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April 02, 2013 - Image 4

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4 - Tuesday, April 2, 2013 T i a l m n l

The Michigan Daily - michigandaily.com 40

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Dissecting slacktivism

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.
Keep speech free
Colleges shouldn't stifle dialogue - offensive or not
Jn mid-March, University of Central Oklahoma student Olanre-
waju Suleiman claimed she was threatened with expulsion by
her journalism professor, Terry Clark, for her personal blog post,
"An Open Letter to Obnoxious Girls: Stupidity Isn't Cute!" In the post,
which she wrote on Feb. 2, Suleiman criticizes three girls for their
"obnoxious" behavior without specifically naming them. While the
university has declined to speak about the incident, Suleiman claims
that since the blog was used for her journalism class the professor felt
the post was inappropriate and forced Suleiman to apologize to the
class and delete the post or otherwise leave the school. Colleges should
promote free expression and, in the face of a relatively harmless post,
UCO should reconsider its position on the case and re-evaluate how it

n March 25, the U.S.
Supreme Court heard
arguments on California's
Proposition 8
and then the
Defense of Mar-
riage Act two
days later. Also
last Tuesday,
my Facebook
newsfeed turned
into a check- KATIE
erboard of red STEEN
and pink equal
signs. variations
included equal signs with bacon
strips, matzo crackers, Bud Lights
and - oh god, Nicolas Cage's face.
After clicking around for a bit, I
was surprised to see how wide-
spread the equal sign was. I recently
learned that the image is a modified
version of the Human Rights Cam-
paign logo, but I'll be honest and say
that I was oblivious to the origin
of the symbol when I decided to
change my profile picture.
Now, some people who have
changed their profile picture to the
equal sign are getting flack because
of HRC's questionable history with
the transgender community. I didn't
know that at the time - I really
changed my picture mainly because
I noticed that a lot of my gay friends
on Facebook did, and I wanted to
show my support. I mean, my profile
picture at the time was a webcam
pic of me eating pizza. I can afford
to change my picture for the rights
of my friends.
It's definitely "slacktivism," but
who cares? People post the most
mundane shit on Facebook all the
time, so why not spread a message
that contributes something a little
more meaningful than a Buzzfeed
post on corgis?
I'm starting to sound preachy,
which wasn't my intention. If you
didn't change your profile picture to
the equal sign - whatever, it's Face-
book. But the cool thing about the
social media support of LGBT rights
is how visible it became, and how it
created a discussion both online and
off about issues of equality.

I was talking to my friend who
told me that she can't even fathom
how gay marriage is still a debatable
issue. As an article in the Onion put
it, in an ideal world, the Supreme
Court justices would make their
decision on gay marriage in ten
minutes: "Sure, who cares."
But in reality, a lot of people care.
It may be difficult for Ann Arborites
to comprehend the extent of close-
mindedness that plagues much of
our country, but it exists, and it's
still preventing millions of Ameri-
cans from the option of marriage.
Facebook recently posted a neat
little map that shows the density
of equality sign profile pictures by
county. The West and Northeast
are beautifully speckled with deep
reds. The Facebook employee who
posted the map - Eytan Bakshy,
an alum of the University - made
mention of the fact that Washtenaw
County, the University's county, had
the highest percentage of profile
picture changes. So, hey - go us.
But not all of the United States is
so colorful. The South, for the most
part, remains a bleak stretch of pale
pink. Of course, Facebook profile
pictures are not the sole determin-
er of views on LGBT support. Not
everyone who supports gay marriage
uses Facebook, and not everyone
who supports gay marriage and uses
Facebook changed profile pictures.
Still, the map reveals that,
while in places like Ann Arbor gay
rights may be a "well, duh" issue,
not everyone in the country holds
that belief. In a recent CBS poll,
53 percent of Americans believe
that same-sex marriage should be
legal - an improvement from a poll
conducted less than a year ago that
revealed that 51 percent of Ameri-
cans did not believe same-sex mar-
riage should be legal. The United
States, it seems, is progressing.
And yet, according to this poll,
nearly half the country doesn't sup-
port gay marriage. And we should
remember that this is more than
just an issue of matrimony - it's an
issue of basic rights for the LGBT
community. It's about understand-

ing a community on a deeper level
than, "Yeah, sure, I don't care if you
get married." And even if gay mar-
riage is nationally legalized, that
does not mean that people's views
will change, too.
It's clear that the
red equal signs
have already
begun to fade.


As I scroll down the newsfeed, it's
clear that the red equal signs have
already begun to fade. I still have
mine up, but mostly because I pre-
fer it to the pizza picture. But while
our support may continue to dwindle
on newsfeeds across the country,
remember that this is an issue that
remains unresolved. Changing your
profile picture is only a first step, and
while lots of people in Ann Arbor in
particular changed their pictures in
solidarity, that'shardly a reason to sit
back and let the social change begin.
I have no idea what the court will
decide, and I really hope that this
isn't an instance where The Onion
runs a headline that makes more log-
ical sense than headlines from CNN.
You can change the law, but that
doesn't necessarily mean that you'll
change people's minds. We have to
be careful to not depend on a (per-
ceived) natural evolution over time
toward progress and acceptance.
While HRC may not have been the
best group to lead the viral equal-
ity crusade, it's the message behind
changing our profile pictures that
we should focus on. Sm honestly not
sure how long it will be until the vast
majorityofAmericans supportLGBT
rights, but until that day arrives, we
should continue to show solidarity -
even if it is something as simple as a
pink equal sign over a magnified pic-
ture of Nicolas Cage's face.
- Katie Steen can be reached
at katheliz@umich.edu.

values free speech.
Suleiman's post doesn't fall in line with the
school's bullying policy, which sanctions stu-
dents for, "bullying ... that threatens the health
or safety of any person." Suleiman describes the
women as "complete idiots" and "dimwitted,
airheaded females." But, by not naming anyone
specifically, Suleiman didn't put them in dan-
ger, regardless if the post is perceived as offen-
sive. On the other hand, the school has had no
response to several tweets from other students
targeting Suleiman. Not only did the University
of Central Oklahoma's journalism department
certainly act beyond their means, but inac-
tion on the other students' tweets also reflects
inconsistencies in the school's policy.
Rather than threatening to expel stu-
dents for expressing themselves, universi-
ties should be advocating their right to do
so. Whether it's a paper deeming Marxism
as egregious or a student's Facebook post
decrying President Barack Obama, colleges
shouldn't attempt to stifle beliefs in personal
or academic forums. A college campus should,

be open to the exchange of viewpoints.
On March 24, UCO's student newspaper, The
Oklahoma Daily, responded to the incident by
calling Suleiman a bully in an editorial. Argu-
ing that Suleiman's post didn't qualify as free
speech because she used the blog in a class-
room setting, the editorial board condemned
her actions reasoning that she "did attempt to
shame her classmates in a public forum" and
that her actions were "intellectual bullying."
The Oklahoma Daily's editorial response is a
clear attack on an individual student and is at
odds with the editorial board's position on free
speech they later made clear on March27 when
the paper criticized a New Mexico school for
over-censoring their student publication.
There is little doubt that bullying online or
in person is a serious issue. However, schools
throughout the country need to recognize when
bullying has occurred and when it's appropri-
ate to act on it. Complaining about girls might
be immature, but the University of Central
Oklahoma administration acted improperly.

Myth of the lecturer

Kaan Avdan, Sharik Bashir, Barry Belmont, Eli Cahan, Eric Ferguson, Jesse Klein,
Melanie Kruvelis, Maura Levine, Patrick Maillet, Aarica Marsh, Megan McDonald,
Jasmine McNenny, Harsha Nahata, Adrienne Roberts, Paul Sherman,Sarah Skaluba,
Michael Spaeth, Daniel Wang, Luchen Wang, Derek Wolfe
Viral vitality


We write in response to Amrutha Sivaku-
mar's March 19 article, "The Research Differ-
ence: How the University varies the value of
facultymembers."The reportaddressesthe rel-
ative value of tenure-line and non-tenure-track
faculty at the University, and Sivakumar pres-
ents several keen insights into the work of Uni-
versity lecturers. However, several statements
made by members of the University administra-
tion within the article misrepresent lecturers
in disconcerting ways. Lecturers are excellent
teachers, but many also conduct research, pres-
ent at conferences, publish articles and provide
departmental service. This response speaks to
the myths and realities of teaching off the ten-
ure track at the University and it addresses mis-
representations of lecturers.
Myth One: Lecturers and tenure-track
faculty are inherently different. This is the
fundamental myth in which the other four fol-
lowing myths are rooted, and all the rhetorical
moves administrators make to defend current
inequalities speak to it. For example, Chris-
tina Whitman, vice provost for academic and
faculty affairs, argues that lecturers and ten-
ure-track faculty bring different skills to their
teaching, characterizing lecturers as experts
"in pedagogy" - the science of teaching - and
tenure-track faculty as "people who are bring-
ing their scholarship into the classroom." She
goes on to assert that "professors are con-
stantly expected to think and work outside of
their business hours in ways 'outside-the-box,'"
the false implication being that lecturers do
not normally do these things. Of course we do:
It's our job to think both outside the box and
business hours.
Myth Two: Research necessarily makes for
better teaching. University spokesman Rick
Fitzgerald observes that a"'blending together'
of research and teaching defines a professor
at the University." But why should an indi-
vidual's research prowess inherently result in
effective teaching? Max Weber long ago made
the point with characteristic force: "One can
be a prominent scholar and at the same time
be an abominably bad teacher ... " As Weber
explains, "this very art is a personal gift and
by no means coincides with the scientific qual-
ifications of the scholar." Poor teachers are
poor teachers, no matter how impressive their
research credentials.
The evidence summarized in a recent report
funded by the Lecturers' Employee Organiza-
tion suggests that, on average, lecturers may
be somewhat better teachers. Nonetheless,
administrators pay lecturers, on average, half
as much as they pay tenure-track faculty.
Myth Three: Lecturers don't do research;
they just teach. "We are looking for somebody
who is really specializing in pedagogy rather

than people who are bringing their scholar-
ship into the classroom," says Whitman, but
the administration gets much more than that
from its lecturers. Many lecturers conduct
research even though they're not paid or rec-
ognized for their scholarship, and, like tenure-
track faculty, they bring their scholarship into
the classroom. Our report finds that 47 per-
cent of lecturers in Ann Arbor have Ph.D.s, 60
percent do scholarly research in their field and
51 percent publish the results of this research
in academic journals.
Myth Four: Research is the main thing that
enriches teaching. Many lecturers who aren't
engaged in scholarly research and writing bring
other kinds of valuable knowledge beyond
teaching skills to their students. For example,
foreign language lecturers often come from
the countries whose language they teach, and
they bring a rich understanding of the cultural
nuances of those countries to their teaching.
Likewise, many lecturers in schools such as the
School of Education and the School of Social
Work bring "real world" knowledge of and
personal connections with communities and
institutions in which they work. These kinds of
insights can enhance student understanding as
much as a published scholarly article.
Myth five: Lecturers work for the Univer-
sity only temporarily. "When we hire some-
body as a lecturer, we are asking them to teach
well for a defined, limited period," says Whit-
man. Certainly, Whitman's right that tenured
faculty have job security that lecturers lack:
Many administrators limit lecturer contracts
to as little as one term in order to save money.
Yet most University lecturers are hardly tem-
porary. We aren't just passing through the Uni-
versity on our way to some other kind of work.
The average Ann Arbor tenure-track faculty is
49-years-old and has been at the University for
14.6 years; the average lecturer is 47-years-old
and has been at the University for 9.2 years.
Many lecturers spend their entire academic
careers at the University: The faculty survey we
did for our report found that one lecturer had
been teaching here for 45 years, and one-third
of our lecturers hadbeen here for more thanl20.
It's a good thing for students, tenure-track
faculty and the administration that many lec-
turers are committed to the University for the
long haul and able to spend their entire careers
here. What's wrong, however, is that adminis-
trators continue to portray and treat lecturers
as "temps." Instead of propagating myths about
us, they should respect our work and give us the
job security and pay equity we deserve.
Liliana Naydan is a lecturer in Sweetland
Writing Center. Ian Robinson is a lecturer
in sociology and the Residential College.

" So, what do you guys
think of the equal sign
in people's profile

At first, I
wasn't sure how
to respond to
this question
posed by a fellow
student in the
Shapiro Under-
graduate Library
last week,
shortly after the
U.S. Supreme
Court heard oral


arguments challenging Califor-
nia's Proposition 8 and the federal
Defense of Marriage Act.
On the one hand, the Human
Rights Campaign's red equal sign
popping up all over my newsfeed
had a powerful effect, providing a
clear visual representation of the
large support of same-sex marriage
among Millennials in particular.
Friday, Facebook announced its
finding that "significantly more
(U.S. Facebook) users - roughly 2.7
million (120 percent) more, updat-
ed their profile photo on Tuesday,
March 26," which was the day of
the Prop. 8 oral arguments, "com-
pared to the previous Tuesday."
In fact, during this time period,
Washtenaw County had the largest
increase in profile picture changes
in the country, and many other
counties with college towns were
near the top of the list.
While it's great to see such enthu-
siasm on social media for a cause
that's finally getting the widespread
support it deserves, I couldn't
help but think: Here we go again.
Remember Kony 2012? How about
the Stop Online Piracy Act and PRO-
TECT IP Act blackouts?
It's true that these viral sensa-
tions produced some beneficial
outcomes. Invisible Children's
"Kony 2012" video resulted in the
Senate "condemning" Joseph Kony
and devoting more resources to go

after Kony and his guerrilla group,
the Lord's Resistance Army. These
were all positive developments,
but we still haven't caught Kony.
And how often do we hear about
Kony or other violence these days?
Hardly ever.
Both SOPA and PIPA didn't
become laws, largely due to the
widespread online protests. Howev-
er, the ongoing issue of online piracy
has disappeared from the national
political conversation ever since the
bills died in Congress.
Notice a pattern?
Of course, there are a few differ-
ences with the current viral phe-
nomenon. It's much more difficult
for citizens to influence the actions
of Supreme Court justices than
members of Congress. And while
most Americans didn't know about
Kony, SOPA or PIPA before the wave
of online protests began, the issue of
same-sex marriage is already very
prominent in the national politi-
cal conversation. From President
Barack Obama's declaration last
May to Republican Sen. Rob Port-
man's recent announcement of his
change of heart, same-sex marriage
has received plenty of attention
from politicians and journalists.
However, I have no doubt that
the red equal sign will soon follow
in the footsteps of its viral prede-
cessors. In a few days or weeks,
people will change their profile pic-
tures to other pictures, last week's
Supreme Court cases will fade from
the news cycle and life will largely
return to normal.
However, I'm certainly not
diminishing the significance of
last week's events. The Supreme
Court cases were huge milestones
in the fight for the legalization of
same-sex marriage. But same-sex
marriage supporters have to be
careful not to let this moment of
increased visibility fade away from
Americans' minds.
Americans have a tendency to
fixate on one topic for a short peri-

sex marriage cannot
let this moment of
visibility fade away.

od of time and then move on to the
next topic soon afterwards. Many
Americans are already beginning to
move on from the horrific shootings
at Sandy Hook Elementary School
that occurred in December. Thurs-
day, Obama tried to revive some of
the momentum for new gun-control
legislation that followed the shoot-
ings. "Shame on us if we've forgot-
ten," he said. "I haven't forgotten
those kids."
Supporters of same-


If same-sex marriage support-
ers want to keep the attention of
politicians, the news media and the
American people, they should keep
posting a variety of items on social
media and asking their friends
and followers to share them. They
should hold large rallies in various
parts of the country to attract the
local or national news media. They
should call their lawmakers as often
as they can to get them to support
same-sex marriage and fight for this
cause. This latter strategy is becom-
ing easier to do every day. "As far as
I can tell, political leaders are falling
all over themselves to endorse your
side of the case," Chief Justice John
Roberts remarked to the lawyers
challenging the same-sex marriage
bans last week.
It's great that people are express-
ing their support for same-sex mar-
riage during this historic time. But
changing a Facebook picture is only
the first step toward achieving last-
ing social change.
- Michael Spaeth can be
reached at micspa@umich.edu.

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