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July 03, 1996 - Image 4

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Publication:
Michigan Daily Summer Weekly, 1996-07-03

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4 - The Michigan Daily - July 3, 1996
Edited and managed by LAURIE MAYK ERIN MARSH
students at the + Editor in Chief PAUL SERILLA
University of Michigan Editorial Page Editors
r . ti ilu ,"ess otherwise n<>ted,. unsigned cditoruals reflect the <>p>nron <>f the
420 Maynard Street niajorifhe j ar/eior i >oard.ll/omer anicl tj/ieersiand
Ann Arbor, MI 48109 """"oo"do 101iii i''ccssc'"it/C"th"i" uion o TheA//fi/gani Dail

T he June meeting of the Board of
Regents was not a particularly good
one for issues brought to the table by stu-
dents. As always, June brings budgetary
talks before the regents -- inherent in that
process is student fee approval. The fees
are voted on as ballot questions every year
during fall and spring, campuswide elec-
tions. Those approved by a majority of stu-
dents hibernate until the regents thaw them
out, usually to give their unanimous and
rather obligatory stamp of approval. This
year's talks, however, saw the regents in a
more defensive mode, questioning the
appropriateness and validity of student
requests.
First, Regents Deane Baker (R-Ann
Arbor) and Andrea Fischer Newman (R-
Ann Arbor) voted against renewing the fee
supporting the Michigan Student Assembly
because - among other reasons - it has
traditionally funded the Ann Arbor
Tenants' Union. Besides the fact that the
AATU is a valuable resource for students,
its relationship with the University com-
munity was not the issue up for debate. The
real issue before the regents concerned
students' rights to decide how they want to
spend their money and what groups they

Balking t the budget
Regents vote to fund MSA after debate

want to support. Baker and Newman are
abusing their positions when they dictate
what students can and cannot do with their
money. In the process, they're imposing
their ideological disposition toward specif-
ic student resources on students.
President James J. Duderstadt correct-
ly warned the regents that they would be
"sliding down a very slippery slope if you
dictate to students how to spend their
money." As Duderstadt pointed out, the
precedent of denying students the right to
choose where their money goes holds the
dangerous result of completely removing
students from the budgetary loop. At the
very least, it destroys any validity left in
the campus-wide elections in which stu-
dents can choose the fees they feel justify
their support. Student requests place no
burden on anyone but the students them-

selves.
The regents also have put the student-
requested fee for a childcare program on
hold. They voted instead to commission a
task force to investigate the program. The
task force - to report back to the regents
no later than November - will research
childcare options for faculty, staff and stu-
dents. MSA president Fiona Rose, who
made the program part of her platform, has
voiced some concern that the study will
prevent immediate implementation, thus
denying students assistance during fall
term. However, the research committee
could be a prudent policy-making step -
there seems to be no evidence that the
regents lack interest in a student childcare
program.
The move to research childcare options
and potential ways of utilizing the funds

will help create a policy to accompany th
proposed program. There was never a con
crete plan about how the program woul
work in MSA's original proposal. It men
tioned vague ideas for an infant childcar
center and a system of waivers distribu
by the Office of Financial Aid. The tas
force should be able to solidify those plan
and tune them for efficiency and fun
maximization, so that most students witl
children might be extended the benefits o
the program.
Childcare for students is necessary, an
if designed properly will provide thi
means for many people to obtain an edu
cation from the University who would pre
viously have faced hardships. Hopefuj
the task force will be able to ensure
University does more than simply throw
money at the lack of childcare options fo
students.
At base, the regents must remember
as the majority did in the June meeting -
that childcare is something students have
requested. Falling into the pattern of dic
tating student budget appropriations sets
dangerous precendent - the regents nl
allow students to spend their dollars
they wish.

Major oversight
DPS review committee finally recognized
F our years ago, a Michigan state law went into effect mandating that all grievances
against university police departments be open to review by faculty-student-staff
oversight committees. Despite the law, the University's Department of Public Safety
overview committee has been mostly dormant. This was largely due to a semantic dis-
tinction in which problems brought to DPS's attention were labeled "complaints" and
not "grievances." Because there were no "grievances" filed against DPS, there was no
need for oversight and the committee received little support.
Hopefully, this situation will quickly change. This week, at the request of the DPS
oversight committee, President James J. Duderstadt and Executive Vice President Farris
W. Womack agreed to give the committee access to all complaints and grievances, regard-
less of semantic label, and to provide the committee with a part-time staff (possibly
including a criminal lawyer), office space, a telephone line and a small operating budget.
The renewed commitment to DPS oversight came on the heels of an incident last
winter in which Director of the Office of Academic and Multicultural Initiatives John
Matlock was involved in a scuffle with DPS officers at the Central Campus Recreation
Building. That incident recharged the debate over DPS's impartiality in its dealings with
individuals of color. Minority groups on campus have long argued that DPS mistreats
students, faculty, and staff of color.
Such sentiments have always been present. The fact that it took four years for the
DPS oversight committee to get up and fully running is lamentable. In that period with-
out oversight nearly 40 complaints or grievances were directed at DPS officers. It is also
unclear why complaints lodged against DPS were labeled in a way that might be con-
strued as an effort to circumvent state law. Despite this, the committee now appears to
have the administration's full support.
Properly instituted and supported oversight of DPS's actions on campus is crucial. An
oversight committee will help bring to light those instances of abuse that inevitably occur
in even the best-run police departments. It will also bring new transparency to DPS's
actions - preventing the administration's often-seen tendency to cover complaints. As a
result, students, faculty and staff will have more faith in DPS, as they feel they have a trust-
worthy, impartial liaison between them and DPS officers. In turn, DPS officers will ben-
efit when they operate in an atmosphere where "bad" officers that tarnish the department's
image will be weeded out more quickly. Because of this, the University community that
they are assigned to protect will have more faith in them as professionals.
That the University is finally getting a DPS oversight committee is commendable.
The fact that it took nearly four years to implement is lamentable. Nonetheless, fully
supported police oversight will go a long way in ensuring that DPS will side with those
they are commissioned to protect.

Partisan funding
Engler bill attacks same-sex benefits at 'U'
G ov. John Engler recently signed into law a budget bill for higher education 9
financial aid that is 5.5 percent higher than last year overall. The University i.
pleased with the bill's funding increases. However, the measure has political motivationt
- the Republican-controlled legislature passed an amendment to the legislation thai
would penalize the University for providing benefits for same-sex domestic partners
Not only is it a financial assault on the University, but it is also an effort by Lansing tc
impose its moral opinions on public institutions.
The $1.5 billion budget bill to finance public universities and colleges does, howev-
er, have a number of positive aspects. First, it represents a significant increase in stat
funding for higher education, the largest in many years. Second, Engler honored a lo -
standing treaty between the state government and Michigan's Native American popa-
tion by maintaining the "Indian Tuition Waiver."
The highlight of the legislation is the appropriation to the University: a total alloca-
tion of $302 million - a 4.6 percent increase from last year's state funding to the
University. In recent years, funding for the University has lagged behind the rate of infla-
tion. Since 1990, state funding for the University has increased 19.1 percent. While this
year's increase does not make up for previous neglect, it is certainly an improvement.
The catch is the penalty imposed upon institutions that provide medical benefits to unmar-
ried domestic partners. Under this provision, the state will deduct the amount institutiont
spend on such coverage from their appropriations. The University offers benefits to married
couples and gay and lesbian couples, but not to unmarried heterosexual couples. Nothing
would change for unmarried heterosexual couples, but because gays and lesbians cannot leE-
ly marry in Michigan, the bill specifically targets them.
It is wrong for Lansing to try to prevent the University from providing equal benefits tc
same-sex partners. The University is attempting to start giving equal treatment to employees,
regardless of sexual orientation. It provides benefits to about 90 partners and dependents 01
gay and lesbian employees at a cost of about $160,000 a year.
The nature of the legislature's provision is disconcerting. Legislators in Lansing may
express their opinions, but they should not impose them upon the University. The state con-
stitution guarantees public universities autonomy from the state in determining their poli-
cies. Authority for governing the University is accorded to the University Board of Regents,
who extended benefits to same-sex couples in November 1994. The state legislature g
Engler may be unconstitutionally forcing line-item vetos on public university budgets.
The benefits do not appear to be jeopardized at the moment. Despite the lost funds, the
University is not willing to cease offering same-sex partner benefits. This sends a strong
message - not only is the University committed to its principles, but it is not inclined tc
be intimidated by legislators trying to impose their moral judgments on public institutions

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