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June 19, 2006 - Image 5

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Publication:
Michigan Daily Summer Weekly, 2006-06-19

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The Michigan Daily - Monday, June 19, 2006 - 5

STANDPOINT

A COLUMN FROM A MEMBER OF
THE DAILY'S STAFF

Keeping up with the
Whartons

BY CHRISTOPHER ZBROZEK
stood on
the fourth
floor of
Lorch Hall a
few days back
and stared
out a window,
transfixed by
the demoli-
tion next door.
Over and over, a great mechanical
claw thrust out over the remains of
the west half of the business cam-
pus, ripping another chunk out
of Davidson Hall. Light fixtures
dangled on their still-intact wir-
ing, swinging through the swirl-
ing dust over the piles of rubble
below waiting to be hauled off to
a landfill. The scene was captivat-
ing and almost beautiful, in that
train wreck sort of way.
Understandably, there's been
little criticism of Stephen Ross's
extraordinary donation to his alma
mater, newly re-christened the Ste-
phen M. Ross School of Business.
It's not polite to look a gift horse
in the mouth, especially one worth
$100 million. And yet it's difficult
to walk past the construction site
at Hill and Tappan streets and not
see something terribly wasteful.
If there's a serious argument that
the School of Business desperately
needed new facilities to replace an
ancient, collapsing infrastructure,
I haven't heard it. Davidson Hall,
built in 1948, might not have been
the newest structure on campus,
but it's the only one of the three
business school buildings being
torn down that might remotely
deserve its fate. I went to see Sen.
Carl Levin speak in Assembly
Hall several months back, and
I didn't exactly walk away with
plaster flakes in my hair from a
crumbling ceiling. And the Pat-
ton Accounting Center, barely 30
years old, was hardly decrepit.
Neither does there appear to be a
real argument that business students
were facing a pedagogical predica-
ment in their old digs. To accommo-
date the collaborative projects that
characterize many classes in the
business school, the new classrooms
will include small rooms for group
work. As one student told a Michi-
gan Daily reporter when the plans
were announced, "It's really annoy-
ing when you're doing group work
and you hear other groups talking."
Clearly, this is a problem in need of
a $145 million solution.
The main reason for putting up

a brand-new structure in the busi-
ness school, it seems, is simply
to have a brand-new structure.
Image counts for a lot in business,
and that goes for business schools
as well. If the University wants
to attract top students and fac-
ulty to the Ross School, it needs
a shiny new building. After all,
the Wharton School of Business
built a new high-profile structure
a couple years back; how else are
we to compete with them? Aging,
if perfectly adequate, buildings
might remind visitors of the col-
lapse of Michigan's manufactur-
ing base. A new building paid for
largely by a wealthy alum says
that the Ross School and its grad-
uates are awash in post-industrial
prosperity, even if those old auto
firms (and who needs them, any-
way?) do go belly-up.
I'm not sure exactly what the
great reverence with which mem-
bers of our nation's business class
regard mere image says about
their priorities and values, but I'm
pretty sure it isn't anything good.
Superficial business luxuries are
nice - but aren't they also, in a
strict economic sense, an ineffi-
cient misallocation of resources?
Expense accounts, Armani suits,
airplane seats with actual legroom
and, above all, executive compen-
sation packages that seem to bear
no relation either to a company's
performance or to the amount of
money a reasonable person could
spend in a lifetime - yep, the
market is unforgiving, and the
competition sure is cut-throat.
Never mind that the old build-
ings in the way of the Ross
School's future could have been
put to any number of good uses,
or the fact that unnecessarily
tearing down completely usable
buildings makes the University's
case that cuts in state appropria-
tions over the past five years have
hurt it look silly.
Projecting an image of prosperity
is apparently a key component of a
top-notch business program; I sup-
pose in another 30 years, the build-
ings that $75 million of Ross's gift
are earmarked for will become an
embarrassment and an new alum
will have to step up to give the
business school another makeover.
That might strike me as frivolous,
absurd and wasteful - but, hey, I
never had a head for business.
Zbrozek is afall/winter
editorial page editor. He can be
reached at zbro@umich.edu.

Incumbency protection schemes
JOHN STIGLICH STIGGY SAYS
P oliticians Finance Reform Act (you know it better tisements clogging up your 'Will &
love it when as McCain-Feingold) drew upon public Grace' time? I'd be happy to take care
scandals that concerns over the "appearance of corrup- of that for you."
question the legiti- tion" with many politicians in Washing- We can still take steps toward bring-
macy of our elec- ton. Senators John McCain (R-Ariz.) and ing - accountability back to the federal
tion system arise. Russ Feingold (D-Wis.) blamed the cor- government without losing our right to
Because of the high ruption on all the money floating around free speech. The most immediate step
demand for imme- in town that just so happens to find its is to urge elected representatives not to
diate action created way into the coffers of politicians. They renew the Voting Rights Act. The pro-
by such scandals, concluded the campaign-finance system, visions that protect against the second
they can craft incumbency protection not the greedy politicians, was at fault. coming of Jim Crow are already perma-
schemes while selling the public on the What came out of BCRA was the nent, and too many of the renewable pro-
"virtues" of the proposed solutions. You largest infringement of free-speech visions are being used by politicians for
don't believe that politicians are that con- rights since the Alien and Sedition Acts. alternative reasons.
niving? Let's review two examples. Your right to speak freely on behalf of a Next, we should organize, state by
The Voting Rights Act of 1965 - candidate - yes, money is speech - is state, a mass referendum that would take
portions of which are up for renewal this limited to $4,000 per household per the power to redraw Congressional dis-
year - contains a section that doubles federal candidate. If you wish to adver- tricts away from those who have clearly
as both a method of ensuring minority tise for or against a candidate, you bet- abused it. Iowa currently utilizes a sys-
representation in Congress and protect- ter hire a lawyer to comply with all the tem, passed through referendum, where-
ing incumbents. Section five of the act restrictions BCRA put in place. by an independent body redraws the
stipulates that new redistricting plans I spent last semester in Washington Congressional districts after each cen-
(crafted by state legislatures) cannot D.C. interning in the United States Sen- sus. Incidentally, Iowa is home to some
reduce the number of minority voting ate, and one of the first structural aspects of the closest Congressional contests.
districts. This clause has served both I noticed was the amount of time off the Finally, we need to repeal all of
political parties very well. Senate calendar affords its members. BCRA (the appearance of corruption is
When Democratic state legislators But instead of using that time to talk to not corruption itself). We have plenty of
redraw Congressional districts, their constituents, senators have to spend the institutions - the most important being
goal is to pack the minimal amount of vast majority of it at fundraisers. The the media - that can hold scandal-rid-
minorities necessary to create a majori- fundraising restrictions of BCRA gave den politicians accountable. We should
ty-minority district while distributing the every member of the Senate a reason to be allowed to contribute as much as we
rest of the minority voters in suburban request more time off because without like to candidates for federal office on
districts. Thus, the section five require- even medium-sized donors (five-figure the condition the candidate updates his
ment is met, and Democratic candidates donors), reaching your fundraising goal publicly accessible website every night
have better odds of winning in predomi- requires more time. with the name of and amount contributed
nately Republican suburbia. No government or politician can say by each contributor. Any large donations
The Republican strategy has always with a straight face that they believe in that warrant scrutiny would most surely
been to pack as many minorities into as protecting political freedom while vot- be noted by the Fourth Estate.
few Congressional districts as possible, ing for the regulation of the contents, Only then can we finally enjoy
leaving the rest of the districts safely in timing and funding of campaign adver- democracy's full potential - free, open
Republican hands. You need only look at tisements for freely assembled groups. and accountable.
the Congressional district map of Michi- But this goes to the heart of the politi-
gan to see the realization of this strategy. cian's motives and the voter's priorities: Stiglich can be reached at
The 2001 Bipartisan Campaign "You don't like all those political adver- jcsgolf@umich.edu.
Would you like to order a boy or a girl?
CHRISTINA HILDRETH WELCOME TO MY's'L BLE

E ver see
the movie
"Gattaca"?
It was a strange,
half-sci-fi thrill-
er, half-drama
released in 1998. It
asked what would
life be like for
people conceived
"the old way" in a time of genetic
engineering? Though it didn't make
any major waves, the movie por-
trayed a world in the not-too-distant
future where discrimination was no
longer based on gender, race or sex-
ual orientation, but on genes. Babies
born through science were clean, dis-
ease-free and expected to live long,
healthy lives. Parents could select the
gender of their child at the moment of
scientific conception.
Ladies and gentlemen, the "not-
too-distant future" is now. On Thurs-
day, the Associated Press reported
that "medical tourists" from all over
the world are coming to America to
take advantage of an in-vitro fertil-
ization option that's banned in their
home countries. According to the
report, doctors in some American
clinics are selling the opportunity to
select the sex of a baby for close to
$20,000 per child.

There are several reasons this is
banned in other countries. First, it
opens the door to something like "Gat-
taca" becoming a reality. If we get.
desensitized to the idea of choosing a
baby's gender, why not choose a baby's
eye color, hair color, height or skin
color? Why not give your son a strong
jaw and broad shoulders, or your
daughter a slim waist and long legs?
It's all a matter of choice, isn't it?
Yes, genetic manipulation can do
beneficial things, like screen out debil-
itating diseases. As genetic science
advances further, there may come a day
when genes for Alzheimer's, diabetes,
heart failure and even forms of cancer
can be prevented by simple selection
of embryos. That in itself is not a bad
thing. The problem is that this tech-
nology is not available to everyone.
Its immense cost yields the possibil-
ity where, in another not-too-distant
future, the rich could all be genetically
healthier, taller, smarter and more beau-
tiful. Imagine what the gap between
rich and poor would be then. There
would be much fewer stories of people
overcoming socio-economic hardships
to achieve success because the poor
would literally not have it in them.
Debate over affirmative action
would be taken in a whole new direc-
tion. Estate taxes would do nothing to

prevent the establishment of a new, bio-
logically superior aristocracy. This is
not an unrealistic fiction; it's the logical
extrapolation of the current practice.
Dr. Jeffrey Steinberg, who offers
the gender-selection service at his fer-
tilization clinics in Los Angeles and
Las Vegas, defended the practice in
the article, arguing that it all balances
out in the end because just as many
customers choose boys as girls. This
still doesn't cover the larger problem
of gender discrimination. Steinberg
admits in his article that his custom-
ers' gender choices are segregated by
country. According to his quote in
the article, "The Chinese like boys.
Canadians like girls." It appears as if
his practice has the potential to create
not only socio-economic problems, but
demographic ones as well.
This is not the plot of a movie. It's
real life. The wealthy can actually
choose the sex of their baby. Scientists
and lawmakers should consider tough
restrictions on this practice to protect
our reality from becoming a movie
conspiracy theory. Genetic technology
can do a lot of good, but like with any
great power we may wield, we must
exercise responsibility.
Hildreth can be reached at
childret@umich.edu.

CHiw ouTTIE Poow DAL.Y OPINON'S
SLOG, BY VISMIG
JT pI APJC*AAY. comIL oG&IHEODPJMV
ORt cLKK ON THE Poiw AT Tie DALY's HomEPAGE
(WWWMIC HGAFALY.COrM).

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