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January 05, 2011 - Image 4

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The Michigan Daily, 2011-01-05

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4A - Wednesday, January 5, 2011

The Michigan Daily - michigandaily.com

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





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.
Revitalizing activism
New editors' objectives for 2011 editorial page
hile The Michigan Daily is historically known as a lib-
eral newspaper, many fail to remember its progressive
- and albeit controversial - era. Throughout the 1950s
and 1960s, the Daily's editorial page was characterized by strong
student activism. The Daily heavily questioned not only the Uni-
versity administration, but also the federal government. Its radical
statements were so controversial that the paper received coverage
from national media outlets. Michigan currently has one of the
worst economies and job markets in the nation and, just this past
weekend, the federal government had a large shift in political party
power. But in spite of all this, the spirit of activism both on campus
and in the Daily has been somewhat subdued. Our plan is to reverse
this trend.

Not enough course guidance


The Daily is an entirely student-run news-
paper. But that doesn't mean our stories
exist exclusively on campus. Between an
expansive alumni base and national media
attention, the voice of the Daily has been
widely heard. When the Daily first broke the
news of assistant attorney general Andrew
Shirvell's hateful blog against Michigan Stu-
dent Assembly President Chris Armstrong,
the editorial staff called for Shirvell's remov-
al from office. The Daily coverage preceded a
string of national news coverage of the issue
and Michigan Attorney General Mike Cox
later relieved Shirvell from his duties.
The editorial page, as demonstrated, has
a realistic potential to promote concrete
change on campus. And this power is not
taken lightly. The opinion section exists to
argue the positions of all types of students on
campus. Whether it's calling for the reason-
able protection of a campus leader, support-
ing the implementation of an open housing
option in the residence halls or calling for
the repeal of the future campus-wide smok-
ing ban, the editorial page serves as a voice
for diverse and divisive issues. Our goal is to
continue to check the University's decisions
while also stirring debate on campus.
Along with members of the Daily's edito-
rial board, we will examine what issues are
most important to students - both on a local

and national level - and use editorials to
discuss realistic ways of approaching these
different topics. While Daily precedent will
always be taken into account, we will also
consider new circumstances and our unique
perspective as students in the 21st century.
But the only way the editorial page can be a
relevant forum for discussion and new ideas
is if students throughout campus contribute
their opinions. We encourage students from
all types of backgrounds to submit letters
to the editor or viewpoints, so that the page
communicates all the different facets of an
issue and not just one side.
Throughout our tenure as the editorial
page editors, we will strive to return the edi-
torial page to its progressive roots. The Daily
made a name for itself by not being afraid to
stir up controversy and by strongly defend-
ing and standing by its views. In the midst
of economic despair and social conflicts, our
goal is to make the page an outlet for a voice
that is young, informed and eager to create
Michelle DeWitt and Emily Orley
Editorial Page Editors

T helastthing allofus didbefore
leaving for break, other than
take a few finals, was select
our courses for
the coming semes-
ter. For freshmen
it was infuriating,
for sophomores it
was disappointing,
for juniors it was a
joy and for seniors
it was bittersweet.
While the pro-
cess isn't perfect JEFF
and doesn't allow WOJCIK
everyone to take
what they want
and when they
want, for the most part it's received
as fair. But most students don't enjoy
the surprise of Professor Schreier's
Psych 111 course filling up four days
before their registration time.
If you're like me, you left freshman
summer orientation vexed over your
upcoming fall semester schedule and
rushed home to pick the courses you
would take for the rest of your under-
graduate career. Before you even
moved into your residence hall, you
took great time and care in finding
courses that you would select in your
sophomore and junior (and maybe
even senior) semesters, when you
would have higher priority.
Unfortunately, once you achieve
the prized honor of registering before
seemingly everyone else, you will.
continue to find frustration in course
selection. You will most likely not be
disappointed in the professor or the
curriculum, but you might be frus-
trated about your expectations of the
course. Currently, the course guide
only allows you to search by depart-
ments, distribution requirements,
credit totals, keywords and other
tags. While the technology works and
people typically find the courses they
need to take to complete their degree
and fulfill their academic curiosity,

the information in the course guide is
arguably limited.
Unless it's included in the brief
course description, students are usu-
ally left clueless as to the number
of papers in the course, the style of
exams, the necessity of attendance
and a host of other factors that would
be helpful in fleshing out their next
semester. Some students use older.
siblings, sorority sisters or other
sources of course information to
select classes based on unique criteria,
but not everyone has these resources
available. With this in mind, LSA
Student Government thinks instruc-
tors should, and likely want to, pro-
vide more information and details in
the course guide about the courses
they're teaching. The information will
help students select courses based
on factors beyond distribution and
upper-level writing requirements,
and instead look for courses based on
teaching style, time commitment and
instructor expectations.
Whether you select your cours-
es because they're not on Fridays,
because they complete your humani-
ties requirement, because the title
sounds appetizing or because you
read every description of the GEOS-
CI electives - and this one really
spoke to you - LSA-SG is working
to improve the course guide to bet-
ter help you find the classes that fit
your needs and wants. We're work-
ing with LSA to indicate when some
gateway courses will be offered in the
future, so that you can plan when to
take a course you cannot get into this
semester. We're petitioning 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 difficult your professors might
be. Above all, we're striving to attach
draft syllabi to course descriptions
so that you can know how you will
be evaluated over the next 16 weeks

of class and how your grade will be
determined. These efforts will help
you find the options you want more
quickly and prevent you from choos-
ing courses that don't meet your
We need your help in making these
improvements. In the November 2010
LSA-SG election, 1,846 of 2,031 (91
percent) LSA students who voted in
the election said they would like to
use a draft syllabus when choosing
their courses. Though LSA students
voted to tell us what things should
be altered, we still want to hear from
you to know what tweaks and chang-
es can be made to make your course
selection experience better.
We probably won't be able to
Even for seniors,
class registration
is frustrating.*
make freshmen register any earlier,
and we can't make Orgo any easier.
What we can do is collect all the sug-
gestions from students and partner
with the dean's office to improve the
course guide and help you pick the
best schedule possible. Please e-mail
us at academics@umich.edu, so we
can forward your thoughts and con-
cerns about the course guide to those
responsible for changing it. College
administrators, faculty and staff
all want students to have the best
resource to find course options, so
please tell us how you would like to
search for classes.
- Jeff Wojcik is an LSA-SG
representative. He can be reached
at jawojcik@umich.edu.

Aida Ali, Will Butler, Eaghan Davis, Michelle DeWitt, Ashley Griesshammer,
Erika Mayer, Harsha Nahata, Emily Orley, Harsha Panduranga,
Teddy Papes, Roger Sauerhaft, Andrew Weiner
Scheduling rationale?

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.

Don't drink the water

January 12, January 18, January 24, February
1. These dates comprise the spectrum of when
my friends return to school for the start of sec-
ond semester. When I mentioned to them that
my winter break ends on January 5, my friends
were aghast by how little time I had at home
with my family. They all wondered how their
breaks could be four, five, even six weeks long
when mine barely cracked three weeks.
I could easily complain about this problem.
My family friend, who teaches high school
math, and my sister, a high school sophomore,
both complain incessantly that their breaks are
too short. Even my 8-year-old neighbor whines
that her break from the third grade is way too
short for her liking. So instead of complaining
about the length of our winter break, I chal-
lenge the University to explain the reasoning
behind the schedule. I implore administrators
to explain why our winter break is at most three
weeks, why spring break is in February or even
why the school year ends in April - resulting
in a four-month summer. If the University is
going to operate on such an odd schedule, then
it's only fair that the student body is privy to the
calendar's motivating logic.
Before I began writing this piece, I did some
research on the University website to see if I
could find any information that explained our
schedule. No luck. Even on the various message
boards and third-party pages on the Internet, I
could not find a succinct explanation of the for-
mation of our schedule. one of the most amaz-
ing things about the University that I noticed
during my first year here was the vast amount
of resources available to the student body. From
e-mail crime alerts, to the career development
office, to even the arrows in the Barnes and
Noble book store pointing where to pick up pre-
viously purchased books, the University does an

incredible job making a wide variety of informa-
tion available to the student body. All this makes
the lack of an explanation of the formation of
the academic calendar seem incredibly counter-
intuitive to the University's existing state of
I hesitate to use the word "arbitrary" when
discussing the University's academic calendar.
"Arbitrary," better describes my ideas surround-
ing the University's schedule. For example, why
can't we have an extra week during winter
break and tack that class time on to the end of
the winter term? Or, why can't the spring and
summer terms be consolidated into one term,
which would allow the winter term to end later
and allow for longer breaks? But again, those
are completely arbitrary ideas, formed off the
top of my head with little knowledge of how a
large University actually functions. Though it
would likely be a laughable Saturday Night Live
skit, I'm confident that the University Board
of Regents doesn't sit around and hypothesize
about the dates for our academic calendar.
For a school of the University's size to operate
smoothly, no decision the University of Michi-
gan makes can truly be arbitrary. There has to
be a definitive reason behind the dates of our
academic calendar. Given that the only infor-
mation the University publishes on the online
schedule is the academic calendar for the next
three years, there is clearly a pre-existing sys-
tem. Instead of allowing the student body to
wonder, and therefore conjure their own ideas
as to what the schedule should be, the Univer-
sity should make its reasoning transparent. If
there is in fact a method to the madness of our
academic schedule, students and professors
have every right to know.
Zack Grant is an LSA sophomore.

t's required by law that tobacco
products bear the U. S. Surgeon
warning, which
offers a friendly
reminder: If you
use tobacco, you ;
will get cancer and
you will die. Well, , . '
maybe the pack-
ages don't say that
exactly, but they ---
might as well. The JOE
warning is there
to make users fully SUGIYAMA
aware of the health
risks and allows
each person to
make his or her own decision about
tobacco use.
But what would happen if the same
label was put on something that you
had no choice but to use - something
like water. If every water faucet, drink-
ing fountain and showerhead bore a
skull and crossbones label, it might
be a little disconcerting. But it seems
as though this severe course of action
might be necessary after a well-known
carcinogen was found in tap water in
Ann Arbor, along with 31 other cities
around the United States.
According to the Environmental
Working Group - a non-profit organi-
zation dedicated to public safety from
toxic chemicals - there are alarming
amounts of hexavalent chromium (Cr-
6) in the drinking water of many U.S.
cities. Hexavalent chromium is a toxin
that, if ingested, increases a person's
risk of gastrointestinal cancer and
increases concentrations of chromium
in body tissue.
The group's study tested unfiltered
water samples - from places like
libraries, homes and hospitals - in 35
cities for Cr-6. California is currently

the only state requiring water com-
panies to test for the toxin and. the
state has determined that 0.06 parts.
per billion should be the safest maxi-
mum allowable concentration. But
the 35 cities tested averaged about
three times this amount. Ann Arbor
had the 12th highest concentration
among those tested at 0.21 ppb.
This is a surprising result after the
same chemical made such a big splash
in the mid-1990s. Hexavalent chro-
mium is the toxin that the California
company, Pacific Gas & Electric, was
sued $330 million for having in their
water. The toxin was deemed respon-
sible for the devastation to the health
of the residents in Hinkley, Calif. The
case was the basis of the 2000 movie
"Erin Brockovich," which brought
even more awareness to the topic.
As a result of the national expo-
sure to this issue, the Environmental
Protection Agency tested Cr-6, and
found it to have carcinogenic effects.
But even with this classification as
a threat to humans, the EPA has not
seen fit to regulate - or even require
testing for - the amount of Cr-6 in
tap water.
There is a federal limit of 100 ppb
of total chromium for tap water, but
this means that any form of chromium
- including the toxic Cr-6 - counts
toward this total sum of 100 ppb. So if
a sample of water meets the EPA regu-
lation for chromium concentration
with Cr-6 only, the water would have
over 1600 times the suggested amount
of the carcinogen. It's almost like the
EPA is playing Russian roulette with
toxic chemicals. Only the study by the
EWG has uncovered that the cylinder
is full about 90 percent of the time.
One might think that the Safe
Drinking Water Act of the 1970s
would help with this predicament

we're facing. But adding to the list
of chemicals to be regulated by the
SDWA isn't the speediest process,
primarily because of all the research
that must occur before a chemical
is deemed a toxin. I guess that call-
ing something a "likely carcinogen
to humans" isn't enough for the EPA.
Cr-6 has been proven to have toxic
effects on people and animals, so
what is stopping it from becoming
blacklisted by the EPA? Making Cr-6
a federally regulated chemical could
save countless lives.
Carcinogen was
found in Ann
Arbor's tap water.
If the EPA won't step in at the fed-
eral level, the state of Michigan or
even the city of Ann Arbor must do
something. It's both disturbing and
embarrassing that our city is men-
tioned in this report. It's even more
disturbingthat we were listed as hav-
ing three times the suggested limit
of a known carcinogen in our drink-
ing water. Ann Arbor needs to attack
this issue head on. Not just for the
safety of its own citizens, but to cre-
ate a path for cities all over the U.S.
to follow. We can't wait on the EPA
to show us the way out of this poten-
tially deadly situation. Cr-6 should be
strictly regulated by the city of Ann
Arbor and the state to avoid any last-
ing repercussions.
- Joe Sugiyama can be reached

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