Fairly paid GSIs and reasonable tuition aren’t mutually exclusive

To the Daily:

I appreciate Eric Kumbier’s concern for spiraling tuition costs in his recent letter to the editor (Remember who is paying the bill, GEO, 02/22/2008). However, he misplaced the blame for tuition increases on graduate student instructors’ salaries. Before examining the costs of GSIs, I wish to correct an error in his letter: GSIs do not earn $700 more than their living expenses. Instead, according to the University’s Office of Financial Aid, we actually earn $780 less than the cost of attendance. Bear in mind that that figure is for a single graduate student without dependents. I have colleagues whose families are eligible for food stamps, which is an embarrassment at a wealthy institution like the University.

What do GSIs cost the University? For the 2007-2008 school year, GSI salaries will cost roughly $24 million, or about 1.8 percent of the outlays of Ann Arbor campus’s $1.3 billion general fund, which does not include the athletic budget. Since 1998, GSI salaries have increased by 32.1 percent. However, tuition has increased by an eye-popping 70.1 percent during that same period. Obviously, GSI salaries aren’t driving tuition hikes.

What causes tuition increases? According to a University press release issued on July 19, 2007, state support as a percentage of the Ann Arbor campus’s general fund was 78 percent in 1960 and has declined to 24 percent for this school year. Simultaneously, tuition revenue has gone from funding 20 percent to 62 percent of the general fund. Therefore, it isn’t pampered GSIs but the fundamental failure of the state to invest in education that drives tuition out of the reach of the poor.

I know that many members of Graduate Employees’ Organization share Kumbier’s concerns about skyrocketing tuition costs. I’m sure these members would be happy to work with him and other concerned members of the community to pressure the state to invest in higher education so that GSIs can be compensated fairly and tuition rates can become reasonable.

Patrick O’Mahen
The letter writer serves as a spokesman for GEO. However, he is not writing in that capacity.

A random act of kindness

To the Daily:

I lost my iPod the other day. Usually when I “lose” my iPod, I look in my coat pocket or gym bag, and it’s there – but not this time. I specifically remembered clipping it to my pocket before leaving the house. When I got to school, I noticed it wasn’t there. Not freaking out yet, I drove home and looked in all the usual places I might leave it, but it wasn’t there. Then I freaked out. I retraced my steps, the whole time swearing aloud. Losing an iPod is much more than the obvious monetary loss; it’s the hours of uploading music and making awesome playlists that leave you discontent until you have your missing iPod back.

I was almost ready to make the dreaded trip to Best Buy to dish out hundreds of dollars for a replacement when I found a package at my door with a note: “Just thought you might like to know where we found your iPod, on the sidewalk … We found it as we were walking on campus. My son found your address using the computer to look up your address in the UMich directory.”

I didn’t think this type of thoughtfulness happened anymore. No “finders keepers,” or selling it on eBay. This couple went way out of their way to return my iPod, and I am very thankful. They left their e-mail address, and I plan to thank them and return the favor somehow. This random act of kindness is a fine example of selflessness, altruism and humanity. So the next time you find something that isn’t yours, pick it up and make an honest attempt to return it.

Random acts of kindness: Pass them on.

Nathan Martzke
School of Dentistry

Where is the leave policy for undergraduate students?

To the Daily:

I would like to commend the Rackham School of Graduate Studies for implementing its policy for new parents, which allows them to take time off for several weeks after their child’s birth (Policy gives more leave to grad students with babies, 02/18/2008). It is important for the University to support its students not only in academic matters but also in familial ones. Graduate students have needed such a policy, and I excitedly welcome this progressive thinking.

However, such policies are lacking for undergraduate students. With no options offered for leave, undergraduate students don’t have adequate University resources. While childcare is available only for children above the age of two, this hardly accommodates those with newborn children, leaving many to think they must choose between their education and their children.

Students shouldn’t be forced to choose; it is possible to raise children while receiving an education. Students for Life is looking to change these policies on campus, striving to implement more infant-friendly programs that assist new and expectant mothers and fathers.

I encourage the rest of the University to adopt policies like Rackham’s so undergraduates have the same educational opportunities as graduate students.

Lauren Bennett
LSA sophomore
The letter writer is the vice president of Students for Life.

Paying to succeed is not new

To the Daily:

In her recent column, Emmarie Huetteman complained that meritocracy is dying because students buying internships (The price of success, 02/20/2008). She should take a step back and consider what she’s doing here at the University.

Aren’t most students here, at least in part, spending thousands of dollars to gain skills that are valuable to future employers? Or to find out what fields might interest them? But, of course, those motives are nothing at all like paying $6,000 to buy an internship and get a foot in the door of an industry in which one may want to make a career. Right.

Jon Boguth
Law School

Publishers are not to blame for high textbook prices

To the Daily:

Your recent article (‘U’ to add book exchange feature to CTools site, 02/22/2008) did not accurately reflect the textbook market. Publishers understand students’ cost concerns and have responded by offering more prices and options than ever before, including black and white editions, custom editions, no-frills editions and e-books by the thousands.

According to the College Board, textbook costs account for only 5 percent of overall higher education costs. In fact, the independent research group Student Monitor found that students roughly spent an average $670 on textbooks in 2006. Faculty members – not publishers – determine when a new revision is necessary. Further, the average length of time between new editions is four years, a number that has remained constant for the last 10 years.

Publishers already have efforts in place to provide faculty with all the information they need about textbook options and pricing before they order textbooks for the upcoming semester. These are easily available through publishing marketing representatives and online resources. And for students, a quick online search using a textbook’s International Standard Book Number or title and author will yield hundreds of price and product information sources.

Ultimately, publishers share the common goal of student success and are committed to working with all stakeholders to make this a reality.

Stacy Skelly
The letter writer is the assistant director of the Higher Education Association of American Publishers.

There is no reason for “Reductive reasoning”

To the Daily:

In response to the question posed in the B-side, asking “Like Venn diagrams?”, yes I do like Venn diagrams. I love them, in fact. Not only are they great visualization tools in a broad range of mathematical pursuits, they are also just plain fun. Who doesn’t enjoy looking at a few shapely, overlapping circles now and then? Who among us has not, some lonely night, sketched out a diagram or two to ease the heavy burden of an impending midterm?

This is why I am saddened and disgusted to open the B-side and see the Venn diagrams feature “Reductive reasoning” each week. While all the love in my heart goes out to Venn diagrams the world over, I can find no affection for this terrible feature. Is it a joke? Is it news? Who knows? It’s definitely not funny or informative. Take the most recent edition (02/21/2008), for example. We see that “Obama speeches” form the intersection of the sets of “Hope,” “Change,” and “Someone else’s words.” How clever – a reference to a recent news event half-heartedly concealed within a mathematical diagram. The laughs continue with a joke about what seven graders’ might consider pornography. And finally, we have the best of all: Two unnamed sets intersect to form “Lunar eclipse” because there was a lunar eclipse and the moon is like a circle. Classic.

I would like to propose my own “Reductive reasoning”-type diagram for use in an upcoming issue of the Daily. It is included below. I hope you like it.

Mike McCann
Engineering sophomore

Click here to see the diagram.

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