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February 20, 2013 - Image 4

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4A - Wednesday, February 20, 2013

The Michigan Daily - michigandaily.com

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4e michinan t 3a*lp

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


We believe there's a financial emergency
in the city, and there's no plan in place to
correct the situation.
- Andy Dillon, Michigan state treasurer and member of the six-member review team responsible for the
appraisal of Detroit's finances, remarks on the financial situation of Detroit on Feb.19.
Keeping our parks and recreation

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.
Open(er) housing
Gender-neutral options should be campus-wide
fter years of debate surrounding the Open Housing Initia-
tive, the University will begin to offer gender-neutral housing
options in the dormitories fall 2013. The newly renovated East
Quad Residence Hall will allow a small number of students to live in
gender non-restrictive rooms as part of the Gender Inclusive Living
Experience, a new living community. The University's acceptance and
implementation of this policy is a critical step in ensuring the safety
and comfort of all students in the Michigan community. Moving for-
ward, however, the University must become more expansive with their
gender-neutral policies and increase the scope of the housing policy so
all students have access.

Last month, The Michigan Daily reported
that GILE will be based in East Quad Resi-
dence Hall. The new living community will
allow students who "identity as transgender,
gender non-conforming or as allies" to select
a roommate of whichever gender they see fit
and connect with a community of like-minded
students. In order to accommodate these stu-
dents, East Quad has set aside a total of 12 beds
for interested students. This initiative is in
response to the growing support for a petition
introduced in 2008 by the Open Housing Ini-
tiative, which fought for more inclusive living
options. Four years later, the University has
slowly progressed toward expanding its hous-
ing policies.
The GILE community will provide a safe
and accepting environment for students who
do not fit the restrictive, typical gender roles.
Students should be stressing about homework,
not they're living situation. It's also notable
that this is one of the few programs around the
country that allows freshmen to participate,
according to the National Student Gender
Blind campaign.
In comparison to other schools across the

country, however, the University has a long
way to go. Wesleyan University, for example,
has been accommodating its gender-neutral
students since 1995. Rather than a limited
number of beds - as is the case with the
University's current plan - Columbia Uni-
versity has standardized gender-neutral
housing into its housing application process.
Although moving in the right direction, the
University is lagging behind both in scope
and technique. Twelve beds can hardly be
expected to be enough to accommodate
a school of 27,000 undergraduates. And
although a gender-neutral living community
can offer support to those who want it, some
students may prefer to not to be so visibly
labeled and would rather opt for gender-neu-
tral housing without automatically entering a
living community.
Instead of limitingthis to a specific commu-
nity, all residence halls should be tolerant of
student identity. The University of Michigan
prides itself on promoting diversity within our
community. In order to live up to that reputa-
tion, gender-neutral housing needs to be made
available to all students.

ike many M
my family h
dition of vac
north." Though
my drive from
St. Louis might
be slightly lon-
ger than most,
spending the
summer months
on the lakes of
Northern Michi-
gan remains one
of my favorite
memories grow-
ing up.
A summer woul
until we finished
over Sleeping Bear
in Lake Michigan
Dunes National Lal
the most popular ts
in the area. Featu
Lake Michigan shs
was named the Mo
in America by AB
ing America in 201
located near EmpirF
Mich. is open year
tures camping, sw
cycling and cross-cs
On Monday, th
portation Departm
$100,000 grant fror
ernment to contins
of the Sleeping Bear
27-mile, non-motori
the lakeshore. Thi
million grant the pr
ed in August of las
will go toward the
price tag for the tra
mately $5 million c
fundraising and $51
eral grants. The fir
tion of the trail ope
construction on the
scheduled to start tl
over the last sev

idwesterners, federal funds have become increas-
as a long tra- ingly scarce. Near the end of his sec-
ationing "up ond term, President George W. Bush
imposed a planto drasticallyincrease
national park funding and attack the
massive amounts of backlog that
had piled up. That plan was frozen
shortly into Obama's presidency in
the face of the economic crisis. In a
WashingtonPost article from August
2012, Thomas Kiernan, president
of the National Parks Conservation
TIMOTHY Association claimed, "It's clear that
BURROUGHS inadequate federal funding is the
- ----- - number one threat to the future of
the national parks ... we're at a cross-
dn't be complete roads of historic importance here."
our annual hike The Obama administration's 2013
* Dunes to swim budget includes an overall increase
. Sleeping Bear in funds for national parks, but still
keshore is one of requires that 218 full-time employees
ourist attractions be cut. Advocates claimthat thisbud-
ring 65 miles of get continues the "bare minimum"
oreline, the park approach that has resulted in $11
st Beautiful Place billion of backlog funding required
C's Good Morn- for park improvements. During this
1. The lakeshore, same period, park attendance has
e and Glen Arbor, continued to increase at a steady rate,
r round and fea- earning $12 billion in 2010. Experts
'imming, hiking, are predicting a significant jump in
ountry skiing. park attendance as they approach the
e state's Trans- 100-year anniversary of the National
sent received a Park Service in 2016.
n the federal gov- When the federal funds fall short,
se the expansion alleviation for the parks woes often
'Heritage Trail, a fall back on 'Friends of ... ' organi-
ized trail through zations. With assistance from the
s follows a $1.62 Sleeping Bear Heritage Trail orga-
oject was award- nization, the Friends of Sleeping
t year. The grant Bear Dunes group has held numer-
$10 million total ous fundraisers to support the proj-
ail, with approxi- ect. Though other national parks
oming from local have similar groups as the dunes,
million from fed- many are not able to cover the lack of
st four-mile sec- funds from the federal government.
ned in June, and Organized under the National Park
next four miles is Foundation, these groups raise $150
his year. million annually from private and
veral years, these corporate donations. Impressive, but

that's still only asmall part of thesys-
tem's $2.6-billion budget.
While alternative energy and
increasing miles-per-gallon ratings
are grabbing environmental head-
lines, our parks continue to dete-
riorate because of insufficient funds.
More proactive groups, such as the
dunes organizations, are able to con-
tinue to improve their facilities, but
many others are facing significant
neglect. The federal government
has an obligation to maintain these
parks, and make them accessible to
the public. The Heritage Trail proj-
ect is just one small example of how
a reasonable amount of federal funds
coupled with private and corporate
donations can go along way.
While mpgs grab
headlines, parks
are a priority.
The United States' National Park
program has a long history of pro-
viding citizens with an opportunity
to explore and experience nature.
It is through this program that we
can effectively teach the next gen-
eration about the importance of
conservation and protecting our
environment. The federal govern-
ment, with the help of the private
sector, needs to recommit itself to
maintaining our national parks.
With added support, we can return
these parks to their natural great-
ness, making them true monuments
to America's beauty and the gener-
osity of her citizens.
- Timothy Burroughs can be
reached at timburr@umich.edu.

Readers are encouraged to submit letters to the editor. Letters should be fewer than
300 words and must include the writer's full name and University affiliation. We do
not print anonymous letters. Send letters to tothedailyiOmichigandaily.com.
The boring and the bombastic

Kaan Avdan, Sharik Bashir, Barry Belmont, James Brennan, Eli Cahan, Jesse Klein, Melanie Kruvelis,
Maura Levine, Patrick Maillet, Aarica Marsh, Megan McDonald, Jasmine McNenny, Harsha Nahata,
Adrienne Roberts, Paul Sherman, Sarah SkalubaMichael Spaeth, Luchen Wang, Derek Wolfe


Continual scientific progress is one of the
few things that we can count on in this world.
With millions of researchers conducting mil-
lions of experiments every year to probe every
niche this universe has to offer, we are close to
certain that every day we will know just a little
bit more about ourselves and our world. Every
step made by a researcher may not be in the
right direction, but it invariably contributes
to science's ceaseless march forward into the
unknown. The work of science is some of the
best work that human beings have ever taken
up. And yet the journalism describing it is often
misguided, overly ambitious or erroneous.
From my experience, the vast bulk of writing
on science can take one of two approaches: the
boring and the bombastic. Most popular publi-
cations let us leave aside the boring for now and
focus on the bombastic. Rarely a week goes by
without seeing a news outlet declaring some
major advance in scientific knowledge that
will revolutionize humanity in some way or
another. Cures for cancer, new energy sources
and genes of all sorts - this is fodder for con-
temporary science journalism, grist for the
24-hour news cycle milling out content as fast
as it can. The journalistic apparatus we have to
work with is a great machine for getting facts
out, but given the noise from the constant hum
of news, if anything is to be heard - such as a
great discovery by scientists - the signal must
be amplified.
This amplification lies at the heart of the
disconnect between science and writing about
science, though there are a few overlapping
qualities between the fields of science and
journalism: curiosity, attempted objectivity
and the search for answers. They operate on
vastly different time scales and seek vastly dif-
ferent ends. Where scientific writing requires
immense context to be understood, journalistic
writing should be understood at first glance.
The journalistic formula relying on bold, con-
cise headlines and a skeletal structure fleshed
out with handpicked quotes doesn't effectively
communicate the scientific enterprise. If a
headline in a newspaper read, "Bomb blast in
Afghanistan kills dozens," we would all read-
ily understand it. The significance of something
like, "Largest known prime number found,"
is harder to assess. This speaks to the chasm
between the public's and the scientists' under-
standings of science.
That second approach to scientific writing

is partly to blame. It's boring. Not only that,
but leafing through nearly any scientific jour-
nal will serve to convince just about anyone
that the material is thoroughly unintelligible
to the uninitiated. Worse yet, the language
scientists use to write to other scientists is
often barren, tedious and dreary. Rare is the
occasion that one finishes reading a scientific
publication with the same excitement with
which one began.
There are several reasons for this situation.
Partly it's from the fact that researchers chose
to be scientists, not writers, partly because
scientists often merely catalogue and report
their findings - a rarely inspired form of writ-
ing - and partly because there's an unspoken
convention that being too dry is better than
personalizing one's prose. If journalists had to
explore journals to get scientific stories, there
would be far fewer scientific stories than there
already are.
Thus, the rise of the scientific press release.
Straddled uncomfortably between the boring
and the bombastic, the scientific press release
has to express often quite humdrum research
in a rousing way in order for it to get pub-
lished. Unfortunately, this frequently leads
to overstated conclusions and deemphasized
methodologies, while skirting aspects of peer
review and validation. Much of the noise in
scientific journalism - that is, much of the
confusion among lay readers -- comes from
the clangs of press releases falling through
the press's echo chambers.
How we express information can be nearly
as important as the information we express -
the signal matters only if it is sufficientlylarger
than the noise. The information that scientific
enterprises have given us is among the most
important we could have. We know where
we've come from, what we're made of and how
we relate to the entirety of the cosmos because
people have sought evidence, created theories
and shared what they learned with others. If
we are to understand further frontiers, we can-
not be afraid to take a moment to assess our sit-
uation and discuss it clearly with those around
us, be it the bounds of science or the limits of
writing about science. If our march forward is
to be certain, it helps forcus to be as surefooted
as we can.
Barry Belmont is an
Engitiee g graduate student.

Death penalty's real cost

Let's talk chump change, pocket
change, nickels and dimes - that
lucky penny you see on the floor but
walk right past because ultimately,
hey, what good is a penny in the
grand scheme of things? Now let's
talk millions. $308 million to be
exact. We just changed ball games
there - not sure if you noticed.
When someone says the death
penalty is more expensive than
a life without parole, they seem
wrong. However, they're in fact
telling the truth. The death penalty
is millions of federal and state tax
dollars more expensive than a life
in prison without parole. In Cali-
fornia it costs an estimated $308
million per execution. While this
is a morally charged issue, at that
price do we really care what crime
the defendant committed?
In 2012, California voted on the
abolishment of the death penalty.
Since 1977, the current flawed sys-
tem has cost the state about $4 bil-
lion dollars. With 725 people on
death row, California warehouses
almost 25 percent of the country's
total death row population. It costs
about $47,000 to incarcerate a man
for one year in California, but it costs
$90,000 extra per year to house a
man on death row. This puts the
annual death row bill at $137,000 per
person. The cost of one year in gener-
al population is derived from mainly
security and health care, but also
includes food, rehabilitation pro-
grams and facility costs. Additional
death row costs include the officer,
or officers, constantly escorting the
inmates in and out of their prison
cells. Each person awaiting a death
sentence is placed in an individual
cell, while those in general popula-

tion typically share a cell. Individual
supervision is also required for the
two hours of physical recreation
time inmates receive daily.
These are the only costs of incar-
ceration. The court fees are where
the bulk of the costs lie. The trial for
death sentences takes three to five
times longer, needs twice as many
lawyers, has a far more difficult jury
selection process and has a practical-
ly endless appeals process as opposed
to life without parole cases. Of the
725 people on death row in Califor-
nia, only thirteen have exhausted
the appeals process. The majority of
individuals on death row are poor.
Tax dollars are funding virtually
the entire process. However, the
answer is not to try and repair this
practice because every time a state
has attempted to mend it, the death
penalty has become unconstitution-
al. Less than 2 percent of the crimi-
nals who commit the most shocking
of crimes are sentenced to the death
penalty. After the 2008 recession and
more stringent economic policies
with the federal deficit at the fore-
front of discussion, it's time to look at
this issue from a new angle.
The public is a finicky group
to understand, and especially the
American public. People are rarely
aware of when or why they change
their opinions on political issues
unless the change was derived from
a radical experience. In the case
of capital punishment, the radical
experiences are typically nation-
wide and are delivered to individu-
als by the media. If the key factor
to changing the public's attitude
stems from radical experience, then
it's possible that presenting radical
enough information would be able

to change public opinion and, in
turn, public policy. When a singu-
lar execution costs millions, and the
system in general generates a bill
to the tune of billions of state and
federal tax dollars, perhaps we've
reached "radical enough." Politi-
cians are seen as flippant if they
take a monumental policy, such as
capital punishment, and continually
change their stance.
Economics produces hard facts -
just as hard as scientific facts. So, if
radical enough economic facts were
disseminated amongst the public,
those may potentially sway the peo-
ple. Money affects all of us - people
have to pay taxes. That $308 million
being spent per execution in Cali-
fornia comes from state and federal
taxes. That means that every U.S.
citizen is directly affected. Most
people don't realize that a death
sentence is more expensive than
life without parole. The economics
of the death penalty may be radical
enough to change public opinion.
So what if people knew? What if
the general public suddenly became
aware of this completely counter-
intuitive fact? Would it have an
impact? It seems yes. National sup-
port for the death penalty tends
to be around 63 percent, and yet
otly 53 percent of California sup-
ported the practice when they voted
in 2012. We can never know what
exactly changed their minds, but we
do know that it was on the ballot.
Maybe if California - if not America
- understands just how big the bill
we're footing is; we can change the
minds of U.S citizens and the poli-
cies of our nation.
Molly Harwood is an LSA senior.

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