Men’s Basketball v. Women’s Gymnastics

Last week, I was able to attend the men’s basketball game against the Syracuse Orange. Throughout the entire game, the two teams were basically neck in neck and it was anyone’s game. Vibrant electricity was pulsing through the crowd and the cheering for the Wolverines was making the ground quake; specifically, the noise from the student section stood out immensely. The student cheering section for men’s basketball games in the Chrisler Arena is commonly known as the “maize rage.” Through the encouragement of the maize rage, with less than a minute remaining, Michigan’s Spike Albrecht managed to break the tie by scoring a 3-pointer, thus putting the Wolverines back in the lead. The maize rage went crazy in wild cheers and song supporting their team. It was truly an incredible feeling to be apart of. Just as Giamatti writes in his Take Time for Paradise, I can attest that “The spectator, seeing something he had only imagined, or, more astonishingly, had not yet or would have never imagined possible, because the precise random moments had never before come together in this form to challenge the players, is privy to the realized act of imagination an assents, is mastered, and in that instant, bettered.” The ability to be apart of the maize rage was something that allowed for a bond to form not just among the spectators, but also between the spectators and the team. Through our cheering on the team, we formed a bond with them that motivated them to push themselves harder and eventually resulting in a Wolverine victory. Continue reading

Enlightenment

university_of_michigan_by_bagera3005-d4kqxbrWhen I first came to the University of Michigan, I was only focused on getting good grades so that I could get a good job.  All the work I had done in high school and was doing in college was towards my life in the future. Every time I wanted to take a break or procrastinate on an assignment I told myself that it would all pay off in time.  My thinking has changed somewhat, I still truly believe that my hard work will pay off in time but I am more focused now on actually learning for the sake of understanding the world around me.

The best way I can prove this shift in my attitude towards education is through the progression of my blog posts.  My first blog post, A Mathematical Proof of Menand’s Theory 1 (please not that this hyperlink is to a list of my blog posts with my most recent on top), is solely about getting a job after college.  I thought that simply receiving an education in anything, as long as it taught me the skills necessary for the job I wanted, was acceptable.

As the readings in my Political Science 101 class began to become older and authored by more famous philosophers, they also became more cynical.  My second blog post followed my reading of Huizinga’s definition of play and Bartlett Giamatti’s Take Time for Paradise.  Huizinga, a 20th century philosopher, defined play as a disinterested world in which we enter where there are no consequences or worries. Giamatti wrote that people love to watch sports because essentially they are attempting to live through the players.  By watching their grace and coordination we feel the positives such as the thrill of the win or a great play without having to feel the negatives like injuries or financial dependence.  I saw spectators at sporting events becoming enthralled and aggressive in the stands.  I witnessed fans attempting to live through the players and although I understood why the spectators would want to experience the game through the athletes, and even though I participated in it, I was still partly disgusted by the behavior I was seeing.

Hobbes, Locke, and Rousseau

Hobbes, Locke, and Rousseau

This was the beginning of the downward spiral of my view of our society. My opinion of humanity was further soiled after reading Hobbes’ Leviathan, a book in which Hobbes defines social contracts and how humans interact with one another. Hobbes believes that our state of nature and war are synonymous and a main theme throughout the book is how humans are intrinsically fearful and selfish. Rousseau and Locke are two other philosophers who studied and theorized about social contracts.

Burke

Burke

  • Rousseau made points of how originally we were self-sufficient individuals but over time we became more civilized and began to live together and once this occurred we had social contracts in place to suppress our selfish desires for the good of society.
  • Locke delves more into whether we live in a state of nature versus a state of war. He argues that when we are free to pursue our own wishes and act as our own judge then war will always erupt. Only if we have a moderator or some force in place will peace be attained.
  • Burke was probably the most pessimistic of them all. Burke is a classic conservative meaning that he believe that there should be slow change in government and society. He explained how whatever class or profession people are born into is the place that they will die and trying to change is a fruitless effort.  He even went so far as to call the general population a “swinish multitude”.

After reading and analyzing these works how can one not be depressed about the future of humanity?  Apparently we are a group of dirty swine who will stab each other in the back whenever it will benefit us. We can’t trust each other, we have no control over our futures and the only times in which we were actually happy was far in the past in states of nature that will never be attainable.

But as I wrote earlier my thinking about college has changed. Before I was only concerned about money, which still has its perks: security, success, status, and pride. But I have decided that I want an education that will help me to understand the world rather than one that will only make me financially wealthy. So after contemplating the repugnant nature of humanity I thought, “What is the purpose of all these works? Is it all just to make us feel bad about ourselves? Do the authors think that they are above the rest of us and that they do not fit into their own descriptions of society?”

I believe that the reason we have these works today is to separate us.  There are those who will take Hobbes or Burke and become depressed at what they read.  And then there are those who become inspired to prove their definitions and theories about human nature wrong. In my third blog, Defying Hobbes Rules, I write about such people, mainly they are soldiers and daredevils. If I can take my education and what I’ve learned in Polisci 101 and use it to emulate the characteristics that these people possess- bravery, confidence, benevolence- then it doesn’t matter what job I have because I will be living a truly fulfilled life which is greater than any sum of money.

Letting Go of the “Michigan Man” Tradition

In recent days, a lot of events have been occurring on the University of Michigan’s athletic campus. Most recently Jim Hackett, the interim athi-res-183178869-head-coach-brady-hoke-michigan-wolverines-calls-out-a_crop_exacthletic director, fired the head football coach Brady Hoke. While this event probably seems irrelevant to a political science class, I think Hackett might be taking an approach John Stuart Mill would’ve approved in the firing of Hoke and the ongoing search for the next football coach. And that approach is changing the tradition of the much discussed “Michigan Man”.

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Is Gardner a Machiavellian Prince?

Rivalry week is the week in college football that everyone looks forward too. This past weekend we saw two of the greatest rivalries games in college football: Alabama vs. Auburn, and Michigan vs. Ohio State. Rivalries happen because of tradition and past events. For example, the reason the Alabama vs. Auburn game was so talked up was because of the punt return by Auburn in the last seconds of the game against Alabama last season that sent them to the championship game. For Michigan and Ohio State, the tradition goes much farther back. Michigan and Ohio have been known to despise each other on and off the field. Last year Ohio State player Marcus Hall flipped off the Michigan crowd after a fight and “violated the conference’s sportsmanship policy”. This was not forgotten by the Wolverines so they were very ready to get redemption this weekend regardless of our record.

Iowa v Michigan

While the score was tied after the first half, Ohio State sadly pulled away at the end of the game to win 42-28. While we beating the spread was impressive, I think what was more amazing was the sportsmanship that Devin Gardner showed after J.T. Barrett injured his ankle in the fourth quarter. Barrett, the key to Ohio State’s offense, went down with a season ending ankle injury Devin “showed an admirable display of support for rival Buckeye quarterback J.T. Barrett when Barrett went down with a season-ending ankle injury on Saturday.” I think this shows that there is more to sports than rivalry and competition. Devin could have remembered what Hall did to them the year before and been happy that the opposing teams star was out of the game. Instead I think Devin showed a remarkable sense of camaraderie that could show the world that he is a Machiavellian Prince. Here is a quick video that talks about this incident.

Barrett gets carted off after season ending injury.

Barrett gets carted off after season ending injury.

Although being a prince doesn’t directly relate to the Michigan Wolverines, I think to be a great leader you need to acquire some of the traits. I think Devin, although he did not have his best season, displayed his character during that moment. Machiavelli said that in order to be a prince “you must set unusual examples.” That is exactly what Devin did when he went to console J.T. Barrett. It was very unusual to have a Michigan quarterback during the Ohio State game give kind words to an Ohio State player. Machiavelli also says that it is better to be feared than loved. However, when applied to an athletic captain, I believe you must be both. I know Devin is very well respected by his teammates and coaches and by this remarkable act of sportsmanship, I believe Gardner will never be forgotten as a Michigan quarterback. Even the Ohio State community now loves him and in order to make it through history as a quarterback you must do something extraordinary in the Ohio State rivalry game; what Devin did was truly amazing.

Did you agree that people will remember Devin because of this act of sportsmanship, not just how he performed this season?

It’s On Us

With the first semester of my freshman year coming to a close, I have learned a lot about myself and what holds true in life. I can confidently say the me that stepped foot on campus in August is different from the modern day me that is traveling back home. College is a once in a life time experience that, we as students are privileged to have. No parents, freedom with our life, and interacting interacting with other intelligent, interesting people what more could one ask for? However with this new stage in our lives, there comes a greater responsibility and accountability for one another. At Michigan, we are a family that supports one another. We all love Michigan and want one another to succeed to give Michigan the reputation it deserves. Therefore we all must try to make each of our experiences the best possible by acting in the standard that Michigan students are held to.

Recently an article in the RollingStone magazine was published about a horrific scene of a freshman girl being sexually assaulted by multiple fraternity boys. In the article it describes how the girl, who went by the name of Jackie, was pressured to keep quite about her assault due to peer pressure to keep the university’s reputation clean. Greek life is a big social aspect at the University of Virginia and this girl felt as if she would be doing a disservice to the school for speaking out about the horrors that took place in a Greek life setting. The article goes into how Virginia has a high regard when it comes to honor, “UVA’s emphasis on honor is so pronounced that since 1998, 183 people have been expelled for honor-code violations such as cheating on exams.” However not one student in the history of the school has been expelled for sexual assault. (http://www.rollingstone.com/culture/features/a-rape-on-campus-20141119#ixzz3KItXu0Ch) Due to this article, Virginia is now one of 86 school under federal investigation due to possible allocations of sexual assault. However Virginia’s case is much more serious with their case being labeled under, “compliance review,” which is “a proactive probe launched by the Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights itself, triggered by concerns about deep-rooted issues.” The President of the university, Teresa A. Sullivan, has now suspended all Greek life activities for the remained of the semester. However this far from the first time that the University of Virginia has been in the lime light for negative news. A couple years ago there was an incident involving male and female lacrosse player. The two were dating, and one night due to uncontrollable jealousy and alcohol the boyfriend ended up beating Yeardley Love to death.

Throughout our Political Science class we have discussed the importance of social contracts. Whether these contracts are physical or made up through a series of guidelines, they hold importance to both parties that are made to follow it. They hold people accountable to act and behave in a certain manner. Now some relationships it is unnatural to have a written contract in order to attain a stable relationship. But those are relationships that have no place for contracts, but rather have guidelines develop in a more natural series of experiences.

Recently I took the pledge to the, “It’s On Us,” campaign which promotes awareness and communal promise to protect against sexual assault. After discussing social contracts and viewing this article from RollingStone, I realized I had created a social contract through signing up for this campaign. I now realize that through this I have a obligation to uphold for those who I promised my word to. If i fail to uphold the guidelines that this campaign has set than I will be letting down the party on the other end of this contract. The “It’s On Us,” movement has begun to catch national attention with the support of partners such as bing, the Big 10, and other high end organizations the word has been spread. This has become a nationally available contract for any person to become apart. It is for a good cause that can help put an end to terrible events like those that have taken place at the University of Virginia. To sign up and take the pledge visit http://itsonus.org/, every name on the list helps stop sexual assault. Help make Michigan a place where one doesn’t have to worry about assault. For Michigan should be a safe place and home for whoever wears the block M on their chest.

Rights in School

You spent multiple years in elementary, middle, high school, and even college learning about the Declaration of Independence, Articles of Confederation, and Constitution. Students understand why the United States declared their independence from Great Britain. Students understand the issues with the Articles of Confederation and why we wrote the Constitution. Students understand the bill of rights and there rights under the constitution. It seems imperative that all students in the United States learn about their freedoms or rights. Continue reading

The Relatedness of Social Contracts and the State of Nature to the University of Michigan

I chose to attend the University of Michigan after going to an incredibly small college preparatory school that left me feeling stifled and in need of a drastic change. I got exactly what I wanted when I stepped onto campus the fall of my freshman year; everywhere I turned there was a new person for me to meet. Yet, I immediately felt overwhelmed by the vast size of this institution. I now felt like a minnow in a sea of sharks. It seems as if there are a billion different organizations at the University and everyone is occupied and passionate about something. The truth is though, that even though the University does provide various communities for the students to be a part of, there is still a sense of disjointedness when I speak with many of my peers. 

Could this be because of the administration? Have we created a university that is structured around self-involvement that it does not encourage collaboration both academically and socially? If so, it would certainly reflect the political climate of our society today.

In reading the works of Hobbes, Rousseau, and Locke in class recently, I immediately began to make connections to different institutions in my own life and those that I encounter on an every day basis. The most glaring of these was Michigan. Obviously, we are not in a state of nature, but we are being ruled over with a governing body. We have social contracts to maintain; if we pay for our education and obey the rules in turn the University will give us the tools to go out into the world a successful individual.

These three theorists would disagree about what a lack of structure, i.e. the state of nature would do to education… If we were all free to choose how to educate ourselves little would probably get done and chaos would ensue. Rousseau would lead you to believe that the state of nature was a place without rationality with vast freedom, while Hobbes would argue that people are intrinsically selfish and would undoubtedly turn one each other, and Locke would be in the middle ground saying that while all people are self-interested in the state of nature, but also nonviolent.

I believe that the students at Michigan are ruled to an extent with all of these social contract and state of nature theories in mind. Our University is run by a democracy similar to the proposed solution by Locke with delegates presiding over our supposed best interests (Regents! Athletic directors!). While we do not have a sovereign (something Hobbes would endorse) to rule over us, there is an idea that if left without rules we would become self-interested, fearful barbarians.

This is a competitive university, with some of the most talented students in the world. This may also arguably be the most divided period in recent years for the campus. People divide themselves based on clubs, interests, athletic capabilities, Greek Life, even class and race to a certain extent causing social disjointedness. Continuously, there is a discussion raging on campus about the lack of diversity amongst the student body.

However, there are times when I look around this campus and I have never seen it more united. Most recently, the student body came together with the support of alumni for a rally to fire the now former athletic director, Dave Brandon. It is worth noting that this could not happen in a Hobbesian type rule. It’s moments like these, though, that give me hope for Michigan, that despite its huge size the students can still gather and maintain a sense of community. I think that people forget that even though we are so big that we are united over one common desire: to be at this school and have an amazing future. So in my opinion people are actually more like Rousseau would claim them to be: when we need to come together we will, and we will make sure we all do our part to create a thriving and successful community.

The Renounceth of the Michigan Right

This fall has been a rarity in Michigan Athletic history with the recent struggles of our beloved football team. With all the negativity engulfing the campus, it has resulted in the need for a scapegoat to pin the losses on. Unfortunately students and even some faculty members have found it most reasonable to point the finger on turmoil of the fall towards Athletic Director Dave Brandon. From rallies to petitions, Mr. Brandon has been faced with all in an up front manner that no person deserves. Regardless of how well our athletic teams perform in their respective seasons, there is no excuse to display frustration in such a disrespectful manner. As a student-athlete of this school, the way in which the student body and alumni handled this adversity, which became the center piece of the season, was a distraction that didn’t solve the true problem at hand. That problem was the fact that Michigan football isn’t normally what is known to be.

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Yes I do agree there was something that needed to be done about our athletic department, but not in the fashion it was performed. The culture of Michigan Athletics since Brandon’s hiring, was treated as more of business rather than the focus of benefitting the student body and alumni. Therefore I wasn’t surprised when the times finally got tough that it became so easy for people to use Brandon’s name as the cancer that infected the University of Michigan. Although Brandon didn’t make the University of Michigan, one of 26 Division one programs that actually made more than spent in the last year. He turned Michigan into a haven for prospect recruits to strongly consider when it came to their final decision. However, the situation with quarterback, Shane Morris, ultimately sealed the fate of the once beloved Athletic Director.

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Recently in our Political Science class we read and discussed a piece, Leviathan, by Hobbes in which addressed the actions of a man when it came to his rights and liberties in chapter 14. The chapter spoke a lot about the way in which a man’s action define a lot about his character. It got really specific in the sense that with each action comes a motive behind it. And with said motive results in the how the outcome is displayed and portrayed to those affected by each decision. Through this article I made a connection to the situation here at Michigan. “Whenever a man transferreth his right, or renoucneth it; it is either in consideration of some right reciprocally transferred to himself; or for some other good he hopeth for thereby.” (Hobbes) Through this quote, it speaks of what Dave Brandon’s intentions were when he finally decided to resign. Brandon heard of what was being said about him and the decisions he made while in his position of power, therefore when he felt it was the right time he renounced his position for the benefit of the public. He also did this to save himself for his pride and reputation were beginning to be tainted as each new article and petition was published by angry Wolverines. “..nothing else but the security of a man’s person, in his life, and in the means of so preserving life, as not be weary of it.” (Hobbes)

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Although Dave Brandon was far from the best when it came to being an Athletic Director, he still made strides to bring Michigan pride. He always had what he thought was the best interest of the school in mind when it came to whatever decision he made regarding athletics. And that is all anyone can really ask for, at the end of the day when you know that your best effort was put forward then there is nothing to be ashamed. Even though Brandon’s departure from Michigan wasn’t the way he expected to say goodbye, he still willed be missed and remembered for his effort to help make Michigan truly, “the leaders and the best.”

Like A Girl

As a result of Title IX, women have benefited from more athletic opportunities and more justifiable facilities. Also, women have received more athletic scholarships and as a result more opportunities for higher education that some may not have been able to afford otherwise. Title IX also increased the salaries of coaches for women’s teams. Despite all of the positive changes that have come from Title IX, there is still much work to be done in reaching full equality between men and women in the world of sports.

In the book The Playing Fields of Eton by Professor Mika Lavaque-Manty, there is a full title that explores some of the challenges women encounter in sports. This chapter entitled “Being a Woman and Other Disabilities” compares being a woman to having a disability in the sports world.  The title of the chapter alone, as the two are paired together, gives off the connotation that society views women in sports as being similar to those with disabilities. In society, men are stereotyped as being stronger, tougher, more competitive and more aggressive than women. These stereotypes create the ideas that men are naturally better than women at sports and that women cannot perform up the same standards as men.

This reminded me of a controversial Dove commercial that has gotten a lot of public attention recently. This commercial aims to get the general public to stop using the saying “like a girl”. In it, young kids that are asked to perform “like a girl” throw a ball as hard and tough as they can, while older children asked the same thing purposefully throw a ball less far than they normally would. This implies that, as kids grow up, society teaches them to believe that girls cannot perform as well as boys, and even girls have started to believe it. This has become a giant obstacle for all girls to overcome in sports.

It is implied that women’s sporting events are less intense and less exciting then men’s games. As stated in this chapter, there are a lot fewer spectators at women’s sporting events then there are at men’s. It is also said in this chapter that, “no women’s sport is what universities call a “revenue” sport”. Unfortunately, this has a lot of truth to it. It is obvious that a lot of the revenue at the University of Michigan comes from our men’s basketball, hockey, and football team. As a women’s lacrosse player here at the University of Michigan, I can say that we definitely do not get as many fans as any of those sports, especially as a brand new program. Plus, we were only able to create our program because of the revenue that these other sports have created for the university. However, women’s sporting events here at the University of Michigan are exciting.  As an example, we have one of the best softball teams in the country, ranked number 11. Our field hockey team is also ranked number 11 in the country. These sporting events obviously would be exhilarating to watch because these teams are competing against the best as they fight for the Big Ten Title.

Women's basketball game with many empty seats.

University of Michigan women’s basketball game with many empty seats.

Packed arena at a men's basketball game

A packed arena at a men’s basketball game

The fight for women’s equality in the sports world has been going on for a long time and in1974 Billie Jean King created the Women’s Sports Foundation. This foundation was created in order to fight for gender equality in sports. The mission of the foundation is to “advance the lives of girls and women through sport and physical activity”. They support and encourage girls to become more involved in sports and excel at them. Women athletes deserve more credit than they are being given as they do the same amount of training and hard work as men do. Women athletes are driven to succeed and are determined just like men.

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It is important to try to change the idea that women are not competing at the same high level as men do as well as the idea that these events are not exciting to attend. Society needs to make a change at the way that everyone perceives women’s sports. Although women’s and men’s competitions are different, it does not mean they are any less competitive or intense. Women compete just as hard as men and we should work to eliminate the saying “like a girl”.

Residence Staff as a Political Institution

Most people that have attended college have a clear memory of how they felt about their residential advisers. As one of the first people they meet in the college dorms, they can either make or break the initial impression of college for freshmen. Residence staff (Resstaff) is an important institution at the University of Michigan dedicated to the well-being and safety of students living in the residence halls. As a Resstaff member myself, I try to keep these things in mind when I interact with the students that I look after. At the end of the day, our goal is to make sure that new students are safe and feel welcomed and cared for. In this blog post, I will establish correlations between what we have learned in our Political Science 101 course and Resstaff as an institution.

Picture inside of Stockwell residence hall at the University of Michigan-Ann Arbor (credit to Wikimedia).

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