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July 06, 1999 - Image 4

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Publication:
Michigan Daily Summer Weekly, 1999-07-06

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4 - The Michigan Daily - Tuesday, July 6, 1999
Edited and managed by EMILY ACHENBAUM NiCK WOOMER
students at the Editor in Chief Editorial Page Editor
y ; v University of Michigan w f
Unlss otherw ise noted, unsigned editorials reflect the o not o
420 Mlaynard Street tnjorit of the Dailvs editorial hoard All other ortieleletters and
Ann Arbor, MI 48109 eartoons do not necearil/reflect the opinion of The Michigan Dail

L ast month, the Michigan State
Supreme Court reversed a state
Court of Appeals decision holding that
public universities that conducted
searches for new presidents in private
violated the Open Meetings Act which
requires all official meetings of public
bodies to be held under the scrutiny of
the public.
While the ruling will undoubtedly
benefit public universities in some
respects,- especially those like the
University which compete directly with
wealthy private schools. But, despite this
benefit, the ruling is damaging as both a
matter of practicality and a matter of
principle.
From a practical standpoint on the
side of the Court, it makes sense for
public universities to keep their presi-
dent selection process secret. Candidates
are often wary of participating in a pub-
lic process because it draws the attention
of their current employers. Given that

Closed up
Open Meetings Act must apply to universities

these selection processes often consider
more than 100 candidates in their incip-
ient stages, many qualified candidates
have backed out of the selection process
as their chance of being selected does
not warrant any potential and unneces-
sary grief they may bring to the institu-
tion currently employing them.
The Court's ruling was relatively
strict in that it only granted state univer-
sities the liberty to keep their presiden-
tial process secret up to a certain point
and only during "informal" meetings.
From a practical point of view, the loop-
hole the Court has granted universities
may lead to serious problems for the
public and for the press in the future.
It is not hard to imagine a university

using the Court's ruling to cloak ques-
tionable behavior. The most damaging
behavior occurs when central control is
weak - as it is between university pres-
idents - and yet, it will be during this
time that it will be easiest to conceal any
potentially controversial administrative
actions.
Another consideration is that, if the
presidential selection process is kept in
the open and presidential search com-
mittee members are held accountable,
the public will be able to play some sort
of role in the selection process itself. A
university president plays an instrumen-
tal role in shaping the character of the
university .and it would make sense to
allow everyone in that university com-

munity to voice their opinions as to who
should have such influence.
As a matter of principle, it is simply
better when all government meetings are
open to the public. The public needs
know what their public officials
doing. Democracy can only work if deci-
sions made by public servants are made
out in the open - this almost always
comes at the expense of efficiency, but
this exchange is a necessary component
of a free society.
It is difficult to not feel sympathy for
public universities trying to find a presi-
dent - the Open Meetings Act surely
interferes with an already frustrating
process. The benefits of strict adhererv
to the Open Meetings Act, by all gove -
ment bodies, outweighs the luxury of a
closed presidential selection process.
Closed meetings are a virtual invitation
to corruption. Government must be kept
open and accessible at all levels in a
functioning democracy.

Gene screen
Genetic tests by employers should be banned

Budget blues
Clinton must preserve government programs

F or the past century, Americans have
witnessed great advancements in
eliminating discrimination in the work-
place. Legally, a job applicant's race, gen-
der, or religion can not be considered as
legitimate grounds for their hiring or fir-
ing.
Recently, the fight has begun to
counter yet another form of workplace
discrimination. Advancements in genetics
currently allow companies to screen job
applicants and employees for a predisposi-
tion towards acquiring certain diseases.
This new type of job discrimination can-
not be tolerated. Although the Michigan
Civil Rights Commission recently passed
a policy statement to investigate job dis-
crimination resulting from genetic tests,
an investigation is not enough. A state law
needs to be passed to ban genetic testing
in the workplace.
The case against genetic testing begins
with a very simple idea - jobs should be
awarded on merit and nothing else. Still,
some may argue employers have a right to
know if a future employee is highly sus-
ceptible to a certain disease. But this point
only brings to light increased flaws in
genetic testing. As the American Civil
Liberties Union reports, although some
genetic tests can accurately predict an
increased likelihood of disease, the tests
often cannot predict how severe the symp-
toms will be, or when the individual will
develop the symptoms. In other words, the
tests do not take chance into account --
and employers are always taking a chance
when they hire a new employee. Genetic
tests do not guarantee anything, except
that qualified workers will be turned away.
Further increasing the need for a law
banning genetic testing is the unbelievable
fact that American workers currently

enjoy no protection against invasion of
privacy from their employers in regards to
genetic information. As the ACLU
reports, the Americans with Disabilities
Act bans workplace discrimination, but
does not comment on privacy.
Disregarding extreme cases in which dan-
ger is posed to fellow workers, employees
should be allowed to withhold information
regarding disease susceptibility from their
employers. A new law banning genetic
testing would be one step toward guaran-
teeing this.
Opponents to a law banning genetic
testing may assert that the tests do not
occur enough to warrant a new law. But
the fact remains that genetic testing occurs
more than the average person would like
to believe. In a survey conducted by the
American Management Association in
1997, 6-10 percent of employers were
found to be conducting genetic tests. In
addition, according to the ACLU, in a sur-
vey of nearly 1,000 individuals who were
genetically at risk for certain diseases,
over 22 percent reported being victims of
discrimination. However the statistics are
manipulated, the fact remains that dis-
crimination does occur as a result of
genetic testing, and something needs to be
done.
Twelve states (including California,
Illinois, Iowa, New York, North Carolina,
Texas, and Wisconsin), have already
passed legislation protecting employees
from genetic testing in the workplace.
With other states currently pending legis-
lation to eliminate genetic testing, it is
past time Michigan jumped on the band-
wagon. Jobs should be based on merit and
nothing else. As a state that prides itself
on equal opportunity of employment,
genetic testing cannot continue.

tudents may begin to entertain realis-
tic thoughts of receiving Social
Security when they retire after all - if
politics and Republicans in Congress do
not get in President Bill Clinton's way.
Last week Clinton announced plans to
use the growing budget surplus to save
Social Security and Medicare, pay off the
national debt by 2015 and funnel money
into domestic social programs.
Republicans, who are planning to push
for a $775 billion 10-year tax cut plan
soon, did not receive Clinton's proposal
with complete disapproval.
The scene appears to have been set for
the possibility of a bipartisan compro-
mise with important implications for next
year's elections and the Clinton adminis-
tration's historical legacy. In the midst of
the deal making and negotiating that will
undoubtedly ensue over the next few
months, Clinton must hold fast against
internal and external pressures and
remain committed to preserving and
strengthening Social Security and
Medicare.
The existence of these two programs is
easily justifiable and necessary, and the
tremendous amount of money spent to
maintain them reflects this. Many elderly
individuals have paid taxes for most or all
of their lives into the programs, and have
done so with little regret since they rely
on Social Security and/or Medicare for
their basic financial needs. Social
Security and Medicare were established
to make sure that individuals' financial
situations do not result in their death
from starvation, homelessness or inade-
,quate health care.
Conservatives and libertarians have
long argued that these two programs
ought to be privatized. These positions

ignore the undeniable reality that many
people do not make enough during their
lives to put money away for retirement or
they simply did not take the time to pre-
pare for living on a fixed income. Many
people are also unable to predict their
future state of health - shortsighted
individuals may regard health insuran@
as a luxury, but for the elderly, it is an
obvious necessity.
The sheer size of Social Security and
Medicare make both of them important
political issues, and with elections near-
ing in 2000, Clinton will face political
pressure from both the left and right to
change his position. Republicans touting
"small government" and tax cuts and will
almost certainly try to forge a deal wi@
the Clinton administration on Social
Security and Medicare, and this will be
fine so long as the current vitality of the
two programs is maintained.
Democrats have legitimate fears that
the disadvantaged may suffer from a deal
between Clinton and the Republicans, but
they can not let their fears hurt the elder-
ly by putting the future of Social Security
and Medicare in jeopardy. Even worse
would be if any pressure came from th
campaigns of Presidential-hopeful W
Gore or New York Senator-hopeful
Hillary Clinton. A weaker deal with
Republicans for Social Security and
Medicare - or no deal at all - will
make sure that Social Security and
Medicare remain strong Democratic
issues in the 2000 race.
It would be nothing short of a tragedy
for Clinton to give into political coercion
from either the Republicans W
Democrats as he tries to secure long-term
solvency for Social Security and
Medicare.

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