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July 26, 2004 - Image 4

Resource type:
Michigan Daily Summer Weekly, 2004-07-26

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4 - The Michigan Daily - Monday, July 26, 2004

4 tothedaily@michigandaily.com Editor in Chief Editorial Page Editor
STUDENTS AT THE Unless otherwise noted, unsigned editorials reflect the opinion of
UNIVERSITY OF MICHIGAN the majority of the Daily's editorial board. All other pieces do not
SINCE 1890 necessarily reflect the opinion of The Michigan Daily.


The University's Division of Student
Affairs has received much scrutiny and
criticism over the past year. Due to the
University's continuing budget crisis, cuts
were proposed to student services, and
groups such as Student Voices in Action and
Our Voices Count arose to protest such cuts.
The University recently released a 2005 stu-
dent affairs budget that has managed to avoid
most proposed cuts and partially restore
some funding that was excised last year. This
budget exemplifies the positive results that
can come from student activism coupled with
the University administration's willingness to
listen to and compromise with students.
Surely, the new budget will still meet
with some criticism. While funding for the
Sexual Assault Prevention and Awareness
Center is being increased by $70,000, for
instance, there remains debate over changes
to the services provided to sexual assault
survivors. Yet, overall, it is difficult to criti-
cize the University's financial commitment
to student services in the current budget.
Despite having originally planned for a 5

'U' can make it happen
Budget shaped by student activism, cooperation

percent reduction in funding, the Division of
Student Affairs has actually increased fund-
ing for a variety of services. Perhaps most
prominently, $800,000 has been set aside for
renovations to the William Monroe Trotter
House and an additional $200,000 allocated
for immediate repairs. This likely would not
have occurred without the determination
and stalwart opposition of student groups to
cuts made to student services.
However, at the announcement of the
newly allocated funds, Michigan Student
Assembly President Jason Mironov stated
that the funds would allow MSA to with-
draw its request to petition the regents to
raise student fees by $1 in order to raise
money for the Trotter House. As students
have already voiced their approval for
this plan during the last MSA election,

abandoning this effort creates a lost
opportunity. The plan could be modified
to raise money for multicultural program-
ming at the Trotter House in addition to
$80,000 currently allocated for the same
purpose. The extra $1 fee would amount
to roughly $40,000. That number could
substantially aid efforts to create and exe-
cute numerous multicultural events. The
soon to be renovated Trotter House will
need ample events to take advantage of its
increased capacities. Therefore, MSA
should still submit their request to the
University Board of Regents.
The entire debate concerning the
Student Affairs budget, however, is merely
symptomatic of the far larger problem of
inadequate state funding for the University.
While the University has continued to grow,

state funding has not increased proportion-
ately. Indeed, the University has faced sig-
nificant cuts in state funding in recent years
and this creates an unfair financial burden
upon students and their families. Decades4
ago, the University used the slogan "An
uncommon education for the common
man." Now, however, tuition is amongst the
highest for state universities in the country,
and a University education necessitates
great hardship or is entirely out of reach for
many lower and middle-income families.
From the state's perspective, it is counter-
productive to under-fund an institution that
is vital in creating the highly educated
workforce that will be necessary to main-
tain the state's economic health in the com-
ing century. It is pleasing that the
University's current Student Affairs budget
is a compromise that should help ease the
acrimonious relations between the Division
of Student Affairs and the student body.
Yet, were the University adequately funded
by the state, there would never have been a
conflict in the first place.

Phony Funding
Ralph Nader should reject corporate donations

wt has been said that politics makes for
strange bedfellows. In yet another
odd pairing of political agendas,
Ralph Nader, with substantial help from
the Republican Party, has conjured up
enough votes to hoist himself onto
Michigan's ballot for November's elec-
tion. The Michigan Republican Party
successfully aided Nader in gathering
34,000 petition signatures so that he
could be placed onto the ballot as an
independent candidate. In addition to
physical resources, Republicans are also
making sizeable financial contributions
to the third party candidate. Continuing
to receive such backing will only jeopar-
dize Nader's long-term credibility as
well as undercut his very ideals and the
democratic process itself.
After an unsuccessful run for the
presidency in 2000, Nader remains con-
vinced that his participation in this year's
election is needed. Seeking to infiltrate
the two party system, Nader advocates a
restoration of democracy to the people
and away from political parties that are
dominated by corporate special interests.
Certainly Nader's accusations regarding
the two party system have merit. Our
country's veil of free elections is often
frayed away by the interests of the elite.
Furthermore, the two party system
places severe limitations upon con-
stituents, forcing utilitarian choices and
a decision on which candidate is the less-
er of two evils. As Nader often boasts,
third party candidates are intended to
offer an inviting alternative to insincere
parties and offer the ability to vote for a
party based on ideological reasons
instead of pragmatic ones.
While Nader's cause appears altruistic

in nature, his associations with conserva-
tive interests contradict and undermine his
own message. In spite of having a solid
reputation for attacking both Democrats
and Republicans for trading money in
exchange for political influence, Nader's
dependence on the resources of Bush cam-
paign financiers seems hypocritical at
best. In a bizarre, ironic twist, the corpo-
rate monster that he so passionately
assaults is responsible for his existence as
a viable candidate.
On the flip-side, Republicans are using
Nader as a weapon of destruction to
detract votes away from Democrats.
Though he gained a mere 6 percent of the
popular vote, many fault Nader for costing
Al Gore the 2000 election. Today,
Republicans supporting Nader do not view
him as a realistic candidate nor are they
enamored by his progressive efforts to dis-
band the seemingly corrupt party system.
The Republicans hope that their support
for the independent will yield the same
results as the last election. Thus, Nader is
a convenient pawn for self-interested
Republicans. By acquiescing to such a
role, Nader is undermining his political
message; through his hypocrisy, he is
impeding his effort to revive democratic
values and principles.
It is in Nader's best interest to reject
such blatantly disingenuous donations
from corporate America. By continuing
to accept such campaign funds, Nader
only exacerbates the problems in the
very democratic process he is trying to
save. Even if declining GOP contribu-
tions will send his campaign sputtering
into oblivion due to a lack of resources,
he will not have compromised the prin-
ciples he claims to ardently defend.

Medicinal marijuana coul
ocal residents recently collected
7,000 signatures to place an ini-
tiative legalizing medical mari-
juana on the Ann Arbor ballot this
November. This move represents a pos-
itive exercise of direct democracy in the
way it was intended and is veritable
progress towards the complete decrimi-
nalization of marijuana.
Ballot initiatives, at the state level,
are grossly undemocratic - they are
tools of the powerful elites who have the
money and resources to collect hun-
dreds of thousands of signatures. It
takes large sums of money to hire peti-
toners across the state. This local initia-
tive, however, was conducted in a grass-
roots manner by unpaid workers. Unlike
statewide ballot initiatives, this initia-
tive does not pervert the democratic
process and represents fundamentally
what direct democracy is supposed to be
about. The physical labor and work of
concerned, unpaid citizens put an issue
on the ballot without the support of
wealthy groups.
Medical marijuana is already legal
in many states across the nation. While
federally banned, diverse states includ-
ing California, Maine and Alaska have
legalized marijuana for medical pur-
poses. While official medical groups
have rejected claims that marijuana has
legitimate medical applications, many
individuals have reported positive
results. The choice to use marijuana for
medical purposes should not be left up
to states and national organizations, but
rather left between individual doctors
and patients, allowing for maximum
flexibility and individual choice in
heath care.

I lead to decriminalization
While this bill seeks to legalize medi-
cinal marijuana, it might be the start of a
trend towards complete decriminaliza-
tion. Marijuana, unlike many harder
drugs, poses a minimal health risk
because it is neither toxic nor highly
addictive. Thus, the decision to use mar-0
ijuana should be left up to individuals;
there is no compelling state interest in
banning it. Any police action spent pur-
suing marijuana offenders is a waste of
government resources. While this step of
decriminalization is probably not in the
near future, Ann Arbor will probably
become a trendsetter - the first city in
the state to do so.
The city has already taken steps too
minimize punishment for marijuana
usage. The Ann Arbor Police
Department hands out a fine signifi-
cantly smaller than the state-imposed
sanction which the Department of
Public Safety is forced to issue. The
annual celebration of marijuana -
Hash Bash - is held in Ann Arbor (off
areas with DPS jurisdiction) with mini-
mal police interference.
This ballot initiative is a positive
development, not only for the democrat-6
ic process but also individual freedom.
The choice to use marijuana for medici-
nal purposes should be left to individuals
and their health care professionals, not to
a universal legal code. Furthermore,
while the immediate decriminalization of
an essentially harmless drug is a pipe
dream, this initiative is a step in the right
direction. In November, citizens should
turn out to the polls to show support forO
a measure that will enhance individual-
ism and renew faith in the direct democ-
ratic process.

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