
because it has become customary in politics
to talk about the milestones, and nothing else.
It's a mistake for us to only recognize the mile-
stones, because they usually divert our atten-
tion away from ongoing problems. But talking
about issues related to race is contentious, so
politicians simply don't.
Jeremy Levy is an LSA sophomore.
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So, how was your break? Mine
was good too. I went to Mexico.
Why I chose to go to Mexico, I
don't know. I have
the complexion of
a leprechaun and
can only sit in the
sun for five min-
utes before I start
wheezing and turn-
ing into a bright- -
version of the Hulk.
This may be why LINCOLN
I'm probably the BOEHM
only person who
went to Mexico for
spring break and
recounted "watching the Oscars" as
the highlight of the trip.
I don't know why I get so excited
for the Academy Awards each year
because I always leave each viewing
disappointed. But despite my peren-
nial disappointment with the Oscars,
I'm always excited to watch them.
For one reason or another, the Oscars
have some social importance, and for
the life of me, I don't know why that
is. It was this burning question that
led me to watch this year's telecast
with a critical eye.
My favorite parts of the Oscars are
the performance art aspects of the
show. When someone wins an award,
all eyes turn to them, and being actors
they instinctively start playing a role.
For example: Roberto Benigni stand-
ing on the chair after winning his
award for "Life Is Beautiful" was per-
formance art. Angelina Jolie making
out with her brother after winning her
Oscar was weirdly arousing, but more
importantly, performance art.
These are the moments I love to
see, and sadly there was only one win-
ner who lived up to the bill: Mo'Nique.
Mo'Nique took about seven minutes to
get from her seat in the front row to the
stage. One thing I didn't understand
was why everyone gave her a standing
ovation like she was Martin Scorsese.
I mean, sure, I thought she was great
as Jamiqua in "Soul Plane" and there's
no question the Academy snubbed her
landmark performance as Jazmin Bilt-
more in "Phat Girlz" but did she really
deserve the standing ovation?
And the first thing that came out
of her mouth was a darting insult to
everyone who had been nominated in
her category, and every prior Oscar
winner: "I would like to thank the
Academy, for showing that it can be
about the performance, and not the
politics." She was essentially saying
that she is the first person to win an
Academy Award that actually deserved
it. Ballsy, Mo'Nique.
Next came the John Hughes memo-
riam. I loved this because they brought
out some of the legendary and incred-
ibly creepy child-actors that John
Hughes made famous. Macauley
Culkin looked like a meth addict (no
shock there) but more importantly
Judd Nelson looked like astoned Teddy
Roosevelt. I loved it.
Then came the incredibly weird
montage of people who had died dur-
ing the past year; or, as I call it, the
Debbie Downer Lifetime Achievement
Award. Right after seeing Star Trek's
makeup artist cry out ofhappiness, and
about 25 unnecessary cuts to George
Clooney (who was sporting a mullet)
we have the montage of dead people to
thwart whatever momentum had been
built. And by the way, Academy, you
forgot Farrah Fawcett! Farrah Faw-
cett, whose slow death garnered hun-
dreds of hours of media coverage, was
snubbed. Not only did she get screwed
over when Michael Jackson died on
the same day as her, now she's getting
snubbed by the Academy. On a separate
note, I was reallyhopingthat JeffGold-
blum would make it into the montage;
and then we'd have a great cut to him
sitting in the audience with a look of
confusion on his face. Ugh. If only.
Despite the Oscars'
pointlessness, I just
can't look away.
Lastly, why it was necessary for
Kathryn Bigelow, the director of
"The Hurt Locker" to be seated right
in front of her ex-husband James
Cameron and his new wife, I don't
know. Whenever they'd cut to Kath-
ryn Bigelow we'd see the tiny head of
James Cameron's new wife, glaring
at her. Awkward. And when Bigelow
won the award for Best Director, I was
frankly a little upset that she didn't
thank her husband, Deuce Bigelow
Male Gigolo. For those of you keeping
score at home, the Oscar snubs now
include Farrah Fawcett, Jeff Gold-
blum and, most importantly, the ever-
so-sensitive Rob Schneider.
At first I was thinking that maybe
people just love the Oscars because
they love movies. That makes sense.
But having just wasted four hours
watching them, I can tell you that I
know more about George Clooney's
complexion than I do any of the films
that were up for awards. The Oscars
have just as much to do with great
filmmaking as Mo'Nique does. But,
will someone please tell me why I
can't wait for next year's Academy
Awards? Is this what it's like being
addicted to drugs? I should have
asked Macauley Culkin.
- Lincoln Boehm can be
reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
EDITORIAL BOARD MEMBERS:
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Brian Flaherty, Jeremy Levy, Erika Mayer, Edward McPhee, Emily Orley, Harsha Panduranga,
Alex Schiff, Asa Smith, Brittany Smith, Robert Soave, Radhika Upadhyaya, Laura Veith