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June 05, 2000 - Image 4

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Publication:
Michigan Daily Summer Weekly, 2000-06-05

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4 The Mighigan Daily - Monday, June 5, 2000
Edited and managed by GEOFF GAGNON PETER CUNNIFFE
students at the Editor in Chief JOsH WICKERHAM
University of Michigan Editorial Page Editors
420 Manad tUnless otherwise noted, unsigned editorials reflect the opinion af the
420 Maynard Street majority of the Dailyb editorial board. All other articles, letters and
Ann Arbor, MI 48109 cartoons do not necessarily reflect the opinion of The Michigan Dail

A ttempts by some members of the
Michigan legislature to stop the
University from offering a class called
"How to Be Gay" this fall, or punish it for
doing so, continued last week. An amend-
ment to the higher education appropriations
bill in the State House would have cut ten
percent from the University's budget if the
"How to Be Gay: Male Homosexuality and
Initiation" class, taught by Prof. David
Halperin was offered as planned this fall.
While gaining a majority of the votes cast
on the amendment, it did not garner the 56
votes needed to pass.
The ongoing effort by many legislators to
stop the teaching of this class, or retaliate
against the University for doing so, is setting
a disturbing precedent. Political intercession
into the academic decisions of any universi-
ty, besides being unconstitutional, is harmful
to education.
Many of the legislators who have
attempted to use threats of cutting the
University's funding to stop this class, admit-
tedly have little knowledge of the actual con-
tent of the course. Apparently the course title
alone was so bothersome that it was imme-

Academic intimidation
Political attacks on 'U' class should end

diately targeted for hysterical attacks with lit-
tle basis in fact. Absurd claims that the class
is intended to turn people into homosexuals
have been thrown around by some lawmak-
ers and right-wing political groups as if such
a thing was actually possible.
The overblown reaction to an academic
examination of the lifestyle of millions of
people in this country is a visceral response
prompted by fear and prejudice towards
homosexuals.
Lawmakers who are now trying to break
down the academic autonomy of the
University that is guaranteed by the
Michigan Constitution are irrationally lash-
ing out at the possibility that homosexuality
could be portrayed in anything other than a
negative light.
These attempts, besides being intended to
further intolerance, could also harm the abil-
ity of universities to educate their students

across the state. Universities are granted
autonomy by the state constitution because
there is no way politicians, playing to the
public opinion and prejudice of any given
moment, can properly decide what is appro-
priate for academic study and instruction. It
would be far too tempting for politicians to
attempt to push their own ideologies into
curricula, to the detriment of students. A
good education cannot exist without acade-
mic freedom. Schools constrained by politi-
cal concerns will not be free to research and
teach controversial or unpopular ideas, leav-
ing education sterile and unable to break new
ground.
As people fighting Prof. Halperin's class
have pointed out, many people have person-
al objections to its subject matter. As no one
is being forced to take the class, its hard to
see how this can be considered a problem.
Saying that because the University receives

taxpayer funding, it should not teach thing,
taxpayers object to does not make any sense
Not all taxpayers object to the class. Ant
some dislike ethnic studies courses o
research into nuclear power and many tW
things, but no one is demanding cuttinl
funding over those objections.
These attempts to stop the University
from offering "How to Be Gay" may also
have a negative affect on other state universi
ties. They may become less willing to offe
courses on controversial subjects, especialha
homosexuality, for fear of loosing some stat(
funding. Other schools will probably bt
much more easily intimidated because mos
are more dependent on state funding than t
University.
These attempts by some lawmakers t<
control the University's curriculum art
unwarranted, dangerous to academic free
dom and harmful to the University's abilit3
to offer its students the best education possi
ble. Michigan's state universities have beer
enormously successful as autonomous enti
ties and hugely beneficial to the state
Attempts to take away the freedom that;
made them great should end immediatel .

Free Leonard Peltier
Native American activist a political prisoner

T his week, Leonard Peltier, an activist
and member of the American Indian
Movement (AIM) in his twenty-fourth year
in prison for the alleged murder of two FBI
agents, faces his second parole hearing. It
follows an unsuccessful parole attempt in
1993, in which new information was pre-
sented before a court, alleging that evi-
dence of Peltier's innocence was withheld
from his original trial. His request for
parole was denied, despite conclusive evi-
dence that should have granted him his
freedom.
In November of 1993, Peltier petitioned
President Clinton for clemency - a
process that usually takes about six months.
Despite support from Nelson Mandela, The
European Parliament, the Assembly of First
Nations, the Kennedy Center for Human
Rights, the Human Rights Commission of
Spain, the National Association of Criminal
Defense Lawyers, The Dalai Lama, Mother
Teresa and a host of others, this request for
clemency has not gone through.
Leonard Peltier has also appealed his
case three times. Every appeal was denied.
The background of this case centers on
events that took place in the two years lead-
ing up to November 1975, when a shootout
between two FBI agents and Native
Americans on the Pine Ridge Indian
Reservation left two agents and one Native
American dead.
Tensions between the Native American
community and the U.S. government had
been mounting since 1973, when members
of AIM staged a protest at Wounded Knee
against violations of treaties, injustices
against tribal members and other griev-
ances concerning Native American rights.

The U.S. responded with military force,
blockading protesters for 72 days.
In the years that followed, AIM alleges
that the FBI, in cahoots with the governing
body of the reservation, used force against
members of the movement, complete with
threats of violence and killings to suppress
supporters of Indian rights. AIM claims
that over fifty were killed to suppress this
movement, which Native Americans refer
to as the "reign of terror."
Although four gunmen were put on trial
for the killing of the two FBI agents in
1975, only Peltier was convicted.
According to his defense committee, evi-
dence that had been proven shoddy in the
first three trials was presented at Peltier's.
Critical ballistic evidence was ruled inad-
missible and withheld from Peltier's
defense team. Information obtained under
the Freedom of Information Act concludes
that testimony from the FBI's ballistics
expert conflicted with the tests conducted.
Such evidence suggests deliberate action
from law enforcement and our criminal jus-
tice system to lock away an innocent man.
The larger implications of silencing a polit-
ical movement that conflicted with the
goals of the government should also not go
unnoticed.
If parole hearings are unsuccessful,
executive power should be used to end this
injustice. President Clinton should take
steps to end this human rights violation.
Leonard Peltier, a political prisoner of the
United States, should be granted clemency.
As growing national and international out-
cry is making increasingly apparent, Peltier
should be granted the freedom he truly
deserves.

Avoiding
EPA funding
s summer comes into full swing, many
of America's beaches and waterways
reman' WLugled-often to thepoint of shut-_
ting em down .i.- Although the
Environmental Protection Agency is respon-
sible for much of the maintenance of these
great national treasures, continued funding
problems from Congress decrease the effec-
tiveness of this agency's power to control and
fight the pollution of our waterways. While
the continued presence of lobbyists working
on behalf of oil and power concerns stymie
efforts to cut down mercury pollution, con-
gressional cuts to the EPA's basic environ-
mental and public health programs reflect an
even more disturbing trend.
A house appropriations subcommittee
recently cut 9% of such funding, highlight-
ing lawmakers' continued refusal to address
environmental issues. Already disheartening
to many environmentalists is Congress's
refusal to ratify the Kyoto Treaty, which
would have reduced greenhouse gas emis-
sion to below 1990 levels in industrialized
nations. With fears that this could harm
industry's ability to compete with countries
having lower standards, such a treaty was
probably doomed from the start.
But cuts to the EPA's budget reflect an
ignorance of fundamental environmental
issues. Without adequate funding, the
agency's ability to protect the environment
and the public's health through commitment
to science and community efforts will be
greatly diminished. Such funding is impor-
tant to our nation's health and well being -
not just the environment. With rising levels
of pollution, such as mercury, in seafood and
other food sources, along with the effects of
a thinning ozore layeu major environmental

disaster
cuts dangerous
catastrophes are beginning to reveal them
selves. But is anyone in Congress listening'
IfAmerica is not willing to lead the wa3
who will? ._ 0
America must set the standard for envi
ronmental quality. And by doing so ensur
that its economy can continue to flourisl
along with its natural resources. Whet
waterways are kept clean for tourists, bead
closings are kept at a minimum, whichmean
more dollars can be spent. According to th
EPA, a third of all Americans visit coasts
areas each year, spending $44 billion dollar
annually. Additionally, millions are swn
recreationally around non-coastal waterway
Twenty-five percent of the nation's drink
ing water comes from the Great Lakes, bu
congress has continually refused to allocat{
enough funding to projects that woul<
ensure their survival. Heavy lobbying fron
power companies has stopped legislatioi
from ensuring the public's safety in the cas
of mercury.
If Congress continues to answer to bi
money on environmental issues, the p +
will be hurt. The nation's environmi
security should be one Congress's top prior
ities. Without adequate protection of th
nations' resources, we will suffer exorbitan
financial losses and devastating publi
health problems.
Ignoring environmental issues in th
short-term looks good to the corporation
who foot the bill for elected officials, so th<
only way to ensure the survival of our n r
al resources is to let Congress know (a
these issues are important to voters. If we d
not stand for environmental protection novw
we may soon have no environment wortl
protecting.
S,

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