The University needs to invest more in GSIs

To the Daily:

In Theresa Kennelly’s column Thursday questioning the demands of the Graduate Employees’ Organization (When the Good Fight Gets Greedy, 03/06/2008), she asked, “How many more needy requests can (graduate student instructors) argue for and be willing to strike over?” What Kennelly missed was the fact that many of GEO’s requests aren’t new. Rather, these demands are things for which we have fought and continue to fight.

Instead of a list of new demands, GEO’s requests include changes the University has been unwilling to make. It is only by continuing to show the University that we still care about these issues that we make progress – even if this looks like a lengthy negotiating platform.

If Kennelly’s implicit point was that GSIs don’t deserve increased compensation because we aren’t good instructors, keeping pay and benefits low seemingly won’t fix this problem. Kennelly might not be aware of how little training and support GSIs get from the University before we first enter classrooms. It’s just a one-day training seminar.

Graduate teaching positions are often viewed as a way of killing two birds with one stone: providing cheap instructors for undergrads, while training graduate students. There are a number of ways in which this is unfair to everyone in the system. But the equitable and effective answer is for the University to invest more in its GSIs so that we have more time and training to teach well as well as a greater incentive to care about our jobs.

Erika Alpert
Rackham

Blogs are an easy way to engage in election

To the Daily:

The article last week about student groups working for presidential candidates in Ohio (Student political groups develop sense of urgency before big day, 03/03/2008) made one thing clear: This election will define and energize our generation. But not everyone has the time to board a bus to Ohio to get involved in it.

Many people don’t want to join a campus organization like the College Democrats or College Republicans. They want to do something less formal. For this reason, blogging is a great way to get people involved. Howard Dean proved that with his landmark blog, Blog for America.

The participatory nature of blogs allows for open, interactive and instantaneous dialogue. Blogging lends itself naturally to the grassroots activism present at the University. That’s why I’ve been thrilled to discover and help shape the blog for the University’s chapter of the College Democrats. The blog is called Kicking Ass Ann Arbor (www.umichdems.com/blog). It’s not a blog only for Democrats; it’s for people of all political beliefs. With the frequent activity on this blog, I was able to stay up-to-date on the news during Spring Break, even though I didn’t spend it in Ohio. Then, I was able to express my opinion on that news. Let’s face it: Everybody likes to act like an expert when it comes to politics.

Justin Schon
LSA freshman

Confronting a word

To the Daily:

Karl Stampfl gained my respect by sticking to his principles concerning his contempt for a demeaning label in his column Monday (An obituary for the word ‘bitch,’ 03/10/2008). When I went to college in the 1970s, even the vilest people were reluctant to compare a woman to a female dog. This was also a time long before it became stylish for men to refer to each other with such a term.

The best part of Stampfl’s column centered on his admission that he used the term, but stopped after an epiphany about its acceptability. That’s personal growth through self-assessment. Is there a better outcome for college attendance?

Lt. Col. Doug Dankworth
University of Michigan Army ROTC

Losing historical gains made in social justice

To the Daily:

This week marks the 40th anniversary of the East Los Angeles Walkouts. In the first week of March 1968, thousand of students in East Los Angeles left their public high schools to demonstrate the need for more educational resources, the elimination of racist curriculum, teachers and administrators and the need for bilingual and multicultural education. Many scholars have identified this period as the beginning of the Chicano Movement – a pivotal moment in the political development of Mexican Americans.

Through direct political action, high school students and college-age activists pressured the Los Angeles Unified School District Board of Education to introduce a series of reforms that enhanced the quality of education in Los Angeles. Current Mayor of Los Angeles, Antonio Villaraigosa, was a student participant in these events. Reflecting on the present struggle over affirmative action in Michigan, it is important to note that the collaboration of college and high school students was enabled by the introduction of affirmative action in 1961 by President John F. Kennedy. In the mid 1960s, East Los Angeles college students returned to their communities and fought for social justice and equal opportunity alongside high school age students.

Today, many of the gains made by these students have been lost. Attacks on affirmative action and reductions to overall resources for bilingual and multicultural education have hidden the legacy student activism began 40 years ago. Nonetheless, the success of the walkouts shows the awesome potential of student activism to articulate and coordinate struggles for social justice and how government policies can enable the political creativity of young people.

Matthew A. Ides
Rackham

Being critical of China is necessary, correct

To the Daily:

One preposterous rhetorical stroke at a time, Jinhui Chen made a weak – and if unchallenged, dangerous – argument in his letter to the editor Friday (Understanding China, not the media’s version of it, 03/07/2008).

On Darfur, the letter claimed that China built “infrastructure” in the years preceding the United Nation’s intervention in 2007. Certainly the country provided Sudan with arms, which prolonged the conflict, and built oil extraction and processing facilities to serve its own interests. China didn’t seriously help the area until just a few weeks ago at the behest of worldwide protest and condemnation, precisely the kind the letter was so set against.

Similarly, the idea that China allows protest as long as it does not directly threaten to overthrow the government is ridiculous and offensive. Ask the members of Falun Gong, who have been raped and tortured in Chinese prisons, if the country goes easy on activists. Or ask the wife of Teng Biao. Teng is a human rights lawyer who just this past Friday was arrested and kidnapped by government forces cracking down on dissent. Or the poorest citizens of Beijing who, displaced from their homes by the Olympic village, are being thrown in jail for asking for their due compensation.

China’s treatment of its people is despicable and indefensible. The West has been not always been friendly to political protest and has used tactics that probably equal or outdo China’s actions. But even America has made efforts to bring to light its abuses. The Chinese government to this day has expunged the memory of protests like the ones at Tiananmen Square from any legally accessible media. Instead the country maintains that brazen murder is somehow a political necessity. That somehow being a Westerner and under the influence of Western media disallows someone from questioning China is a cheap fallacy.

I don’t need to go to China to know that the murder of hundreds of people in 1989 was wrong. Nor to realize Three Gorges and the Olympic Village have displaced millions of people from their homes. The letter to the editor did not defend Chinese culture, values or people. It defended the repressive government. That’s not the same thing.

Sharon Traiberman
LSA junior

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