To the Daily:
The wrong way to racial integration
In his recent column, Dave Mekelburg wrote the following about a racist Craigslist post: “Maybe people heard about it, but then something scary happened: they understood where the poster was coming from” (It’s better than drinking alone, 02/08/2008). This is a mind-boggling suggestion. By Mekelburg’s logic, we should indict the entire campus any time students fail to be outraged over a ridiculous online posting.
I would like to suggest my own hypothetical. Maybe students on campus are smart enough to realize that at any time of day, on any day of the week, it is guaranteed that someone will be posting something offensive online. Taking these sorts of fringe comments seriously causes more discord, not less, and awards these comments a degree of undeserved importance.
Instead of examining his own preferences, Mekelburg has decided that the reason he feels uncomfortable at bars is that the rest of the campus has a problem. If only campus were as integrated as, say, Baltimore, he feels we would be in a better place.
These cities have diverse neighborhoods, but they also have large sections that are starkly divided along racial lines. Even a passing familiarity with Philadelphia’s North Side or Baltimore’s West Side would dispel the assertion that these cities are perfectly integrated and harmonious. It’s disingenuous for Mekelburg to gloss over the real problems of race that confront these cities, while complaining that there are too many white people at an Ann Arbor bar.
Mekelburg did have one good idea in his column, though. He should go to a different bar. I’m sure that all of the patrons at the Brown Jug will be happy to have one less person sneering at them.
Nothing new about mistreating veterans
I was glad to read Ashlea Surles’s column Friday about the substandard treatment of America’s war veterans since the war against terrorism began. (Standing up for our soldiers, 02/08/2008). Unfortunately, the substandard treatment of our war veterans has been an issue for our country since the Revolutionary War.
In 1776, the Continental Congress enacted the first veterans’ pension law. That law granted half pay for disabled veterans, but payment was left to state governments because the federal government didn’t have the authority or funds to pay for these benefits. During the Great Depression, World War I veterans had to march on Washington D.C. to demand immediate payment of their service bonuses. After World War II, the federal government created the G.I. Bill of Rights. One of the benefits of the 1944 law paid for up to four years of education. However, Korean War veterans were not granted the same right. They only received payment for a maximum of three years of education. These brief examples demonstrate the indifference that we, as a country, have shown veterans over our 232-year history.
On Veterans Day each year, we do little to remember the sacrifices that our men and women have made. There are a few parades and ceremonies, but a lot of car sales, furniture sales and clearances. Do we actually pause and remember the sacrifice of these men and women? What did it cost us to have the right to stand up and say what we wish or read what we want?
Maybe I have simplified the issue somewhat. But perhaps that is the key. It is a simple issue of respect and obligation to our veterans for our freedoms. Surles was on the mark, but the issue has been around for a lot longer than the present day.
‘U’ must compensate GSIs for their work
During the Jan. 31 talks between the Graduate Employees Organization and the University administration, University negotiators summarily rejected all of GEO’s proposals for a new contract that fairly compensates the indispensable work of graduate student instructors. As a GSI and a member of the union, I am shocked by the University administration’s arrogant and unapologetic response to the contract proposals that GEO put together after months of research and extensive surveys of GSIs. The University simply crossed out every single proposal and threw the proposals back across the table.
The proposed changes were not unreasonable, though. One of the proposals called for a pay raise for GSIs that would meet the cost of living that the University’s Office of Financial Aid says is required for a graduate student attending the University. At present, the majority of GSIs make $781 less than this amount, before taxes. Instead of agreeing to pay GSIs a living wage, the University administration proposed that GSI’s take an effective pay cut in the new contract, leaving us even further below the rate of inflation and the cost of living.
The University’s negotiators are now saying that it does not recognize the validity of this number, which is calculated by the Office of Financial Aid and published on its website. The number is also used by the federal government to determine whether students are eligible for financial aid.
The University administration needs to remember that GSIs help run the University – we teach, grade and advise undergraduates, who bring the largest amount of money into this university. The university must not take this labor for granted. Treat us with the respect that we deserve: Take our demands seriously and pay us a living wage.