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August 15, 2011 - Image 7

Resource type:
Michigan Daily Summer Weekly, 2011-08-15

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Monday, August 15, 2011
The Michigan Daily - michigandaily.com

From Page 1
aboutthe garden's various peonies.
David Michener, associate cura-
tor at Matthaei Botanical Gardens
and Nichols Arboretum, said the
money will allow the University to
develop a better website to show-
case the nature preserves.
"Being able to move a lot of
information to the web will help us
serve our local constituency as well
as make it more available for people
coming from afar," Michener said.
"This is to help give us a template to
build a much richer website."
The money provided by the
Museums for America grants is
only one piece of the peony proj-
ect, which includes restoration and
expansion, among other improve-
ments,that are alreadyseveralyears
underway. According to Michener,
funding for other parts of the Peony
Initiative have come from private

He added that applying for the
grant money involved answering
a detailed set of questions regard-
ing how the work would impact the
institution and be important for the
country. He said that for the peony
gardens, the importance comes
from the gardens' more than 270
varieties of historic peonies.
According to Scott Kunst -
founder of Ann Arbor's Old House
Gardens, a business that specializes
in historic plants - the Peony Gar-
den was donated to Nichols Arbore-
tum in 1922 by WE Upjohn, founder
of the Upjohn Pharmaceutical Com-
pany in Kalamazoo, Mich.
"He thought the Arboretum,
which was just being developed,
ought to have a showcase collection
of one of the most important flowers
of the age," Kunst said.
Kunst added he believes the
garden has lived up to the original
donor's vision and that the collec-
tion is unmatched.
For many, the peony has a
unique visual appeal that has made

it a popular and culturally sig-
nificant flower for decades, Kunst
"The peony is a lush, profuse
(and) abundant kind of luxuri-
ous flower ... people really respond
strongly to them," Kunst said. "They
were the stars of all the high-end
In addition to its aesthetic
appeal, its sturdy nature has made
the flower a favorite among collec-
tors and florists.
"It's sort of like a tree almost,
you plant a peony and there is a
good chance that it will be there a
hundred years later," Kunst said.
"They have been around for so long
that everybody remembers them
from when they grew up."
Five Michigan museums -
including the Michigan State Uni-
versity Museum,theDetroitScience
Center and the Arab-American
National Museums - were among
160 nationwide to receive Museum
for America grants for various pro-

MERC denies University GSRAs
unionization rights in Aug. 8 ruling

ald said.
He added that though there
are no plans to continue the pro-
gram in El Salvador, students
were reimbursed for the short-
ened trip and granted the oppor-
tunity for full academic credit
for the trip.
LSA senior Manish Patel,
who was part of the team that
travelled to El Salvador, wrote
in an e-mail interview that the
group was upset with the deci-
sion to end the trip.
"The decision that was made
was unacceptable, irrational, and
ignorant on behalf of the Univer-
sity," Patel wrote.
He added that after the Uni-
versity ultimately suspended the
trip, members of the team signed
waivers releasing the Univer-
sity from liability so they could
attempt to continue their stay in
El Salvador.
"It was hard to hear that
after a small robbery incident,
the University would go so far as
to suspend our trip," Patel wrote.
"Our team, devoted to solidar-
ity and intercultural experience,
decided to continue without Uni-
versity permission and affiliation
after suspension of the trip."
As part of their effort to
convince the University to let
them stay in El Salvador, Patel
wrote they had their itineraries
approved by the U.S. Embassy
and found two officers from the
tourism police to escort the stu-
dents throughout the rest of the
trip. Despite their added safety
precautions, the University
maintained the students should
return to the United States.
In addition to mandating the
students to return, Patel wrote
the University stated they would
not be allowed to enroll for fall
term if they did not come back to
the United States.
He added he believes Uni-
versity officials did not take into
account students' opinions in
making the decision for them to
"We were forced to come
home without a voice which we
found to be disrespectful," he
wrote. "At this point, they took
away our voice and our choice."

However, Fitzgerald said
there was communication
between the two leaders and stu-
dents who were part of the team
in' El Salvador and University
officials, and regardless of the
students' desire to stay, the Uni-
versity strives to ensure safety of
its students at all times.
"The leadership in El Sal-
vador was well aware of the
student's concerns and feelings
- I know there were some pretty
strong feelings that they wanted
to stay in El Salvador," Fitzgerald
said. "The safety of our students
is our number one priority and
more fully assessing the situa-
tion in El Salvador again, LSA
leadership felt very strongly that
we need to bring these students
Despite the liability waivers
and further efforts to remain in
the country, Fitzgerald said the
students were still on a Univer-
sity trip and therefore the Uni-
versity would still be liable if
anything were to happen.
"Essentially, they are there
on University-sponsored travel
and the University is respon-
sible for the safety of those stu-
dents," Fitzgerald said. "It's just
not practical to say we'll just
wash our hands of these students
and let them stay in El Salva-
dor on their own ... University .
leadership and the LSA leader-
ship assessing the situation and
the incident that happened felt
strongly it was in the best inter-
est of those students for the safe-
ty of those students to return to
the U.S."
Patel said that while the
trip was cut short, he still had
a transformative experience
and gained valuable experience
despite his frustrations with the
"The people of El Salvador
are genuine, kind-hearted, and
would go the end of the earth to
accommodate us," Patel wrote.
"I met some amazing people and
heard some amazing things from
them that will always be with
me. I had an amazing time for
the one week I was there, but feel
ashamed that the University did
such a thing."

0 Decision upholds
1981 law that states
students do not have
right to unionize
Daily StaffReporter
The Michigan Employment
Relations Commission ruled Mon-
day that since the University's
Graduate Student Research Assis-
tants are not considered public
employees, they will not be allowed
to unionize - ceasing a months-
longendeavor for the GSRAs to join
the Graduate Employees Organiza-
The decision - which upholds
precedent of the 1981 law that
ruled students are not public
employees and thus cannot union-
ize - amounted to be a deterrent
in GEO's ambitions to incorpo-
rate GSRAs. It was also a victory
for GSRA Melinda Day and the
Mackinac Center Legal Founda-
tion, which filed a motion on July
28 on Day's behalf in the hopes of
forestalling those objectives.
In response to MERC's deci-
sion, GEO President Sam Mont-

gomery said she maintains the
ruling will not end GEO's efforts to
unionize the GSRAs.
Montgomery said despite the
decision, the union would con-
tinue to pursue negotiations with
the University on the terms of
an election that could determine
whether GSRAs would join the
union. Those negotiations began in
May, after the University's Board of
Regents voted 6-2 against Univer-
sity President Mary Sue Coleman
to give GSRAs collective bargain-
ing rights.
"It seems like it's an adminis-
trative hurdle," Montgomery said.
"It's something that we're hoping
to have appealed and something
that won't prevent us from working
towards an election ... This will not
deter us in that aim."
She added her optimism stems
from the wishes of GSRAs to gain
better working conditions, access
to equipment and better health
benefits - "all the things ... that
come with being full members of
a union," she said. Her's and the
GEO's interpretations of the ruling,
however,held that the organization
could proceed with its negotiations
with the University and eventually
have an election.
In an Aug. 8 statement, Patrick

Wright, director of the Mackinac
Center Legal Foundation, praised
MERC's decision as a "victory for
the rule of law."
"MERC enforced the law, rath-
er than allowinga politically divid-
ed (University's) Board of Regents
to bypass it through a hasty reso-
lution," Wright said in the state-
ment. "This resolution called for a
public employee union election for
a group of students who weren't
public employees in the first place.
The regents have no legal authority
to expand the statutory definition
of public employees."
Wright and the Mackinac Cen-
ter Legal Foundation filed a motion
hoping to prevent the GEO's move
to unionize on July 28, according
to a July 28 article in The Michigan
Daily. At that time, Day, the GSRA
on whose behalf the Foundation
filed the motion, said in a state-
ment the regulations that union-
ization would instate would prove
"It would hinder our ability to
do science," Day said in the July 28
statement. "I recently completed
an experiment that involved tak-
ing samples every eight hours. I
wouldn't have been able to do that
under the strict work-hour regula-
tions the GEO wants."


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