4 - Friday, January 21, 2011
The Michigan Daily - michigandailycom
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Ann Arbor, MI 48109
EDITOR IN CHIEF
and EMILY ORLEY
EDITORIAL PAGE EDITORS
How could they not support it. We name it ..that say the Health Care Bill
the "Repealing the Job-Killing Health Care oesn't really kill lobs. In fact,
kad news, sir. Support is Law Act." We did call it that, right? t might enen do the app-
really starting to drop off Perhaps we were being too subtle...
for repealing health care Facts? Rookie, this is WASHINGTON
reform. ir, maybe people are actually Haven't you learned? There are no
reading the studies and facing facts that can't be covered up by
What?Impossible! the facts... scary, catchy rhetoricl
Attendance not mandatory
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.
Handle it right
A2 should help panhandlers, not pedestrians
Ann Arbor residents may begin avoiding awkward, fre-
quent encounters with panhandlers. In September, the
Ann Arbor City Council formed a task force dedicated
to discouraging panhandling and enforcing ordinances that do
so. Rather than cutting to the core of the problem, City Council
is only scratching the surface by educating Ann Arbor residents
how to deal with panhandlers. City Council needs a system that
helps rehabilitation for panhandlers and homeless people get
off Ann Arbor streets, without dismissing the needs of the Ann
1 Ann Arbor City Council decided to recon-
vene a panhandling task force, according to
a Jan.17 Daily article. The task force will be
devoted to reducing the number of aggres-
sive panhandlers in Ann Arbor and cutting
costs related to stopping them. The task
force hopes to collaborate with students,
residents and local businesses to address
the city's panhandling issues. The task
force will meet regularly and will coordi-
nate measures with the Ann Arbor Police
Department to increase street patrols.
The panhandling task force is designed
to help educate Ann Arbor residents and
'members of the University community on
how to address panhandlers without giv-
ing them money. But instead of employing
resources to teach people how to politely
say "no" and walk away from a panhan-
dler, the city should be devoting resources
to help the people who actually need help
- the panhandlers. City Council needs
to focus on concrete plans for directing
panhandlers to rehabilitative resources,
'instead of simply sending them away.
While giving panhandlers money doesn't
help them in the long run, havingthe police
disperse them to a new location doesn't
either, Tihe cir op, te task force, City
Council member Sabra Briere (D-Ward
1), talked in the article about problems
facing panhandlers like drug and alcohol
addiction. And yet, instead of getting pan-
handlers proper help, the city is instead
teaching Ann Arbor residents and business
owners how to direct them out of town.
It's important for students and community
members to know how to keep themselves
safe from aggressive panhandling, but it's
also important that City Council recog-
nizes that there are bigger issues than resi-
dents being inconvenienced.
Ann Arbor already has services in place
to work toward rehabilitation efforts for
the homeless. Programs like the Street Out-
reach Court work to keep homeless people
from getting lost in the judicial system for
petty crimes and redirects them to shelters
and other services. Instead of incarcerat-
ing the homeless for petty crimes or giving
them fines that they're unable to pay, it's in
the best interest of the community to chan-
nel these people into places where they're
able to get help.
While panhandlers can create an uncom-
fortable dilemma for people who walk
around Ann Arbor, the goal should be to
help panhandlers contribute to society and
,ot,;eMploy thy out Qf sight, out of mind
Getting sick is bad, but getting
sick during finals is mortify-
ing. I was fortunate enough
not to be sick dur-
ing finals last term,;
but I did get sick
the week before. I
missed class Tues-
day through Thurs-
day, which included
a statistics lecture
that could have
helped improve my
exam score and a ERIC
theatre history dis- SZKARLAT
cussion that might
have brought my
grade out of the
dump. Ieven had to skip outof working
on a group project because I had a Uni-
versity Health Service appointment,
which killed my presentation and sub-
sequently my grade in that class.
The thing is, I hate to miss class.
I almost never skip, and if or when I
do, it's usually to do other homework
or finish something else that I need
more time for. It's not as if I don't
spend time doing homework. But
it's tough to balance 16 credits with
Marching Band, which is an addi-
tional two credits. If you miss class
or lecture and you miss the material,
you might be completely screwed. I
would hate to be at a disadvantage for
a final exam or pop quiz.
That's why I don't understand
attendance policies. The incentive to
come to class is already there. Making
it part of your final grade? Come on.
Sure, it's nice to have an easy 10
percent of your grade be determined
by participation and attendance. But
having your grade dropped from an
A- to a B+ because you missed three
class periods seems unreasonable.
I know how to prioritize. I think
the majority of the student body has
the cognitive ability to realize that,
sometimes, going to class is a lower
priority than getting sleep or finish-
ing a paper. It's one thing to sleep in
because you're lazy and miss your 8
am. class because you're tired, but
it's a little different if your weekend
was gobbled up by other homework
- or Marching Band, which is also a
class obligation - and you could only
start your paper at 10 p.m. on Sunday.
Sometimes, health comes first. And
why shouldn't it? You could miss class
now and sleep in, or you could sacri-
fice sleep for class and get sick. Either
way, you'll miss class. The difference
is the little note of excuse.
I understand that there are legiti-
mate pedagogical justifications to
mandating attendance. If students
don't come, who is going to discuss
last night's reading? Instructors
think that if they don't require atten-
dance, no one will come to class and
then nothing valuable will be said.
I would suggest just the opposite.
I think if the class content is inter-
esting, accessible and necessary to
know for exams, students will come
no matter what. When I took a lit-
erary studies course, the professor
had no attendance policy. Yet every
day there was still a full classroom.
The discussions went on. Participa-
tion was a part of our grade too, but
attendance didn't affect participation
unless you never went. This way, you'
could skip a few class periods if it was
absolutely necessary. Even in the two
classes I've had where attendance
was not strictly mandated, there was
still healthy discussion about the text
every day. When it comes down to it,
students who come half the time and
do all the homework are still more
valuable to the class than students
who don't have time to do all the
homework because they are going
to every class and trying to have a
healthy sleep schedule.
Those students who attend class
are the ones who are the most suc-
cessful, and they know it. Rarely do
students ace a class they never went
to. You might pull a B if you're lucky,
but it's not always an easy feat.
Fundamentally, the incentive to go
to class exists regardless of an atten-
dance policy. It's not fair to students
to mandate attendance. Sometimes,
students get sick and just can't get
themselves to UHS, or they don't
want to get others sick and want to
give themselves a chance to get bet-
ter by resting.
Attendance policies are nonsense.
If you go, you absorb the material. If
you don't, you don't. Your loss. Some-
times, it's just the lesser of two evils.
Better that than to be sick during
- Eric Szkarlat can be reached
LARRY NOODEN.I ..
Open the gates to information
Healthy, Happy Women: Anny Fang talks
about coping with a cyberstalker.
Go to michigandaily.com/blogs/The Podium
Talk policy, not pot
I care about drug policy. IScare about the way
society deals with drugs, the laws surrounding
drug use and distribution and the prison sen-
tences handed down to drug dealers and drug
users. From the sound of it, I care a whole lot
aboutdrug policy. Butthat's rarely the response
I get from most people when I bring up drug
policy in conversation. The usual response is,
"Look at this guy, he just wants to make weed
legal so he can get high whenever he wants. Just
another knee-jerk collegiate pothead." Laugh it
up all you want, naysayers, but you couldn't be
farther from the truth.
For those of you who don't know, Ann Arbor
decriminalized marijuana in 1972. This means
that anyone caught with pot today "shall be
fined $25.00 for the first offense, $50.00 for the
second offense, $100.00 for the third or subse-
quent offense and no incarceration, probation,
nor any other punitive or rehabilitative mea-
sure shall be imposed," according to the Char-
ter for the city of Ann Arbor. This ordinance
means that any "knee-jerk collegiate pothead"
has little to worry about when it comes to rec-
reational marijuana use. So tell me, naysayers,
why then doI care so much about drug policy?
America's drug policies have broad societal
implications. Our War on Drugs is a war on
Americans, and this war is being waged dis-
proportionately against African Americans.
According to a Human Rights Watch study cited
on drugwarfacts.com, African Americans com-
prise one-third of all drug arrests. However, they
account for46 percent of felony drug convictions
in state courts. While 63 percent of white Ameri-
cans receive incarceration sentences for drug
convictions, 71 percent of blacks who are con-
victed for the same crimes serve time.
These numbers represent the incredibly
unbalanced proportion of black fathers who
are taken from their families and sent to prison
while white fathers are free to continue provid-
ing for their wives and children. These numbers
mean that black youths involved with drugs are
much more likely to be sent to prison than their
white peers who can continue going to school.
While those young white adults hang out with
their friends and classmates, their black peers
get to spend quality time with violent offenders
Americans lament the bloodyviolence occur-
ring in many parts of Mexico and fear that the
fighting could cross over into America. God
forbid Mexico's problems become our prob-
lems. How have we become blind to the fact
that drug cartels are fighting for domination
not over their own people, but over the trade
of drugs coming into America on a daily basis?
And while we're being blissfully ignorant, let's
also ignore the fact that according to a Dec. 14
article on msnbc.com, "U.S. firearms agents
estimate that around 80 percent of the weapons
used by Mexican drug traffickers come from
the United States." Mexicans are killing each
other at an alarming rate with American weap-
ons so that they can sell drugs to American
customers. Sure, we can beef up border secu-
rity and work with Mexican police to mitigate
cross-border violence. Or we could end a war
on drugs that is responsible for what amounts
to a civil war currently raging in our neighbor
nation to the south.
When I respond to naysayers with facts like
these, they begin to understand that I don't
simply care about drug policy because I'm look-
ing for a safer way to get high. When I explain
how our drug policies contribute to many of our
social, political and economic problems both
domestically and internationally, it's pretty dif-
ficult for those naysayers to continue with their
As students, it's our responsibility to educate
ourselves about the problems facing this coun-
try so that we can go on to solve them. Whether
you care about drug policy like me or you have a
different area of interest, engaging in one edu-
cated conversation at a time can make a world
of difference. Understand the problems facing
America, not just those facing yourself, and
you'll be able to show any patronizing critic
that you're not just a "knee-jerk collegiate pot-
head" or a "naive pseudo-activist supporting an
issue-du-jour." Instead, they'll thank you for
being an informed advocate with the potential
to improve America.
Jake Fromm is an LSA sophomore
and Daily photographer.
We - University students, staff and faculty - need
more information about and support for the available
and free open-format software. Some universities, like
George Mason University have active education pro-
grams to fill this gap. Very good progress has been made
here in understanding and supporting open-access to
information, and HathiTrust is leading the way here.
But more progress is needed with open-format soft-
ware - progress in which the coding is known, and no
one owns it or limits access or use. This applies not only to
programs but to file formats, which can quickly become
inaccessible as the access programs are discontinued.
Microsoft is the antithesis of open. Our work and infor-
mation at the University should be in portable file formats
that are easily accessible with a variety of programs run-
ningon a range of operating systems, not just a recent ver-
sion of Microsoft Office/Windows. Easy cross-platform
access already applies for most image files such as tif and
.jpg, but not for other work files, particularly text files.
Individuals and the University have huge investments in
our own work files and information. Access shouldn't be
limited by ephemeral programs and expensive tollgates.
A prime example of free open-format software that stu-
dents should know about is OpenOffice.org, commonly
known as OOo. OOo will do everything that most users of
office software need in word-processing and spreadsheets,
and it is better than Microsoft Office in some areas. Not
only is it free, but it readily supports open file formats such
as open data text (odt), which is an international-standard,
low-byte-volume, open-format text file. O0o is very intui-
tive and easy to use. It's available on the Internet and also
on University computing-site computers.
Another useful open program is Zotero, a free, open
bibliographic program, which is very useful for keeping
track of publications and for instant reference list con-
struction. Zotero is actually supported by the University.
If software vendors want to offer proprietary programs
with enhanced features to perform special functions to
justify the costs, more power to them. But that should not
interfere with simple, easy-to-use, open-formatprograms
and our portable, open work files.
Hopefully, in the future, the University will support
and offer student and faculty access to computers using
the open operating system Linux. Open software, espe-
cially Linux, tends to be lean in terms of byte volume and
thereby offers an antidote to the software bloat that slows
performance, demands ever more hardware capacity and
occupies too much storage space. Addressing this bloat
could result in huge savings for the University.
The University could also cutcosts by goingmore open,
and some aspects of open software development could
be shared with other universities. These collaborations
add up very quickly, and they provide great experience
for students. In the end, the users would own and, most
importantly, control the software they depend on. Some
great opportunities for collaboration with other institu-
tions have been ignored in the past due to great cost and
From many years of experience, I believe it's important
to have an agile, innovative, on-site IT staff to bring in
new technologies and adapt them to local needs. These
staffing costs could be covered by cost savings from going
to more open software and some shifting-and retraining
of IT staff as previous needs diminish.
As part of preparing students for the "real world" out
there where information access and software are likely
to be less accessible and more costly, more needs to be
done to make students aware of open-access and open-
format software. Students also need to be aware of why
open-access and open-format are so important for infor-
mation access. This would give students a graduation
gift of a portable legacy of useful experience. Informa-
tion is one of the cores of the University's business. We
could do much better in facilitating information access
and flow here for the University community and public
Larry Nooddn is a University professor emeritus of biology.
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Michiganneeds to build new, strong wide range of opportunities on the other side.
g The governor's plan to redesign Michigan's corporate
.economicfoundations income tax, for instance, isn't simply a gift to the state's
"business industry." Growing the margin between prof-
it and loss for companies across the state dramatically
TO THE DAILY: improves the fortunes of entrepreneurs, business own-
The Michigan Daily's review of Republican Gov. Rick ers, employees and their families, who can then better
Snyder's State of the State address (Snyder's one-point support local schools, charities and communities. These
plan, 1/20/2011) oversimplifies the governor's plans and effects will become self-sustaining as economic recovery
significantly underestimates the potential of economic sets in.
growth. For now, spending cuts are unavoidable, but Snyder's
The Daily criticized the governor for not devoting more push for two-year budgets due months before constitu-
of his speech explicitly to the public sector, the environ- tional deadlines will give citizens and administrators far
ment and social issues. It's no secret that these issues are more time and flexibility to adjust their finances than
critical to improving our state, but with a $1.8 billion bud- they have ever had before.
get deficit and an aging, declining population, focusing on Short-term budgetary pain is the price we must pay for
these issues first will only amplify our structural finan- sustainable, prosperous economic activity in the future.
cial problems and lead to more of the broken promises we The governor was right to make economic development
have become accustomed to. the focus of his address because no other option will gen-
The only way Michigan can become strong enough to erate the resources we need to create the Michigan we
support greater educational, environmental and cultural want to live in.
initiatives is to build a new economic foundation. Rath-
er than viewing the governor's economic plan as a one- Alexander Franz
dimensional plane, think of it as a prism that opens up a Business senior
EDITORIAL BOARD MEMBERS:
Aida Ali, Will Butler, Eaghan Davis, Michelle DeWitt, Ashley Griesshammer,
Erika Mayer, Harsha Nahata, Emily Orley, Harsha Panduranga,
Teddy Papes, Roger Sauerhaft, Seth Soderborg, Andrew Weiner