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March 17, 2010 - Image 4

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4A - Wednesday, March 17, 2010
The Michigan Daily - michigandaily.com

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



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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.
Electingto vote.
The University should ban exams on election days
College students aren't known for their overwhelming
turnout on Election Day. Yet, while young people can
rightly be called out for their electoral apathy, colleges
can and should do more to encourage civic engagement. The Uni-
versity shouldn't force students to choose between cramming for
an exam worth 30 percent of their grade and exercising their dem-
ocratic right to vote, as was the case for some on Nov. 4, 2008. To
prevent this from happening again, the Michigan Student Assem-
bly passed a resolution calling on the University to ban exams on
national election days. But it is imperative that MSA also push for
similar bans in the cases of state and local elections.

_ P'4 - , . : ya 4 a .

Bipartisan civil rights

mhe very idea of marriage is
basic to recognition as equals
in our society; any status
short of that is
inferior, unjust,
and unconstitu-
tional." These are
the words of Theo- ,
dore B. Olson as
quoted in a Jan. 9
Newsweek article.
Olson is one of two
lawyers seeking to
overturn Propo- TOMMASO
sition 8, a 2008
referendum that PAVONE
banned gay mar -______
riage in California.
Olson stated that
he took the case because "this is not
a conservative or liberal issue;it is an
American one, and it is time that we,
as Americans, embraced it."
Olson's Newsweek piece is intel-
ligent and thought-provoking. But
what renders it particularly unique is
the background of the author: Olson
is a staunch conservative. He rose to
prominence as the foremost conserva-
tive lawyer in the nation by winning
the Bush v. Gore Supreme Court case
and ensuring George W. Bush's 2000
presidential victory. And yet, almost
10 years later, Olson is at the forefront
of the quest for marriage equality.
While Olson's actions could be eas-
ily discounted as an abnormality, an
increasing number of prominent con-
servatives are publicly standing up for
gay rights.
Just a few weeks after Olson's
piece appeared in Newsweek, Cindy
McCain, the wife of 2008 presiden-
tial candidate and current Sen. John
McCain (R-Ariz.), was featured in an
ad released by the pro-gay marriage
NOH8 campaign. NOH8 released a
statement saying, "Cindy McCain
wanted to participate in the cam-
paign to show people that party
doesn't matter.

Then there's the case of Sen. Joseph
Lieberman (I-Coon.), whose recent
record of alliance with the left is weak
at best. A few weeks ago, Lieberman
stated he was "proud" to be the pri-
mary sponsor of a Senate bill that
would repeal the military's "don't
ask, don't tell" policy and allow gays
to serve openly in the military. In a
written statement, Lieberman argued
that Americans should be allowed to
defend their country regardless of
sexual orientation.
Perhaps most striking has been the
support of gay marriage by former
Vice President Dick Cheney. Speak-
ing before the National Press Club in
2009, Cheney highlighted the impact
that having a gay daughter had on his
thinking. "I think people ought to be
free to enter into any kind of union
they wish," he said.
It is clear that the average ideol-
ogy of Olson, McCain, Lieberman and
Cheney falls squarely in conserva-
tive territory. With the exception of
Lieberman, who represents the liberal
state of Connecticut, none of these
figures are likely to gain popularity
among peers because they support gay
marriage. And yet all four have come
out as strong allies of the gay move-
ment. Joining their cause are the Log
Cabin Republicans, a growing nation-
al organization of conservatives who
embrace LGBT rights. They are part
of an increasing number of Americans
who believe that gay rights is a civil
rights issue instead of a political issue.
As a person who identifies as gay, I
am comforted by the fact that Ameri-
cans are uniting across party lines to
support gay rights. While I tolerated
the argument that gays should not be
allowed to marry early in my coming
out process, over time I have realized
that the institution of marriage is con-
stantly evolving. In our nation's past,
polygamous marriages were once
legal and African Americans weren't
allowed to marry whites. These prac-

tices might have survived to the pres-
ent day if people had continued to
support the status quo. If we managed
to abandon the idea that marriage
should be limited to "one (white) man
and one (white) woman" or "one man
and multiple women," there is little
reason why the definition of marriage
can't survive a further revision.
Gay rights are a
civil issue, not a
political one.
My support for gay marriage comes
fromwithin - at the deepest of human
levels. I believe that, at its core, mar-
tiage is a symbolic representation
of two people's love for one another,
and to deny people's ability to marry
implicitly repudiates their love. I find
strength in the long but successful his-
tory of the civil rights movement. As
Mahatma Gandhi once said, "When I
despair, I remember that all through
history the way of truth and love has
always won. There have been tyrants
and murderers and for a time they
seem invincible but in the end, they
always fall."
The growing number of unlikely
conservative allies is a testament
to Gandhi's words. As an increas-
ingly diverse coalition of Americans
stands in proud support of marriage
equality, it's clear that, despite ref-
erenda like Proposition 8, gay rights
opponents are like fish swimming
against the flow of the river. And for
that, every ally, especially our con-
servative ones, deserves the deepest
- Tommaso Pavone can be
reached at tpavone@umich.edu.

18- to 24-year olds were the least likely to
vote of any age group on Nov. 4, 2008, with
approximately 48 percent participating,
according to U.S. Census Bureau statis-
tics. In response to the low turnout, MSA
recently passed a resolution to encourage
the Board of Regents to prohibit exams
on national election days. Originally pro-
posed by MSA's Voice Your Vote Commis-
sion, the resolution cited long lines at the
polls as a primary deterrent for students
because many students needed to prepare
for exams that took place on Election Day.
It also pointed to a finding by Rock the
Vote, a national organization that encour-
ages voter participation, which concluded
that poorly scheduled exams caused voting
problems at the University.
Admittedly, students can do better. Even
in as exciting an election year as 2008, less
than half of all 18- to 24-year olds made it
to the polls. Even in the most recent MSA
election, which has arguably the most
direct impact on University students, voter
participation was only a dismal 9 percent -
and that election was held entirely online.
That can't all be attributed to schedule
conflicts. Students should make voting
a priority - even if it means they have to
brave standing in line.

Yet as ironic as it may seem for MSA to
advise anyone on increasing voter turnout,
the Voice Your Vote Commission proposal
could actually boost voter attendance. Any
action that removes potential barriers to
exercising one's voice in government is a
no-brainer - especially when it won't have
any serious impact on education or cause
faculty any real undue pain.
Considering the current social and
political climate, it has never been more
important for students to vote. But nation-
al elections aren't the only elections that
matter to students. State and local elec-
tions have at least as much say in shaping
the lives of University students as federal
ones, but generally they see even lower stu-
dent voter turnout and involvement. And.
involving students in local politics would
cultivate a greater sense of city ownership,
making them more likely to care about
improving the city in which they live.
No one denies that young people need to
take greater responsibility for voting seri-
ously and consistently. But the University
has a responsibility to make civic engage-
ment as accessible as possible. Voting is
simply too important to the integrity of a
democratic government to allow barriers
to stand in its way.
in advance (standexeco9@umich.edu) or $5 at
the door.
Danielle Young
This letter was written on behalf of STAND: A
Student Anti-Genocide Coalition

Readers are encouraged to submit letters to the editor. Letters should be fewer than 300 words and must
include the writer's full name and University affiliation. All submissions become property of the Daily.
We do not print anonymous letters. Send letters to tothedaily@umich.edu.

Students should be aware
ofpressing crisis in Darfur

Ch eating the students


In recent years, the genocide in Darfur, MSA web te devl e
Sudan has received decreased media atten-
tion - but that doesn't mean that things have should give'ac 'th ir "
gotten better for the people of Sudan. Millions bapcy
remain displaced, living in dangerous camps in
Sudan or neighboring Chad, and fighting still TO THE DAILY:
continues between government-backed forces
and Darfurian rebel groups. Recently, the Jus- In reference to the Michigan Student
tice and Equality Movement signed a cease-fire Assembly website scandal (Site not found,
agreement with the government of Sudan. But 03/15/2010), it seems only proper to reveal, in
we've seen this before. The fate of this year's the interests of full disclosure, the identities
cease-fire is up in the air. Other rebel groups of the web developers who billed the student
continue to fight in the region. body nearly $9,000 for their ultimately unsuc-
Sudan's President Omar al-Bashir is run- cessful attempts to build an MSA website
ning for re-election this April, even though from April to December 2009. Architecture
the International Criminal Court has indicted graduate student Andrew McIntyre billed for
him for charges of genocide. His case has been about 45 hours and was paid about $544. Alum
stalled in the court for quite some time, even Jayesh Patel billed for 412 hours and was paid
though proof of a government-orchestrated $5,768, while Engineering senior Randy Yao
genocide in Darfur pervades the country. The billed for about 210 hours and was paid $2,933,
upcoming election may allow for Sudan to according to an e-mail to MSA representatives
rebuild itself around ideas of peace and equal- from President Abhishek Mahanti.
ity, but international oversight is extremely Needless to say, structural flaws in the MSA
important in making sure the democratic pro- bureaucracy permitted such a travesty to go
cess is taking place. As of now, there is no over- unnoticed for so long. Exact details about the
sight and the government has already created nature of the involvement of Mahanti and MSA
barriers to democracy. coordinator Anika Williams have yet to come
With all of these problems it may seem like to the fore. Now that news of the scandal has
University students can't do anything to help, emerged, however, perhaps a public shame cam-
but this is simply not true. This week, students paign to force the web developers to return their
from STAND: A Student Anti-Genocide Coali- pay (in part or in full) to the student body might
tion will be at the posting wall in Mason Hall be in order. The primary objective (the creation
handing out information and providing post- of a functioning website) was not accomplished
cards for students to sign urging international by these designers and the payments were made
action in the upcoming election. We will cul- behind the scenes and beyond the reach of the
minate with a benefit concert on March 20 in assembly's oversight. These seem to provide suf-
Angell Hall Auditorium B to raise money for ficientgrounds for so severe an action.
Women for Women - an organization that aids
female war refugees. Various performance Hamdan Yousuf
groups on campus will perform. Tickets are $3 MSA Rackham representative

Assuming that the next year
and a half goes as planned, I'm
going to become a high school
English teacher
after I graduate in
the spring of 2011.
And as I've start-
ed thinking more
about what that
job will entail, I've
come to some con-
clusions about edu-
cation. One is that
not all students are RACHEL
going to choose to
go to college after VANGILDER
they graduate from
high school, and
there are a variety
of reasons that make that decision
okay. But feelings of inadequacy or
unpreparedness shouldn't be among
the reasons not to go to college.
That's why the recently proposed
national education standards are so
important. Without national stan-
dards, students from some states are
disenfranchised by standards that
don't prepare them for college - and,
even worse, make them feel like they
couldn't cut it in a university set-
ting. National standards would force
states to stop setting low education
standards, to hold onto government
funding and would encourage expec-
tations that foster students' learning.
A proposal for national education
standards for K-12 was released last
week by a panel of educators and
experts sponsored by the National
Governors Association and the Coun-
cil of Chief State School Officers, an
organization made up of superin-
tendents. The suggested standards,
which have received support from the
Obama administration, outline the
math and English skills that students
should have at the completion of each
grade level. The state of Michigan has
signed on to the standards.
But some states have rejected
them. For example, Texas Gov. Rick
Perry has said that only Texans have

the right to determine how their
children are educated, according to
a Mar. 10 report in The New York
Times. Alaska rejected the standards
as well - at least for now. According
to a Mar. 10 AOL News report, the
state is trying to work out which of
the suggested national standards are
more or less rigorous than current
state standards. And Massachusetts
has said that because its standards
are already higher than the suggested
national standards, it shouldn't have
to adopt them.
There's something to be said for
Massachusetts's argument. States
determined to challenge students
shouldn't be discouraged from doing
so. But the national standards should
still exist to prevent some schools
from setting low standards to keep
government funding.
The standards could help solve
several problems in the American
education system - many of which
are directly connected to the 2001 No
Child Left Behind Act. Some NCLB
regulations have contributed to states
setting low standards. NCLB penaliz-
es schools that don't make "Adequate
Yearly Progress" (usually referred
to as AYP by educators) by counter-
intuitively cutting their government
funding. And while simply throwing
money at a problem doesn't fix every-
thing, taking it away doesn't solve
any problems either. If anything,
it only makes them worse. Schools
know this, so some have taken dras-
tic measures to make sure that they
reach AYP and maintain their federal
The national standards could even
the playing field between schools
that are attempting to make AYP. To
get around having to cover a lot of
ground to make AYP, some states set
low standards. With lower standards,
it's easier for low-performing states
to look good on paper. So Massachu-
setts may turn out students who are
better than those in, say, Georgia,
but its schools could be penalized

because the state's higher standards
make it more difficult to achieve AYP.
Yet, eventhough schoolswithambi-
tious - and maybe even unrealistic
- standards are the ones getting the
cuts, it's really the students at schools
that maintain low standards who suf-
fer. By starting students off at lower
standards, schools are setting up their
students for failure. Students who
enter college without basic reasoning;
math or English skills can't succeed
because they don't have the tools they
need ina university environment.
National standards
are important for
students' learning.
The worst part is that students
know this. When they're unprepared,
they feel it, and that leaves them feel-
ing like they aren't good enough. And
that feeling can severely damage peo
ple's zest to learn. As someone who
loves learning, that's unacceptable to
me. Setting low standards might save
schools' incomes, but it damns stu-
dents. And that trade-off isn't worth
it. Not by a long shot.
There's a good chance that I'll have
to leave Michigan to find a job after
graduation (the market for teachers
isn't great right now, with funding
being cut and schools consolidating)i
so I have a vested interest in ensuring
that all students are being pushed ti
their potentials and that I'll be able
to expect high achievement fron
them. And I don't want excessively
low standards to hamper me or, more
importantly, the students for which
I'll be responsible.
- Rachel Van Gilder is the Dailys
editorial page editor. She can b
reached at rachelvg@umich.edu




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