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Thursday, May 15, 2014
The Michigan Daily - michigandaily.com.
Edited and managed by students at
the University af Michigan since 1890.
420 Maynard St.
Ann Arbor, MI 48109
tothedaily@umich.edu

Thursday, May 15, 2014
The Michigan Daily - michigandaily.com

19

The meaning of merit

IAN DILLINGHAM
EDITOR IN CHIEF

AARICA MARSH
EDITORIAL PAGE EDITOR

STEPHANIE SHENOUDA
MANAGING EDITOR

Unsigned editorials reflect the official position of the Daily's editorial board.
All other signed articles and illustrations representesolely the views of theiraauthors.
Affirming other actions
The University must seek different routes to increase diversity
n April 22, the United States- Supreme Court ruled that
Michigan's ban on affirmative action was constitutional.
Therefore, in order to increase diversity at the University,
administrators must explore alternative routes. Jennifer Gratz, the
plaintiff in Gratz v. Bollinger, suggested methods for the University
to increase racial diversity in a recent Detroit Free Press article.
Gratz provides seven suggestions, including eliminating legacy pref-
erence, cutting unnecessary costs to increase need-based scholar-
ships and providing outreach programs for students without access
to substantial, educational resources. If the University truly desires
diversity, the administration should incorporate some of these sug-
gestions into its programs and policies.

S hortly after the U.S. Supreme
Court's recent ruling in Schuette
v. Coalition to Defend Affirmative
Action, which found
Michigan's banon
affirmative action
constitutional,
Pulitizer Prize win-
ner (and Michigan
Daily alumni) Ste-F
phen Henderson
wrote a column JAMES
titled "IAm Affir- BRENNAN
mative Action." In
his piece, Henderson
attributed much of his success todayto
the opportunities he was given thanks
to considerations of race in college
admissions and employment, embracing
affirmative action asa necessary and
successful policy.
Like Henderson, I too can attribute
much of my success to affirmative action
- affirmative action for white people.
Unlike a huge proportion of the Black
community, I grew up in a well-to-do
area, surrounded by economically suc-
cessful people, good schools and little
crime or violence. I also came of age ina
society run by people who look like me,
contributing early on to my belief that "I
can do anything."
Even more important may have been
the role of my parents, a part of our
development and future achievement
that cannot be undervalued. My father
was a lawyer and a University alum. He
expected me to follow in his footsteps
in both regards. While plenty of African
American and Latino parents encourage
their children to pursue similar goals,
their ability to help them achieve is often
hindered by a lack of experience. A par-
ent who has gone to college will have bet-
ter connections, more knowledge of the
admissions process and likely higher (but
also more realistic) educational expecta-
tions for their children. The percentage of
Blacks aged 25-29 with college degrees is
abouthalfthatofwhites, witheven lower
numbers for people my parents' age.
When I was 14, my dad and I went
to California to watch Michigan play
the University of Southern California
in the Rose Bowl. While we were there,
Michigan's admissions departmentheld a
prospective students meeting for Califor-
nians hoping to go to Michigan. Always
looking for a way to help me find my way
to Michigan, my dad made me go to the
meeting too. There, I met the director of
admissions and several other high-level
admissions officers and administrators,
some of whom I would regularly speak
with back in Michigan in the years lead-
ingto college.
Along with meeting important people
at Michigan, I also had the benefit of reg-
ularly meeting state and local politicians

and judges, getting trained in the art of
networking. These connections eventu-
ally led to letters of recommendation that
most high school students wouldn't get.
These were connections I made as early
as middle school - all because my dad
knew it was a good way to help me get in.
Applyingto colleges, myGPA andACT
were a pedestrian 3.6 and 28, respective-
ly. Though I had a slew ofextracurricular
involvement, I was clearly below aver-
age for most of the schools I applied to.
Despite my low academic achievement, I
still found myself admitted to both Mich-
igan and New York University in addition
to receiving huge scholarship offers to
some lesser schools. When I say I ben-
efited from "affirmative action for white
people", this isswhat I'm talking about.
Last year, Gallup released a poll show-
ingthattwothirdsofAmericansbelieved
students should be admitted to college
"solely on merit" and that colleges should
not consider race at all.
But what is "merit"?
Were my letters of recommendation
from a mayor and judge instances of
merit? What about my extracurricular
involvement and volunteering? Michi-
gan wants to build a class with a diverse
array of interests, experiences, and
involvement, but does that really count as
"merit"? Obviously an individual cannot
solely be evaluated based on their grades,
test scores, and class ranking, but where
does a university drawthatline?
We can talk all day in our admissions
essays, resumes and applications about
our diverse array of experiences; from
people like me who have benefited from
well-connected parents who introduced
me to politicians, to someone who gained
character struggling through poverty.
We can also be admitted on far less merit-
y things, like our parents' alumni status
or the recommendation of a dignitary.
But what about the perspective a
person gains by being Black in a soci-
ety that is deeply engrained with white
supremacy? Isn't this experience wor-
thy of consideration when evaluating a
student's possible contributions to cam-
pus? There have been dozens of times
that I've been able to draw on my own
personal hardships in contributing to
class discussions or writing a paper,
bringing in perspectives others don't
have. What about the perspective of a
person who's four times more likely to
be arrested because of their race? Can't
a person who is consistently treated
with less respect because of the color
of their skin bring something more to a
classroom?
Sorry, but in Michigan, that's not
"merit."
James Brennan can be reached
at jmbthree@umich.edu

Australiar
has no lim
ranj
By AKSHA
Daily Film C
There's someth
ing about watchit
step in front of.th
holds herself quie
side of the frame,r
ing at the script,
exhales a quick
last word
and, without
any seeming
thought or med-
itation, slides
into the light.
There's no evi-
dent transfor-
mation - the
same nuanced
restraint masks
her face so, visibly
ancholy eyes wid
against those del
tures, windowing
thought behind ev
It's just all too f
She's still lool
rection: She's a
sad, yet somehow,
advantage. The ph
between her tone
dictates the sce
though we never
gears whirring intc
the way we would
ing Leonardo DiC
sheer frenetics, to
audience and tran
within a few minu
the effect still rev
works in a state of;
stasis that frustrat
es can find easy te
more impressive
able to pull it off ft
part, to the point
ceivably the only.
lywood at the mon
be categorically pi
a specific niche or
Like many o
lian actresses .wo
lywood, Byrne go
the country's sm
film industry, pla
slate of sidelined
in dialogue-heavy

.i actress But she chose her roles carefully,
making apparent from the get-go
it to her her interest in pursuing movies
buoyed by defined platforms for
ge their female leads. Those pur-
suits culminated in "The Goddess
of 1967," an honorable mention
Y SETH in Akshay's Five Fave Flicks
olumnist (AFFF©), and the project that
gave Byrne the break she needed
eing ingratiat- to make a transition from Austra-
ng Rose Byrne Tian to American cinema.
he camera. She In the film, Byrne is blind -
tly, just off the reaching, groping in darkness,
murmurs, look- playing an emotionally damaged
woman who, "for the fuck of it,"
helps a Japanese car collector
track down a 1967 model Citroen.
DS, affectionately called the God-
dess. The narrative is weaved
together through a collection of
flashbacks illuminating the two
leads' tortured pasts, though it's
Byrne's stranglehold on viewers
AKSHAY that makes the film memorable.
SETH It's a haunting performance -
an ode to disability's search for
familiarity.
, only the mel- There's a scene in the movie,
len, flattening one of the most memorable pieces
icate, sad fea- of acting I've ever seen captured
the layers of on film: an arresting sequence in
ery motion. which Byrne's character asks her
ucking subtle. companion to teach her how to
king sad. Cbr- dance. As the catchy, '60s eupho-
lways looking ny of thrumming guitars gradu-
it becomes an ally begins to surround our two
ysical contrast protagonists, Byrne's eyes remain
and features locked in darkness. She flails,
ne, and even flounders, lurches her hips, her
see any of the fingers grasping wildly in the air.
o motion - say, Everything about her movements
d while watch- suggest violence, but then some-
aprio, through thing amazing happens. She feels
ake hold of an her partner's guidance, and ever
esform himself so slowly, her own actions soft-
tes on screen - en, becoming defined, alive. The
verberates. She eyes are still locked on nothing-
stasis: a state of ness, but again, that contrast is at
ingly, audienc- work. A smile curves underneath
o overlook. But the dead stare, and about 90 sec-
still? Byrne is onds in, for the first time in the
Or virtually any film, Byrne flashes us a glimmer-
that she's con- ing shot of freedom. It's a moment
actress in Hol- of striking humanity, reminiscent
ment who can't of the unique power this medium
geonholed into can incite, and if you're not beam-
role. ing, squealing some variation of
ether Austra- "damn you,-Rose" by the time the
irking in Hol- scene cuts away, you should prob-
et her start in ably stop reading this column.
all yet robust It's good shit. Of course, only
ying the usual the first impressive entry in
bit characters Byrne's imposing resume - a
indie dramas. rdsume that includes a five-

Rose Byrne can't be pigeonholed

season supporting turn next to
Glenn Close in the lauded FX/
DirecTV legal thriller "Damag-
es." The show, which went off air
in 2012, is memorable for a vari-
ety of reasons, most in some way
stemming from that quiet preda-
tory ferocity in Close's portrayal.
Yet, it's Byrne's depiction of Ellen
Parsons that draws viewers in,
the lens of naivety through which
we get a glimpse at the guarded
inner workings of this other-
wise detached, exclusive world.
As the series progresses, as Par-
sons transforms from yuppie
law school graduate to ruthless,
manipulative attorney, Byrne
keeps us watching by steadily
dialing up the pressure, restrain-
ing it, and toward the final sea-
sons, letting it mold her into the
antihero we see in Close.
It would be easy to say how ,in
many ways, that transformative
arc is a little bit representative of
the swerving career shift Byrne
engineered for herself. But I'll
say it anyways. "Damages" was
a critical and commercial suc-
cess, often marketed as 'the most
intriguing female relationship
on TV.' After over a decade of
appearing in similar, traditional-
ly dramatic fare - you know, the
type of work that gets you Oscars
and Emmys (she got two nods for
her portrayal of Parsons) - the
actress chose to try her hand at
comedy.
The decision stood in stark
contrast to the Hollywood norm,
filled with comedic actors trying
to break into predictable Oscar-
bait after making a name in light-
er roles. Still, the projects Byrne
undertook were different. Unlike
a lot of female leads in Judd Apa-
tow man-child comedies, she
opted for parts that shoved her
next to Russell Brand and Seth
Rogen, if not on equal footing,
then at least with a chance to flex
a developing comedic voice.
She was one of the highlights
of "Bridesmaids," playing the
arrogant socialite to Kristen
Wiig's more bro-ish protagonist.
The composure she brought to
the character, coupled with an
understated, soft-spoken sense of
timing made her a perfect foil for
the rest of the cast's shit-sling-
ing, physical approach to humor.
There's a certain depth required

in being able to come off as devi-
ous, cunning yet still somehow
funny - especially while trying
to hold your against the likes of
expectedly hilarious Wiig and
McCarthy - and Byrne nailed it.
In "Neighbors," Byrne is thrust
into the spotlight from the first
scene, fighting, getting dirty,
-careful not to be relegated the
Leah Remini to Rogen's Kevin
James. The film's crux, after you
get past the dick jokes and hell-
ish, neon-blazed frat parties, is
Byrne's struggle to be given the
same type of leeway dudes usu-
ally get in R-rated summer com-
edies.
Part of the reason these films
have picked up steam over last
few years is Judd Apatow and
the brand of growing-up/men-
pretending-to-be-teenagers
humor he's popularized with the
help of the Rogen-Goldberg writ-
ing team. Most of those movies
earned their laughs in the poop-
smeared buildup to a usually
disappointing resolution, with
man-child X admittingto nagging

girlfriend/wife Y that it's about
time 'I accept my responsibilities
as an adult and stop farting in my
friends' mouths.' In "Neighbors,"
it's that same struggle to come
to terms with age, but, for once,
there's no underlying expecta-
tion that the woman be sidelined,
caricatured as the "responsible
cop" wife.
Byrne is right there next to
Rogen in every one of the film's
over-the-top, hilarious sequenc-
es, and by the time credits roll,
there's a distinct sense that bot
leads have developed or matured'
in the same ways. It's a credit to
Andrew J. Cohen and Brendan
O'Brien's script, though the bulk
of the applause should be saved
for Byrne, who fights, acting the
shit out of what could have been
something so much more expect-
able.
If anything, Byrne's work is
a confirmation of her range as
an actor, but more importantly,
a necessary reminder that good
acting can't be shoehorned - no
matter the gender roles.

Affirmative action is banned
based on the idea that discrimi-
nation of any kind, including
racial, is an unacceptable means
of student admission. Following
this logic, admissions should
avoid all forms of prejudicial
treatment, yet they reward stu-
dents for familial attachments
to the University. Eliminating
this unfair policy would con-
sequentially increase diversity
because often people of color
and lower socioeconomic sta-,
tuses represent an infinitesimal
small proportion of applicants
with legacy privilege.
Similarly, cutting adminis-
trative expenses could redirect
funds to help make need-based
scholarships larger for low
socioeconomic students. Cur-
rently, the University hires 53
percent more administrators
than faculty. This unnecessar-
ily high administrative staff.

contains numerous high-sal-
aried employees. On April 20,
numerous faculty members
confirmed the administrations
exuberant salaries, stating in a
letter to the Board of Regents
that administrative pay is
inappropriately high in com-
parison to other institutions.
While the University cannot
admit applicants based on race,
they can enhance their mentor-
ship programs in locations with
high proportions of minorities.
Since manyofthese areas contain
intelligent students that don't
possess the resources for educa-
tional success, these programs
couldhelpequalizethedisadvan-
tages underprivileged students
face through mentorship and
community engagement. These
mentors can provide insights
about educational opportunities,
give insights into applying to the
University and encourage gifted

students to apply.
While mentorship could
help students, it's important to
note that K-12 education needs
better funding in order for the
University to increase minority
enrollment, especially in
underprivileged geographic
areas. Though Republican Gov.
Rick Snyder proposed a $322
million budget increase for
K-12 funding in February, the
proposed monetary increase
is not enough. Spikes in
retirement costs have deterred
school districts from being
able to utilize the money for
student purposes. Addressing
underlying funding concerns
could increase the number of
applications the University
receives from people of color
and lower socioeconomic
statuses by creating a more
level playipg field early in the
educational system.

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