With the arrival of a new semester, a
number of issues will face students, faculty and administrators and
will require active participation to tackle.
This year marks the 50th anniversary of the landmark U.S.
Supreme Court case Brown v. Board of Education, and the University
is planning a semester-long commemoration of the court’s
decision. This year’s Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial
Symposium will initiate the commemoration, which will include a
dialogue between students and Cheryl and Linda Brown, both
daughters of the case’s plaintiff, Oliver Brown, who sued the
Topeka school board to allow his daughters to attend an integrated
school. Members of the University community should make an attempt
to attend the symposium, which provides a kickoff point for what
should be a very important semester.
While advocates of equality in higher education have made many
recent strides to advance their cause, the University should use
this semester and its theme as an opportunity to further publicize
its mission to create educational diversity, especially in light of
recent efforts by opponents of affirmative action to make the
practice of using race as a factor in college admissions illegal.
The mission of publicizing the value of affirmative action is
especially important in Michigan, where a ballot initiative
promoted by University of California Regent Ward Connerly seems to
be resonating with voters. A recent poll conducted by the Detroit
Free Press revealed that roughly two-thirds of Michigan residents
support the Connerly initiative, and as a result, the University
needs to advocate its position on affirmative action and the
movement that began with the Brown v. Board decision.
In attempting to gain support for affirmative action, the
University should continue its focus on garnering support from
other universities, corporations (many of which filed briefs
supporting the University before the Supreme Court) and
Michigan’s politically influential unions, which have a long
history of promoting civil rights in the state.
The Michigan Democratic presidential
caucus is coming up on Feb. 7, and students who have not yet begun
paying attention to the candidates and their views need to realize
that now is the time to become engaged in the process. Michigan is
one of the first states to have a caucus and therefore is one of
the most important states in deciding who the nominee will be.
Students can begin voting online now by going to the website
www.applytovote.com and filling out a simple application form. In
only a few weeks, Democrats across the country likely will have
already chosen their presidential nominee; students should play a
prominent role in making this selection.
For the past few semesters, scattered
construction has irritated students and faculty members by blocking
thoroughfares and creating distracting sounds. But now, the
benefits of all that work are coming to fruition. Nearly 20 months
after renovations began in May 2002, the elegant Hill Auditorium
will reopen Jan. 8. The University spent more than $30 million on
restorations that include a return to the original paint scheme,
two new elevators and staircases between the upper and lower levels
of the auditorium and a new lobby with a rotating exhibit of
artifacts from the University’s Stearns Collection of Musical
Instruments. Patrons can enjoy exceptional acoustics from every
seat in one of the nation’s finest auditorium.
Students should enjoy the renovations by attending one of the
daily self-guided walking tours and the free reopening ceremony at
1 p.m. The program will include a greeting by University President
Mary Sue Coleman, musicians like fiddler Jeremy Kittel and speakers
from Albert Kahn Associates and Quinn Evans Architects, who will
discuss the renovations.
The massive efforts for the Hill restoration were dollars well
spent. Especially at a time of budget crisis, when non-academic
endeavors are often first to be slashed, increased funding for the
arts is a necessity. Providing creative expression and enjoyment
for students and faculty alike truly enrich the University
Coleman and husband Kenneth Coleman donated $500,000 to the
University last year, of which $50,000 will be directed toward a
new museum wing at The University of Michigan Museum of Art. Half
of the gift will go toward creating two endowments to fund
undergraduate and graduate student scholarships, including the Mary
Sue and Kenneth Coleman Endowed Rackham Graduate Fellowship.
This donation, along with several public appearances shows that
Coleman is beginning to feel more comfortable in her position.
Though she has yet to teach a course, by conducting at the recent
Boston Pops Concert, attending the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, Calif.,
and appearing in Newsweek magazine as part of its issue examining
“who’s next” on the national scene, Coleman is
becoming more visible on campus and around the country.
Locally, management and the union have
reached a tentative agreement in the Borders Books and Music
employee strike. Unfortunately, the Del Rio co-op bar closed its
doors due to employee complaints. The local community should
continue to support workers’ rights in light of these
skirmishes between workers and their employers.
A challenging semester has begun for the University and the city
of Ann Arbor. Active community participation will be necessary to
confront the issues that lie ahead.