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January 31, 2011 - Image 4

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The Michigan Daily, 2011-01-31

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4A - Monday, January 31, 2011

The Michigan Daily -- michigandaily.com

4A - Monday, January 31, 2011 The Michigan Daily - michigandailycom

e it igan 4a
Edited and managed by students at
the University of Michigan since 1890.
420 Maynard St.
Ann Arbor, MI 48109
tothedaily@michigandaily.com

DANIEL GOLD

E-MAIL DANIEL AT DWGOLD@UMICH.EDU

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E5The Beatles Egyptian People
@egyptppl You say you @thebeatles We all want to
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STEPHANIE STEINBERG
EDITOR IN CHIEF

MICHELLE DEWITT
and EMILY ORLEY
EDITORIAL PAGE EDITORS

KYLE SWANSON
MANAGING 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.
Detroit vs. the suburbs
City and neighbors must co-manage water system
Due to a recent decision made by Oakland County and neigh-
boring suburbs, the city of Detroit may be hung out to dry.
Last Wednesday, Oakland County made a federal request to
implement a new oversight structure for the Detroit Water and Sewer-
age Department. The department has recently come under heavy scru-
tiny from state and national leaders due to its history of corruption and
mismanagement. Though the department has been mismanaged, the
city of Detroit should remain in control of the department. Detroit and
its suburbs must agree to share oversight of the department in order to
ensure an equal share of authority and financial liability.

Life is full of evaluations

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Early last week, Detroit Mayor Dave Bing
met with regional leaders about the status of
the city's Water and Sewerage Department,
according to a Jan. 27 Detroit News article.
The meeting took place after Oakland County
filed a federal lawsuit calling for a new over-
sight board for the department. The Detroit
Water Department has been criticized for its
lack of oversight and longstanding corrup-
tion. Control over the department has come
into question after it played a central role in
former Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick's
racketeering conspiracy indictment. Oakland
County's proposed board would replace the
current oversight committee that's composed
of seven members, who are appointed by the
mayor, with a five member board including
Detroit's mayor and representatives from dif-
ferent counties in Southeast Michigan.
The Detroit Water Department has been
mismanaged under former oversight commit-_
tees, so the concerns being voiced by groups
from the suburbs aren't completely unfound'
ed. The city of Detroit controls ulti mil-
lion-dollar department that supplies water
to nearly all Southeastern Michigan. Any
problems with the department affect a wide
range of people, and Detroit leaders need to
acknowledge there are problems that need to
be addressed within the system.
While representatives from Oakland

County and other suburbs are correct in
recognizing that things must change at the
water department, taking away power from
Detroit isn't a viable plan. Detroit bears the
financial burden for the multi million-dollar
department, and the proposed change would
leave the city with that liability but give offi-
cials no authority over the functioning of the
system. The suburbs and the city of Detroit
must come to a compromise that holds the
department's leaders to a higher standard,
yet also allows Detroit to have a central role
in its operation.
The new water system should include input
from regional municipalities, but the current
state House bill being considered unfairly
allocates authority. Oakland County and other
suburbs that use Detroit's water need to have
an influence in the department's decisions,but
House Bill 4112 lets too much power rest in the
hands of the suburbs. A compromise on this
issue is in the best interest of the water depart-
ment, And it will foster a spirit of cooperation
between the different suburbs and the city of
Detroit.
There is progress to be made in the infra-
structure of Detroit, but stripping city officials
of authority in that decision isn't the way to
go about it. Detroit needs to work its way back
to being a hub city in Michigan, and regional
cooperation will help make that happen.

or eminently understand-
able reasons, arguments and
proposals about undergradu-
ate course selec-
tion, grading
and other related
issues tend to
dominate this
editorial page
(e.g. Viewpoint:
Abolish letter
grading, 12/5/10;
Viewpoint: Test NEILL
our GSI's before MOHAMMAD
they test us,
12/12/10; Jeff
Wojcik: Not enough course guidance,
1/4/11; Eric Szkarlat: Attendance
(not) mandatory, 1/19/11; Jeff Wojcik:
Test drive your class 1/17/11).
I can certainly see the value in
wantingto improve and refine under-
graduate instruction at the Universi-
ty. It's an important topic now more
than ever. The Chronicle of Higher
Education cited a recent study that
found only six of 10 American under-
graduates will see their performance
on a standardized skills test - the
Collegiate Learning Assessment -
improve over the course of a four-
year bachelor's degree. If there are
recurring and unnecessary barriers
to student achievement at the Uni-
versity, then we certainly ought to be
addressing them.
That said, it's difficult not to read
a disingenuous subtext into - just
to piekone example - Jeff Wojcik's
proposal for "the incorporation
of Michigan Student Assembly's
Advice Online right into the course
guide, so you can make informed
choices about how helpful and dif-
ficult your professors might be."
The implication, presumably, is that
simply knowing the course subject,
its content and the various factors
that will go into the grading process

for a course aren't enough to make
a decision. That's all covered by the
syllabus you're handed on the first
day of class. The risk, if I under-
stand this implication correctly, is
getting stuck with a GSI or profes-
sor who will give you a lower grade
- ignoringyour work ethic and your
aptitude - than someone else. And,.
of course, you're here to get good
grades, if not for your own sake,
then for your parents' or your future
employers'.
Here's where I should make a con-
fession: I've written three different
drafts of this column. The first time,
I drew on my teaching experience
at the University to write a column
fitting a company man to the bitter
end. I said that grades are assigned
anonymously whenever possible,
departments make every effort to
ensure consistency across sections
and between semesters, GSI's make
every effort to address serious grade
complaints or grievances, and so on
and so on.
The second time through, I wrote
it satirically: Since course evalua-
tions are themselves a type of grade
- a grade that you give to your pro-
fessor or GSI, which will go into
their "permanent record" and are
typically requested when apply-
ing for academic positions - what
recourse do they have? If you're will-
ing to believe that there are instruc-
tors who give their students unfair
grades, don't we have to also account
for students who give their ivustruc-
tors unfair evaluations? I would love
to know what particular kind of hell
would be unleashed if instructors
got to consult a similar rating scale
and admit students to their courses
and discussion section accordingly.
In the end,:I settled on a different
track and my point is this: Shopping
for an instructor who you think is

going to give you a better grade -
for reasons that are completely dis-
tinct fromyour effort and talent - is
self-defeating. Not because the set of
assumptions you make in doing so
are implausible on their face - even
though they are - but because it
ignores a basic fact of life: "Grades"
don't end with college. Someone is
going to be evaluating you and your
work, in some fashion or another,
for the rest of your life, and you will
rarely, if ever, get to pick who those
people are. Thinking that the key to
your academic record rests in pick-
ing the easy courses and instructors
over the "hard" ones fosters an illu-
sion of control over your life that is
never going to stand up under any
other conceivable set of circum-
stances after leaving the University.
Shopping for an
instructor is
self-defeating.
You might leave Ann Arbor and
end up working for a boss you don't
like. You might get an unwarranted
negative performance review that
leads to a missed promotion. You,
might open your own business, only
to have a few unreasonable custom-
ers poison its reputatio -Simething
will happen, inevitably, and there
won't be any opportunity to appeal:
No department chair, no dean of stu-
dents.
You might even go into teaching
and get an unfair course evaluation.
Wouldn't that be something?
-Neill Mohammad can be
reached at neilla@umich.edu.

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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

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LETTERS TO THE EDITOR:
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. We do not print anonymous letters.
Send letters to tothedaily@michigandaily.com

SEND LETTERS TO: TOTHEDAILY@MICHIGANDAILY.COM

Students aren't receptive to
department accommodations
TO THE DAILY:
The Daily's article about class enrollment
(Students Struggle to Enroll in 'U' Courses,
01/27/2011) contained a rather whopping
misrepresentation about alleged enrollment
problems in my department - Communica-
tion Studies. Because we're a very popular
concentration, students do sometimes have
trouble getting into our classes. But just before
the start of this term, we saw that we were
facing enormous enrollment pressures, so
the department added several sections to our
more over-subscribed classes, an additional
seminar and numerous faculty added extra
seats to their upper-level seminars for a total
of more than 150 additional spots.
Yet, as evidence of our alleged unrespon-
siveness to student needs, you cited an LSA
student, who claimed to have had "major
issues" trying to enroll in our courses. While
she said she got into COMM 101 and 102 "by

luck" - an enrollment procedure with which
I am unfamiliar - she had "no chance" of get-
ting into COMM 211. In fact, the student was
notified that two additional sections had been
created specifically forthis class, bothofwhich
fit with her schedule. They were, however, on
Thursday evening and Friday morning, times
that I realize can interfere with preparation
for, or recovery from, a night out at Rick's. The
student chose not to enroll in either of these
sections, so it's indeed wise that she "wouldn't
file a complaint." She did volunteer, however,
that she "would consider giving the comm
department some constructive criticism." As
a chair who watches approximately 15 faculty
handle nearly 1,500 students a term, all I can
say is "looking forward."
Of course it's very frustrating when stu-
dents cannotgetinto classes they want or need.
Our department actually cares about this and
to allege that we shut students out when just
the opposite occurred is to do an injustice to a
very hard-working faculty and staff.
Susan Douglas
Department of Communication Studies chair

TIMOTHY HALL |

A burdensome ban

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SIMON BORST E-MAIL SIMON AT SIMKAL@UMICH.EDU

The campus-wide Smoking-Free Initiative has been ers to pick up the habit. ,
a source of controversy since President Mary Sue Cole- This, however, isn't simply a question of morality.
man penned it on her Johnson & Johnson stationary set Michigan's unemployment rate is one of the worst
- owing to the totalitarian manner in which it became in the country because the states's economy was one
law, the size of the demographic it will affect and how of the hardest hit by the recession. We're part of an
University officials propose to enforce it. Though the era in which students share desks and teachers find
validity of the law is debatable, I wish to address two other jobs. With this in mind, how can any gratuitous
recent developments regarding the smoking ban: the spending be justified? More specifically, how can the
idea of enforcing laws with "peer pressure" and the most prominent public university in Michigan spend
$240,805 allotted for its implementation. - $240,805 on the implementation of an executive order
A quote from St. Thomas Aquinas - made famous by with shaky foundations and a proposed enforcement
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. in his "Letter From a Bir- battalion of student-nares? Schools all over our state
mingham Jail" - asserts that "any law that degrades are cutting positions and programs, but we're adding a
human personality is unjust." Though King uses this salaried overseer to manage what, exactly? Enforcing
passage to support his argument against segregation, this new law? No, they've left that up to us, the stu-
it very much applies to the situation at hand. In King's dents, who out of hundreds of other schools, chose to
circumstances, his interpretation is that a law passed spend four years at the University, expecting to find
by those in authority, enforced by the same authority the welcoming atmosphere it claims to provide.
and that degrades the human personality of those it Keeping in mind that what Mussolini did to Italy
will be applied to is unjust. was considered legal in his day, and Egyptian civil-
In July 2011, the University will place the burden of ians protesting the dictatorial, nearly 30-year rule of
enforcing this initiative on us, the students. What is President Hosni Mubarak is a punishable offense, let
peer pressure but a means of unjust influence? What us not dote on the justness of this smoking initiative.
is the use of unjust influence but a degradation of We know by now that injustice is a natural byproduct
human personality? For our own officials to encour- of government, deliberate or not. However, the fact
age the practice of peer pressure is something that I that the ban has caused University officials to institute
will never understand and would never expect anyone a policy of peer pressure on our campus and to spend
else to. The people hired to manage the University, an $240,805 of our ever-diminishing budget, is grounds
institution I trust to hold the best wishes of its students for revocation of this initiative, or at the very least, a
in mind, hope to separate our campus and reduce us serious reformation.
to mere whistleblowers-and bullies, through the very
same practice of peer pressure that caused many smok- Timothy Hall is ans LSA sophomore.

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