4A - Wednesday, December 8, 2010
The Michigan Daily - michigandaily.com
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There's not a single thing that I
that I would do that I have not donE
And if I haven't gotten it done yet, I
- President Barack Obama responding t
press conference yesterday,
EDITOR IN CHIEF
RACHEL VAN GILDER
EDITORIAL PAGE EDITOR
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.
Obama should sign bill to halt Asian carp invasion
Fish rarely seem like an aggressive adversary. But Asian
carp, an invasive species of fish, are currently migrating
north toward the Great Lakes and could spell disaster
for the local ecosystem. But last week, the U.S. Congress finally
approved an act banning the interstate transport of the invasive
species to stop further migration of the Asian carp and protect
the Great Lakes region. Now, all that stands between the legis-
lation and enforcement is President Barack Obama's signature.
Given the imminent environmental and economic threat to the
Great Lakes region posed by the spread of Asian carp, Obama
should sign the bill into law immediately.
Don't reject res
E have said
or tried to do.
I'm still trying.'
oliberal criticisms at a White House
as reported by The New York Times.
Committee's posters had to do with
the phrase, "that's retarded." While
I'm sure most of us rarely mean to
implicate the mentally or physically
disabled while talking to our friends
about football, we do so every time
the words leave our lips. Though
harmless to us, this sort of language
makes it much more difficult to chip
away at the stigma and prejudices
associated with people who have
certain social identities. But we don't
even have to narrow our focus to per-
sons or individuals. Our use of lan-
guage has trivialized the meaning
of rape and has turned it into a word
that can be mentioned at the drop of
a hat. But as one poster so succinctly
put it, "I was raped, and it was noth-
ing like your Econ 101 exam."
As I was walking down State
Street the other day, contem-
plating what I was going to
write for my final
column this semes- -
ter, I happened
to stumble across
a phrase I hadn't
seen or heard in
a long time. Post- '
ed in front of the g
Union was a sign
that had "that's so
gay" printed on it. NOEL
When I say a GORDON
"long time," I'm
ating. I'm sure it's
only been a few months or so - espe-
cially when you take into account the
fact that I live in a residence hall.
Nevertheless, I'm sure many of you
would agree with me when I say that
going even just a few months without
hearing the phrase "that's so gay"
is no small feat. In fact, it was only
after gawking at the poster for sev-
eral minutes that I realized who was
responsible for it. And I should have
seen it coming.
In an effort to promote diversity,
multiculturalism and intercultural
competence, it seems that the Expect
Respect Committee has launched a
campus-wide campaign aimed at dis-
rupting the use of harmful language
here at the University. According
to the committee's official website,
"Expect Respect is a unique part-
nership among students, faculty and
staff hoping to unite our communi-
ty." Members work around the clock
to ensure that there is a welcoming
environment for all University stu-
dents regardless of race, gender, sex-
ual orientation, religious affiliation
or country of origin. Though this list
is by no means exhaustive, it reflects
the committee's dedication to social
justice. To me, the campaign seems
especially fitting given the attention
that has been paid to bias incidents
on campus lately.
I'm sure that much of this sounds
like stuff you've heard time and time
again. I know that since coming to
the University, I haven't gone a day
without hearing about social justice
and progressive politics. And as you
can probably guess from my latest
string of columns, this is an effort
that I support whole-heartedly.
I recognize that there will be stu-
dents (and rather meddlesome alum-
ni) who feel the need to protest the
Expect Respect Committee's new
campaign out of an irrational fear of
communism and excessive political
correctness. Usually, I'm quick to dis-
miss any individual who claims that
asking people to be mindful of their
words is synonymous with encroach-
ing on First Amendment rights. But
this campaign is a perfect example of
when people should be genuinely con-
cerned over the words others use and
when it might be crossing the line.
While discussing the implications
of my now infamous penis-on-a-
whiteboard example (Unintentional-
ly offensive, 11/10/2010), a friend of
mine once wrote to me that "the big-
gest challenge that groups have when
battling for their civil rights is not
overcoming blatant prejudice, but the
subtle biases in our society that even
the most open-minded individual can
perpetuate if he is careless."
I think this provides a helpfulguide
for determining when language cross-
es the line from innocuous to poten-
tially detrimental. Language can be
a powerful weapon in creating, main-
taining and dismantling systems of
oppression and inequality. If you don't
believe me, tryto think of a reason why
people don't say, "that's so straight,"
when insinuating that something is
disappointing or disheartening.
Another one of the Expect Respect
Subtle biases in
Asian carp can weigh as much as 100
pounds and grow up to four feet in length,
according to the Environmental Protection
Agency. They pose a serious environmen-
tal and economic threat to the Great Lakes
region. The carp consume an inequitable
amount of resources, which would disrupt
the Great Lakes ecosystem by starving
local species like trout and salmon. This
would be a heavy blow to the $7-billion
Great Lakes fishing industry. Asian carp
also pose a threat to tourism, including the
$16-billion recreational boating industry.
On Nov. 30, the U.S. House of Representa-
tives approved the Asian Carp Prevention
and Control Act with a unanimous voice
vote. The act would regulate Asian carp
under the Lacey Act, a century-old bill that
prohibits the trading of banned or illegally
acquired fish. In October, the U.S. Senate
passed a companion measure proposed by
Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) and Rep.
Dave Camp (R-Mich.), which directs the
U.S. Army Corp of Engineers to block off sev-
eral key waterways in Illinois to prevent the
spread of Asian carp into the Great Lakes.
An Asian carp was caught in Lake Calu-
met in June, which lies past the electric
barriers currently set up in the Chicago
Area Waterway System meant to contain
the fish. The discovery occurred just six
miles from Lake Michigan, highlighting
the need for the federal government to act
quickly to stop further migration.
It's unacceptable that it took so long for
the federal government to act. Earlier this
year, Michigan Attorney General Mike Cox
and several other Great Lakes region attor-
neys general sought an injunction from
the U.S. Supreme Court to shut down the
Illinois locks. Their request was refused -
twice. Now that Congress has taken a clear
stance on the issue, measures to stop the
carp should be implemented immediately.
Some Illinois officials have criticized
the plan to close some locks in the Chicago
area. But though some adverse economic
effects may result from closing some locks
and re-routing shipping lines, the interests
of the entire Great Lakes region must take
precedence over the concerns of one state.
In the end, the recently-passed legislation
balances the costs and benefits.
By signing the bill into law, Obama has
an opportunity to protect the Great Lakes
economy and environment by finally
responding to the very real threat that the
Asian carp pose. The federal government
shouldn't hesitate any longer - it should
close the Illinois locks immediately.
I'll admitcthatsometimes society can
go too far in tryingto curb intolerance.
For instance, I don't think the Expect
Respect Committee had any busi-
ness going after the phrase "fuck my
life." To me, this phrase doesn't really *
demean anyone, nor does it implicate a
particular social identity or situation.
As far as I know, it expresses exactly
what it is supposed to. The important
thing to remember in all this is that
language is always changing and con-
stantly evolving. Butit's for that reason
that we should remain cognizant of
when it marginalizes a group, even in
the most discreet of ways.
- Noel Gordon can be reached
EDITORIAL BOARD MEMBERS:
Aida Ali, Will Butler, Eaghan Davis, Michelle DeWitt, Ashley Griesshammer,
Will Grundler, Jeremy Levy, Erika Mayer, Harsha Nahata, Emily Orley,
Harsha Panduranga, Teddy Papes, Tommaso Pavone, Leah Potkin,
Roger Sauerhaft, Seth Soderborg, Julian Toles, Laura Veith, Andrew Weiner
Abolish letter grading
Our grading system is obsolete. Actu- tion is learning, these fraudulently high marks
ally, obsolete may be the wrong word since it decrease the incentive to improve. For example,
implies that letter grades ever served a mean- if students receive inflated A's on their exams,
ingful purpose. there's no motivation and no room for them to do
Sure, grades help to expedite the work of better. From the student's point of view, inflated
administrators and employers by providing grades encourage complacency at best. At worst,
a quick way of judging performance and skill they encourage minimal effort.
level. But for both students and colleges, the To help solve this problem, we need to imple-
grading system has become a shady game of ment nonspecific classification. This would
who can look the best on paper. Currently, automatically alleviate the subjective nature
most students are concerned more with earn- inherent in our current system. This may make
ing the highest possible grade point average it harder for employers to distinguish between
than with learning. And some institutions of candidates, but students would be more
higher education have played right along with focused on learning as opposed to earning the
this system. We need a process that operates highest letter grades possible.
with more integrity. The British undergraduate degree classifica-
As Daily columnist Will Grundler stated in tion system offers a fine alternative to our cur-
one of his recent columns, "letters don't count rent system. The grading system ranks students
for knowledge" (Examine THIS, 10/07/2010). from first to third class and "ordinary." Studies
And even if grades were a true indicator of have shown that abolishing grades encourages
knowledge, outside of courses like math and more learning. Students become motivated to
science, grades are essentially subjective. For explore their own paths toward understanding.
example, it may be impossible to accurately A transition from the current system is not as
explain why a student deserves a high B for an far-fetched as it may seem. Traditional grading
essay rather than a low A - especially if the A- has already been abolished at some of the nation's
was withheld due to a grudge that the teacher top law schools, including Yale, Stanford, Har-
held. Not that I'm speaking from past experi- vard and the University of California, Berkeley.
ence or anything. According to the same article from The New
Too frequently, schools perpetuate and York Times, some of these schools have imple-
even promote the arbitrary nature of grades mented a pass/fail system in the classroom.
by inflating scales to make certain gradu- Some school administrators may have no
ates appear tobe more qualified candidates to interest in overhauling the grading system for
potential employers. the entire university, since there's no wide-
This summer, The New York Times report- spread demand and it'd be a daunting task. But
ed that law schools around the country are this isn't to say that the grading system couldn't
inflating grades for the same reason, which is change if students actively explored alterna-
an unfortunate trend. Some universities, like tives. In my opinion, most students would be in
Loyola Law School in Los Angeles, aren't only favor of abolishing our current system.
openly bumping up students' grades but also It's up to the students to demand this change.
doing so retroactively. Due to an oversaturated As entrepreneur Chris Guillebeau suggests in
legal market, the article reports that the univer- his book "The Art of Nonconformity," "students
sity was "tacking on .333 to every grade record- could revolt and change universities, shifting
ed in the lastcfew years." This tactic is dishonest the balance of power toward the group that
and inequitable. Unearned advantages, which enables the institution to exist inthe first place...
are given to lucky recipients such as those at grading could be abolished or modified, and
Loyola, challenge the credibility of both the curriculums rewritten to reward trial and error
institutions and the grades themselves. more than rote memorization." That's a plan I
Students who enroll in an institution that would give a passing grade to on any scale.
openly engages in inflation also lose out.
Assuming that the true purpose of educa- Julian Toles is an LSA seior.
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.
E-MAIL MICHELLE DEWITT AT DEWITTM@UMICH.EDU FOR MORE INFORMATION.
HARSHA PANDURANGA |
The (political) evolution of rap
Gucci Mane is a stereotypical rapper. He raps about
drugs, women and money on synth and bass-heavy beats
while sporting garish "bling bling" on his shirtless torso.
But while Gucci serves as a caricature of the hip-hop cul-
ture that's continually decried, a growing civic clout and
artistic respect are emerging as important characteristics
of the genre. The culture is transforming in a way that
allows its members to be heard in mainstream public dis-
course. As a result, hip-hop has carved itself a political
niche in the 21st century.
Take Kanye West, for example. In a fundraising tele-
thon for Hurricane Katrina victims in September 2005,
Kanye indignantly proclaimed, "George Bush doesn't
care about black people." Was this just another throw-
away example of the brazenness that characterizes hip-
hop? George Bush didn't think so - in fact, in his memoir,
he called it the worst moment of his presidency.
The fact that the president took West so seriously is
astonishing enough. But what's even more striking is
West's somber and tremulous apology for the comment
last month on the Today show, admitting he didn't have
"the grounds" to call Bush a racist. It almost goes without
saying that it's generally unbecoming for a rock star per-
sona to apologize for a five-year-old outburst in response
to the prodding of a talk show host. Yet West's apology
is especially notable because he broke out of the rapper
mold and moved into the realm of traditional citizenship
by holding himself accountable to the public for his unfil-
Given Kanye's uniquely audacious character, Jay-Z is
perhaps a better example of a messenger of hip-hop on the
political scene, as seen by his relationship with President
Barack Obama. Obama met with Jay-Z for several hours to
get a feel for what the rap community was thinking politi-
cally, the rapper writes in his autobiography "Decoded."
After playing "get out the vote" concerts for Obama, he
had - along with fellow rapper and hip-hop mogul Diddy
- front row seats to the president's inauguration.
Jay-Z symbolizes how hip-hop's ever-growing less-
abrasive side earns it the ear of the president outside of
his iPod - though Obama does jam to Lil' Wayne and Nas,
according to an interview in the Oct. 15 issue of Rolling
Stone. Such relationships between rappers and a presi-
dent would have been inconceivable even 10 years ago.
The formerly maligned community has come far from
the greatly anti-establishment attitude it exuded in late
80's Compton hip-hop group N.W.A's "Fuck Tha Police"
days. It's important to note that Obama's hip-hop associa-
tions aren't solely for the sake of what may be perceived
as good politics: Obama campaign spokesperson Bill Bur-
ton had to condemn rapper Ludacris's distasteful election
rap that insulted both Hillary Clinton and President Bush
during his 2008 run.
So where does this discussion leave Gucci Mane?
Though he might not be politically active, he's still well-
reviewed and his music is respected. According to the
review aggregator site Metacritic, Gucci Mane's body
of work is characterized as having received a "generally
favorable" critical response. In effect, Gucci - whose
highest-charting single is a track called "Wasted" about
using drugs and alcohol - has made it. He's not seen as
just a run-of-the-mill rapper confined to the playlists of
hardcore southern rap genre followers but rather spends
his (not-in-jail) time featuring on Mariah Carey and
Usher songs while enjoying commercial success. Gucci
exemplifies the acknowledgment and acceptance of rap as
valuable music. In essence, the labeling of hip-hop artists
as crude or uncouth no longer automatically stems from
their genre - they have to earn those tags.
As this more widespread political recognition is the
product of both societal acceptance and change within
hip-hop, it won't be limited to the current administra-
tion. Though no hip-hop star has currently reached, for
instance, Bono-level political recognition, the respect for
the art has reached a point where a rapper could conceiv-
ably be such a figure in the future.
Bill O'Reilly can have rapper Cam'ron on The O'Reilly
Factor and chide Eminem for his crude Sarah Palin ref-
erences all he wants. But constant criticism of hip-hop
culture - though it's sometimes, maybe even often, valid
- misses the point. As rap has evolved into a respectable
art form, hip-hop as a whole seems to have mellowed out
and broken out of the periphery into mainstream political
discourse. Perhaps John Stewart said it best in his Jay-Z
interview: "As rap grows up, they go from fuck the police
to, where the fuck are the police?"
The socially active and outspoken Tupac Shakur would
have been proud.
Harsha Panduranga is an assistant editorial page editor.
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