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November 27, 2012 - Image 4

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The Michigan Daily, 2012-11-27

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4 - Tuesday, November 27, 2012

The Michigan Daily - michigandaily.com

4 - Tuesday, November 21, 2012 The Michigan Daily - michigandailycom


e Midiigan aUfj-
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.
Stem cell support needed
Michigan should invest in innovative research
Four years ago, Michigan made an important step forward for
science. The state passed Proposal 2, a 2008 ballot proposal,
and ended the 30-year ban on embryonic stem cell line usa
in Michigan. However, little progress has been made since then, as
the state has not garnered the funding necessary to support these
projects. Now Michigan is falling well behind the rest of the coun-
try and is stuck looking for ways to revive a depressed economy.
Michigan and the University must make stem cell research a top
priority, and allow it to jump-start the science economy.

Solutions, not criticisms

'm now about halfway through
my junior year, a fact I'm often
reminded of when I return
home for the
holidays. Asking
what I plan on
doing with my
life is no longer
a generic ques-
tion to fill in an
awkward pause;
it's now a prac-
tical question ADRIENNE
demanding a ROBERTS
somewhat rea-
sonable answer.
And what exactly have I learned in
my classes that will help me in my
future, unknown career?
It's a tough question to answer,
because I really don't exactly know
how to express what I've learned in
my classes. I came to the University
of Michigan - like many other stu-
dents - to get a liberal arts educa-
tion, one that, by definition, teaches
me "how to think" - how to think
"critically" that is.
The word "critically" seems to be
a buzzword for the value of attend-
ing a university. But a Tedx video I
watched echoes this idea. Sir Ken-
neth Robinson, a world leader in
developing education, says, "I think
you'd have to conclude the whole
purpose of public educationthrough-
out the world is to produce university
professors." He argues that as chil-
dren we're extremely creative in our
thinking and that dwindles through-
out our lives. Creative thinking isn't
rewarded. By the time we finally
receive a university education, we've
-become so afraid of being wrongthat
we're more comfortable analyzing
than we are solving.
Looking back at the classes I've
taken here at the University, the
one common theme is that there's
analysis - and a lot of it. It becomes
so easy, and so ingrained in our
education, to be, well, "critical"

of anything and everything. Yet, a
Pew survey from May 2012 found
that in traditional colleges across
the country, 36 percent of students
showed little to no increase in criti-
cal-thinking skills. It's an astonish-
ing low percentage considering that
the purpose of most universities is
to teach this type of thought.
However, the same Pew study
also finds that 86 percent of the col-
lege graduates surveyed believe their
schooling has been a good invest-
ment, despite ever-increasing costs.
So there still may be benefits to be
gained from obtaining a college
degree, but they may not come in the
form many expect.
According to Philip Hanlon, the
University provost and executive
vice president for academic affairs,
"service learning courses, entrepre-
neurial activities and undergraduate
research encourage students to think
creatively and engage themselves in
a situation where they don't know
the outcome." He argues that extra-
curriculars are equally, if not more,
important than traditional classes.
While the University encour-
ages students to get involved with
extracurriculars when they enroll,
the importance of such activities
is not emphasized enough. Cre-
ative thinking - the thinking that
requires putting oneself in a situa-
tion with unpredictable outcomes
- is usually applied in activities
outside of the classroom.
My involvement with extracur-
riculars - which ranges from being
a research assistant for a professor to
writing outside of the classroom - is
what taught me most of the skills that
I'll apply to my future career(s); it's
what got me my internship this past
summer. I was fortunate enough to
realize that I should take the initia-
tive and join things outside of the
classroom. However, some students
don't take advantage of this simply
because they don't know that extra-

curriculars are now something that's
almost a requirement.
Today, the average American
switches their career five to seven
times. creative-thinking skills are
crucial to making successful transi-
tions and adapting to various situa-
tions. Universities are behind in the
development of programs that pro-
mote this type of thinking. While
critical-thinking skills are a signifi-
cant part of higher education, they
shouldn't be the sole focus of a liberal
arts education.
Creativity may
be more useful in
an unpredictable
Job market..


In comparison to other states, Michigan
has lagged behind in fundraising for stem cell
research. Even after Proposal 2's passage,
Michigan has been slow to enact any signif-
icant changes due to a lack of interest from
private investors. According to the Detroit
Free Press, California provides $300 million
yearly for stem cell research, and Ohio has
been providing millions for similar research.
California has gone further, adding $1.6 bil-
lion in new investments, which generates
about 2,739 jobs annually.
Despite Michigan's fundraising obstacles,
the University has continued to be a leader in
stem cell research. Since 2009, the Univer-
sity has made several significant strides. The
National Institutes of Health added the stem
cell line UM4-6 to its registry, along with
two others that are pending NIH approval.
Michigan must continue to be a leader, par-
ticularly since the state hasn't received sig-
nificant funding. As one of the world's largest
research institutions, the University must

help lead the state to its goals for stem cell
Evidently, with the vote in 2008, Michigan
residents support stem cell research. How-
ever, the state needs to supplement the Uni-
versity's efforts to innovate. The state must
make a stronger effort to support stem' cell
research. The University performs research
in embryonic, adult and reprogrammed cells
and has developed eight lines of stem cells.
The school's embryonic stem cell research
may lead to more effective treatments for dis-
eases such as juvenile diabetes, heart failure,
Parkinson's disease and spinal cord injuries.
Four years ago, Michigan made its voice
heard, but the state did not respond. With
one of the largest research institutions in
its backyard, it's time for Gov. Rick Snyder
to bring Michigan back into the stem cell
research conversation. Improving stem cell
research will have significant scientific ben-
efits and improve the state's economic status
for many years to come.

It's scary to think that we may
be squashing a child's creative abil-
ity through our current education
system. I'm lucky that I was able to
somehow turn my first-grade diary
entries into newspaper writing and
that my childhood curiosity trans-
formed into a research project. Our
University - and universities across
the country - must take a step back
and examine the skills they're teach-
ing in the classroom and decide
whether or notthese skills are totally
applicable to the job market today.
Because if they do this, they have the
potential to give students the unique
opportunity to experience risk and
the unknown before they ever leave
the comfort of the job title "student."
Then, the question of what students
learned in the college classroom may
not be so difficult to answer.
- Adrienne Roberts can be
reached at adrirobe@umich.edu.
Follow her on Twitter @AdrRoberts.

Readers are encouraged to submit letters to the editor and viewpoints. Letters should be fewer
than 300 words while viewpoints should be 550-850 words. Send the writer's full name and
University affiliation to tothedaily@michigandaily.com.

Kaan Avdan, Sharik Bashir, Barry Belmont, Eli Cahan, Nirbhay Jain, Jesse Klein,
Melanie Kruvelis, Patrick Maillet, Jasmine McNenny, Harsha Nahata,
Timothy Rabb, Adrienne Roberts, Vanessa Rychlinski, Paul Sherman,
Sarah Skaluba, Michael Spaeth, Gus Turner, Derek Wolfe
By the numbers

Students union

Numbers dominate our lives. Over Thanks-
giving Day weekend an estimated 43.6 million
people traveled several billion miles to consume
approximately 46 million turkeys across the
nation . If we did nothing but count the number
of turkeys raised in the United States this year
alone (254,000,000 in total) on the very hands
we use to trace them, it would take nearly a
decade. Yet, despite all this, very fewofus actu-
ally understand where our numbers come from,
how they are found or what they mean.
It's quite likely that not a single reader
stopped to question (let alone verify) whether
the numbers stated above were true. Luckily
for all of us, I don't intend to pull one over on
anyone and these statistics come straight from
the American Automobile Association and the
U.S. Census Bureau. However, this only leads
us to ask the next and more pertinent ques-
tion: How did they arrive at their numbers?
As with just about any number, there are three
methods: One can count, one can calculate or
one can approximate.
Counting is the first approach we're taught.
It consists of finding the number of elements
for some finite set of objects by increasing a
counter by a set unit for each element. This is
a more intuitive concept than the above defini-
tion would lead you to believe. If you have some
number of turkeys plopped down in front of
you, if you wish to count them, it's necessary
to mentally represent each turkey with a single
digit and then go up the number scale by one for
each new turkey. Whether the number is repre-
sented in binary in a computer or counted by a
robot in a turkey factory, counting establishes
a one-to-one correspondence between the ele-
ments of one set (number of turkeys) and the
elements of another set (fingers on a hand).
Inherent to counting is the idea of "ordinal-
ity," which states that of two given values, one
can either be greater than, less than or equal
to the other. Thus, a certain "order" is estab-
lished with respect to their values. This can
be honed further to the idea of "cardinality,"
which more explicitly reveals the value or
quantity of something. This is how we can go
from saying there are more turkeys over there
than here to saying there are five turkeys over
there and only four over here.

But to know the one-turkey difference
requires a whole new technique. And that
technique is calculation.
It's usually at this point that most people
end their mathematical career. They found
a tool for arriving at most numbers they feel
will ever concern them (after all, Johnny is
probably not going to give 7, 243 apples to
Jane). However, calculation - the ability to
transform inputs to outputs via mathematical
operation - equips us with a tool to under-
stand every number that could ever exist.
When numbers like the amount of people who
traveled (43.6 million) and the number of tur-
keys consumed (46 million) are incomprehen-
sible to the human brgin, calculation allows us
to manipulate them into terms we can fathom
- for each person who traveled, 1.055 turkeys
were consumed.
But to know that one turkey is a more infor-
mative answer requires a whole new tech-
nique. And that technique is approximation.
Approximating - representing an inexact
(though useful) value in place of an exact one
- is when we balance the ordinality and car-
dinality of calculated numbers with the time
and resources necessary to find and under-
stand them. Typically one approximates
when information is difficult to procure (How
many grains of sand are there in the world?)
or when further specificity does not radically
alter the answer (the number of atoms in your
body). The exactness required of an approxi-
mation is a function of the context in which
the value is placed. Sometimes it's better to be
close enough than exact.
From the one turkey whose outline resides
on our hands to the millions at the center of
this past holiday, numbers run our world
through and through. For as informative as
they can be, they can also mislead, obfuscate
and deceive. With three tools presented here
- counting, calculating and approximating -
we can more thoroughly question and answer
the world around us. Only then - only by
understanding how they are brought about -
can we truly grasp their meaning.
Barry Belmont is an
Engineering graduate student.

As University students, our lives
are often hectic. In addition to an
extensive course load, many of us
take part in athletic or club activi-
ties, while trying to spend time
with friends and family as often as
possible. But if we can pause as we
race through yet another semester,
we notice that the University seems
somewhat different from the pack-
age we were sold coming in. Tuition
bills are higher, job prospects dark-
er and the student body is more
uniform than the brochures from
orientation led us to believe. As
we notice these problems, it's also
clear that within the official chan-
nels, we lack the concrete ability to
change these things. It's with these
thoughts in mind that we've started
a student union.
We have formed the Student
Union of Michigan to confront the"
tough realities of rising student
debt and disappearing public edu-
cation. The University is leveraging
its existence on high student tuition
that's almost impossible to payback
and can't be forgiven through bank-
ruptcy or death.
It's our livelihoods that are
threatened by steady increases to
already-astronomical tuition pric-
es. This wasn't always the case. As
recently as 1996, tuition at the Uni-
versity was $5,710 per year, mak-
ing it possible for more low-income
students to attend the University
without having to take out massive
loans. Now, with in-state tuition at
close to $13,000 per year, the aver-
age University student graduates
with $27,000 in debt. On a 20-year
payment plan with a 6.8-percent
interest rate, the average student
would finish paying the loan in their
40s with an additional $22,464.88
in interest.
The University likes us to think
that a degree from the University of
Michigan will make us exceptional
and that it's worth the high cost, yet
the unemployment rate for Univer-
sity graduates is 8.1 percent, which
is slightly above the national aver-
age of 7.9 percent. For most of us, a
bachelor's degree from the Univer-
sity won't shield us from the worst
recession since the Great Depres-
sion. Nationally, half of recent col-
lege graduates are underemployed
or unemployed. There's no reason

to believe that University students
are exempt from this reality. This is
partly why 37.7 percent of Univer-
sity graduates pursue graduate and
professional degrees, because more
and more often, an undergraduate
degree by itself cannot guarantee a
middle-class lifestyle.
A graduate degree has become
the new ticket to a shrinking mid-
dle class. For many of us, pre-pro-
fessional training is built into our
undergraduate experience. But
with the expectations of higher
future earnings, medical school
and law school saddle students
with even heavier amounts of debt.
Whereas undergraduate debt might
top out at $100,000 in extreme
cases, law school and medical
school debt can easily eclipse that
sum. This is happening in an econ-
omy in which doctors and lawyers
are in less demand, and paralegals
and nurses are favored because
they do much of the same work at
a fraction of the cost. Nonetheless,
and despite the jobs data to the con-
trary, schools like the University
maintain that their products are
worth the price tags.
While the University increases
tuition with empty promises of
future employment, it claims that
it has suffered from education
cuts at the state level. Yet state
defunding doesn't tell the whole
story of rising tuition. In the past
10 years, state funding per student
has decreased 50 percent, while
tuition has increased 100 percent.
Tuition increases far outpace both
state defunding and inflation. The
populations hardest hit by tuition
increases are low income and
minority students, who will dis-
proportionately shoulder the bur-
den of student debt. Promises of
future tuition hikes, however, will
increasingly leave middle-class
students and their families with a
larger share of this burden.
The argument that students
understand the price of a Univer-
sity degree and it's our fault if we
end up with large amounts of debt
is shortsighted at best. University
administrators didn't tell us before-
hand that they would increase
tuition by 6 percent annually. Nor
were we privy to the corrupt deal-
ings on Wall Street that led to the

collapse of financial markets glob-
ally. To accuse students of know-
ing things we couldn't possibly
know - things that were happen-
ing without our consent - is wrong.
It points the finger in the wrong
direction and overlooks the fact
that, after the collapse of the hous-
ing market, schools like the Uni-
versity have become the new sites
of Wall Street speculation. Since
2007, the University has taken on
$2.3 billion in construction proj-
ects, including luxury facilities
accessible to only a small segment
of the University community. The
University finances these projects
through bonds backed by promises
of future tuition'increases that will
be borne disproportionately by low-
and middle-income students. Our
tuition bills are now partly under
the control of the University's cred-
Ultimately, it becomes-a question
of the role of students within the
University. Only as a unified group
can we fight back against tuition
increases that will bury current
and future University students and
their families in debt. Only collec-
tively can we combat the privatiza-
tion of the University that sacrifices
the quality and accessibility of edu-
cation in favor of profit. As such,
we have to address soaring tuition
in addition to its flip-side, which is
the University's continual assault
on labor from janitorial staff to
instructors. By keepingtuition high
and pay low, the University reaps
big profits for its executives and big
banks atour expense. In combating
this, we hope to articulate a new,
more democratic position for both
students and employees.
Fundamentally, we deserve to
have a say in how the University
runs and how our money is spent.
Whether you afford the tuition
increases or you have a pile of debt
waiting for you when you leave
school, we need to recognize that
blind tuition increases are antithet-
ical to our mission as a public uni-
versity and as an inclusive campus.
Join us to call for a freeze tuition
raises in the foreseeable future on
Nov. 29 in the Diag at 1p.m.
Ian Matchett is an
LSA and A&D junior.

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