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August 09, 2010 - Image 4

Resource type:
Michigan Daily Summer Weekly, 2010-08-09

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Monday, August 9, 2010
The Michigan Daily - michigandaily.com
Thi mtChtIganT 4aily

Edited and managed by students at
the University of Michigan since 1890.
420 Maynard St.
Ann Arbor, MI 48109




Unsigned editorials reflect the official position of the Daily's editorial board.
All other signed articles and illustrations represent solely the views of their authors.
Let them ounge
Council's proposed couch ban won't promote fire safety
t didn't take much time for this year's newly re-elected City Coun-
cil candidates to forget their promises of working more closely with
students. While students are out of the city for summer recess, the
Council is considering an ordinance that will ban upholstered furniture
on porches. Though the ban is meant to decrease the risk of fires, it both
ignores the real problem - student houses often aren't up to existing fire
code - and fights it with an extremely ineffective and roundabout solu-
tion. If City Council's aim is fire safety, it should replace this proposal with
greater enforcement and education of the fire code already on the books.

Support first-gen students
The University of Michigan is a mid- form of assistance. The University
dle-class university; most of the stu- does have such academic programs for
dents and faculty hail from the middle at-risk students, but most of the par-
class or higher. Students who are the ticipants in this study were not invited
first generation in their families to go to join them, even if it is clear that they
to college and come from -working- would have benefited from them. One
class backgrounds are a minority first-gen in my study explained that
at this institution. As a result of my there is not enough awareness at the
research for my senior honors the- University about the experiences of
sis, "First-Generation Working Class similar students, saying, "I think that
Undergraduates at the University of we're such an underrepresented popu-
Michigan," I found that these students lation that they almost ignore us. They
face financial, academic and cultural try to help students who fall more into
disadvantages here at the University. a racial minority category, and maybe
Not only are first-gens more likely they hit some first-gen students or low-
to struggle to get by financially once income students, but some students
they arrive, they are also more likely fall through the cracks."
to have attended high schools that First-generation applicants could
did not adequately prepare them for also be matched with experienced
the University's academic rigor. This first-gen mentors. Or they could be
sets up a social situation that is made invited to participate in seminars
even worse by the clash between stu- designed just for them. Such semi-
dents' working-class culture and the nars could be used to help give stu-
middle-class culture of the majority of dents that cultural capital, and also
their peers, making it difficult to fit in make them aware of the cultural
and transition to college life. In addi- transitions ahead and how they might
tion, first-gens often lack certain traits affect their family relationships. In
- called cultural capital - of middle- addition, first-gen students should be
and upper-middle-class students that encouraged to consider extracurricu-
help foster academic success, includ- lar activities in which they are under-
ing study skills and information about represented, such as study abroad, in
the higher education system. One par- order to help them integrate into the
ticipant of my study recalled that, as higher social classes. These targeted
a freshman, "I didn't know the differ- initiatives will help foster a smooth-
ence between a Ph.D. and a bachelor's. er integration for first-gens into the
I used to think, 'What's the difference larger student community.
between a graduate student and an Faculty, staff and students should
undergraduate student?"' also be made aware of first-yen expe-
To combat these glaring issues, the riences to better prepare them for the
University should take several steps to issues these students may raise. A few
better serve its first-generation, work- academic advisers could be trained to
ing-class students. First, it should offer deal with first-gen issues in order to
them more financial aid in the form of provide better services to this demo-
scholarships and grants. Several of the graphic. Professors would be more
participants in the study I conducted accommodating to such students if
felt that the University should put they did not assume, as some do, that
aside scholarships just for these first- all of their students have middle-class
generation college students. This iea- academic and cultural backgrounds.
sure would help the first-gens focus on The University should stay true
academics and allow them to partici- to its commitment to diversity, but it
pate in more extracurricular activi- should also remember that diversity
ties that help them make the cultural encompasses more than race or ethnic-
transition and narrow the study skills ity. By giving first-gen students more
and information edge more affluent opportunities and aid, the transitions
students enjoy. and challenges they face can be miti-
It would also be helpful to identify gated, and they can focus on what they
all students who lack adequate aca- came here for: academics.
demic preparation during the admis-
sions process and offer them some Serena Hinz is an LSA alum.


The ban was first proposed to
City Council in 2003 by the Ann
Arbor Fire Department, when
they argued that porch furni-
ture is a fire hazard. Since then,
the proposal has been tabled
and reintroduced several times
but has never gathered enough
momentum to make it to a City
Council vote. Most recently,
April's rash of suspicious fires -
one of which was suspected to
have started with a porch couch
and led to the death of a Universi-
ty student - caused an Ann Arbor
resident to encourage City Coun-
cil to reconsider the ban.
In theory, the intentions of the
initial proposal may seem honor-
able. But in practice, the ban real-
ly isn't about fire safety. For many
city residents, it's about aesthet-
ics. According to Daily coverage
from2004 and 2005, the proposal
garnered the support of city resi-
dents because many thought that
porch furniture is an eyesore. Yet
this proposal bears almost entire-

ly on students -not residents -
so students should be the guiding
voice in this discussion.
But that can't happen when
City Council attempts to push
through a decision while most of
them are not around to offer dis-
sent and alternative proposals.
And while a second reading and
vote are scheduled for the tail end
of September, a mere month fol-
lowing the hectic beginnings of
the school year is an inadequate
amount of time for students to
advocate for this cause. Hold-
ing the discussion now ensures
that the debate will be lopsided
toward residents, as the majority
of Ann Arbor's student popula-
tion isn't around to make their
voice heard - a voice which
should hold just as much weight
as non-student residents.
And while promoting fire
safety is a necessary goal, this
ban is an ill-conceived way to
achieve it. The principal threat is
the fact that many of the houses

inhabited by students don't com-
ply with existing fire code, and
this far exceeds any posed by
couches. Hazards like old wir-
ing and unsafe - or even nonex-
istent - fire escapes are much
more dangerous. Landlords have
a legal and moral responsibil-
ity to ensure that their properties
- and, by extension, their ten-
ants - are safe. That means that
they must make sure that houses
are up to code. Additionally, City
Council should work with land-
lords to educate students about
fire safety.
City Council shouldn't be dis-
cussing such a student-focused
issue while students aren't in Ann
Arbor to speak up for themselves.
The timing of this measure is
inconsiderate at best, disingenu-
ous at worst. This proposal not
only fails to attack the real cause
of fire hazards - poor compli-
ance with fire code - it ignores
the input of the very people it will
principally affect.

Getting carried away by your
natural surroundings on a
relaxing trip north with your

Your wife literally being carried
away by a wild deer, as cap-
tured in YouTube video "A Deer
Steals Man's Wife.


Want to see more? Check out more from Daily columnists, additional view-
points from students and more cartoons posted online throughout the week.
Go to michigandaily.com and click on 'Opinion.'
Nicholas Clift, Emma Jeszke, Rachel Van Gilder, Joe Stapleton

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