4A - Monday, March 5, 2012 The Michigan Daily - michigandailycom
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FROM THE PUBLIC EDITOR I
Breaking the news
Edited and managed by students at
the University of Michigan since 1890.
420 Maynard St.
Ann Arbor, MI 48109
and ANDREW WEINER JOSH HEALY
EDITORIAL PAGE EDITORS MANAGING EDITOR
EDITOR IN CHIEF
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 isthe public editor. He can be reached at email@example.com.
Let MERC deid
The state Legislature overreached with SB 971
Throughout much of last year, the nation watched a labor bat-
tle unfold in Wisconsin. In February 2011, Republican Gov.
Scott Walker introduced legislation to narrowly limit public
employees' collective bargaining rights in Wisconsin. The changes
- in effect as of March 2011 - sparked some of the most dramatic
political activism in years. Thousands occupied the state's capitol,
Democratic lawmakers left the state to avoid a vote and eventually the
state's Supreme Court ruled in favor of Walker's proposals. In Michi-
gan and at the University, the debate over graduate student research
assistants' classification - a collective bargaining issue on a smaller
scale - has come to a halt. The Michigan Legislature has passed a bill
classifying GRSAs as students, not employees, thereby sidestepping
ongoing official proceedings. The state has set a dangerous precedent
by circumventing existing legal processes and proactively inhibiting
On Thursday, Senate Bill 971 passed the able outcome from appropriate institutions
state House of Representatives in a party-line is not reason to introduce legislation. No
vote. It will now head to Gov. Rick Snyder, lawmaker, Democrat or Republican, should
who's expected to sign it into law as early as politicize issues by overreaching ongoing
this week. The bill says a GSRA "does not have bureaucratic or judicial processes.
sufficient indicia of an employer-employee The legislature stripped GSRAs' chance for
relationship" and "is not a public employee unionization with alarming expediency. The
entitled to representation or collective bar- bill went through both houses and commit-
gaining rights." tees in about two weeks. Though normally a
For years, groups have debated GSRA bill would take effect in 90 days, the House
classification - University administra- is expected to vote the bill into immediate
tors, the University's Board of Regents, the effect. The unionization saga has proven
Graduate Employees' Organization, Students lengthy, but this matter - which affects thou-
Against GSRA Unionization and others have sands - deserves careful consideration, not a
all weighed in. The battled landed at the fast vote along party lines. Republicans gen-
Michigan Employment Relations Commis- erally champion small, efficient government.
sion. Throughout February, an administra- Efficient institutions are a benefit to everyone,
tive judge held hearings on whether GSRAs but not when they're moving so quickly that
should be allowed to vote for unionization. they hinder democratic processes such as the
She was expected to make her recommenda- MERC's upcoming decision. A small govern-
tion to MERC by March 13. ment does not mean one that can quickly and
The Republican majority's easy passage unilaterally enacts laws to get what it wants.
in advance of MERC's decision sets a dan- The bill sets a standard by which to judge
gerous precedent. The long process was the state government's attitude toward collec-
nearing resolve, so the bill was surprising. tive bargaining. The eventual MERC decision
MERC decisions on the matter are precedent could have allowed GSRAs to vote on union-
- in 1981 the commission ruled that GSRAs ization - a reasonable, yet far-off solution.
couldn't unionize. Sen. Randy Richardville Still, the legislature felt reason to act swiftly.
(R-Monroe), the Senate Majority leader who Michigan cannot be lured into a Wisconsin-
introduced the bill, should not have initiated like scenario, and shouldn't further attack col-
such a hurried resolution. Fear of an unfavor- lective bargaining rights.
SEND LETTERS TO: TOTHEDAILY@MICHIGANDAILY.COM
When a scandal of epic
proportions erupted at
Penn State University
early last November, Penn State's
student newspaper was quick to
pounce. In an editorial printed
the Monday after the story broke,
The Daily Collegian opined:"The
moral failure of every single person
involved is appalling ... The univer-
sity has brought shame upon itself."
It was a bold stance only com-
paratively - criticizing those who
cover up a sex scandal is usually
very easy. But in the campus envi-
ronment that enveloped Penn State
in the immediate aftermath of that
scandal - where students seemed
more concerned with defending
head football coach Joe Paterno
than condemning former assis-
tant football coach and accused
child abuser Jerry Sandusky - the
Collegian showed great courage
in mincing no words and direct-
ing blame squarely on Penn State
University officials for the scope
of the problem and cover-up. The
Collegian's subsequent coverage of
the scandal, all the way up to this
weekend, has also been thorough,
inquisitive and excellent.
Nevertheless, a question
remains: Where was the Collegian
for all those years while Sandusky
was committing crimes, and Penn
State was covering them up?
Of course, I'm not suggesting
that Penn State's student news-
paper is at fault, legally or other-
wise, for anything that occurred.
I'm merely stating that, if such a
scandal played out on campus for
more than a decade, and no report-
er from the Collegian ever found
enough to break the story, the
newspaper failed the Penn State
community on some level. And
there are important lessons there
for The Michigan Daily.
That investigative reporting is
dead is a common complaint - one
that finds its way into my public
editor inbox from time to time.
However, there are special chal-
lenges that college newspapers
face on this front. Among them,
college reporters are hamstrung by
their brief tenures: They don't get
to build the kind of contacts and
connections that can yield leads for
investigative stories. Institutional
knowledge and understanding is
lost as quickly as it's built, as class
after class of the best and most
experienced reporters graduate.
But these cannot be excuses.
The Daily's bylaws stress the ideal
of investigative journalism with
implorations such as: "Be vigi-
lant and courageous about holding
those with power accountable." And
indeed, on many occasions the Daily
has proudly lived up to those ideals.
Five years ago, when the Uni-
versity was "repairing" Michigan
Stadium - and bizarrely insisting
that it had no obligation under the
Americans with Disabilities Act to
add accessible facilities and seating
- the Daily was one among many
strong critics of the administration's
stance. Without taking too much
credit, it's still fair to say that the
Daily's determined effort over sev-
eral months, spanning many incisive
news stories and unrelenting edi-
torials, played an important role in
ensuring that the University eventu-
ally did comply with the ADA.
Sadly, there is no one on staff
today who was at the Daily when
that ADA debate played out. There
is no one left who can apply those
lessons and build on them for
issues that emerge today. This is
a problem, but one that the Daily
The broad entreaties I've made
here have very practical conse-
quences. For example, while the
Daily reported on the allegations
involving former University medi-
cal resident Stephen Jenson after
he was arrested and the story
broke publicly, the newspaper
failed this campus by not being
able to break the story for the more
than six months during which vari-
ous officials within the University
kept it silent.
This is a tough, perhaps even
unfair, criticism. Nevertheless,
given the standard by which the
Daily judges itself, it is a criticism
that this paper must admit and
work to overcome. There's cer-
tainly no fault of any one person
individually, or even any one class
of editors. Rather, the Daily as
an institution has lost something
structural in its very purpose if a
thing like the Jenson investigation
(or lack thereof) can go undiscov-
ered for more than six months. This
paper must evaluate what it can do
to ensure that it is able to discover
such stories and break them.
Reporting practices and inves-
tigative techniques (things I won't
pretend to be an expert on) will be
an important part of this discus-
sion. However, there is also a sim-
pler question the editors should
mull - one whose answer is broad,
but may well be a remedy: What
more can this paper do to assure
that any member of the campus
community who, upon finding no
recourse for his grievances within
official University channels, imme-
diately picks up the phone and calls
-The public editor is sn 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.
Imran Syed can be reached at
EDITORIAL BOARD MEMBERS:
Aida Ali, Laura Argintar, Kaan Avdan, Ashley Griesshammer, Nirbhay Jain, Jesse Klein,
Patrick Maillet, Erika Mayer, Harsha Nahata, Harsha Panduranga, Timothy Rabb, Adrienne Roberts, Vanessa
Rychlinski, Sarah Skaluba, Seth Soderborg, Caroline Syms, Andrew Weiner
Playing by the rules
ver break in Michigan,
enjoying the warm weather
was difficult because of the
ing on the beach
and "drujnk ofn
thee beech wat-
Coleman should help
affected Levaquin patients
TO UNIVERSITY PRESIDENT MARY
In addition to being the University presi-
dent; you are also a board director at Johnson
& Johnson. I have been disabled for over six
years from Levaquin, an antibiotic marketed
by your company. My family sent medical
documentation on Levaquin to you. We asked
that you initiate medical research in an effort
to help those of us that are suffering. We never
heard back from you.
The beginning sentence of the famous J&J
Credo states the following: "We believe our
first responsibilityis to the doctors, nurses and
patients, to mothers and fathers and all others
who use our products and services." The credo
also states the following: "We are responsible
to the communities in which we live and work
and to the world community as well."
As aboard director at Johnson & Johnson, I
feel that you have an ethical and moral respon-
sibility to honor the credo. You have profited at
the expense of many people that have suffered
devastating long-term injuries from Levaquin.
BeLive worked with
TO THE DAILY:
The article "Students frustrated by lack of
accommodations during trip to Punta Cana"
gives a version of these guys' vacation that, in
our opinion, is far from objective. Therefore, I'd
like to make the following points:
1. The tour operators didn't made reserva-
tions for all students as a group, but from dif-
ferent sources and as individuals, taken one by
2. Student City didn't specify the means of
payment, so up to two days before the arrival
of the students they hadn't made reservations.
3. That once students arrived in Punta Cana
all possible solutions to house the group were
Those severely affected by Levaquin have
often lost not only their health but also their
job and income. Many have been bankrupted
with enormous medical bills. Indiyiduals
and families have been devastated physically,
emotionally and financially. Jenne Wilcox,
a young school teacher lost her job and her
home after taking Levaquin. Over three years
later, she requires a wheelchair. Her story can
be viewed on a national PBS news segment. A
U.S. Food and Drug Administration Freedom
of Information Report for Levaquin reveals
that 20,243 Individual Safety Reports are list-
ed for this drug from November 1, 1997 to May
I made a difficult trip to your company
shareholder meeting. I gave a respectful
speech to you and the other board directors.
The phrase "Caring for the World, One Patient
at a Time" was mentioned numerous times by
your company. Mary Sue Coleman: You have
an opportunity to show leadership by honor-
ing the values of your corporate credo, into a
commitment to help those that have suffered
immensely from your prescription drug.
examined. Returning home was not supported,
so Student City was to host the party in the
Presidential Suites complex.
4. The huge consumption of alcohol by stu-
dents caused some ugly incidents to the hotel
and its customers. For example: Constant fights
amongstudents, "nudist shows" inthe facilities
ofahotel which, as the article describes, is usu-
ally frequented by families with children, and
damage to several public areas - such as bro-
ken windows, broken furniture, doors broken
off their hinges and so on.
Clearly, things weren't done right from the
start. We try to mitigate the problem if pos-
sible, and we suffered the consequences. I
assure you that in this story we are victims,
BeLive Hotels Director of Communication
those following the competition for
the Republican presidential nomina-
tion, Tuesday's primaries provided
surprising excitement. In Michigan,
Mitt Romney defeated Rick Santo-
rum by a slim four-percent margin.
The media had already been
buzzing about earlier remarks from
the lead candidates in Michigan.
Liberals attacked and Republicans
hit their heads against walls when
Santorum called the president a
"snob" for wanting all Americans
to go to college. Neither liberals
nor conservatives knew what to say
when Romney said he was glad to be
back in his home state because "the
trees are the right height." (By the
way, The Huffington Post reports
this wasn't a flub, he's been using
the line for years. And he's right, we
do have nice trees.)
However, the wacky one-liners
that have constituted much of the
GOP nomination circus, took a back
seat in coverage of Michigan's prima-
ries. In a strange turn of events, com-
menters weighed in on actual votes.
With only 30 delegates, Michigan
isn't a golden ticket to the nomina-
tion. Instead, it served as an impor-
tant testing ground for Romney's
campaign. If I wasn't busy crying
alone on Valentine's Day, I would
have given someone a line from The
Washington Post blogger Alexandra
Petri, "I'm as set on you as the GOP
isn't on Mitt." Republicans simply
can't settle on Romney. He and his
totally non-affiliated super PACs
outspent Santorum by nearly $1.2
million in Michigan. This is Rom-
ney's home state - his father was
an auto executive and former gov-
ernor - if he couldn't win here, it
would be an embarrassing testa-
ment to his unpopularity.
The importance of the litmus
test was not lost on reporters, pun-
dits, Michigan voters or Santorum's
campaign. Right before the primary,
polls showed Santorum and Romney
The opportunity was clear.
It didn't take a political savant to
see the benefits of a Santorum win
in Michigan. In liberal mindsets, it
would move toward the best-case
scenario: pitting President Obama
against Santorum in November.
With much of Santorum's agen-
da insulting to anyone who isn't
a white, Christian male, Obama
would face a much weaker oppo-
nent than Romney.
That probably won't happen. As
has been expected from the begin-
ning, Romney will most likely take
the nomination. Even so, a Santorum
win would have been an embarrass-
ing blow to Romney's campaign.
Losing to Santorum would be an
affront to anyone's self-esteem -
unless it was a "saying offensive
things" contest. It would force Rom-
ney to double down, spend more
money and make him appear weaker
in the general election.
Either way you spin it, a Santo-
rum win was a Democratic win.
And thanks to Michigan's open
primary system - no need to be a
registered party member - Obama
supporters could do more than
hope: they could vote.
The Santorum campaign was
aware of the sentiment. Strange -
I didn't think self-awareness was
Rick's thing. In the days leading
to the vote, the campaign paid for
robocalls to thousands of Michigan
Democrats, urging them to help
defeat Romney. While the campaign
defended the move as an appeal to
Reagan Democrats, it was logical
It appeared to have some success.
CNN exit polls showed 9 percent of
voters in the Republican race were
Democrats. Of them, 53 percent
voted for Santorum. Usually liberal
cities like the Detroit suburb of Fern-
dale gave the former Senator clear
wins over Romney.
The Democratic intrusion was an
interesting turn in primary coverage
and spiced up the already close race.
Twitter was atweet with "democrats
take over #MIprimary" and televi-
sion pundits speculated on its sig-
nificance on the outcome.
The Romney camp quickly con-
demned Santorum calling the robo-
calls a "dirty trick." It also gave
them an excuse for the close race
in his home state - where none of
his current five homes are, by the
way - Santorum and Democrats
attempted to "kidnap our primary
process." Aside from using "hijack"
instead of "kidnap," George W. Bush
used the same excuse in 2000 when
Michigan Democrats helped Sen.
John McCain defeat him by a large
margin. Some, like Detroit Free
Press cartoonist Mike Thompson,
criticized Democrats who voted for
Santorum for breaking the sanctity
be as dirty as
I find this logic difficult to follow.
Kidnapping and hijacking are illegal
activities. The robocalls were sad,
desperate and in bad taste, but not
illegal. Using your vote not for the
candidate you support, but in a more
calculated and political way isn't a
new tactic. Not particularly elegant,
but not cold-blooded or fraudulent.
Take a quick look at the state of
those who lead our country - dirty
politics knows few boundaries.
If so many of our elected officials
are playing rough to get their way,
why condemn voters for doing so?
In a year when the GOP is using
fear and nonsense to rally its base,
it's encouraging that Democrats
thought politically and kindled the
fiery madness. Politicians started
this game, and voters are simply
playing by the rules.
-Andrew Weiner can be reached at
firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on
Twitter at @AndrewWeiner.