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May 22, 1987 - Image 7

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Text
Publication:
Michigan Daily Summer Weekly Summer Weekly, 1987-05-22

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PERSPECTIVES

The Michigan Daily

Friday, May 22, 1987

Page 7

Of user-friendly computers and friendly computer users

By Maya A. Bernstein
I read with dismay Professor Bert
Hornback's letter to the Daily of
April 22, "Toys won't stop racist
jokes." It is unfortunate that
Professor Hornback has only The
New York Times to tell him about
this incident, since that article was
rather misleading. I am especially
distressted that Professor Hornback
would not avail himself of the
resources available to him (a faculty
computer request account, for
example), to see for himself what
computer conferencing is all about.
Professor Hornback has never
signed on to the conference. While
he may have seen a printout of the
"bad jokes," they certainly are not
representative of the Student
Conferencing Project.
MEET:STUDENTS is the
computer conference in which the
infamous "Bad Jokes" appeared. The

jokes could be found in one
discussion item of more than three
hundred this term, and more than
1700 over the history of the
Student Conferencing Project.,
which started in the Fall of 1985. A
quick glance through the titles of
the discussions finds sexism in
advertising, the philosophy of
objectivism, birth control, a ride
board, the various candidates for the
President of the United States, the
Provost's undergraduate initiative
fund, the benefits or drawbacks of
the state lottery, and at least ten
different discussions of some aspect
of free speech and racism brought
about by the recent attention to one
with the bad jokes.
Despite Professor Hornback's
protestations to the contrary, there
is an educational process going on
as the group tries to reconcile
freedom of expression with

censorship of ideas that are
distasteful or offensive. For the past
three weeks, we have grappled with
policy decisions about what should
be allowed, who should be
responsible for monitoring what is
entered into the conference, and
whether we can effectively enforce
any rules which are drawn up.
MEET:STUDENTS is the only
place on campus where serious
debate about these issues happens
continuously.
While Professor Hornback may
consider electronically mediated
debate "gimmickry," it is also
being widely used by teachers at
this university. I'm sure Nick
Steneck would be delighted to have
a copy of The New York Times
article for his history class -
Professor Steneck has used a
computer conference in his "Science
and Values" course for at least two

semesters and is the moderator of a
conference on the university's
classified research guidelines.
A computer conference in the
context of a course allows students
to continue a discussion started in
class, raise issues for which there
was not enough time in class, or
ask detailed questions of the
professor or their peers after the
class is over. Students can
thoroughly consider others'
comments until what they add to
the discussion precisely represents
their view. And they can do this at
their convenience, at home or in a
computer cluster, at noon or at 3:00
in the morning, assured that when
the professor or peer signs on next,
he or she will see the students'
comments and questions.
In Professor Hornback's own
department, Dick Meisler has been
very successful using computer

conferencing to maintain personal
contact with many of his 250
students. Bill Ingram is spear -
heading a very ambitious project to
use computer conferencing in all
English 125 classes in the fall. A
study conducted by the English
Composition Board shows that
students turn in better papers when
they've used a word processor to
compose, write, and edit. Surely
this is not just gimmickry.
No one is saying that we should
replace teachers with computers, as
Professor Hornback implies. This
paranoid kind of thinking is com -
mon of cyberphones, unfamiliar
with the possibilities of computers
as creative instructional tools.
Computers are not just for
engineers any more.
Bernstein is a founder of the
Student Conferencing-Project.

LETTERS:
To the Daily:
An article which you printed,
entitled "Sorority girl raped at
fraternity function," reported that a
woman had been raped while at a
party. I wish to say, first, that her
insistence on identifying that
incident as a rape is an act of
courage.
We shudder at the horribly
violent and incomprehensible facet
of humanity which is unleashed
during the act of rape. In an effort
to deny this violence which
pervades our whole culture we tend
to isolate those involved in the
rape. Traditionally, guilt we all feel
for being members of a society
which creates situations where rapes
occur, has been directed at the
' woman. We blame her for forcing
us to see the violence in our society
by claiming that she in some way
asked to be raped. I hope that those
who are near this woman support
her in her (personally, as well as
culturally) healthy decision to
confront the reality of the rape.
The circle of those effected by
this act of violence extends far
beyond her sorority, the Greek sys -
1 tem as a whole, or even Ann Arbor
as a community. Rape is a life-
threatening, society-threatening
issue we must all deal with today.
If we blame this woman and only
this woman for the rape committed
against her we fail to take our own
individual responsibility for being
part of the situation which made
that rape possible.
Likewise, believing that the
blame ends with the rapist
perpetuates the myth that this rape
is an isolated incident. The rapist

committed a felony and should be
punished severely. However, I
believe we should not pretend our
guilt and horror is assuaged when
one man is sentenced. If we do this
we participate in a process of denial
which is a part of this rape culture.
Likewise, claiming that the
problem exists exclusively within
certain groups of the society denies
a responsibility we all share. Each
and every one of us must come to
terms with the part we played in
this rape. Any of us could have
been that woman or that man.
In this rape, we are all horrified
and we are all guilty because we
know that somehow the situation
could have been avoided. If each of
us cannot privately answer the
question, "How is the way I live
creating situations where rape
occur?" then we are isolating this
woman, and we are perpetuating
this rape culture.
-Chris Merrill
May 5
Persecuted
prisoners
To the Daily:
We are six University of
Michigan students who participated
in a weekly creative writing
workshop with seven inmantes at
the State Prison of Southern
Michigan at Jackson. We are
writing this letter with the
intention of shedding some light on
many of the misconceptions about
prisoners and prison volunteers that

have arisen as a result of recent
sensationalized media coverage.
Prisoners are individuals.
On Tuesday March 24, 1987,
prison guard Josephine McCallum
was slain at the prison. As a result,
all non-essential activities at
Jackson, including our workshop,
were cancelled. This is unfortunate
because as volunteers we provided a
necessary and worthwhile service to
the inmates we worked with.
Through our shared writings, the
inmates were able to constructively
vent their ideas. These ideas were

very well developed, eloquently
expressed, and ranged in subject
matter from thoughts about racism
and sexism to concerns and
frustrations about prison life.
It is very important that the
public realize that not all inmates'
minds work like that of the
deranged man who killed officer
McCallum. There are also those
who would like to find a positive
outlet to their frustrations. There
must be volunteers to listen and to
nurture their ideas. Without
outsiders to listen, inmates lose any

confidence in the outside world as a
place they can peacefully exist.
Almost all prisoners are eventually
released from prison.
In short, we would like to
encourage potential volunteers who
have be discouraged by bad media
coverage.
-Andrew Weinstein
Grant Greenberg
Odelia Weinberg
Marie Weasaw
John Dunning
Ben Schneider
April 10

A PHOTOON By Tim Huet

Should all acquaintance be forgot,
we really wouldn't mind ...

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