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May 03, 2005 - Image 4

Resource type:
Michigan Daily Summer Weekly, 2005-05-03

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4 - The Michigan Daily - Tuesday, May 3, 2005
tothedaily@michigandaily.com Editor in Chief
T |CI|lu uSTUDENTS AT THE Unless otherwise noted, unsig
UNIVERSITY OF MICHIGAN the majority of the Daily's edit
SINCE 1890 necessarily reflect the opi


Editorial Page Editor
ned editorials reflect the opinion of
orial board. All other pieces do not
nion of The Michigan Daily.

The Michigan Student Assembly
has recommended three student
fee increases for the fall semes-
ter, and pending approval by the Uni-
versty Board of Regents, $3.50 will be
added to each student's tuition bill. The
increases will provide two additional
lawyers to Student Legal Services as well
as increased funding for student groups.
These fees are not excessive and will
serve important purposes for students
next year. The regents should approve all
three fee increases, and MSA should act
quickly and responsibly in implementing
the new programs that the higher fees
would make possible.
On average, student groups currently
receive only 33 percent of the funds that
they request from MSA's Budget Priori-
ties Committee. A $1 increase to stu-
dent fees, as a part of MSA's proposal,
is projected to increase that number by
12 percentage points. This means that
all student organizations should receive
more money next year, improving the
undertakings of every campus group.
While we expect that this increase will
benefit the University community, we
predicate this belief on our trust that

Bring on the fees
Student fee increases wilt improve campus life

MSA will distribute these additional
funds fairly. Because the fees come
from every University student, MSA
must resist the temptation to give extra
funding to groups that it favors or whose
members overlap with MSA's.
In addition to aiding student groups,
MSA will use the remainder of the increase
to bolster the legal rights of student tenants
and international students. They will do so
by adding two new attorneys to SLS.
The first new lawyer will focus on
issues pertaining to immigration law,
acting as a resource for more than 4,000
international students currently attend-
ing the University. Since the Sept. 11,
2001 terrorist attacks, immigration
laws in the United States have become
far stricter; as a result, the number of
international students at American uni-
versities decreased last year for the first
time in three decades. With these new

laws, the University's international stu-
dents will increasingly need legal help to
ensure their immigration status. Through
private attorneys, these students would
have to spend $2,000 to $3,000 to liti-
gate an international law issue. With
the fee increase, MSA will provide this
service to international students for only
$7 per case. Offering affordable legal
assistance to international students will
help to maintain the University's status
as one of the most prolific in the country
in terms of international enrollment, and
MSA should be commended for recog-
nizing and addressing this issue.
The second new lawyer provided by
the student fee increase will specialize in
housing as part of a program called Hous-
ing Legal Reform Project. This addition
will affect thousands of students who are
exploited by Ann Arbor landlords each
year. The HLRP, which can give legal

advice to student tenants and undertake
class-action litigation against landlords,
is a step toward a tenants' union similar
to the Ann Arbor Tenants' Union, which
for more than 30 years protected students
in Ann Arbor from abusive landlords
before MSA defunded it in 2003.
Ann Arbor's student housing problem
needs to be addressed further, and it will
take many lawyers and innovative city
ordinances before University students are
completely protected. This new attorney
is a good start, however, and he or she
will be able to help students immediate-
ly; while MSA should continue to work
toward comprehensive reform in the long
term, this lawyer is a good use of resourc-
es for students who need housing-related
help now.
MSA must do its part and make these
changes happen as soon as possible so as
many students as possible will benefit from
these new services. In addition, the student
body needs to be aware of the availability
of these two new attorneys, and it is up to
MSA to be sure that happens. If not, this
increase will not be a service to all stu-
dents, and the additional money paid by
every student will go to waste.

Game over
State must not restrict video game sales

The endangered filibuster
'Nuclear ontion' threatens confirmation nrocess

Gov. Jennifer Granholm urged the
swift passing of a bill that would
criminalize the sale of violent video
games to children last Monday, reiterating
the request made in her State of the State
address earlier this year. The bill, sponsored
by state senators Hansen Clarke (D-Detroit)
and Alan Crospey (R-DeWitt), would make
it a misdemeanor, punishable by a maxi-
mum fine of $5,000 and up to one year
in jail, to distribute games rated "M" to a
person under 17. Granholm said scientific
research and "common sense" have shown
that violent video games can have damaging
effects on young minds. "As a mother," she
told legislators, "it is my job to protect my
children. As governor, it is my job to make
sure everybody's children are protected."
While Granholm's commitment to moth-
ering Michigan's youth is well-intentioned,
this legislation is ultimately unnecessary
and oversteps the state's powers.
This bill is merely the latest episode
in a long history of hysteria surrounding
media violence and its effect on children.
Video games are the newest culprit to be
blamed for violent behavior among chil-
dren, with many politicians jumping on
the bandwagon in the interest of appear-
ing socially responsible while often ignor-
ing larger, more relevant social problems.
With the popularity of games such as
"Grand Theft Auto," it is easy to assign
blame to those who sell and create video
games. But for all Granholm's "common
sense," it is still unclear whether there
is any correlation between violence in
entertainment and youth violence, and
scientists are far from reaching a consen-
sus on the matter.
One thing, however, is clear: For all the
media hype surrounding school shootings

and violent games, arrest rates show that
youth violence over the last decade has
hardly been an epidemic. According to
2003 federal crime statistics, juvenile vio-
lent crime since 1993 - the year that, with
the release of both "Doom" and "Mortal
Kombat," video game violence entered the
public consciousness - has dropped 46
percent, while juvenile homicide arrests
have fallen 75 percent.
Concerned parents should have the right
to decide for themselves what they feel could
harm their children - and there are already
voluntary standards in place to help them.
The Entertainment Software Ratings Board
is a nonprofit organization that rates video
games, with each rating specifying for which
age groups the game is appropriate. Ratings
range from "E," for games that are suitable
for all age levels, to "M," for games with
mature content. "M"-rated games are con-
sidered appropriate only for those over the
age of 17, and it is this class of games that the
bill would affect. In addition to the ratings,
the ESRB provides "content descriptors,"
which list those elements that triggered the
rating. These ratings make it easy for par-
ents to determine what is and is not appropri-
ate for their children; parents who choose to
use them can do so without help from the
state, and parents who choose to ignore them
should have the right to do so.
This bill erroneously targets violent video
games while ignoring the real causes of
juvenile violence - social problems, such
as poverty and inadequate schools, that
require solutions more courageous and dif-
ficult than attacking video games.The state
Legislature must be willing to take a stand
against this bill's misguided finger-pointing
and instead turn its efforts towards address-
ing the real causes of juvenile violence.

n retaliation for Senate Democrats'
repeated use of the filibuster to block
President Bush's judicial nominations,
Republicans have proposed the "nuclear
option" - changing Senate rules to deny
the use of the filibuster on judicial nominees.
Democrats have successfully used the fili-
buster to block a handful of Bush's judicial
nominations, circumventing the usual up-or-
down majority vote. Because a three-fifths
vote is required to end the floor debate, the
majority in the Senate must work to gain
support from the minority. By stripping sen-
ators of their right to filibuster, Republicans
would have an easier time obtaining con-
firmation for their judicial nominees, and
the change would apply to future Supreme
Court justice nominations.
To garner support for this effort, the con-
servative Family Research Council organized
a rally entitled "Justice Sunday - Stopping
the Filibuster against People of Faith." Dur-
ing the controversial event, speakers accused
the Democratic Party of using the filibuster
specifically against nominees of the Christian
faith and called for a change in Senate rules
to combat this alleged discrimination. With
speeches from Senate Majority Leader Bill
Frist (R-Tenn.) and others, the event was a
disturbing attempt to use religion for political
gain. Furthermore, it was inherently offensive
to people of faith who are not Republicans, as
the basic premise of the rally linked religion
with the Republican Party's platform.
Senate Democrats are obstructing
nominees not on the basis of their reli-
gious beliefs, but rather because of their
ultra-conservative and activist judi-
cial philosophies. Many of the potential
judges threaten to overturn years of legal
precedent in cases such as Roe v. Wade.
One nominee, former Alabama Attorney

General William Pryor, is an outspoken
advocate of the "greater role of religion
in government" - an idea that rightfully
makes Senate Democrats uneasy.
The filibuster is a unique and powerful tool
used exclusively in the Senate for the pur-
pose of mutual restraint in a system of check
and balances. Historically, both parties have4
implemented the filibuster during the judicial
confirmation process for federal judges and
Supreme Court justices. Without this check,
judicial nominations could be approved with
only a slim majority vote, and the minority
party would have no way of halting a judicial
confirmation it firmly opposes.
Considering that only a majority vote is
needed to change Senate rules, an end to the
filibuster is feasible. But just because Repub-
licans have the ability to alter the rules in
their favor does not mean they should. Bush
has argued that Senate Democrats should
allow an up-or-down vote to proceed for
those nominees who are qualified for a posi-
tion on the federal bench. And they have: the
Senate has confirmed 205 of the 215 judges
Bush has nominated since his election. It is
only 10 of Bush's most radical nominees that
Democrats have used the filibuster to block.
Ending the judicial filibuster would weak-
en the process of judicial confirmation by
eliminating the need for bipartisan consen-
sus. Federal judges play an important role
as a check on the executive and legislative
branches, and the elimination of the filibus-
ter would jeopardize the Senate's ability to
pick fair judges that satisfy members of both
parties. Despite the temptation to manipulate
Senate rules for their party's immediate ben-
efit, Republican senators should recognize
that it is in the best interest of the Senate
and the American public to leave the judicial
filibuster intact.

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