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July 11, 2011 - Image 4

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Publication:
Michigan Daily Summer Weekly, 2011-07-11

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Monday, July 11, 2011
The Michigan Daily - michigandaily.com

ROGER SAUERHAFT I
Group polarity

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

BETHANY BIRON
EDITOR IN CHIEF

MARK BURNS
MANAGING EDITOR

TEDDY PAPES
EDITORIAL PAGE EDITOR

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.
D itch the ban
Students should be allowed to smoke on campus
n July 1, and without much of a fuss, the University
campus became smoke free. Taking a page out of the
nanny state constitution, it seems that the University
believes personal choice is subordinate to the lifestyle they
want to instill in their students. With the smoking ban, the
University has created an imperious policy that infringes on
the rights of the individual. University officials have little
business instructing a person on how they indulge their lei-
sure time. If an individual wants to smoke cigarettes outdoors,
they should be allowed to. To this end, the University must
reverse the overbearing and overtly-parental smoking ban.

I grew up in a world where every-
one was forced to watch the same
news - the voices of Peter Jennings,
Tom Brokaw and Dan Rather - "The
Big Three" - almost single-handedly
shaped the nightly dinner-table con-
versation. Today we see the principle
of three networks monopolizing our
news as archaic and undemocratic
- not having the freedom to choose
sounds altogether un-American.
The fall of the news anchors -
beginning with the 2005 death of
Jennings - left the networks in flux,
causing a vacuum effect within the
media that paved the way for today's
new-media age of mass customiza-
tion and niche coverage. We sud-
denly had the freedom to choose and
customize; it wasn't the news, it was
our news. We heard what we wanted
to hear. But with our newfound free-
dom we also created a monster.
One-sided narratives took hold
and absorbing the news became an
exercise in reaffirmingand strength-
ening our pre-existing beliefs, thus
hardening our stances and views -
we created a culture of ideologues.
In support of the older model, com-
munications scholar Cass Sunstein
asserts, "gathering citizens in a sin-
gle public space" to discuss the news
actually helps democracy by stimu-
lating conversation across ideologi-
cal lines. It's now easier than ever to
filter out information that conflicts
with your particular leaning - it
takes just a click of the mouse.
John Stuart Mill once proclaimed,
"It's hardly possible to overstate the
value... of placing human beings in
contact with other persons dissimi-
lar to themselves... such communi-
cation has always been... one of the
primary sources of progress." Unfor-
tunately, when we only listen to
people who are similar to ourselves,
we each see the world with tunnel-
vision, grinding progress to a halt.
Enter the current debt crisis.
Congress must raise America's
debt ceiling by August 2 or the
Treasury will be unable to fulfill its
obligations. The Bipartisan Policy
Center says failure to raise the debt
ceiling would result in an immedi-
ate 44-percent spending cut and a
ten-percent drop in GDP along with
another recession - or we could
default on our debt. The other choice
is for our representatives to com-
promise and raise the debt ceiling.
Anyone with a brain knows what we
need to do as a country, but we've
shown we don't tolerate compromise
from our leaders.

The partisan divide and legislative
gridlock is sosevere that Standard
& Poor's downgraded U.S. credit
due to the lack of a plan for meet-
ing its financial obligations. Markets
have frozen, hiring has stopped, and
another recession could occur simply
because the leaders of the current
Republican Party care more about
preventing Obama's reelection.
Republican governor Charlie Crist
of Florida, the once highly-popular
moderate politician, was suddenly
abandoned by Republicans because
he compromised with Democrats
too often. Crist is now out of politics.
John McCain was once considered a
"maverick" before he leapt rightward
to dodge his party's recent rightward
ideological purge. As Jeffrey Fried-
man of Harvard presciently wrote
in 1999, the ability to organize infor-
mation leads to ideologues splitting
the world into good people and bad
people, and that "opponents must
be written off entirely if their ideas
are to be safely ignored." Crist and
McCain can certainly relate.
Everyone inevitably realizes the
dire consequences of not raising the
debt ceiling, whether they admit it or
not. Each of the seven times George
Bush needed it raised, sanity pre-
vailed andboth parties came togeth-
er. Whether or not to let the country
default has never been a partisan
issue - and it's sad to think of it as
such. Both parties bear responsibil-
ity to fix the problem they both cre-
ated. We must find a way to reopen
conversation across ideological and
partisan lines, at all levels.
The options today are plenty. Free-
dom to read whatever we please has
never been so great. Anyone who
wants to be heard can be heard. But
human tendency leads us to use these
freedoms in ways that simply harden
our own pre-existing beliefs, and
that's making us less sophisticated
and able-minded. Members of Con-
gress answer to their constituents,
and in a world where compromise is so
heavily exposed and penalized, hard-
line ideologywins and we all lose. We
must all turn off our niche channels
and gather in one room - one channel
- to have anhonestdebate. Ifonlythe
new-age media could lead that charge
across ideological lines the way Jen-
nings, Brokaw and Rather could.
Hopefully our narrow-mindedness
doesn't make the ceiling come crash-
ing down on us next month.
Roger Sauerhaft is a University alum.

onthe most basic level, the ban
is an infringement of personal
freedoms. People will still be able
to smoke in other places, but the
University has gone above and
beyond any state and federal law
to ban smoking outdoors while
on campus. The harm of second
hand smoke outdoors versus
other pollution, like car exhaust,
is dubious. Bylaws already in
existence allowed students to
order smokers to move away
from resident hall doors and
windows to prevent secondhand
smoke exposure. While it may be
apublic nuisance, andsmoke may
be disagreeable, there are many
things students do, like listening
to loud music, that may be irritat-
ing but shouldn't be banned from
campus. Smoking outside is sim-
ply a person enjoying themselves,
often by themselves, and it's a
travesty of individual rights for it
to be banned.

The University takes pride
and is often right to claim itself
as a bastion of liberalism and
progress. This is a campus that
produced Tom Hayden and Stu-
dents for a Democratic Society,
but somehow we've turned
this progressivism around and
started telling students how to
think and what to do, Not only
does the University tell stu-
dents that they aren't allowed
to smoke, but it hopes to encour-
age a peer regulated system to
stamp out smoking. Rather than
issuing tickets, the University
wants members of the campus
community to report smokers
to be reprimanded. This self
policing policy costs students
close to $250,000. This money
would have-been spent far bet-
ter elsewhere.
According to a June 19 Mich-
igan Daily article, 14 percent
of undergraduates smoke. And

if it were a larger cohort there
would probably be much more
backlash. Smoking has become
an unpopular activity, but that
doesn't mean we should drive
smokers away or make them
feel unwelcome. Everyone has
their vices and to stop them
simply because we think it's
in their best interests is a dan-
gerous game to play. A politi-
cal and media war has been
waged against tobacco so the
ban feels almost natural, but
such overbearing and intrusive
regulation seems unfit at the
University of Michigan. The
students at this school pay a
handsome sum to attend classes
here and to participate in this
environment. We should let
them blow off some steam, on
or off campus, and if that that's
how they choose to spend their
time and money, the University
shouldn't be saying otherwise.

6

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