4 - Friday, November 15, 2013
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The Michigan Daily - michigandaily.com
The real-lfe impacts ofscrapping
Edited and managed by students at
the University of Michigan since 1890.
420 Maynard St.
Ann Arbor, MI 48109
and ADRIENNE ROBERTS MATT SLOVIN
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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.
Transparency through information freedom
Bill provides citizens with realisitic access to government records
The Michigan Freedom of Information Act was created to guaran-
tee public access to state-level government records. However, based
on the law, the public bodies holding documents can unilaterally
control information through delays, unreasonably high prices and dubious
denial of requests. In response to these problems, the recently proposed
House Bill No. 4001 marks the latest attempt at FOIA reform. Journalists
have a lot at stake with FOIA, but the bill deserves attention from anyone
even moderately concerned with Michigan's governance. Passing the bill
would provide Michigan's citizens with realistic access to FOIA documents,
upholding the expectation of government transparency and accountability.
T he Detroit Free Press
recently published an edi-
torial about the devastating
effects of scrap-
ping on Detroit
The article aptly
need for - hope-
ing -- legislation,
that will make
it difficult for ALEXANDER
scrappers to sell HERMANN
materials, one of
the biggest issues facing the bank-
rupt city today.
No surprises here - I couldn't
agree more with the Freep's incred-
ibly uncontroversial opinion.
what, then, is missing from their
otherwise on-point analysis? Some-
thing - anything really - that
grounds scrapping, and its processes
and effects, in reality.
Let's be real, scrapping and the
fear of scrapping, squatting and
other related crimes don't regu-
larly instill fear in most University
students and Ann Arbor residents.
When we leave our homes for class
during the day, or even when we
leave them unoccupied for longer
periods of time over breaks, hardly
a thought is given to the potential
burglarizing of our TVs, gaming
consoles and personal possessions.
Even less consideration is given
to the possible theft of furnaces,
plumbing and copper wiring that
probably earns much less cash on
the black market.
These are fears many Detroit resi-
dents face every day - even though
scrapping is associated most with
recently abandoned homes. Unless
vigorously protected, a newly vacant
home in Detroit will be completely
vandalized within 48 hours.
Although I can never claim to
understand the true effects of scrap-
ping - neither the strain nor the
cost encumbering individuals -
working at a Detroit-based human-
services nonprofit prior to graduate
school exposed me, somewhat, to
these daily horrors.
The Detroit Rescue Mission,
the organization I worked for, had
a program that received donated
homes from individuals, banks and
the city of Detroit and, provided we
could repair the homes at an afford-
able price, deeded the fixed-up
properties to homeless families we
served. In my capacity, I frequently
ventured out to different parts of
the city to inspect homes under
There isn't adequate space in
this column to do justice to what I
saw, but, almost exclusively, unless
the home was currently occupied,
there was no chance we'd acquire
the property. Not only are Detroit
homes among the oldest in the met-
ropolitan area - a common plight
in central cities across the United
States - but poorer occupants are
often financially incapable of invest-
ingintheupkeep ofthese properties.
As neighborhoods deteriorate fur-
Rescue Mission accepted a donated
home, we relocated a client to the
property immediately. They kept the
premises secured at night while we
finished the rehab work.
The only marginally effective
counter to scrappers targeting
abandoned homes is the diligence
of neighbors - but even then, the
limitations of such measures are
obvious when you consider the per-
vasiveness of abandoned structures
in Detroit - as many as 78,000
according to some estimates - and
the need for residents to, you know,
actually sleep at night.
Once, when looking at a home
near Grandmont on Detroit's west
side, a neighbor confronted me
upon hearing someone enter the
house. After explaining my orga-
nization's intentions, he told me
how he regularly had to chase away
squatters and scrappers alike in
the home. A college student in his
early, maybe mid-twenties, he was
attending the University of Detroit-
Michigan's FOIA, enacted in 1977, hardly
delivers the "free" information it promises. In
reality, public bodies can maneuver around
FOIA requests with relative ease. Officials can
withhold requested information up to five days
- sometimes longer when granted extension -
and don't necessarily have an incentive to speed
up the process. While this might appear reason-
able, it allows significant conflicts of interest to
develop. Freezing information when the need is
urgent, such as during elections or policy votes,
has the potential to distort the democratic
process. But most people don't even reach that
point, lacking the robust finances necessary for
fees. Joe Sontag of the National Federation for
the Blind was charged $2,400 for a request in
regards to a cafeteria's closing. Sontag called
the fee "outrageous," and couldn't appeal a case
without alegal staff to supporthim. Public bod-
ies also can contrive reasons to deny the pro-
cess outright, often without much explanation.
Fulfilled FOIA requests can make an important
difference in public issues, but the current stat-
ute does little in accomplishing its duty.
The prosed policy would rectify current
FOIA issues by imposing new rules and lower-
ing fees. Officials would be required to present
information free of charge, and if individuals
require copies of the documents, the charg-
es couldn't be more than 10 cents per page.
Requests delayed past the five-day deadline
would be deducted 20 percent of their total cost
every day; after five days. And repercussions for
arbitrary delay or denial, as judged by a circuit
court, would result in higher damages, now
$5,000 instead of the original $500 penalty.
These changes would shift the current legisla-
tion toward a more public-oriented policy that
counteracts bureaucratic attempts to circum-
vent FOIA. Legitimate concerns would gain
traction, and the paralysis caused by the cur-
rent system would be eliminated.
FOIA's premise of open information uses
the agency of proactive residents to maintain
a transparent, responsible state. But under
the current law, faulty protocol precludes
most inquiries' success before a request is
even made. This undermines not only the
freedom of information but the justice and
protection of citizens.
to leave the
Adding to the
lems, scrappers t
to get at the plu
and steal all app
and needlessly de
cheaper to raze a
rehabilitate the p
homes is a f
"Hey, this proper
pied 24/7," most
Mercy and had
grown more fear-
W hy has it taken ful recently after
his neighbor on the
lawmakers so other side of the
lo gvacant home had
long to combat been burglarized
while at work just
scrappers? days before. He said
he felt like the van-
dals were moving
ven basic mainte- house-by-house down the block,
cycles of neighbo- and that his house was next on the
n. hit list. He even asked if we had
ese existing prob- homes in other neighborhoods he
ear apart the walls could live in while finishing school.
imbing and wiring I know it's uncontroversial to say
liances, senselessly - scrapping, squatting and home
estroying the infra- burglaries are bad. But why, then,
quickly make it has it taken lawmakers this long to
and rebuild than to do more to minimize the potential
roperty. financial benefit of the already-ille-
ig up unoccupied gal practice?
ruitless endeavor. Maybe they, like us, simply
to scrappers that, aren't aware of scrapping's real-life
rty is now unoccu- impacts on real-life people.
ds are easily cir-
When the Detroit
- Alexander Hermann can be
reached at email@example.com.
ManI (talk) like a woman
EDITORIAL BOARD MEMBERS
Kaan Avdan, Sharik Bashir, Barry Belmont, James Brennan, Eric
Ferguson, Jordyn Kay, Jesse Klein, Melanie Kruvelis, Maura Levine,
Aarica Marsh, Megan McDonald, Victoria Noble, Adrienne Roberts,
Paul Sherman, Daniel Wang, Derek Wolfe
Ilsuring all aspects of health
Health insurance plans for University
employees - including faculty, staff and
graduate students - cover almost all aspects
of reproductive health and family planning,
including contraceptives, pregnancy ter-
mination, elective adult sterilization, male
sexual dysfunction treatments, and sexually
transmitted disease testing and treatment.
However, there is one troubling omission in
this coverage: fertility treatments. Not only
are fertility treatments omitted from stan-
dard coverage, but University employees also
do not even have the option to purchase addi-
tional coverage for fertility treatments on
any of the 2014 plans offered in the state of
Michigan by Blue Cross Blue Shield, Health
Alliance Plan or Priority Health.
The unavailability of access to fertility
treatments is much more than just a personal
issue: It can affect the University's competi-
tiveness when recruiting faculty and gradu-
ate students. Other Michigan universities,
most notably Michigan State University, offer
insurance plans that cover these treatments.
In recent meeting of Senate Advisory Com-
mittee on University Affairs, faculty mem-
bers raised concerns that the University's
benefits package could keep us from recruit-
ing top researchers. In the United States
from 2006 to 2010, 6.7 million women were
unable to get pregnant after trying for one
year or could not carry a baby to term, while
more than 600,000 men were medically diag-
nosed with an infertility problem. We cannot
assume that fertility treatments will be an
insignificant factor in a prospective faculty
member's to come to the University.
Furthermore, infertility affects a number
of marginalized groups and should be seen as
a social justice issue within the larger debate
about reproductive rights. Although much of
the debate has focused on a woman's right to
prevent and terminate pregnancy, we have
largely ignored a person's right to have chil-
dren, especially when he or she requires assis-
tance to do so. Professional women who must
delay having children to be competitive with
their male counterparts, young women diag-
nosed with premature infertility, gay couples,
cancer patients treated with radiation, and
people with traumatic injuries to their repro-
ductive organs are all disproportionately
affected by infertility. Infertility also dispro-
portionately affects African American and
Hispanic women, and those women are less
likely to receive fertility treatment.
In response to my own diagnosis of infer-
tility, I petitioned top-level administrators
and women's issue groups at the University
advocating for coverage of fertility treat-
ments for employees. Currently, the question
of whether or not to add coverage is under
the consideration of Laurita Thomas, the
associate vice president of human resources
for both academic and medical campuses.
Thomas will base her decision on guidance
from the Medical Benefits Advisory Com-
mittee, a voluntary committee of 10 men and
six women employed as doctors, lawyers and
academics. MBAC will finalize their recom-
mendation to Thomas at the committee's
meeting on Nov. 19.
Although I am pleased that the Univer-
sity is considering adding fertility treatment
coverage to our benefits plans, I remain con-
cerned that they will not support the cov-
erage based on feedback from University
President Mary Sue Coleman's President's
Advisory Committee on Women's Issues. A
representative of that committee reporting
from its last meeting said that few members
saw any hope of increasing health benefits to
include fertility treatments.
Members of the University community
may object to adding this coverage on the
grounds that fertility treatments are expen-
sive and experimental. First, while increases
in cost to the University may be a concern for
some, addingcoverage for University employ-
ees is not likely to increase health care pre-
miums. States like Massachusetts that have
mandated fertility coverage from insurance
plans have not seen costs associated with
infertility increase after adding the coverage.
Second, while fertility treatments used
to be novel and experimental, most disease
treatments, regardless of cost, become cov-
ered after the technology becomes standard
practice for effective treatment of the dis-
ease. In the case of fertility treatments, the
national average for success rate is an almost
50-percent chance of pregnancy from one
cycle of in vitro fertilization. This success
rate is higher than many other covered treat-
ments for other diseases.
My hope is that the University community
will recognize that access to fertility treat-
ments is not just important to our institution,
but it is also a social justice issue-spanning
gender, class, race and sexuality.
Katherine Lelito is a Rackham student.
ver since I re-embraced the
warm, sometimes sweaty
arms of singlehood a few
I have talked a
lot about boys.
year, these KATIE
been very inter-
probably would have centered on
"30 Rock," pizza, spooningor a com-
bination of the three. Now, it seems
every other day or so, I'm giving ol'
Marge some sort of an update as I
navigate through singlehood. But
since these conversations are not
to be discussed outside of the walls
of room eight of Minnie's Coopera-
tive House, I'll just sum up what we
share with two words - girl talk.
The funny thing about girl talk is
that it usually centers on ... not girls.
A quick look in the trusty Urban
Dictionary defines "girltalk" - not
to be confused with the mash-up
artist - as, "Deep conversation
between members of the female sex.
Contrary to popular believe, it is not
always about boys."
But if you have to say "it is not
always about boys," it's probably
going to be about boys for the vast
majority of the time. Like, 90 per-
cent of the time, with the other 10
percent being talking about how
your period has synched up with
your roommate's. Or something.
Anyway, this newfound bond-
ing over guys colloquially known as
girl talk got me thinking: If my life
were a movie - hah - and Marge
were in it, too, we would totally fail
the Bechdel test. The Bechdel test
requires that a movie has at least
two women in it and these women
talk to each other about stuff beside
men. It also got me thinking about
a conversation I had last summer
in the humid, crowded kitchen of
a Michigan House summer party.
"What makes you feel like a man,"
I had asked a friend for who knows
what reason. He thought about
it for a second, then referenced a
summer hiking trip he took that
involved all kinds of manliness -
not shaving, not showering, using
muscles, drinking beer, farting...
After he answered, my friend asked
in response, "What makes you feel
like a woman?"
"Umm... " I thought of various
forms of activity that can be placed
under the umbrella term of hanky-
panky. "Uhh?" I really had no idea.
While my friend was reminisc-
ing upon hiking up north, inhaling
and farting into fresh Midwestern
air like a true man, the only thing
I could think of in terms of defining
my womanhood ... required a man?
Recently, I decided to throw this
question around some more. To my
friends and housemates who iden-
tify as male, I asked, "What makes
you feel like a man?"
"Barbecuing. Bacon," "Working
on the car," "Sports," "Definitely
everything sexual," "Whenever I
drive," "Being outside," "Drink-
ing two fingers of whiskey, pints
at the pub" - the pub? Some were
a little more general - "I feel like
a man when I'm around women
because I'm strong," "If a situation
needed someone to take control of
it, I should be the default," "When
I need to act rationally." As one of
my housemates said, "A lot of things
that make me feel like a man make
also make me feel like an adult."
To my housemates who identify
as female, I asked, "What makes
you feel like a woman?" Like before,
the question could be interpreted in
different ways, but the results were
pretty similar: "Putting on lip-
stick," "Wearing heels," "Lacy, fun
underwear," "When I go on a date.
When a boy pays for me." Others
were fairly straightforward - "My
boobs." "When I get my period."
The generalizations I'm about
to make with this small, not ran-
domized sample of responses is by
no means applicable to everyone.
But I think it's worth pointing out
that the majority of the answers I
received were based off of stereo-
types and socially constructed ways
that we're raised to think about our
gender, our sexuality and ourselves.
The first magazine I ever sub-
scribed to was "Girls' Life," or "GL."
My much cooler neighbor who
was a year older than me had con-
vinced me that it was necessary to
my ability to survive middle school
- which was admittedly a little
bit true, looking back. Within two
months of being a "GL" subscriber, I
gained lots of important knowledge
like how to apply liquid eyeliner
and what foods to eat at lunch in
order to attract hott - with two ts
- guys. For the record, finger foods
are highly recommended, especial-
ly grapes - cute and healthy.
It appears "GL" hasn't changed
much since. A quick skimming of
the magazine's website shows that
it's all still there - fashion, makeup,
gossip, adorable cupcakes - pre-
sented in an array of pinks, purples
and baby blues. And what's the first
tab at the top of the "Girls' Life"
website? "Guys," which includes
sections like "Get a BF," "Ask Bill
and Dave" and "What Guys Think."
On a website specifically devoted to
the lives of girls, we have a whole
section focused on dudes. Hmm.
I headed over to the website for
"Boys' Life," a magazine created
by the Boy Scouts of America. Its
homepage was jam-packed with
things like "make a pingpong ball
launcher," "weird science projects,"
aguide tobuying just about any out-
doorsy piece of gear you can imag-
ine, "hobbies, projects, and other
fun stuff you can do," and abso-
lutely nothing about girls. In other
words, while we're learning how to
eat grapes cutely over at "GL," the
"Boys' Life" boys are actually doing
things! Hobbies! Projects! Expe-
riences! Stuff that's a hell of a lot
more fun than putting on lip-gloss.
Of course, "Boys' Life" is just as
guilty of pushing boys into fulfilling
the stereotypical expectations of
being a male - science, outdoorsy
stuff, physical activity. And I sup-
pose that's expected given that the
magazine is run by Boy Scouts peo-
ple. But damn it, at least the boys
are encouraged to do things instead
of just shop and worry about how to
attract a significant other.
And these expectations and ste-
reotypes persist into adulthood,
even if we recognize the stupidity
or untruthfulness of them. Accord-
ing to the responses of my house-
mates, "being a man" means doing
things, while women are supposed
to care about appearance and guys.
I'm not saying that my house-
mates' responses to my questions
affirm that they follow the expect-
ed gender roles. And I'm not trying
to tell people of any gender to not
buy makeup or talk about guys or
whatever else is "GL"-certified. I
am trying to remind everyone that
gender roles exist, and are perpetu-
ated by what we read and watch and
listen to and click on, and that they
begin at a young age.
- Katie Steen can be reached