4A - Monday, November 21, 2011
The Michigan Daily - michigandaily.com dl
4A - Monday. November 21, 2011 The Michigan Daily - michigandailycom *
Edited and managed by students at
the University of Michigan since 1890.
- n420 Maynard St.
Ann Arbor, MI 48109
STEPHANIE STEINBERG and EMILY ORLEY NICK SPAR
EDITOR IN CHIEF EDITORIAL PAGE EDITORS 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.
Imran Syed is the public editor. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Voter turnout a problem for University elections
Last week, the student body voted for new representatives
in the Michigan Student Assembly, LSA Student Govern-
ment and several other student governments on campus.
The fall elections took place on Nov. 16 and 17 and suffered from
low voter turnout - an unfortunate trend in the past few years.
The issue indicates that student government elections are not being
taken seriously on either side of the ballot box. Students and candi-
dates need to recognize the significance of elections on campus and
increase their participation.
FROM THE PUBLIC EDITORf
Blogs are different
id you know that The
Michigan Daily has
blogs? Lots of them? All
accessible through the Daily's
My guess: Despite the fact that
blogs have permeated the national
journalistic ambiance to the point
of perhaps becoming the most
popular mode of getting informa-
tion, most readers are probably
not familiar with the Daily's blogs.
But they are an integral part of the
purpose and product of this news-
paper. And I am pleased that an
incident a couple of weeks ago con-
cerning a post made on the Fashion
blog, The Fashion Voyeur, allows
me this chance to discuss this over-
looked section of the Daily.
The incident involved a post
made on The Fashion Voyeur that
was taken by some readers to be
unacceptably mean, unprofes-
sional and uncalled-for. I largely
disagree with that assessment,
but we'll get to the specifics of that
post and its aftermath ina minute.
The Daily's blogs began about
six or seven years ago. Initially,
the news, opinion, arts and sports
sections each had a blog, but many
others have been added since. As I
recall, in the early days, our blogs
were not very exciting. Experi-'
mental and somewhat scattered,
they lacked character while Daily
staffers worked out the kinks of
the blog format.
Eventually, at least some of the
blogs took off. The sports blog
(The Game) is probably the most
popular, and the news blog (The
Wire) is perhaps the most essen-
tial. But for me it was always the
arts blog (The Filter) that was the
most interesting. Even aside from
my own background as an arts
writer for this newspaper, I felt
that The Filter, while inconsistent
and sometimes badly off-tone, had
the character and creativity that is
a hallmark of the blog format.
Launched this fall, The Fashion
Voyeur embodies a niche previ-
ously covered by The Filter, and
borrows more than a little of its
cheeky-declarative voice. I had
not read this blog until the appar-
ently flagrant post in question was
brought to my attention. Reading
some of its posts since then, I find
The Fashion Voyeur to be appro-
priately judgmental and preten-
tious. Its tone may most readily be
defined as "douchy," but I expect
that from a decent fashion com-
And that brings us to the entry
on that blog titled "Spotted:
Poshh-turing," which was posted
on Oct. 23. It features a man and
woman, both dressed a little too
overwhelmingly for me to compre-
hend. The Fashion Voyeur broke
it down for philistines like me,
including this descriptive excerpt:
"It's possible to look like you're try-
ing too hard while trying to look like
you're not trying too hard. See, it's
like this person read a few articles
on how to wear a tie casually and
then replicated GQ's conception of
what a cool guy looks like."
Catty? Yes, but also funny.
Mean? Maybe, but not unaccept-
ably so. I just don't see a problem
with it. Let me explain.
I've written a handful of col-
umns this term stressing the
importance of this newspaper and
the seriousness with which Daily
staffers must approach their task.
But all of that commentary was
intended for sections of the news-
paper whose job it is to produce
excellent, serious news and com-
mentary. However, journalism is a
field that encompasses much more
than just solid news coverage, con-
sidered commentary and in-depth
magazine and feature stories.
There are other niches in this pro-
fession where the purpose varies,
and thus the execution should too.
One such niche is arts commen-
tary. This paper has long recog-
nized that good writing on things
like film, theater, food and fashion
involves tone and style that has no
place in, say, a news story. (Indeed,
the Daily's very bylaws allow the
arts section special latitude in cre-
atively captioning photos.) None
of this is to say that arts writers
can use the license of creativ-
ity to produce shoddy work:,Get-
ting sarcasm, humor and satire
right is a huge challenge and most
attempts fail. But understanding a
difference in purpose and point is
It's a similar situation with
blogs: They are different, and
readers have to understand that.
While there was negative backlash
to the apparently offensive post on
The Fashion Voyeur, I find most
of it missed the point. It makes
no sense to criticize the Daily's
journalistic integrity just because
a post on the paper's fashion blog
may have been a tad impudent.
Many things are perfectly called-
for in a fashion commentary blog
that would be inappropriate in,
say, an editorial.
To those who panned the blog
entry in question because it was
blithely critical, possibly involved
misleadingthe subjects or was just
poorly thought-out: Those are fair,
and perhaps even valid, criticisms.
I wouldn't necessarily trust every-
thing written in the comments
under the blog post, but the Daily
should look into the allegation
that the photo was obtained under
false pretenses because that's
But beyond that, for those who
used that moment to criticize this
paper for "poor journalism," I
have no sympathy. I vehemently
disagree with the expectation
expressed by some readers that a
fashion blog should stick to posi-
tive commentary. No section of
the Daily should be afraid to be
critical. And when this paper pro-
duces critical commentary that
is flawed, we should all welcome
Above all, it's important to
remember that journalism is a wide
and diverse field - and it has more
than enough room for sassy fashion
commentary and curt blog posts.
-The public editor is an independent
critic of the Daily, and neither the
editorial board nor the editor in chief
exercise control over the contents of his
columns. The opinions expressed do not
necessarily constitute the opinion of
the Daily lmran Syed can be reached
Only 10 percent - or 1,658 students - in
LSA voted in LSA student government elec-
tions. This was a 2-percent decrease from the
election last fall. According to the U.S. Cen-
sus, only36percent of 18 to 24 year olds voted
in the 2000 U.S. presidential election. This
number is in stark contrast to the 72-percent
voter turnout among adults ages 65 to 74.
Obviously, elections for MSA and LSA Stu-
dent Government exist on a much smaller
scale than presidential elections. However,
the statistics show that voter apathy is not
strictly an issue with student government
elections, but rather a larger issue.
There was also little visible campaigning
from candidates. Student government candi-
dates should make a stronger effort to reach
out to students. Through more campaigning,
voter turnout could increase significantly.
The ballot should not be the first place vot-
ers see candidates' names. If students know
-ho they are voting for and what the candi-
d&es' impact will be on campus, they will
have greater incentive to participate. Debates
or open panels, which did not take place this
election, would be a good way for students
to get to know candidates. They would allow
students to analyze and compare candidates'
platforms and put faces to the names on the
Many students have a notion that student
government elections do not seriously affect
them, and therefore, are unimportant. But
$7.19 of each student's tuition goes to MSA,
which is small on an individual level but adds
up to over $190,000 - based on statistics
from 2010 - for the group to spend or allocate
to other student organizations. The election
also decides the students who become the
representatives on the Department of Pub-
lic Safety Oversight Committee, which acts
as a check on the campus police and hears
grievances filed against officers. Thus, while
elections may seem trivial, in actuality they
determine important aspects of student life.
Elections are the most direct and simple
exercise of democracy that students engage in
at the University. Beyond students voting, there
needs to be a sufficient number of candidates.
This fall, there was only one candidate on the
ballot for Rackham's 10 vacant seats in MSA.
If voters are going to take elections seriously,
there must be candidates for them to vote for.
Winter elections will be held next semes-
ter, and students should break the trend of low
voter turnout and a lack of involvement. The
next election is especially important because
it will decide the next MSA president, who
becomes the voice of the student body. Stu-
dents should take advantage of participating
in elections to ensure that their goals and con-
cerns are represented on campus.
EDITORIAL BOARD MEMBERS:
Aida Ali, Michelle DeWitt, Ashley Griesshammer, Nirbhay Jain, Jesse Klein,
Patrick Maillet, Erika Mayer, Harsha Nahata, Emily Orley, Teddy Papes, Timothy Rabb,
Vanessa Rychlinski, Caroline Syms, Seth Soderborg, Andrew Weiner
Living on $1.50 each day
FOLLOW DAILY OPINION ON TWITTER
Keep up with columnists, read Daily editorials, view cartoons and join in the debate.
Check out @michdailyoped to get updates on Daily opinion content throughout the day.
A 'GoodGuide' for consumers
Throughout the week of Oct. 24, members
of the ONE Campaign at the University partic-
ipated in a voluntary challenge to live on $1.50
per day - the projected amount those living
in extreme poverty in Africa and throughout
much of the developing world rely on to sur-
vive. This experiment was part of a Campus
Challenge to raise awareness of the escalating
famine in the Horn of Africa and the incred-
ible potential of Feed the Future - a lifesav-
ing program under the United States Agency
for International Development that works to
reduce poverty and hunger by training farm-
ers and equipping them with the necessary
skills and supplies to help better feed their
families and entire communities.
The challenge coincided with the present
budget debates in Congress, where less than 1
percent of the budget goes toward proven pro-
grams like Feed the Future, which are at risk
of being cut. We became even more passion-
ate about the devastating effects these cuts
would have after realizing the difficulty of
surviving on $1.50 a day. We would like to note
that before participating in this challenge, we
were aware that it would only serve as a model
and was not a realistic interpretation of what
living in extreme-poverty is like.
The start of the experiment proved to be
the hardest for most. Participants frequently
complained of eating rice and cooking beans
for hours. I personally became sick half way
through the experiment and was forced to
stop. However, in my first two days, I noticed
that I was perpetually tired, experienced
mood swings, found it difficult to pay atten-
tion in my classes and had no energy to take
part in my daily activities. Some ONE mem-
bers had similar responses.
"When you go shopping with only $10.50
for the whole week, you realize quickly that
you have to sacrifice good, quality ingredi-
ents for the cheapest option you can find.
When the last two days came around and
food was running really short, I started get-
ting a panic feeling that I may not be able to
feed myself," said Mary Kate Cartmill, an
LSA senior and student leader of the Uni-
versity's ONE Campus chapter. "By the third
day, I was having trouble staying awake in
class and a three-hour shift at work drained
my energy. I didn't realize how huge of an
impact diet has on concentration and produc-
tivity, which are both essential as a student."
At the end of the experiment, we reflected
on our experiences and had similar respons-
es to the effects of the challenge. We agreed
that it made us more aware of the famine
and food crisis currently taking place and
allowed us to better understand the difficulty
faced by the inconceivable number of people
living on this amount or less every day.
"I can't say that at the end of this chal-
lenge I know what it's like for the 1.4 billion
individuals around the world living on $1.50
a day because I always had the comfort of
knowing that at the end of the week I was
able to revert back to 'life as usual."' Cartmill
said, "but I think the first time seriously ask-
ing yourself 'What am I eating tomorrow?'
really makes the plight of those individuals
sink in a little deeper and brings the entire
issue a little closer to home."
Since this project, ONE members have
made phone calls, written letters and col-
lected petition signatures to help stop cuts for
programs that are saving and improving lives
throughout the developing world - all for less
than 1 percent of the entire U.S. budget. Our
experiences from the $1.50/day challenge are
driving us to engage University students and
inform them of this escalating crisis.
Michelle DiMuzio is an LSA freshman.
While making any sort of transaction in the Ameri-
can marketplace, everyone must inevitably make deci-
sions between competing companies and products.
There are so many elements to consider. I consider
energy efficiency, whether or not the manufacturing
company supports the American economy and labor
force, whether environmentally sustainable practices
are employed, the content of ingredients - organic and
non-toxic - and more. These make up a portion of the
criteria I use to evaluate competitor products and com-
panies while making a purchase - ensuring that my
purchases reflect my ethical concerns, preferences and
values, including my health and environmental impact.
These are also the elements that make up my personal
filter on GoodGuide.com.
GoodGuide is a relatively new online database - it
was launched in 2008 - that aids consumers in mak-
ing more informed decisions in the marketplace and
provides an easy, comprehensive and novel approach
to product review. University of California-Berkeley
Enviornmental and Labor Policy Prof. Dara O'Rourke,
the co-founder and chief sustainability officer of the
company, has said that his mission is to make it easier
to find products that are safe, healthy, green and social-
ly responsible. GoodGuide is funded by social venture
investors and traditional venture capitalists, and part-
nered with an extensive network of non-government
organizations, academics and large companies.
How does GoodGuide work? Researching prod-
ucts and their origin can be an incredibly lengthy and
time-consuming process. GoodGuide employs a crew,
composed of chemists, nutritionists, environmental
life cycle assessment experts and toxicologists, that
has analyzed more than 120,000 products (household,
personal, food, etc.) and the companies behind the
product. They also use information based on more than
1,000 different sources: the companies themselves,
governmental databases about the policies and practic-
es of big publicly-traded firms, private research firms,
NGOs, policy practices, political partisan endorse-
ment, media sources and academics.
Once analyzed, the product analysis is broken down
into three main sub-scores:
1. Human health impact - how the product affects
the physical body.
2. Environmental impact - how the product is pro-
duced and manufactured as well as the supply chain,
potential consequences, raw material origin, distribu-
tion, sale and disposal of a product.
3. Social responsibility - the impact on society the
product or company has.
The product is then assigned a rating ranging from
zero to 10 - the highest score indicates superb perfor-
mance, and the lowest indicates subpar performance. *
GoodGuide doesn't stop there. You can install a tool-
bar onto your browser free of charge and utilize your
personal filter and GoodGuide ratings on e-commerce
sites in the online marketplace. Thus, when you are
browsing, the bottom portion of your screen will show
how the product matches your personalized filter,
the GoodGuide rating and suggestions for alternative 0
products that can better meet your standards, along
with pricing and consumer ratings. Additionally, the
new, cost-free smartphone app (iPhone and Android)
scans the barcode of a product and sends all the online
information straight to your phone. Your preferences
and filter can be used virtually wherever you go.
GoodGuide empowers consumers by showing exactly
what their capital is supporting, which leads to smarter,
healthier and more environmentally friendly purchases.
Why does this matter? As more and more consumers
start to employ GoodGuide into their daily lifestyles, we
will see a gradual change in the marketplace. Consum-
ers' preferences will become more defined, and large
retail and manufacturing companies will feel the pres-
sure and incentive to supply and meet the standards of
this new market demand by making more environmen-
tally sustainable products and producing them using
ethical sourcing of raw materials and labors, according
to O'Rourke. O'Rourke sees GoodGuide as a more trans-
parent and sustainable marketplace that cuts through S
marketing and advertising - revealing the truth
through the multilayer process and numerous players
that go into the raw material, production, labor, politics,
supply chain, manufacturing, distribution, marketing
and sale of a product. O'Rourke hopes to see GoodGuide
send a signal to companies that business as usual means
business as sustainable.
Adrianna Bojrab is an LSA senior.