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May 22, 2000 - Image 4

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Michigan Daily Summer Weekly, 2000-05-22

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4 - The Michigan Daily - Monday, May 22, 2000
Edited and managed by GEOFF GAGNON PETER CUNNIFFE
students at the Editor in Chief JOSH WICKERHAI
University of Michigan I Editorial Page Editors
42 Maynad StreetUnless otherwise noted, unsigned editorials ret the opiion of the
Maynard Street oritof the Dailysseditorial board. All otherarticle.oletters and
Ann Arbor, MI 48109 cartoons do not necessariltrellect the opinion of The Mchigan Dailt.

Sa e lnkregent elvs eions
State should rethink regent elections

Committee needs to divest tobacco stocks*

L ast week, the Michigan Senate began
reviewing the system under which the
governing boards of the state's three research
universities, The University of Michigan,
Michigan State and Wayne State, are elect-
ed. Some state senators are unhappy with the
way nominees are selected at party conven-
tions, while others think the statewide elec-
tions should be scrapped entirely in favor of
gubernatorial appointments. The method by
which members of the University's Board of
Regents and their counterparts at the other
schools are selected is far from ideal and
changes should be considered.
The nomination of regent candidates at
party conventions is hardly the best way to
find the most qualified people and can easi-
ly lead to the selection of party lackeys over
those with the most relevant experience and
abilities.
One alternate proposal is to force candi-
dates to participate in the primary and peti-
tion processes that candidates for other elec-
tive offices undertake, although it is difficult
to see how this would improve the situation.
It does not increase the likelihood of more
qualified candidates being selected because
a statewide primary for such a little-known
office would undoubtedly involve candi-
dates unfamiliar to most voters. The winners
could end up being nothing more than the
result of random votes.
Holding primaries for regent candidates
also does nothing to address the overt politi-
cization of the regents' posts that are also the
results of convention nominations. Being
elected as a Republican or Democratic can-
didate for the office constricts a regent with
too many party expectations.
Therefore, approaching the job of regent
should not be a partisan enterprise. Regents
should only concern themselves with the
well-being and success of the university they
are serving, not what their party colleagues
think of their actions.
Another idea being considered by the
Senate is having governor-appointed
regents, like Michigan's other public univer-
sities. This would be the worst possible sys-
tem for selecting regents. At Michigan's
public, non-research universities, the gover-
nor is allowed to appoint no more than five
members of their own party to the schools'
eight-member governing boards, which basi-
cally ensures the appointment of five mem-
bers of the governor's party and only contin-
ues the politicization of the regents' posts.
For example, Central Michigan
University saw the hijacking of its governing
board when Engler's appointees to the board
of trustees began to serve the governor's
broader political goals. Instead of focusing
solely on the success of their university,
Eogler's appointees used the college to cre-
ate charter schools across the state.
While these two alternatives are receiv-
ing the most consideration in Lansing, nei-
ther is any improvement over the current

system. This does not mean alternatives to
the current system should not be explored.
While the concerns many state senators
have with the current system revolve around
how parties nominate their regent candi-
dates, what they should be considering is an
alternative to statewide partisan regent elec-
tions. Because the responsibilities of these
positions are known little outside their
respective university communities, regent
elections are heavily influenced by the top of
the ticket. If a party is doing well in any par-
ticular election cycle, that helps the party's
regent candidates. Regents end up getting
elected based on the strength of a senatorial
or gubernatorial candidate, rather than their
own efforts and abilities. Also most of the
people casting votes also have no idea how
the various unIversities operate or how the
candidates would do their jobs.
An extremely desirable alternative would
be giving students at these universities a
larger role in selecting their school's regents.
Allowing one or more seats on any school's
governing board to be filled by a vote of the
university's students seems reasonable.
Regents should be first and foremost con-
cerned with meeting the needs of students.
Making them more accountable to the stu-
dents would certainly accomplish this.
Another possibility is increasing the
influence of a university's faculty and staff in
the regent election process. As people with a
deep knowledge and concern for their uni-
versity's well-being, faculty and staff are
well qualified to choose who would make
the best regent.
An idea that might also be considered is
allowing the alumni of a university to select
members of its governing board. This
option, which is used at many private uni-
versities, provides a large and diverse elec-
torate that has a good understanding of a
university. Alumni know far better than the
general public how a school operates, its
aspirations, both educationally and socially,
as well as its strengths and shortcomings.
Some may justify the current system of
selecting regents by pointing out that
Michigan's research universities are public
schools that receive a great deal of money
from the state and so state residents deserve
some say in how the universities are run.
However, the federal government also pro-
vides large amounts of money to the schools
- more than the state in the University of
Michigan's case - but does not demand
seats on the universities' governing boards.
And considering the voter ignorance in
statewide regent elections, how can the best
qualified candidate be selected?
There are strengths and weaknesses to
any of the proposals for altering regent elec-
tions, but considering the serious problems
with the way in which members of universi-
ty governing boards are currently selected in
Michigan, these ideas, and others, should be
seriously examined.

ith the formation of a committee of
students, administrators, alumni and
faculty to decide the fate of the University's
$25 million investment in tobacco stocks, a
3-year debate will soon find resolution. In
1997, the Senate Advisory Committee on
University Affairs urged the Board of
Regents to divest the stock after protests
from students and faculty. This committee
must consider the compromising position
the University remains in by maintaining
monetary support for an industry that has
continually shown disregard for the public
good. The University has a responsibility to
divest tobacco stocks from its endowment
and distance itself from these reprehensible
companies.
As a socially responsible institution, the
University has a responsibility to set the
course on important issues, not follow the
pack. While the court of public opinion has
condemned tobacco, the University will still
send a strong message if it removes all
tobacco stocks from its endowment.
The tobacco industry has consistently
shown a disregard for public health.

Through constructing and maintaining ciga-
rette addiction with heavily monitored nico-
tine levels and continued advertising cam-
paigns that construct a positive image asso-
ciated with smoking, thousands have suf-
fered. According to the Center for Disease
Control, over 400,000 deaths a year, as well
as $50 billion in health care costs are attrib-
uted to tobacco use. Yet, recruitment of new
smokers by tobacco companies continu4
Thousands of teenage smokers are hooked
every day to maintain big tobacco's existing
markets. The University's investment is a
monetary endorsement of this behavior, and
anyone affiliated with the University shares
a common responsibility to change this
stance.
It is clear that the University must divest
its tobacco stock. The committee must mak
the rational decision to get far away fro0
tobacco and the negative effects it has on
public health. With quick action, the
University can still send a message that big
tobacco is undeserving of investment and
undeserving of any continued debate on this
clear-cut issue.

Sweatshop swooshes
More schools should dump Nike "

A lthough the Workers' Rights
Consortium proved a stunning victory
for students of the anti-sweatshop move-
ment, the University is now dealing with the
short-term consequence of loosing its athlet-
ic contract with Nike. After Nike backed out
ofnegotiations earlier this month, saying that
it would not be policed by concerned institu-
tions under the power of the WRC, the
University Athletic Department began a
scramble to find a replacement supplier of
official athletic equipment. And though Nike
threatened that no other company could fill
the demand of such a large school, several
companies have stepped up to negotiate for
future contracts.
With the new season only months away,
though, the athletic department was forced
to stay with Nike because of time con-
straints. And instead of being paid by Nike,
the University will now pay $760,000 for the
necessary athletic gear.
Few knew the effects of the WRC would
be as swift and drastic as these recent finan-
cial dealings have proven to be. Although it
may be easy to pin blame on the WRC for a
loss of revenue and the loss of the Nike
name, this ignores the fundamental gains
that have come from setting an example that
will be remembered as being ahead of its
time. Sending a message to corporations
who would exploit workers, as well as uni-
versities that continue supporting these com-
panies is a substantial victory for the exploit-
ed third world workers of many companies.

This short-term financial loss is a small
price to pay, and the University should
ignore Nike's false threat that no other com-
pany will be able to fill the demand or pay as
much to the Athletic Department as it has in
the past. If the response from other athletic
apparel companies is any indication - with
calls coming in the day after negotiatiqgg
were cut off - Nike has made the wrong
gamble and the University should have no
problem replacing that trademark swoosh
with something more socially responsible.
Nike's withdrawal also shows the true
power of student movements. Without
watchdog groups like the WRC, corpora-
tions in this largely global economy are
increasingly being given free rein to exploit
workers. Without having to answer to con-
cerned students for their actions, t
exploitative business practices of compan
like Nike will continue to go unnoticed by
largely apathetic consumers.
Nike's scare tactics and refusal to cooper-
ate should simply show schools considering
signing the WRC that they fear of being held
accountable for the treatment of its workers.
It is only through continued efforts by student
movements that corporations will be made
responsible for their exploitative practices.
Nike has chosen to ignore the demands0
students. When this is all over, the little logo
and the loss of money this year will be over-
shadowed by the powerful statement sent by
signing the WRC and ignoring the threats of
Nike.

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