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March 20, 2012 - Image 4

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4- Tuesday, March 20, 2012

The Michigan Daily - michigandaily.com

4 - Tuesday, March 20, 2012 The Michigan Daily - michigandailycom

C I
he fitichioan i + 3aily

Edited and managed by students at
the University of Michigan since 1890.
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Ann Arbor, MI 48109
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ASHLEY GRIESSHAMMER
and ANDREW WEINER JOSH HEALY
EDITORIAL PAGE EDITORS MANAGING EDITOR

@SouthURioters Maybe next year
you can take it easy on the green beer.
- m w n#StPotty's #only362moredays
.mmiho mma
-@mich da ilyoped

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JOSEPH LICHTERMAN
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 is the public editor. He can be reached at publiceditor@michigandaily.com.
Challenge the states
Federal penalties won't stop higher education cuts
J an attempt to exert greater influence over higher education in
the United States, the Obama administration has announced a
plan to penalize states that do not sufficiently fund public colleg-
es and Universities with federal aid cuts. The program, known as the
College Access Challenge Grant, is ineffective because its minor pen-
alties are not strong enough to incentivize states to provide increased
education funding. It unnecessarily depletes higher education budgets.

Viral activism

The College Access Challenge was passed
by Congress in 2008, and threatens federal
aid cuts to states that provide appropriations
to their public colleges that are less than the
average amount the state gave over the previ-
ous five years. But with the economic down-
turn, states nationwide have been forced to
cut their budgets across the board. The fed-
eral government has allowed states to avoid
this federal aid penalty if they can prove
that they have not depleted higher education
funding disproportionately. Of the 22 states
that significantly cut higher education fund-
ing, most states have been able to prove that
they have not overly cut college education
and have then still received federal aid. How-
ever, Michigan and Alabama have failed to
receive such waivers. Michigan cut support
for public schools by 6.35 percent in 2010
while revenues fell only 5.5 percent.
Michigan is now slated to lose $4.2 mil-
lion in federal aid. In order to prevent such
penalties, Michigan would have to reinvest
$58 million in higher education. Alabama is
scheduled to lose $2.1 million in aid, and they
would have to restore $36.9 million in state
education funding. These minor cuts in fed-

eral aid for college education are not strong
enough incentives for states to increase their
higher education appropriations. It's unreal-
istic to expect state legislatures to drastically
alter their education budgets for the minor
incentive of avoiding federal aid penalties.
The College Access Challenge Grant program
unnecessarily cuts college education funding
and is going to continue the unsustainable
trend of rising tuition costs for Michigan stu-
dents, including those here at the University.
Despite the ineffectiveness of the College
Access Challenge program, responsibility for
higher education cuts ultimately lies with
Republican Gov. Rick Snyder and the Republi-
cans in Lansing. While it's commendable that
Snyder will replace $2 million of the funding
lost with state money, that amount still isn't
enough. If the conservative model of individ-
ual responsibility is going to be fair and effec-
tive in the coming decades, state governments
must assume the responsibility of giving their
people the tools to be self-reliant. To leave
the poor without a proper education or public
assistance is unjust. Snyder and Republicans
across the country should, therefore, rethink
the role of government in public education.

Social media means things
travel fast - whether it's
organizing a protest rally or
sharing memes
about your col-
lege, Facebook
has the power
to take anything
and turn it into
the next big
thingin seconds.
Literally. HARSHA
We saw this NAHATA
play out over
the last couple
weeks as KONY 2012 went viral
in a matter of hours. For days, my
Facebook newsfeed and Twitter
feed were flooded with links to the
30-minute video and posts urg-
ing people to "Stop KONY." What
started out as an experiment in
social media by Invisible Children
undoubtedly succeeded - millions
of people around the world now
know who Kony is.
Social media has the rare abil-
ity to capture people's attention,
deliver a specific message and per-
suade people to spread the word -
all at once, in a very short amount of
time. It's a wonderful way to cham-
pion a cause or reach out to a large
group of people very quickly. But
the fleeting nature of social media,
while making a cause trendy, often
has the effect of being one-dimen-
sional and short-lived.
The fact that there are so many
people, groups, ideas and organiza-
tions competing for people's atten-
tion means that if a message has any
chance of trending, it must be sen-
sational, interesting or extremely
entertaining - which also means,
more times than not, that it will
be somewhat distorted or exagger-
ated from reality. This is something
that we often forget when getting

caught up in the momentum of a
compelling cause.
This was perhaps nevermore evi-
dent than with the Kony campaign.
While the campaign did a phenom-
enal job of making people aware of
an issue that very few knew about
before, it gave a very superficial
view of the problem at hand. The
problem of child soldiers is a wide-
spread issue, something that spans
much farther than one individual or
one country. A number of situation-
al and political factors play into the
situation in Uganda - this can't be
reduced to one individual. Support-
ing and spreading awareness about
issues is important, but it's equally
important to go the extra step and
make sure to understand the full
scope of the issue.
We live in an era when even the
news is delivered in sound bytes,
and social media only makes it
easier for these sound bytes to
travel around the world at alarm-
ing speeds. However, there's only
so much that can be said about any
given issue in 140 characters. A sta-
tus update or a tweet shows only
one angle or take on an issue. What
you see on Facebook or Twitter is
one person's opinion of a situation,
or one article about an issue or one
video portraying a cause.
What is posted via social mediais
picked specifically to move people,
to persuade them, to tell them a
particular story in a particular way.
Grassroots organizing through
social media is a great avenue to
procure change, but if the infor-
mation isn't taken with a grain of
salt, it can just as, easily become a
breeding ground for propaganda
and sensationalistic rhetoric. The
things that will trend or spread
like wildfire across the world aren't
always factually correct and gener-

ally don't tell the full story.
Invisible Children's social media
campaign teaches us valuable les-
sons. It shows that while social
media is instrumental and invalu-
able in spreading awareness, liking
a link on Facebook or re-tweeting a
post on Twitter doesn't necessarily
make you socially aware. To really
understand an issue, it's important
to go the extrastep byreadingabout
it, researching it and acquainting
yourself with its complexities.
Information
travels the world
in minutes.
In a time when trends change
every day, it's important to keep
in mind the importance of not just
taking things at face value. What
people talk about on Facebook or
Twitter changes every day, if not
every hour. The depth of worldwide
social justice and human rights
issues - like child soldiers for
example - can't be fully portrayed
by such a transitory medium. Social
media is just the first step in enact-
ing social change - it's simply a
way to introduce people to an issue.
True social change will only hap-
pen when people take the time to
delve into an issue, when people
use what they see on Facebook and
Twitter as a starting point for dis-
cussion and dialogue.
- Harsha Nahata can be reached at
hnahata@umich.edu. Follow heron
twitter at @harshanahata.

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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
MANISH PARIKH AND OMAR HASHWI I
A platform for students

--t he Hear Me Out: Maggie Chang walk usthrough her experience of
becoming an Under Armour Ultimate Intern.
podium Go to michigandaily.com/blogs/The Podium
VIDHI BAMZAI I
We all have a place on campus

While walking around campus these past
few days, you may have seen posters and cam-
paign material in the form of memes charac-
terizing the typical University student's trials
and tribulations. We're told that these delight-
ful little placards and posters advertising our
platform have led to a lot of people referring
to us as the "Meme Candidates" - a favor-
able enough moniker, considering we had a
lot of fun crafting our campaign and enjoy the
appreciation our wordplay has garnered. Now
that we've got you talking, we'd like to give
you a little insight into the painstaking pro-
cess that went into preparing our platform.
We're well aware of the current apathy
toward student government that pervades
the University. Disenchantment with the sta-
tus quo is what led us to run as independent
candidates. We strongly believe that existing
outside the sphere of the prevailing political
machinery helps us be more perceptive of
what students really want and need. The sim-
ple fact is that this is a democracy, not a dicta-
torship, which is why we talked at length with
hundreds of students who essentially crafted,
created and validated our platform.
At a school the size of ours, capturing the
diversity of the student body in terms of opin-
ions and grievances is absolutely crucial. We
took great care to engage with students of all
majors, classes and walks of life at academic
and residential locations ranging from the
UGLi to Angell Hall, from the Business School
to the School of Social Work, from Mason
Hall to the very depths of North Campus. We
were careful to truly engage with you in the
process, because we sincerely believe that
two high-quality hours spent talking with
one student is far better than two hours spent
handing out fliers to 1,000 students. A num-
ber of you can attest to this, especially those
who were initially annoyed at our infringing
on your time, but with whom we ended up
having great and productive conversations.
Having compiled quite a comprehensive list of
problems and ideas from students in addition
to our own ideas, we set about researching
them from a feasibility standpoint by talking

to administrators and benchmarking against
what other universities have in place. Then
we went back to the students and closed the
feedback loop by getting their approval on the
remaining initiatives. Those initiatives that
were met with significant favor were incorpo-
rated into our platform.
We aren't stopping here. The valuable
insights we've gained are currently being sup-
plemented by talking to student athletes, stu-
dent organization leaders - including those
with as few as five members - and even local
business owners, all integral stakeholders in
every student's campus life. Two main points
have occurred to us during this process: the
first being that University students are an
absolute treat to converse with. Seriously, give
yourself a pat on the back, because we truly
enjoyed your inspiring company. Secondly,
our belief that this election is as much about
the why of student government as it is about
the what and how.
As independents, we promise to return to
the true why of CSG by taking it back to the
students and catering to their comforts and
dreams, and we're confident that this shows in
everything we've done so far and everything
we intend to do.
Our aim has been to take student activism
from the dusty realms of catchphrases and
buzzwords and put it firmly front and center
by harnessing the student voice through the
actionable initiatives championed by you and
outlined in our platform. This is by no means a
finished endeavor - we welcome any further
questions, comments and suggestions on our
Facebook page, www.facebook.com/Manis-
hAndOmar. And while we sincerely appreci-
ate the attention and praise our meme posters
and social media presence have garnered, in
all seriousness, your support and engagement
with our platform are what truly mean the
world tous.
Manish Parikh and Omar Hashwi are
independent candidates running for the
positions of president and vice-president
of the Central Student Government.

I remember at freshman orientation back in the
summer of 2008 when I was given a list of more than
2,000 student organizations on campus. I remember
looking at this list, thinking I already knew exactly
which groups I would be a part of. My high-school
student council experience pushed me toward the
Michigan Student Assembly - now the Central Stu-
dent Government. My progressive political stance
pushed me toward College Democrats. I thought Ihad
it all figured out. But then this little thing called IASA
came into my life. After much pressure and prodding,
I signed up tobe a dancer in the Indian American Stu-
dentAssociation's annual cultural show. Before I knew
it, I was immersed in the Indian community at the
University, and before long, I was exposed to the other
organizations that fall under the South Asian umbrella
on our campus. That's how the South Asian Awareness
Network became a part of my life.
If you talked to most of my friends and asked them
what I care about the most on campus, I'm sure that
99 percent of them would respond immediately with
SAAN - the student organization that I have had the
privilege of making a part of my life for the past three
years. A lot of people think I'm crazy. I spent a major-
ity of my sophomore year staying up until 5 a.m. in
the Fish Bowl just so I could handle 18 credits and my
responsibilities as a marketing chair for SAAN. Junior
year was spent working to coordinate innovative con-
ference content and tryingto woo speakers, such as the
deputy chief of mission of India, to the United States.
And finally, my experience came full circle as a senior,
when I had the honor of serving as chair for the orga-
nization that changed my life, and I was able to help
fuel the passions of 18 individuals who I know will help
SAAN continue its legacy.
There are more than 2,000 student organizations on
campus - from Greek Life, to service organizations,
to Churros for Change. Each organization has its role
at the University, and not one is less deserving than

another of having a place on campus. Student organi-
zations have the unique ability to bring people from
different backgrounds together on the basis of a singu-
lar cause. This was certainly the case when I went to
my first SAAN conference as a freshman. Blown away
by the professionalism and extent of the conference, I
realized that there was a place for me to meld my heri-
tage with my passion for social change. I ran with the
opportunity I was given as a marketing chair and con-
tinued my passion through my different positions on
the Central Planning Team.
But what I found after our conference in January
- which always seems to fall on the coldest week-
end of the year - is not that I learned so much about
social justice and activism, but that there are no other
individuals with whom I would rather have created
that conference. This is the beauty of a student orga-
nization. Building relationships with other people
who shared my passions - and making them my best
friends at the same time - turned me into the person
I am today. I wouldn't consider myself a social justice
activist if it weren't for the chair who challenged me
to think differently when I was a sophomore, or my
co-chairs over the years who have forced me to accept
things as they come. There is no one who better under-
stand show I function than the people who have spent
a year with me on the Central Planning Team, nor will
there be anyone who I will count on as much as I count
on those individuals. SAAN - and the experiences that
I have had through my work with the organization -
has forever molded me into the social justice activist
that I am today. My career choice, my day-to-day deci-
sions, the way I lead - all of these are results of the
leader I have become through my work with SAAN.
And for that I will be forever thankful and apprecia-
tive.

S
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Vidhi Bamzai is a Public Policy senior and the
chair of the South Asian Awareness Network.

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