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August 07, 2006 - Image 5

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Publication:
Michigan Daily Summer Weekly, 2006-08-07

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LETTERS TO THE EDITOR

The Michigan Daily - Monday, August 7, 2006 - 5
Wake up and smell the coffee
JOHN STIGLICH STI A SAY

Luxury boxes could
mark beginning of
disturbing trend
TO THE DAILY:
I applaud the Daily's coverage of
opposition to the proposed luxury boxes
in Michigan Stadium. Yours is perhaps
the only publication currently doing
so. The boxes threaten our venerable
Michigan tradition with the permanent
defacement of a University icon.
Projected to be 82 feet in height and
running from end zone to end zone,
these hulking appendages to the classic
contours of our stadium will rise higher
than the present scoreboard - likely
casting premature shadows on the field,
presenting a visage more akin to that of
Lambeau Field and threatening to give
new meaning to the name "Big House."
Although traditionally known as
"leaders and the best," the University
has now become followers of institu-
tions like the Ohio State University and
the University of Wisconsin. And those
schools have taken professionalism one
step further in assenting to the corpo-
rate naming of sporting venues on their
campuses. Might something similar
lurk in our future as well?
Gary Gillespie
Alum
U' should exercise
caution in stadium-
renovation plans
TO THE DAILY:
I appreciate the need for renovations
for our historic but aging stadium. But
I'm highly opposed to building a con-
course level that includes differentiated
seating (better-quality seats compared

to the rest of stadium) included in the
club and suites levels thatpermit corpo-
rate boxes or blocks.
The University has a long history
of being independent of corporate
influence - protests against human
rights violations by Nike and the
Coca-Cola Company are just a couple
recent examples. The University also
has a rich appreciation of diversity,
which is prevalent both in the student
body itself and in the required curric-
ulum that mandates that students dis-
sect the impact of segregation across
racial and socioeconomic classes. The
proposals for the club section of the
stadium contradict both traditions.
Will corporations that the Univer-
sity is protesting be allowed to sponsor
suites? Will alcohol be allowed in pri-
ority levels, but not among other fans?
Is Michigan Stadium considered a cash
cow to fund an administrative agenda,
or is it a playing field for students to
demonstrate their talent? Will we now
follow the lead of all our collegiate
peers down any road they take, or will
we seek to create our own unique path?
Any changes beyond those of safety
should be approached very cautiously.
I see a complete disregard for caution
and the long-term consequences in this
entire process by the athletic department
and the Regents. While Michigan foot-
ball has a life, following and tradition
of its own, it's important to remember
that this is just a grass field that brings
together kids who came to this educa-
tional institution. It's not a profit center,
a platform for corporate marketing or a
place to flaunt egos.
While Irespect the efforts to improve
the stadium, the fans and alumni of the
University - its financial backers -
will have to live with the consequences
afterward, and they should have a say
in the current administration's vision
for betterment.
Andrea Finger
Alum

uppose that
tomorrow
when you
went to purchase
your morning
coffee, the govern-
ment mandated you
buy from the clos-
est Starbucks to
your home. When
you enter that Starbucks, you notice
the line is abnormally large and filled
with all your neighbors. When you
taste your coffee, it's the vilest sludge
you have ever put your lips on. You
attempt to complain to the staff, but
your complaints fall on deaf ears. You
ask for an explanation and the staff tells
you the product will improve if you
can convince your local congressman
to increase funding. If that fails, they
say, encourage the rest of the people in
the store to donate more of their hard-
earned money.
When you ask for your money back
so you can take your business elsewhere,
the Starbucks staff informs you that
your taxes paid for the coffee and you
cannot receivea refund. Like any good
consumer, you leave disgusted.
Vowing never to drink that coffee
again, you travel to the closest Dunkin
Donuts - which is not under govern-
ment control. Not only do you find the
coffee far superior to that served at Star-
bucks, but the doughnuts are fantastic
and the service is efficient.
When you reach the cashier, she
informs you that unlike Starbucks, your
taxes do not pay for Dunkin Donuts's
products. To purchase the fine products
at Dunkin Donuts, you have to pay more
than you are comfortable paying. In

addition, your taxes will continue to sub-
sidize Starbucks regardless of where you
prefer to get your coffee. Now you must
decide between consuming Dunkin
Donuts while subsidizing Starbucks or
learning to tolerate the sludge that Star-
bucks serves.
While the aforementioned situation
seems far-fetched, it's very analogous
to our public education system. Gov-
ernment has a monopoly on education
in this country and we allowed for its
creation. We stood idly by as govern-
ment created its own supply by mandat-
ing children between six and 18 attend
school. We complain bitterly about the
failing product our youth must consume,
and the only solutions that politicians
and educators agree on are the need for
more money and more teachers.
If more funding per pupil and small-
er classroom sizes were truly cures
for the ills of our education system,
why does Washington D.C. continue
to rank near the bottom in student per-
formance? According to the District of
Columbia Fiscal Policy Institute, D.C.
public schools spend nearly $14,000
per student and George Mason Uni-
versity Prof. Walter Williams notes
the average student to teacher ratio is
15:1 - the lowest in the nation. Yet
Washington DC public school students
consistently perform near the bottom
in reading and math proficiency on
standardized tests.
Attempts to break the government
monopoly by reducing demand for pub-
lic education are doomed. Current fund-
ing policies mandate parents that choose
to enroll their children ina private
school or home school must fund the
public education system anyway. Those

politicians brave enough to support a
publicly funded voucher program - so
parents can afford to educate their chil-
dren privately - are met with hostility
from politically powerful teacher unions
and public-school boards.
For those of you who like the public
education system, have you wondered
why it's funded through impersonal
methods of tax collection? If funding
public education relied upon citizens
dropping off a check every month in
the local principal's office, citizens
would be more likely to demand a bet-
ter product from the principal during
the visit. This exposure of monopoly
management to consumers can only
hurt the monopoly. Monopolies have
no incentive to see consumers create
a public demand for a better product
because someone just might rise up
and heed the calls.
The brutal truth is that if the Secu-
rities and Exchange Commission
reviewed education as a sector of our
economy, it would declare the gov-
ernment's monopoly illegal. It would
force educators to adopt more effi-
cient and effective ways of educating
our children. The SEC would encour-
age competition and seek market
correction. Government and teacher
unions would lose the political muscle
they hold so dear and we might see
some real reforms in the American
education system.
Remember, the power for reform
ultimately lies with the people. It's
time America woke up and smelled
the coffee.
Stiglich can be reached at
jcsgolf@umich.edu.

A resurgence of American innovation?
TINA HILDRETH WELCOM T"C ) y: BiUBBE

KIM LEUNG THE. TA.-<;UT Box
WV4E 0
' Cy
LA5 A N
o0

Last week was
yet another
dim seven
days for Michigan's
manufacturing
industry, with sev-
eral auto compa-
nies again posting
quarterly losses.
But in the cloud of
gloom that has become the rooftop of
Detroit's economy, there's one cause for
hope, and it comes in the form of a fruit
- an apple, to be exact.
This past week, Detroit's two big
automakers did one of the smartest
things they have done in a long time
- they embraced the iPod.
Starting on next year's models, cars
made by Ford and General Motors will
have ports to plug in portable digital-
music devices. Drivers will be able
to smoothly transfer their music from
home to work to school to car, only
having to pull out their earbuds and
plug in their iPod to continue their con-
stant stream of tunes.
This, more than all their restructur-
ing plans or talks of international alli-
ances, gives me hope that maybe, just
maybe, Detroit's economic backbone
will be able to creep back into the black
once again. I don't understand the inner

workings of the auto industry, but this
move shows one thing: Ford and GM
are finally getting it. Miracle of all mir-
acles, it turns out that in order to stay
competitive, producers have to respond
to consumers' demands.
In the days before $75-a-barrel oil,
domestic automakers had the intuitive
sense to follow the market, building
millions upon millions of the now-infa-
mous sport utility vehicles. As soon as
they rolled off the line, American driv-
ers bought Explorers, Suburbans and
Trailblazers in hoards. Drivers loved
them for their off-road capabilities and
their ability to carry an entire soccer
team quite comfortably. Domestic auto-
makers became drunk on their profits,
reaping the rewards of a seemingly
unending supply of oil.
But then that all changed. Now $3
is not only the price of a cheap cup of
coffee at Starbucks, it's also the price
of a gallon of gas (if you're lucky).
Amazingly, gas guzzlers are suddenly
unpopular. As sales of SU~s slip out
from under the feet of the Big Three,
their knack for making cars that sell is
also no more.
But with this iPod announcement, it
seems Ford and GM are catching on.
iPods are some of the fastest-selling
products on the market. Rarely can you

walk across campus without seeing at
least six students intently entangled in
an iTunes-induced haze. It only makes
sense to make cars compatible with
this commercial phenomenon.
The problem is, it's probably too late.
Several foreign automakers already
offer iPod hookups, and their designs
are much more user-friendly. Henry
Ford may have been the father of auto-
motive innovation, but that title has
since flown away from D-town. Now,
it seems, the Big Three constantly
play pick-up, slightly modifying what
other countries have already sold. They
missed the boat on hybrids, and now
they have missed it on iPods.
That doesn't mean it always has to
be that way; Detroit automakers can
reclaim their glory. They might not be
able to get back to the time when the
Motor City ruled the auto world, but
they can at least return to respectabil-
ity in the industry. But they're going to
have to pay more attention than they
have in the past.
WhenthenextiPod-like phenomenon
comes along, they'd better be ready. If
they're not, there's a good chance that
our generation won't hear them.
Hildreth can be reached at
childret@umich.edu.

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