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May 16, 2011 - Image 5

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Publication:
Michigan Daily Summer Weekly, 2011-05-16

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Monday, May 16, 2011~ r
The Michigan Daily - michigandaily.com
E-MAIL WILLAT WGRU@UMICH.EDU

Expand experience

WILL GRUNDLER

0 I was driving back home from
Detroit last week after a day at the
Tigers game. Sitting in the back
seat with a car
full of friends, I
looked out the
window at the
houses that lined
Grand Avenue
just south of
Interstate 94 and
thought to myself MAX
how incredibly LEVENSTEIN
lucky I am to not
live in such pov-
erty. House after house was van-
dalized, abandoned, boarded up,
burnt down - you name it. I feel
lucky because I will graduate from
an excellent university, most likely
earn a decent salary, fulfill many
of my dreams and not have to con-
stantly worry about crime in my
neighborhood,but thesame cannot
be said for many in this country.
I turned to my friend sitting
beside me in the car and mentioned
these thoughts. She agreed and also
feels lucky that she has been able
to grow up comfortably, both of
us realizing that poverty severely
limits many opportunities for suc-
cess. This friend is the same person
who I had a discussion with about
income inequality in America just
a week earlier. I had just finished
my political philosophy paper on
the moral justifications of income
transfers from the rich to the poor.
I'll spare you the details of the
argument, but I asked her, "Why
does a man deserve to be poor just
because he is unlucky enough to be
born into poverty?" Considering
the question, she told me that it may
be unfortunate that he is unlucky
and poor, but that's the way it is.
Did a week change her views
of poverty in America? Absolute-
ly not. Rather, it was her small
glimpse of poverty passing through
Detroit. Talking with residents
or actually living there may have
enhanced her experience, but just
taking in the view as we passed by
was enough to influence her atti-
tude toward poverty.
Every day there are political
debates about welfare, health care,
illegal immigration and the wars
overseas. But the people debating
the issues are stuck in the world
of politics and theoretical policy.
Republican members of Congress
fight every word of welfare leg-
islation, but would they think
differently if they experienced
poverty? My guess is yes. With
the Sparknotes for Adam Smith

in hand, they religiously praise
the free market and small govern-
ment. But if these people actually
lived in the poverty they refuse to
help alleviate, they would realize
that the free market often fails to
benefit everyone and leaves many
in unfortunate situations. They
would see that the poor are not
poor because they are lazy or stu-
pid, but often times because they
were not given an equal chance to
succeed. They would realize that
the poor are people, not a spe-
cial interest group that wishes to
destroy capitalism.
Politicians
need a fresh
perspective.
This idea must be applied to more
than just welfare. How can politi-
cians argue about war when they
have never experienced it firsthand?
How can they debate illegal immi-
gration when they have never met
an immigrant and listened to their
story? The fact is, politicians must
expand their experiences in order
to make good and informed deci-
sions and not just rely on what their
rationality tells them. This should
not just apply to our Congressmen,
but to all who have an opinion. It is
not enough to read newspapers or
listen to punditry on television to
make an opinion. There is no way to
form a complete understanding of
anything simply from hearing oth-
ers speak about it. You must change
your perspective and enter into real
experiences to develop fair opinions
of others and their desires.
I am not espousing that we
become communists or allow an
open door policy for all immi-
grants, but learning from indi-
viduals and their experiences can
assist our policymakers in making
truly representative and effective
decisions. Let's not be afraid to
separate from cold logic and move
closer tothe warmthofcompassion
for others. We ought to reevaluate
the conventional wisdom about
economics, politics and people to
improve our understanding of the
important decisions we make in
the future.
Max Levenstein can be
reached at medl@umich.edu.

Just saw somebody walk by a homeless man and completely blow him off, then kneel
down to feed a piece of bread to a squirrel. TMD
That's the difference! 83 You're not a Wolverine! 4 is this sl0ghty disturbing to anye? 0
A boy likes me, but I'm too busy to even consider if I like him back. TMD
Havy ou conisid ered te possibinktyZ
That's the difference! 95 You're not a Wolverine! 10 that you're 0a lesbian? 0
Go to the DUDE after 9pm and every single person there is Asian. TMD
ND sanyone eusgwan o exe this peron
That's the difference! 57 You're not a Wolverine! 8 to Asia, or punch them in the mouth? 1

East Quad is home to the Resi-
dential College, commonly known
as "The RC." If you aren't familiar,
the Residen-
tial College is
"one of the lon-
gest running
undergraduate
living-learning
communities
in the United
States," accord-
ing to its VANESSA
website. It is RYCHLINSKI
certainly an
interesting com-
munity with perhaps overly-strong
liberal arts academics - only in the
RC can a student enroll in courses
that teach Afro-Cuban drumming,
Javanese dance or Slavic cinema.
Denizens of East Quad are
known as "RCers." They sport
multi-colored hair in a variety of
styles and are vintage stores in
human form. You may even spot
one resident in a sombrero, known
by his alter-ego appellation "Pan-
cho Villa." Famed for once housing
the Unabomber on the third floor,
the building features live music in
the basement and free art exhib-
its, plays and yoga classes. It's a
place where you can't throw a rock
without hitting a girl, and where
straight boys are a hot commod-
ity. East Quad, the best location on
campus. East Quad, where every
kind of person iswelcome.
Well, not every kind.
In the program, it is mandated
that a student lives in East Quad
for two years. This is impractical
for many people due to financial or
health-related reasons, so a student
may be forced to beg to live else-
where for their second year. If one
can provide sufficient proof of such
a reason, then the office will issue a
waiver, though they are notorious-
ly hard to receive. Last year a cyni-

cal RC peer told me that if I didn't
live out of state, I was screwed.
Discouraged by this information
and unorganized as usual, I never
got around to obtaining "proof" for
my reasons.
At the end of my freshman year,
however, a friend told me a secret:
You can move out while remaining
in the program if you just "go talk
to them." I decided to try it. In the
RC office I was prompted to explain
why I wanted to live elsewhere. To
my surprise, I was rewarded with
a smile and a computer override. In
mere minutes I had accomplished
what was supposedly impossible
- apparently the need for cheaper
housing was a good enough reason.
At the outset of the fall semes-
ter, I learned that for most of my
sorority friends, the impossible had
remained as such. In order to stay
in the RC and also complete the
required year in the sorority house,
several had submitted waiver
forms. Others had even employed
the additional method of simply
talking to the gatekeeper in the
RC office. In both cases, the girls
were denied. Apparently, living the
Greek life was not only considered
a banal excuse, it was also suffi-
cient grounds to dismiss them from
the program iftheydidn'tfulfillthe
two-year requirement.
To be quite honest, I don't really
care about this small disparity.
It's more of a snub than a real hin-
drance, considering most classes
in East Quad are pretty accessi-
ble. What's more, those in Greek
life have their own social club to
belong to and be welcomed by. If
that's your cup of tea, go ahead and
drink it. I find it interesting that
sombrero-wearing muchachos are
encouraged and those of Omega
Toga Whatevers are objects of
disapproval. I even had a profes-
sor that often condemned those

who were members of sororities
and fraternities for not possessing
enough individuality.
Every person
isn't welcome
in the RC.
In a place where differences
are encouraged, it's interesting
that it's possible to not be "differ-
ent" enough. However, despite
the "Revenge of the Nerds" style
poetic justice, I do think that if
the aim is to create a place that is
welcoming to all, then the place
should welcome everyone, with-
out exception. Despite theirslight-
ly embarrassing choices in rain
boots or game-day activities, frat
boys and sorority girls are prob-
ably real people with souls and
everything. Think of the good we
could accomplish through assimi-
lation! We could familiarize them
with Value World, teach them
apathy regarding the direction of
the "masses", nourish them prop-
erly with seitan and soybeans, and
finally, convert them to the reli-
gion of Pitchfork and NPR.
In all seriousness, the RC prides
itself on being a haven for the
diversity of its members: devi-
ants, artists, language geeks, the
occasional physicist, social and
political thinkers, world travelers,
writers, crazies like my dear Pan-
cho and, of course, me. If your fla-
vor of nuts includes neatly labeling
yourself with a lettered t-shirt, you
shouldn't be excluded.
Vanessa Rychlinski can be
reached at vanrych@umich.edu.

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