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June 30, 2010 - Image 4

Resource type:
Michigan Daily Summer Weekly, 2010-06-30

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Wednesday, June 30, 2010
The Michigan Daily - michigandaily.com
Ch4Iilgat at'lp

Putting the focus on peace

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 solelythe views of their authors.
The wrong kind of tradition
'U' education is becoming increasingly out of reach
W hen the University held its first classes in Ann Arbor in 1841,
in-state students did not pay tuition. Almost 200 years later,
the University is among the most expensive in the nation,
and its annual tuition hike has become a decades-old tradition. A symp-
tom of a state government unwilling to adequately commit itself to edu-
cation, this tradition continued yet again this year. The state should treat
affordable, quality, public universities as an invaluable pillar of a sound
economic foundation and halt its draconian cuts to higher education.

The streets in Washington, D.C.
are organized alphabetically, numeri-
cally and by state name expanding
outward from the Capitol Building.
Streets running east-west start with A
and continue onto Z. Streets running
north-south are numbered: first, sec-
ond, third, etc. Streets running diago-
nally through the city are named after
states. But for those familiar with
D.C.'s policy world, two streets stand
out: K Street and Massachusetts Ave-
nue. On and around these two streets
lie influential institutions that formu-
late many of the policies voiced by our
elected officials.
So when one of these "think tanks"
publishes a paper entitled, "Israel as
a Strategic Liability?" it causes a stir,
especially when it's one as moderate
and centrist as the Center for Strate-
gic International Studies. The fact that
they are asking this question out loud
suggests that policymakers are also
asking it in private.
To be clear, think tanks do not
create policy so much as refine it.
The Obama administration's clashes
with Israeli Prime Minister Benja-
min Netanyahu over the settlements
issue created the space necessary for
a public discussion of Israel's strategic
value to the United States. Until then,
American presidents did not allow for
daylight between U.S. and Israeli poli-
cies. Policy analysts did not even dis-
cuss alternatives to supporting Israel
- regardless of their actions.
One think tank now asking that
question is thetupstart J Street Lobby.
J Street is the only lettered street that
does not exist in the nation's capital,
and the group's founders felt that was
analogous to the absence of their pro-
Israeli, pro-peace point of view from
D.C's streets. Responding to the Israe-
li commando raid on a "PeacetPlotilla"
attempting to bring supplies to Gaza,
they stated, "The blockade of Gaza
hasn't simply failed; it (has) under-
cut the goals it was meant to achieve:
Hamas remains heavily armed and its
hold on the Strip is as strong as ever,
while the people of Gaza suffer - and
they and the world blame not Hamas
but Israel and the United States."
J Street's constructive, thoughtful
criticism of Israel stands in sharp con-
trast to discussions of the flotilla raid
at the University. In conversations
on campus, the flotilla incident has

driven otherwise reasonable people
toward extreme viewpoints. Worse,
this debate has unproductively
focused on the raid itself. Supporters
of Israel, Turkey and the Palestin-
ians would be better off concentrat-
ing on what is best for their respective
nations and peoples.
Turkey will never achieve its
stated objective of European Union
membership so long as it is perceived
as supporting and even trending
toward Islamic radicalism, and it
stands to gain nothing from strained
relations with the U.S. It will gain
on both fronts by acting as an honest
mediator of peace between Israel and
the Palestinian people by supporting
Fatah, the Palestinian Authority and
pro-peace Israelis.
For Israel, the reaction to the Gaza
flotilla is a symbol. It is emblematic
of the way in which their hard-line
approach to the Palestinians is poi-
soning the well of public opinion in
the Middle East. This is driving a
wedge between Israeli and U.S. stra-
tegic interests.
Moreover, what is best for the Pal-
estinian people is for Israel and Tur-
key to pursue peace. The immediate
humanitarian crisis in Gaza is a symp-
tom of the underlying problem, which
is the conflict with Israel. Until peace
is achieved, Palestine's other problems
will never be solved.
Peace, then, is in everyone's inter-
est and U.S. policy should shift to
reflect that fact. The U.S. should no
longer blindlysupport Israel when it
engages in tactical blunders, such as
the flotilla raid. But Palestine's sup-
porters should also recognize that
the Palestinians are not yet a viable
negotiating partner and stunts like
the "Peace Flotilla" only strengthen
groups like Hamas at the expense of
pro-peace groups like Fatah.
All debates about Israel and Pales-
tine - whether they are in Michigan,
D.C. or Jerusalem - should be focused
on how to create peace, not on publici-
ty stunts. A successful effort by groups
like J Street to shift the discussion
away from finger-pointing and toward
the peace process would serve every-
one's strategic interests.
Jason Kerwin is a Rackham
student. He and Sam King direct
the Positive Impact Institute.

On June 17, the Board of
Regents approved, by a 6-2 vote, a
1.5 percent tuition increase for in-
state undergraduate students, a 3
percent increase for out-of-state
undergraduates and a 2.8 percent
increase for most graduate pro-
grams. For an LSA freshman, that
translates to a $178 increase for
Michigan residents and a $1,064
increase for nonresidents. It will
be the lowest increase since 1984,
despite projections from the state
Senate Appropriations Commit-
tee, which projected a $1.4 mil-
lion reduction in the amount of
support the University would
receive from the state govern-
ment. Citing tough economic
times, the office of the Provost
also announced a 10.6 percent
increase in the amount of finan-
cial aid they expect to administer
during the coming school year.
The state's universities are
enormously important mecha-
nisms for economic growth. The
combined benefit of Michigan's
three largest research universi-
ties (including the University)

to the state's economy exceeded
$14 billion last year, according
to a report commissioned by
the University Research Cor-
ridor. That, according to the
same report, is a $16 return for
every $1 invested by the state
government. Higher education
is arguably Michigan's greatest
resource and its most important
tool for pulling the state out of
its economic slump.
Yet despite the huge payoff,
according to the Alumni Asso-
ciation, in 2009 the state govern-
ment's contribution made up less
than 6 percent of the Universi-
ty's operation budget. That con-
tribution to the University has
dropped 100 million inflation-
adjusted dollars since fiscal year
2002. The state isn't just failing
to provide the ideal of free edu-
cation on which it once prided
itself. It is slowly reneging its
commitment to support higher
education at all.
In the absence of more state
funding, though, that burden has
been passed on to students. And

while the University has made
both a commendable and neces-
sary commitment to provide an
additional $8 million in financial
aid this year, the University does
not escape all the blame. The
administration is curiously debat-
ing whether or not to reduce its
endowment spending this year,
meaning that more money would
have to be raised from other rev-
enue sources like tuition. It also
continues to embark on expen-
sive building and renovation
projects in a fiscal environment
that demands austerity and cost
containment. Such expenses
invariably come on the backs of
students who cannot afford to
pay higher and higher rates for
an education that is increasingly
necessary in an extremely diffi-
cult job market.
Free is the ideal. Affordable is
the baseline expectation. Unob-
tainable is what the University's
education has become. The state
- and the University - must put
the "public" back in "public edu-

Cartoon by Jeff Zuschlag
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